Early in my dance training my instructor (a dance master) asked me "How do you want your dancing to feel?". I thought this was kind of a strange question. How should I know, I'm just learning to dance. Shouldn't my instructor be telling me how it should feel? The naive thought I had was that there was only one proper feeling for partnership dancing. Ever since that day I have been trying to decide how I want my ballroom dancing to feel.
The beginner student gets very consumed in trying to learn a lot of patterns in many different dances. The thought being that my partner will be bored if I can't dance a lot of dances and patterns. This results in the dancer becoming very mechanical and robotic looking. Soon the student discovers that this is not the way he/she wants to look or feel while dancing.
Most modern (jazz) dancers and ballet dancers learning ballroom dancing, seem to want to dance with very little contact with their partner. They want to be very light and have a sense of freedom in the partnership. Similar to a jazz dancer dancing in front of a mirror with their image as a partner. Soon they realize that partnership dancing is not two jazz dancers dancing beside each other but a very complicated partner relationship.
Each side of the partnership must understand their roles. Someone, (long, long ago in a far off universe), in their infinite wisdom, decided that the gentleman would lead and the lady would follow. The terms "leading" and "following" are a little misleading. It implies that there is a complete subservient relationship in partnership dancing. Actually both sides are very actively participating in the partnership. The statement that "All the lady needs to do is follow" couldn't be more wrong. At the higher levels in ballroom dancing the leader initiates and the lady responds but it is almost simultaneous. As the leaders plans the next move the lady already knows. Both sides of the partnership supplies power, connection, counter balance, centrifugal force, shape, lines, etc. The statement that "The lady can dance only as well as the gentleman leads" is true but it is also true that the gentleman can only dance as well as the lady participates in the partnership.
The way you want your dancing to feel changes as your partnership skills improve, as you get stronger, as your experience on the dance floor increases, as you partners improve and participate more, etc. As your skills and experience continue to grow you will one day on the dance floor stumble across the feeling of being one with your partner (the infamous four legged animal). It may only be for 10 seconds and you may not be able to reproduce it, but you will know what it is that you are after. Now that you know what it is, you will be able to experience it more often and then eventually be able to reproduce it at will.
Once you have reached this plateau in your dancing, you still haven't arrived. It continues to get better and better there is no end! A lot of dancers (particularly men) want "a" feeling they feel safe with and can be comfortable. If you stay with the same feeling you will not improve and you will be missing out on some incredible dancing.
As long as you dance (and are willing) the feeling will continue to change and you will experience new and more exciting feelings. Bottom line, keep an open mind to new feelings and adopt them until another comes along. It just keeps getting better!!