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Discussion on Finding Partners in Israeli Dancing, Booking Ahead and Partner Rotation

August 19, 2010

One of the biggest problems in social dancing, particularly in Contra, Folk and Israeli partner dancing, is people without regular partners can be excluded.

Here is the gist of a discussion from an Israeli Dance forum. The text may have been edited.


Andrew:

We also need to provide more opportunities to change partners. If there are only three sets in a night and you have five friends, you will never have time to dance with someone else.


Cindy:

That is the problem, exactly. And I have been told by some men that they feel pressured to satisfy their "obligations" to their female friends by dancing sets with them, but there are never enough sets to cover every partner in a session, so the "IOU" list grows longer each week.... effectively shutting out any opportunity for a partner new to the scene to get a foot in the door.


Steve:

I agree with both Cindy and Andrew.

Here's my proposal: One partner set starting each half hour.

This can be a very flexible solution, as the sets can be of any length (up to about 27 minutes), and can start at any time (from 9:00 to 9:29, for example). This would guarantee six couple sets in a three hour session, allowing for multiple partners. You could dance with your favorite partners, your friends, and with newcomers/visitors. Hopefully, you wouldn't have to reserve a whole session's partners in advance, although you could ("We'll dance the set starting between 10 and 10:30").

Does this sound like a feasible idea? Did anyone ever try it (or experience it)?


Cindy:

Hi Steve,

Amazingly, your proposal is the exact protocol followed at the 92nd St. Y in Manhattan. The session begins around 8 pm, partner sessions begin generally around about 9 pm and alternate with circle sets every 15 minutes or so till the end of the session, where depending on the situation we may end with a half hour long partner set or longer.

This sounds great in theory and used to be wonderful, until the dreaded "pre-booking" disease caught hold. It used to be, if one came early enough, that one could go around and set up partners for the evening. Many women wouldn't be guaranteed every set in the evening but they could at least get one or two. But now, it seems that all the guys have set up their sets with favoured partners in advance so that even if they switch between partners, they always do set #1 with woman X, set #2 with woman Y, set #3 with woman G, etc. I had come early a few weeks ago just so I'd have a chance to ask people for sets and couldn't find anyone to ask.... then the first partner set started and they all suddenly appeared out of nowhere and started dancing with their partners! They were all able to just show up because they had arranged everything in advance.

So now, there again is no room for a non-regular or new person (or a person who doesn't want to pre-book) even though there are many sets throughout the evening. Even 6 or 7 sets like at the Y is not enough because the guys have stopped being spontaneous in the partner-picking department and are dancing with the same women every week.

And what really bothers me is that the women who do have partners must feel this pressure to come every week whether they really feel like it or not out of fear that if they don't come for awhile, they will lose their "spot" to another dancer who would be more than eager to take their place. I was chatting with a fellow the last time I was at the session when another woman, fairly new to the group, cut into our conversation to make sure he was dancing with her the next set. It wasn't done pleasantly, but rather aggressively. She had a real fire in her eyes and no smile. It's very sad for me to see how this has developed in the IFD world. I refuse to go this route, and as a result, if this one gentleman I do one or two sets with doesn't show up, I'm sitting out without a partner for the entire evening.

Cindy


Andrew:

Hi Steve,

Dancing with six partners is better than one.

Like Cindy's experience, it seems to me even in other social dance settings, people gravitate to those they feel most comfortable with.

Should we bring back dance cards? http://www.mixedpickles.org/dancecards.html

The only way I know to equalize the dancing is to have an organized rotation.

Maybe a little of both would be good.

Maybe early in the evening, rotate partners every dance in an organized manner, so people dance with people they have not danced with before. That way, people may be more comfortable dancing with different partners later, when they choose their partners.

Andy

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