All About Eye Contact and Connecting with Your Dance Partner

Posted by Tina Lee-Almazar on

Latin dance is passionate, energetic, and intense. You have to look the part if you want to give justice to a performance and this requires connecting with your partner completely.

Here’s the thing: connecting with a dance partner isn’t just about moving the same way, looking good together in your Yami dance shoes, or executing gravity-defying dance moves. It’s also about feeling the intensity of the emotions through the eyes.

Looking at your dance partner regularly and paying attention to what you’re doing, what your partner is doing, and the rhythm of the dance itself are critical to an excellent performance. Then again, you don’t want to hold your partner’s gaze too long or too intensely because it will make them uncomfortable.

Eye Contact: How Much is Too Much?

You need to look at your dance partner to convey passion, but we don't mean staring at your dance partner non-stop until she gets creeped out. Just regularly look at your partner not just to convey passion and intensity but also to maintain synchronicity.

So why does making eye contact with a dance partner can sometimes feel awkward in Latin dances? Here are some reasons why:

The nature of the dance style: Often, Latin dance is explicitly romantic. And the way that that the dance steps are executed puts emphasis on hip movements and isolations, which look sexy.

The closeness to your dance partner: The combination of romantic music playing in the background, sexy hip movements, and pressing one’s body to a dance partner can make eye contact uncomfortable for many people. But if you’re dancing with a pro, this won’t be a problem. That’s part of the performance.

The synchronicity: Moving together as a unit requires connecting deeply with a dance partner. And sometimes, being in sync could make one self-conscious when letting an intense gaze linger.

Looking around, looking at other people, looking everywhere but your dance partner is rude. It’s as if you’re bored, would rather look at other people, checking out better dance partners instead of the one you’re dancing to right now.

How to Avoid Awkward Eye Contact

Being comfortable at connecting with your partner through your eyes will take practice. It’s done to connect with a partner or, at the very least, to be polite. Think of eye contact in dance as a handshake. There shouldn’t be any awkwardness unless the gaze went beyond polite. Here are some tips to avoid awkward eye contact:

Smile: A smile conveys warmth and friendliness. If, for some reason, you’re making your dance partner feel awkward or self-conscious when you make eye contact, give them a warm smile, then dance. Do it in that order, dance, make eye contact and smile, then dance.

Look Away: Do not hold your partner’s gaze for too long; look away after a few seconds and then continue dancing. Making eye contact and then looking away should be a part of the dance routine. As you look away, pay attention to what’s happening - scan the room to avoid a collision, gauge your distance to make sharp turns or dips, focus on the hand styling, etc.

Talk: Make your dance partner feel comfortable by talking while making eye contact. A quick convo while making eye contact should be enough. If you’re not used to speaking while dancing, that’s okay, you can develop this skill with experience.

When to Make Eye Contact

For a Dramatic Effect: Think of eye contact as the icing on top of the cake. Your performance will look infinitely better when you’re connecting with your dance partner through the eyes. Looking at each other at the right moments of a routine adds a dramatic flair to the performance.

To Pay Attention: If you’re new to dancing and still learning certain dance moves, you’ll depend on the leader to clue you in on the next move. So focus on your leader’s cues, along with the eye contact. It will make dancing much easier.

To Execute Certain Moves: A turn, a dip, etc., these dance moves look so easy to do when the pros do it, but for casual social dancers, it will take a lot of energy and attention to pull these off. That’s why you need to trust each other when executing a fancy move.

Making eye contact is a great way to cue each other on the next move while also making the performance look intense and passionate. If say, you’re dipped, you can either hold your partner’s gaze, close your eyes, or look away dramatically (as if it’s part of the dance move).

When to Look Away

When Leading: Certain dance moves will require your full attention, so it’s okay to look straight ahead or slightly away from your partner during a particular move when you’re leading. Also, look away if you need to set your upper body in a specific direction, like when completing a turn. 

A more stylized routine often tells a story through the dance moves, so the dance moves can be quite dramatic. When you’re dancing intently to tell a story, you’re not supposed to look at your dance partner; just make eye contact as a special effect.

When Following: As a follower, you need to pay close attention to the leader’s cues. Keep your eyes on the routine along with your partner’s eyes for special effects. Do not scope the crowd or focus too much on potential partners when you’re dancing. 

This does not mean you should only look at your dance partner 100% of the time during a routine, but look at the leader’s general direction as often as possible. Make eye contact when the leader makes eye contact, then flash a friendly smile. If you cannot hold his gaze for any reason, focus on his other facial features (like his forehead or eyebrows), so you look like you’re looking at the leader from afar. 

Making eye contact with a dance partner will take practice, but it will elevate your performance once you get this right. And speaking of elevating a performance, the right dance shoes will motivate you to dance better and longer. But don’t take our word for it; check out our latest collection here and feel the Yami difference!