Have you ever thought that the way you're asked to move when learning partner feels odd? If you have then you're not alone. Many of us learning dance feel this way. At first, this might not seem like such a big deal. However, when we feel odd doing something, we are unlikely to keep doing it. This means that while we might dance well at first, we will soon regress to way of dancing that feel better, but aren't correct. Ideally, we want the correct way of dancing to feel like the natural way. In this article I will explain why partner dance can feel odd and what can be done to so that this will not adversely affect your dance ability.
A major part of the issue is body language. Many dance moves correspond to bold moves. Or perhaps other strong emotions. If you're not feeling those emotions, then there will be incongruence between what you're doing and feeling. This will definitely make you feel odd.
The other major part of the issue is that we're simply not used to the types of movement that are common to partner dance. This is a lot like when you first put on a pair of shoes and you notice that one is tighter than the other. It's also like when you wear a new watch or stop wearing a watch that you've been wearing for a long time. Another example that is perhaps more pertinent is that of people who still limp after having a hip replacement. The hip doesn't hurt, but they still limp. This isn't as common as it used to be because of better medical care, which in itself shows how hard it can be to change the way we move.
The solution to this issue is basically being aware of the issue. Once we know that feeling odd is OK, and not an indication that we are moving incorrectly, that feeling is less likely to affect the way we dance. Still, to be better partner dancers, we would rather it all feel natural.
The first step is to trust the teacher. When the teacher tells you that you're doing something right, then accept that it is right, no matter how it feels. The same goes for when they say it's not right and it still feels natural. You need to accept that your feel is not as good an indication of good couples dancing as is your teacher's observations.
The second step is to try to take on the emotions of the dance. It's always worth finding out what 'role' you're meant to play in a dance. Are you meant to be bold, submissive, aggressive or desired for example? If you try to take on this emotion, as opposed to whatever you happen to be feeling at the time, then your body language will fit with the dance moves.
The above two steps will do a lot to help. However, it sometimes helps to correlate the physical feeling with the looks. This is why dance studios often have mirrors. Put the effort into looking at yourself in the mirror when dancing or get a video of yourself when couples dancing. It will likely amaze you how different you look from how you thought you would look given how your body felt.