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SCTC’s newest competition category “Jack & Jill” has been quite the hit so far in registrations. It’s brought out a completely new set of competitors not seen before in our usual partner categories. New faces, new participants from out of town, more advanced dancers as well as more beginner dancers, and best of all—all those without partners can now register!

Here are some tips for dancing with strangers…perfect for Jack & Jill participants, random festival encounters, and *GASP* partnered competitors panicking under the spotlight. 😉

1. Embrace the hell out of each other

You’re not going to get familiar delicately handling each other from afar. Snuggle yourself into there and seek out their core (wherever it is). Can’t follow your partner’s movements? Have no idea where your partner’s feet are? Have no idea what he or she is doing? EMBRACE BETTER!

Stand closer, put your chest closer (or even touching), put your arms around more, more contact in your hands. And likewise, relax yourself so you can settle nicely into your partner’s embrace. STILL don’t know what your partner is doing? Try using your most primitive “connection resource”, the EYES! Look at your partner (not in a creepy way, of course) and see what he or she is doing.

There are only two cautions. Don’t embrace so hard that it hurts or restricts yours or your partner’s movements. Don’t embrace so hard that you or your partner can’t stay on axis.

2. Set a [predictable] rhythm

With familiar partners, you can dance however you want. You can sneak your way around the bandoneon, drop out a slow ocho on the violin, and pounce with the beat. With a stranger, you have to be a little more conservative, ALMOST to the point of being boring. Why be boring? Because boring is repetitive and we follow patterns a lot better than we follow random improvisations.

Leaders, this means setting a rhythm and not deviating from it so often. Dance on time for a whole phrase, then switch to half time, or double-time, then switch back to time, then switch again. But the whole idea is not to do it so often and so sudden. Followers, this means not springing out your embellishments on the fly. If you’re going to tap, tap the same way at least a few times. If you’re going to do anything spontaneous, try not to affect the rhythm set by your leader.

3. Style the music

Assuming you’ve both worked into a place where you can predict each other’s rhythm. The only thing left is to style it. Leaders, simply repeat a move 3-5 times and style it each time. Followers, if you feel your leader repeat something, let go of some embellishments.

We can style repeat walking steps, repeat ochos, repeat touch steps, repeat sacadas, and so forth. Anything that repeats can [probably] be styled safely. The hardest part is being able to repeat the steps enough times before the music changes character and forces you to do something else. This is why musicality is so important, but hey…that’s a topic for another day.

4. Take risks, with tricks & embellishments

Unload your personality. Let go of that raw passion for the music. DANCE! Leaders, cut loose a few of your favorite most expressive moves. Followers, take over every now and then and dictate the rhythm with your own musicality and embellishments. That clean safe connection where nobody does anything to hurt the “embrace” is applaudable. But that connection where both dancers feel free to grab the mic spontaneous and say what they want to say, that’s magic. Try to find it!

5. Stay positive

It’s easy to get frustrated when your dance or your partner’s dance doesn’t gel as smoothly together as you like. That’s the magic of tango, you never know what you’ll get. What’s more important than loving your partner’s dance is love your partner. Make sure you communicate joy, warmth, love, and acceptance throughout the dance (and even before and after).

 Learn more about Jack & Jill:

Jack & Jill Registration ends FEB 16.
(We need more LEADERS and also BEGINNERS!)