Master Lorenzo's Pleasant Partner Poll
This year at the Saltare Collegium, Master Lorenzo will be sponsoring a contest to encourage good partnering skills and dance etiquette. When informed of this, his student Serafina had a few questions about it:
On The Qualities Of A Good Partner
Serafina: I am not sure I understand what you mean by "partnering skills". Can you give me some examples of what you look for in a dance partner?
Lorenzo: Certainly. First of all, one should be friendly and pleasant, neatly dressed and well groomed.
S: That seems reasonable enough. I would definitely want any partner of mine to follow such guidelines.
L: As would I. Once you have ensured that you are presentable, the next step is to find a partner. Women and men alike are free to ask someone to dance, provided they do so in a polite and respectful manner. If you wish to refuse such an offer, you are free to do so, though it is impolite to accept another's offer for the same dance unless it was previously arranged. Just as you should be polite when refusing a dance, you should be gracious when your request is refused by another.
S: And once I have a partner, what then?
L: The dance itself is the most important time, of course. You should maintain contact with your partner, whether by hand, word, or eye, so that you are able to communicate well. This will both aid in your performance of the dance and allow for the interaction between you and your partner that is the purpose of the dance in the first place. Your hand should be neither too firm nor too limp, your arm resilient but not rigid, your gaze attentive without being overwhelming.
S: But what if one of us doesn't know the dance?
L: It is inevitable that you will at some point be doing a dance that is unfamiliar to you, or that your partner does not know as well as you do. In these cases, the more experienced partner should gently guide the other, whether by hand or word, without being overbearing or demanding. The less experienced partner should follow the other's lead as best they can, but not worry overmuch about getting every step right. An imperfect dance with an affable partner is far better than a perfect dance acheived through strife.
S: What sort of demeanor should I maintain while dancing?
L: Your attitude should fit with that of your partner, and thus will vary from person to person, or even between dances with the same partner. Some may be serious, others playful. They may be flirtatious or even comical. Be mindful of your partner's mannerisms, and adjust yours to complement them.
S: What else do I need to know?
L: Obviously, the better your technique and knowledge of dance, the more prepared you will be to dance with others, so study of dance will serve you well. The end of the dance should be handled with grace, just like the beginning. If you asked your partner to dance, you should escort them back to where they were before, if they so desire. Thank them for the dance, and pay whatever compliments may seem appropriate. While you may dance with the same person several times during the course of an evening, it is unseemly to monopolize their company for many dances in a row.
S: All of these are fine suggestions. I look forward to putting them into practice at the next revel I attend!
On The Rules Of The Contest
Serafina: Good Master Lorenzo, how will the winner of this contest be chosen?
Lorenzo: Why, by the votes of the other dancers, of course. Who better to judge the quality of a partner than those he has danced with?
S: So everyone will get a vote?
L: Indeed. Everyone will get to nominate two people, in fact.
S: Now, I have been to a few revels, and it is quite common for there to be a disparity between the numbers of men and women present. I have studied mathematics; surely this means one gender will have more chance of winning!
L: For this very reason there shall be two winners chosen: one by the men and one by the women.
S: That seems fair enough, but surely those who are teaching the dances will be the finest partners.
L: As it is a skill any proficient dancer should know, I would expect all of the teachers to be good dance partners. They will, therefore, be excluded from the polling. They may cast votes themselves, but any cast for them will be ignored.
S: I am but a new student of the dance! How could I hope to win such an honor?
L: While it is true that it is easier to be an attentive partner when one is already familiar with the ways of dancing, even the newest dancer can be gracious and pleasant. If two people of different skill levels are dancing together, the wiser should be helping and encouraging the newer, while the newer should be mindful of their partner's lead.
S: How will I know who to vote for? So many people are new to me.
L: Introducing oneself to one's partner is only good manners, don't you think?
S: Can I vote for someone I have not danced with myself?
L: If a dancer is such a good partner that it is apparent even to others viewing the dance from outside, one must assume that they are worthy of the accolade and therefore any such vote would be counted. However, why not confirm your suspicions by asking them to dance yourself?
S: Oh, but I am so shy! Would that be proper?
L: Anyone may - and should - ask another for a dance if that is their desire. Requesting a dance politely is one of the skills that a good partner should display. Responding to such a request with equal grace, whether positively or negatively, is such a skill as well.
S: What if I have a favorite partner and prefer to dance with him all the time?
L: If so, then has he not already won a contest of a sort? If he does not get the chance to dance with others, though, it is unlikely that he will fare well in this contest.
S: When will the votes be tallied?
L: As the counting may take some time, it will take place during the dinner break before the evening ball. This means that the time to show your worth will be during the day's classes.
S: When will the winners be announced?
L: During the ball, at whatever point seems to be best suited for it.