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How to Date Your Dance Partner (and Handle a Breakup)

Anya Brodech is a professional salsa, Latin, swing, and ballroom dance teacher in Oakland, CA.

Dating your dance partner can be a beautiful and passionate relationship.

Dating your dance partner can be a beautiful and passionate relationship.

How Realistic Are Romantic Dance Movies?

Movies, TV shows, books, and other forms of media have painted a rosy picture of how beautiful, romantic, and perfect it is to be dating someone that you dance with. Like with most other media portrayals, this one is not accurate or representative of real life.

Choosing to date someone from the dance community or enter into the dance community with a significant other is no easy task.

This doesn't mean that you shouldn't date your dance partner or someone else that you know from your dance class, studio, or the community in general. It can be very fun and exciting, not to mention passionate and romantic, regardless of your dancing ability.

Dancing creates such a fun environment that it can be hard to avoid the temptation of romance.

Dancing creates such a fun environment that it can be hard to avoid the temptation of romance.

What Is It Like to Date Someone From Dance Class?

The dance floor sets the place for a real-life soap opera that we're all a part of, like it or not. I personally know dozens of couples from the dance community. Having spent years observing from the sidelines, I have plenty of knowledge and experience to share. And of course, I've had my share of relationships and romantic encounters with guys from dance.

Don't doubt me when I say that I've seen it all, both on and off the dance floor: the entire spectrum of jealousy, casual flings, flirtations, serious relationships, friendships, engagements, marriages, cheating and infidelity, breakups, divorces, gossip, lying, scandal, stigmatization, confrontations, confessions, crying, and a lot of drama!

Dating someone from dance can be extremely rewarding if you know how to behave yourselves correctly and go about it the right way. Dancing as a couple is not easy, especially because dancing is something that can make or break your relationship depending on how you two handle it. Generally, the biggest issues that arise for most dancing couples are jealousy, control, boundaries, and trust.

Should you date your dance partner?

Should you date your dance partner?

What to Consider When Dating Someone From Dance

How fast you should start dating someone you like someone from dance depends on several factors...

  • How long you each have been dancing and how skilled you are.
  • How involved each of you is in the dance community and how often you go dancing.
  • How many places there are for you go to dancing in your town/city.
  • How long you two have known each other.
  • How serious/strongly you two feel about each other.
  • How much of a commitment you are interested in and if you're both looking for the same thing (e.g., long-term relationship or just "friends with benefits," etc.).
  • How much each of you has to lose if things don't work out.
We all know the story of "Dirty Dancing"!

We all know the story of "Dirty Dancing"!

Can I Date My Dance Teacher?

You should absolutely not try to date your dance teacher. This is a big no-no in the dance community and you will risk potentially getting kicked out of/banned from your dance studio and/or having your dance teacher lose their job and tarnish their professional reputation.

Fortunately, not all dancers are teachers, so there are plenty of other people for you to pick from. If you have problems becoming interested in people other than your dance teacher, then you should try to take a break from class for a while and start going out social dancing to practice parties or nightclubs where you will be sure to meet plenty of other dancers that you can hang out with.

Life does go on and you will meet someone else at dance!

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Can you make a dance relationship work?

Can you make a dance relationship work?

How to Decide If You Should Date Your Dance Partner

Before you try to seduce or attempt to date someone from dance, it is important to figure out if you have a connection off of the dance floor. Sometimes you might have an electrifying connection with someone when you dance together (I've experienced it myself, and seen other people have it as well). However, this does not always last once the song is over and you leave the dance floor.

Do You Have Other Things In Common?

More than once I have found that I can dance with someone really well, but then when we try to sit and down and have a conversation, I realize that we have nothing in common besides a fondness for dance and that we clash in every other aspect.

When this happens, it is important to think about and decide what kind of relationship you would like to have with that person based on how compatible you two are off of the dance floor.

Or Is It Purely Lust?

Sometimes people who dance together and find themselves incredibly attracted to each other physically, but realize (or sometimes not) that they don't have enough (or anything) in common between them to be able to have a serious romantic relationship, so they decided to have a (short-term) fling that is just physical in order to relieve the sexual tension between them. Once that's done they go their separate ways and move on with their lives.

In my experience, based on what I've seen happen to other couples that do this, they tend to grow apart afterward and not really spend much time together at dance because the "mystery" or "fantasy" that came with the dancing is gone between them.

If this is something that you don't think that you can handle emotionally, then I recommend toning down your existing relationship with that person to a lukewarm platonic friendship until things "cool down" between you two.

Romantic dance movies are fun to watch, but don't imagine that the same thing is guaranteed to happen to you in real life.

Romantic dance movies are fun to watch, but don't imagine that the same thing is guaranteed to happen to you in real life.

Be Careful About Who You Choose to Date From Dance

In general, if you are a good dancer, you probably have an established routine and set of places where you like to go out dancing. This might include lessons or classes with a particular teacher or studio. It might be dance clubs that you go to every week or special events that you go to every month or year. Regardless of the venue, you probably see a lot of the same people where you go dancing.

Don't Sh*t Where You Eat

This is why dating someone from dance can be compared to dating someone from work, because you see them on a regular (or at least semi-regular) basis, so it can get really weird, really fast if things don't work out well between you two.

It's also why you should try to keep your relationship a secret until you've decided that things are going well enough for you to become an "official couple." Nothing's as awkward as continuing to have to see your ex at dance and having everyone else know about it too.

Take Things Slow

In general, it's best to err on the side of caution when it comes to dating someone you have met at dance due to the visibility of the relationship, as well as dealing with the potential aftermath that I've described above. If both of you dance regularly, it's a good idea to take things slow and really get to know each other as dance partners and friends first before moving on to the next steps.

Chemistry on the dance floor doesn't always last.

Chemistry on the dance floor doesn't always last.

How to Decide If Pursuing a Relationship Is Worth It

Before you start dating someone from dance, it is very important to consider the aftermath of the breakup in case things don't work out between you two. Generally, the person who has been dancing the longest is the more advanced/skilled, and/or more involved with the dance community has the most to lose when it comes to dating other dancers.

Consider the Potential Aftermath

If both of you are skilled dancers that have been dancing for a long time, it's more complicated because if you have a bad break up there is the issue of who gets to "keep" different dance venues. Breaking up with someone from dance, just like in any romantic relationship, leaves you having to "divide up" the goods, such as places to go out and friends to talk to and hang out with.

For this reason, it's best to keep your dating somewhat discreet until you want to officially be a couple in the eyes of the dance community. This way, if it doesn't work out, everyone else will be none the wiser and your friends won't be obligated to choose sides.

Will It Change the Way You Feel About Dancing?

If you are both newbies, it's often a different story. Usually whoever is the "weaker" or less serious dancer will drop out from the dance scene, either temporarily or altogether. Another issue to consider is that bad breakups tend to make at least one of you stop dancing for a while which can be very difficult if dancing is a big part of your life. It might also turn you off from dancing altogether if you had a very serious relationship with your dance partner.

Fortunately, I have some tried-and-true advice on how to develop and maintain a healthy relationship so that if and when you do break up, it will be much more amicable and allow you to continue dancing with as minimal heartbreak and discomfort as possible given the situation.

Dating your dance partner is not always an easy task, so get ready to put some work in!

Dating your dance partner is not always an easy task, so get ready to put some work in!

How to Make the Transition to More than Just Dance Partners

If you like someone from dance but aren't sure how they feel about you, try flirting with them a bit and "turning up the heat" a little (so to speak) and see how they react. You can try dancing closer to them, being a little more suggestive/sexy/provocative in your dancing, complimenting them, dancing more with them, spending more time with them while off of the dance floor, and any other type of behaviors that fit under this category.

If they respond well and flirt back with you, that's a good sign to continue on the path towards trying to be more than friends. If they get uncomfortable or don't react how you expected them to, then it's better to leave them alone and stay just friends.

Once you get a read of how the other person might feel about you, continue flirting with them for a while until you feel that you've "warmed up" your friendship. It is important though to find out if they are seeing someone else though. A number of times it's happened that someone is already in a relationship with someone else, but that someone else is busy working or doesn't dance which is why you don't see them together. You don't want to be the other woman (or man)!

After successfully establishing that you're both single and that the other person shares the same/similar feelings as you, start hinting at/suggesting that you two go dancing somewhere else together where you normally don't go, as something of a "Dance date." You can invite them to a dance club or event that one or both of you hasn't been to yet. If you're feeling a bit more bold, you can invite them to a party or out to dinner, or some other non-dancing activity.

You should trust your dance partner and your life partner.

You should trust your dance partner and your life partner.

Trust Is Key

It is critical that you trust your romantic dance partner because if you don't, then you won't have much of a relationship together. It is important that you both understand that dancing is just dancing, nothing more.

If you or your partner suffer from insecurities, have abandonment issues, and/or other problems with trust, you may want to hold off on dancing with other people for a while. Holding a bachelor's degree in psychology, I can safely say that whatever baggage you have from your past relationships you will end up carrying into new ones, so whatever issues you have will come up again and again until you work them out and resolve them.

If you and your romantic partner are serious about one another but have a lot of unresolved issues or conflicts in your relationship, then I recommend talking them out and/or participating in couple's therapy. Even just one session of couple's therapy has been shown to be very helpful and informative!

How to Be Affectionate on the Dance Floor

Dating someone that you dance with is not much different from other relationships when it comes to public displays of affection (PDA). Obviously, you want to be considerate and respectful to all of the other people there—especially the ones who are single—so abstain from passionately kissing, groping, talking dirty, and all of that other stuff. No one besides you and your romantic partner is interested in seeing that!

It's fine if you want to dance all up close and personal, but keep it PG/PG-13, because once again no one wants to see your R-rated dance moves.

If you feel that you two can't keep your hands off each other for more than 2 seconds, then just stay at home and have your way with each other.

I know one time I was out dancing and there was some guy with his special lady who decided to start kissing her passionately and holding her closely while they were sitting together at a table by the dance floor and it was incredibly distracting since they were sitting literally about 3 feet away from where I was!

It's very distracting/annoying to 99% of the other people there to see a couple being obnoxious like that, especially since about 85% of the people at dance are probably stone-cold sober and not totally drunk, so don't treat it like your favorite sleazy nightclub where anything goes and no one cares.

Appropriate ways to display affection while out dancing (as generally agreed upon by myself and the larger dance community) include: dancing closely during a romantic song, holding hands, hugging, quick kisses on the cheek or lips, cuddling/having an arm around each other, etc.

If you don't respect other people who are also there to dance, they will not be happy with you, no matter how beautiful/wonderful/amazing you think your romantic relationship is or how much you want to show off your love to the world!

Jealousy can be a big factor in dance relationships.

Jealousy can be a big factor in dance relationships.

How to Handle, Deal With, and Avoid Jealousy

Even if you generally don't consider yourself the jealous type in relationships and think it's only for stupid or insecure people, you will be surprised to see how much it might affect you when you see your partner dancing with someone else for the first time. You might also find out that your nice, sweet boyfriend is actually kind of a control freak that doesn't want you to dance with anyone else but him. You might also find yourself being tempted by someone else more appealing that you meet on the floor.

Many times partners get jealous of one another when they see them dancing with someone else. This is a natural reaction that we carry over from our other romantic relationships, so don't be alarmed if it happens to you. Just remind yourself that your romantic partner is only dancing with that person and that when the music is over, they'll be coming back to you at the end of the night.

Also, if you don't have a good tolerance for dealing with stressful situations in relationships, then you may want to reconsider dating someone you dance. Trust me, dancing puts a lot of stress on relationships!

Setting boundaries is an important part of any relationship.

Setting boundaries is an important part of any relationship.

Choosing When to Dance Together or Apart

With dancing, you engage with other people in a way that you normally would not on a regular day-to-day basis. This is especially true for more romantic and intimate dances like bachata, rumba, and tango. You can also include merengue in this group, but if anything it's more of a sexy fun dance that could go either way.

Generally, most dancing couples that I know have found drawing boundaries for which dances they can dance with other people, and which ones they only dance with each other to be an effective strategy.

Good Couples Dances vs. Casual Dances

The standards tend to be as follows:

  • Salsa, cha-cha, cumbia, foxtrot, waltz, swing, and other dances that don't require full-body contact can be danced apart with other people.
  • Bachata, Rumba, Tango, and other romantic dances are best reserved for the couple to dance exclusively with each other.

The reason is that romantic dances sometimes tend to blur the line between fantasy and reality, especially when one member of the couple thinks that the other is enjoying the dance "just a little too much" and gets jealous because they believe that there is something more going on than there actually is.

However, for more "fun" and upbeat/fast dances like salsa or cha-cha, it's easier to maintain a further physical distance from one another while dancing, not to mention the fact that you're moving and spinning so much you hardly touch each other anyway, so there's very little to get jealous about.

His and Her Dance Nights: Why You Shouldn't Always Dance Together

A good way to deal with and avoid jealousy, along with keeping your relationship healthy, is to create some space between yourselves by having "his and her" dance nights. What I mean by this is that each of you chooses a place and day when you would like to go dancing separately on your own without your partner attending.

Dancing on separate nights lets you hang out and spend time with your friends without feeling guilty about neglecting your date, as well as giving you a chance to relax and catch up about things that your romantic partner might not necessarily be interested in. Furthermore, it gives you the opportunity to practice dancing with other people, which in turn improves your dancing by providing you with the experience of a variety of dance styles. Going to dance without your partner allows you to maintain a social life that is yours alone and independent from your romantic relationship, allowing you to have a personal identity of your own.

This is helpful in making sure that each of you stays involved with the dance community and doesn't become socially isolated, thus addressing the unhealthy habit that many dating couples fall into of spending too much time together. This is especially true at the beginning when they are very much "in love," and tend to stop seeing their friends/family and only spend time with each other. Couples tend to fight more when they are isolated from their friends/family and spend too much time together because they don't get a break from one another and start feeling "trapped" in the relationship.

Furthermore, it helps you in the long run by making the transition back to being a single dancer easier in case things don't work out between you two. Trust me when I say that it's easier to go back to dancing with other people whom you aren't dating, when you've been dancing with those people on a regular basis and didn't abandon them for 6 months (or however long it was you two were dating).

How to Handle a Breakup With Your Dance Partner

Breakups aren't easy. Sometimes they're mutual, and other times not so much. It's hard to say if a relationship will last or not, but it always hurts when it doesn't. Hopefully it's an amicable breakup because that's a lot easier to handle than a bad one, especially at dance.

Other than usual relationship advice on how to handle a breakup that you already know, there are some special considerations to be made if you're a dancer.

First off, once you break up with someone from dance, it can be hard to stop thinking of dancing as a "couple" activity, something that you and your former romantic partner "did." Once you've "divided up" who gets which venue/evening/friends, etc. it can be hard to go back to dancing like normal. I recommend taking a short break and spending time focusing on other things in your life, like your family, non-dancing friends, going to the gym, reading, watching tv/movies, whatever. This gives you time to recuperate mentally and think about what you want to do next.

If your breakup was good or bad, take as much time as you need to feel better and consider pursuing other hobbies until you feel comfortable going back to dancing again. Sometimes it's not too long after, and other times it takes a loooooong time to get back onto the dance floor.

Regardless of when you choose to return to dancing, really focus on making it "yours" and try not to think about it as "ours" if you want to be able to get over your breakup and start having positive associations with dance that aren't related to your past relationship.

It takes a lot of strength and willpower to go back to a place that hurt you once before, but stay hopeful that you will find happiness again one day...

Final Thoughts

Dating at dance, just like anywhere, isn't easy. It has its ups and downs like any relationship, except that at dance your relationship has more visibility to your friends/other people at dance.

However, I do not discourage you from looking for romance at dance, because it can be a very rewarding experience once you meet the right person that you really have a connection with. I only caution you to be careful how you go about it, for reasons that I mentioned above.

Whenever possible, try to arrange it so that you'll have as least a messy/unpleasant breakup as you can so that it doesn't completely put you off dancing forever. I have known many couples that met each other at dance and are now married, some with kids even!

I do wish to remind you though that dating and finding romance can be a fun and exciting experience, it should not be the primary reason that you are going to dance. Don't force love to happen, you'll find it when you're ready. In the meantime just get out there dance and have fun! Everything will come in due time...

© 2013 Anya Brodech

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