It is a pet peeve of mine to see dancers dancing like they have one foot in the grave. No energy what so ever. Their bodies are dead. They look like zombies moving around the floor. That time will come soon enough. In the meantime, come alive while you still can. The bodies of the partners should be still while dancing not dead. There can be so much more to Ballroom Dancing just by adding a little oomph to your partnership.
I can understand that new dancers are concerned about not stepping on their partners and trying to remember patterns and all that goes with starting to dance. Their focus is basically outside their body and they aren't really aware of the partnership as yet. This is the beginning of the Ballroom Dance experience and this phenomenon is pretty much normal.
The next stage is dancers that are just beyond beginners and are consumed with learning foot patterns. Their focus is on the mechanics of the patterns and the sequence of pattern elements. Generally speaking they are just moving through patterns with a partner in front of them. They are usually still "Dead Men/Women Dancing". These dancers tend to evolve into what I call "Pattern Dancers".
The "Pattern Dancers" goal is to learn all of the dance patterns. There is a little more knowledge of the partnership and lead and follow, but the dancer still depends on his/her partner to know the same patterns. As the "Pattern Dancer" knows more and more patterns, the more they start to feel the same. This encourages the dancer try to learn even more patterns. Without feeling, the patterns will be pretty much the same.
The more advanced dancer knows a lot of patterns and how to put them together to be able to move around the floor. The concept of lead and follow and connection is a in such a stage that the partnership flows rather easily through the patterns. Advanced patterns can be danced as long as both partners know them. The dancers are still "Pattern Dancers"; they just know a lot of patterns. It is obvious when you watch them dance, that each partner is doing their scripted part. This gives the partnership a mechanical and robotic image. Unfortunately many of these dancers never get beyond this stage.
The next stage is where the dancing actually starts. Up to now it has just been partnership mechanics. Ballroom Dancing is not about patterns, it is about creating what I call the "Four-Legged Feeling". The "Four-Legged Feeling" is the feeling that you can only get with a partner. If you practice by yourself, you develop a feeling of the dance element that you are practicing. If you now dance that element with a partner and the element has the same feeling, you are definitely still a "Pattern Dancer". You are dancing your part and he/she is dancing their part. The interaction and feeling between the partners changes the feeling of the element thus creating the "Four-Legged Feeling". If you have partnership mechanics but no "Four-Legged Feeling", you may as well be dancing with a blow up doll. You are missing the whole point of Ballroom Dancing.
The stages of learning to Ballroom Dance are generally as I have described above. The secret is to not to stop at the "Pattern Dancer" stage. Continue on where the good stuff is. Unfortunately, many dancers don't even know that there is more beyond the "Pattern Dancer" stage. If the dancer takes only Group Classes it is unlikely that they will progress beyond the "Pattern Dancer" stage. Even in "Private Lessons" many instructors don't teach beyond the "Pattern Dancer" stage because it is too difficult to teach or they themselves are "Pattern Dancers".
When I talk about Dead Men/Women Dancing, I am really talking about the lack of the "Four-Legged Feeling" between the partners, not how fast you can move around the floor. It is sad to see dancers that have taken a lot of private lessons and even Compete, but are still "Pattern Dancers". The goal of Ballroom Dancing is to experience your partner and yourself as a single entity (the Two-Headed Four-Legged Animal). Now that you know that there is something beyond being a "Pattern Dancer" (most dancers are not aware that they are "Pattern Dancers"), try the following.
Dance a simple pattern with your partner like a Rumba Box. "Pattern Dancers" use their mind to think about the foot work, Latin Motion, frame, etc. Since this is a simple box step, you should be able to dance it without thinking. I want you now to use your whole mind to feel, not to think. Turn off you thinking and turn on your feeling. This works best when both partners are participating. Each partner must feel and also allow their partner to feel them. Feel your partners footwork (ball flat), feel their frame (connection), feel their back (power and strength), feel their weight changes (movement). This is the beginning of developing the partnerships "Four-Legged Feeling"./P>
Dead Men/Women Dancing refers to the lack of feeling going on between the dance partners. Everything is lifeless except the mechanical pattern. When you watch world class Ballroom Dancers, you can see the feeling in the partnership and you can feel the energy of the partnership. You may not be able to identify exactly what you are seeing but you know it exists and you can see when it is absent in a dance partnership.
Take the time to feel and experience the partnership even in the simplest of patterns. Make it a goal to develop the "Four-Legged Feeling" in your dancing. It will be beyond your wildest expectations.