The fundamental question that every Ballroom Dancer needs to ask themselves is: "Why do I Ballroom Dance?" The first thing that comes to mind is: the music and the movement. This is certainly true but you can have the same music and movement with solo or free style dancing. After thinking about it for a while, the over whelming answer is: the partnership aspect of Ballroom Dancing.
The physical relationship and the movement of the two partners is the element of Ballroom Dancing that makes it unique. It's the feeling of moving as one on the dance floor using each others power and energy. Truly becoming a real two-headed four-legged animal: thinking, acting and feeling as a single entity.
Beginning Ballroom Dancers generally get consumed learning patterns and at this point are only vaguely aware of the partnership aspect of Ballroom. Sadly, many beginners get so consumed with patterns that they never get to the partnership aspect. They think that they always need more patterns. Without partnership, all of the patterns eventually feel pretty much the same. These dancers are known as "Pattern Dancers". They may know a lot of patterns, but not much more. The feeling of Ballroom is the result of the partnership not the patterns.
What exactly is partnership? Partnership starts with the dance frame. The frame is the mechanism used that allows the two partners to physically touch. There is a big difference between touch and connection. One of the primary goals of partnership is to turn the physical touch into connections.
A connection is a logical path between a physical touch and the core of the two-headed four-legged animal. The frame has a physical connection high up on the four-legged animal (around the shoulder area). When the frame connection is used at this level, balance and movement problems will result. The four-legged animal moves most efficiently from its core (the center of the partnership). Even though the two partners are attached up high, the power and feeling of the movement must go through the core. With some training, the dancer can learn how to make the high physical touch into a logical core connection. This is something that can't be learned from reading or watching, it must be felt. That is the value of private lessons. The instructor can actually give you the feeling that we are talking about. Once the dancer has felt the feeling, it will be clear how he/she can create this feeling. My students have heard me talk a lot about being a "trained dancer"; this is only one aspect of being a "trained dancer".
There are more partnership physical connections than just the frame. Don't try to avoid physical contact with your partner. Just let the partnership (the two-headed four-legged animal) interact naturally and channel these other connections to the core of the partnership as well.
Usually, if the leader can create the feeling, the lady will respond accordingly. That is because women learn and respond by feeling. This most often does not work the other way around because men are normally mechanically oriented. Feeling is most effective when both partners are "trained dancers".
At the higher levels of Ballroom Dancing, partnership is ultimately feeling. Feeling of course comes from the partnership connections. I tell my students to be "mindless" when they dance. This keeps the mind from thinking and enhances the ability of the body to be sensitive to feeling. The goal is to feel every physical contact with your partner and channel that feeling to the partnership's core (make it a connection). This unites the two haves of the partnership and allows single entity movement (the two-headed four-legged animal). Don't think while you dance, feel while you dance. Truly be a "mindless" dancer. This prevents thinking and enhances the feeling of the connections thus solidifying the oneness of the partnership.
It takes a certain amount of training and experience to cross over from being a "thinking" dancer to a "feeling" dancer. Men are generally mechanically oriented, so it takes them a little longer to become a feeling dancer than it does for women because generally speaking women learn by feel. Even though becoming a feeling dancer is an evolutionary process, make it a high priority goal for your dancing.