The subtle but extremely vital difference between learning to do a style of dance vs learning to partner dance.
If you learn to dance with any one technique (for example, counterbalance, elasticity, pulse, etc…) at any moment in a dance (or for the whole dance) you are learning a style of dance.
If you learn to use a technique based on how & when your partner uses that technique you are learning to partner dance.
Of course, you can combine these and learn to use a technique based on how your partner uses it, while also learning how it is done if you want to create a certain look/feel/style/movement/etc… but if your goal is to learn to partner dance, be careful of how you learn these in combination because it is very easy to accidentally end up encouraging a lack of partner dance skills when you learn a specific technique.
This is a big difference for me on how well someone dances Fusion, in my definition of Fusion.
Fusion = fusing your movement with your partner’s movement and music.
Therefore, a fusion dancer would definitely focus on using a technique based on how & when their partner uses that technique (or for musical purposes). They would make this a higher priority over learning to do that technique at a specific moment because of styling or because that is just what you do in this dance form/movement.
This will also make a big difference on how well someone is able to dance with everyone, regardless of their skill level, or their dance background.
Styling and moves can still be learned, but if you learn (either purposefully or accidentally) in a way that inhibits your ability to connect to any partner or any music, then it doesn’t fit the definition of Fusion described above & also doesn’t help you dance with everyone to any music.
Here are 3 ways you could learn Counterbalance in a dance form:
1. Learning a Style of Dance: If you are learning a specific dance (or movement) that requires counterbalance, then you are learning a style that could inhibit you to do that dance (or movement) with someone who does it without counterbalance (unless you are learning option 3 below).
2. Learning to Partner Dance: If you are learning that same dance (or movement) and learning how to do it with someone who uses counterbalance, or doesn’t use counterbalance, or uses varying degress of counterbalance, then you are learning to partner dance within the concept of counterbalance.
3. Learning to Partner Dance within a Specific Style: If you are learning that same dance (or movement) and learning how to do it with counterbalance, while recognizing that it can be done without counterbalance (but you are currently focusing on learning it with counterbalance), then you are learning to partner dance while focusing on a specific style of dance/movement.
#3 is a great way to learn, however, it is extremely easy to think you are doing #3, when you are actually encouraging #1.
Disclaimer… There is nothing wrong with #1. #1 is great for performing and it can be a lot of fun too! That said, if you are trying to learn to partner dance, #1 can encourage you to actually decline in your partner dance skills very easily and without even realizing it.
Let me explain….
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If you want to add some styling ideas in, then you can say, “If you want to dance like ‘fill in name of dancer here’, then you would do it with this amount of counterbalance… but be careful, if your partner doesn’t know how to do it with counterbalance, it might feel better to do it without counterbalance.”
Andrew Sutton is a World Champion Lindy Hop Instructor, and one of the original founders of the Fusion partner dance movement. He uses his extensive research in over 244 cities across 38 countries (& 44 dance forms) to help dance instructors be more successful financially during their pursuit to help their students Make Every Dance Amazing! Impossible? Maybe...but if you shoot for the moon and miss, at least you'll land amongst the stars!
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