You’ve probably heard of personality profiling systems, designed to help us understand each other so that we can get along better as a common humanity. When you know your personality type, you can more easily relate to where others are coming from and what makes them different. Let’s take a look at how personality types affect ballroom dancers, and what that might mean to you. And your partners.

Four Basic Types

There are sophisticated testing systems to evaluate your personality type, such as Myers-Briggs, and there are newer, simpler ones, including modern tests that tout various reasons behind their design. There are tests based on assigning colors and tests based on animal traits. But personality types often boil down your profile to four basic aspects. People range from outgoing to reserved, and they range from people-oriented to task-oriented. There is usually overlap with these different qualities, but they identify the primary traits for most people.

Someone who is driven to change the world, like the late Steve Jobs who founded Apple, is task oriented and generally not likely to care too much about being well liked, which would be the opposite side of that scale. On the other hand, many expressive actors and actresses are deeply distressed to read bad reviews and are more likely to value the opinions of others over the need to get a job done. It is possible to be outgoing and also very task oriented, just as it is possible to be introverted and a people person. Our personality might be right in the center, but as a rule people are weighted slightly off center in one or two of these areas.

We can visualize these personality types in a chart form like this:
four primary personality types

Dance and Personality Types

After years of teaching I’ve observed that how we dance is directly related to our personality type. Here’s some insight that might help you better understand how your personality type affects your dancing.

Driver

Drivers, in all areas of life, are people who need to win. Results are vital to them. For some drivers, results can be all that matters. As a rule, they make good dancers because they are so assertive. They are often driven to compete and work hard to improve their skill, often achieving great results in a short time. Surprisingly, they can often lack expressiveness on the floor, even though their movement is usually strong and dynamic.

They are devastated when they lose in competition, and losing typically drives them to work even harder. What they struggle with is enjoying the experience of dancing. When you are so focused on the end result, you can easily forget to enjoy the magic of being on the floor connected to another person, moving together as one to the music. For the same reason, we also see drivers lose their connection to their partners.

While drivers work hard to improve, they might not pay enough attention to fine details and this can often keep them from growing once they achieve a certain skill level.

In partnerships, drivers can work well with the other types, but will easily get frustrated if their partners don’t share the same passion for achieving the goal. Two drivers can work well as partners, but only if their goals are similar.

Expressive

Expressive dancers are the most fun to watch on the dance floor. They are outgoing and passionate about dancing. Like Drivers, they are assertive on the dance floor. They smile and have fun. Often they show immediate ability as dancers due to these qualities. Their joy of dance is infectious.

Like drivers, their movement tends to be full of energy and they can be powerful on the floor. They might care about results in competition but mostly because of the recognition they earn through results. They are driven more by the experience and the enjoyment than by winning.

They often struggle with having enough patience to improve the details. This means they can ignore key technical things because in their view those kind of details take away from the fun of the dance. If they can learn to focus on these fine points, they can actually have more fun because then they will realize even more of the expression they love, since it is founded on great technique.

Expressives make good partners, but can be frustrated by analytics who are technically focused. As leads, expressives can be so focused on their own presentation that they forget they have a partner.

Analytical

Analytics can be great students. They listen intently and pay attention to every detail in their lessons. But the very things that make them great students get in the way of great dancing. They have a tendency to focus so much on all the minute details that they don’t let go and just dance. Every move is calculated. Every step they take goes through numerous mental filters and in this process, the dance itself can be lost. They may have a challenge expressing themselves because they are so busy thinking about the details.

If you’re an analytic, you need to spend time on the floor not caring about technique, just moving as big as you can to the music. Allow yourself to fail technically to see what you might gain in other areas like expressing the dance. Because these analytical tendencies often keep dancers from moving efficiently, they can also try pushing themselves through greater movement. Try taking huge steps, forgetting about all the rules, just to see what it feels like.

In partnership, analytics can be challenging if they let their desire for technical perfection get in the way of moving in a big and natural way. They may take steps that are too small or lose their posture because they are thinking mostly about details like which part of the foot touches the ground first. Once they get past those natural barriers, their desire for technical precision can make them excellent partners.

Amiable

Amiables tend to be more people-oriented than task-oriented and care deeply about being appreciated. They may be quite artistic and can show incredible natural ability on the dance floor. They are cautious, taking time to build trust in their partners, but once that trust is there they can be terrific dancers. They are technical, but only to a point. They will often make great strides in dance, but at later stages getting the fine details right in order to excel can be a challenge because it interferes with the personal connection side of dance.

Generally they are more reserved in their facial expressions, which can hold them back in competition, although expressive and amiable qualities often overlap. Sometimes they are hesitant to be a showcase couple or the only couple on the floor because of their concern that they might not live up to the expectations of others. As competitors, Amiables can be devastated by poor results. But this is typically because poor results make them feel that they have let others down.

Amiables can make terrific partners but could potentially be frustrating for expressive or driver personalities because of their reserved nature. In the best partnerships, the experience of dancing with more expressive partners can bring out their own artistic expression, breaking through the tendency to be quiet and reserved.

How do your personality types fit your dancing?

You may fit into just one of the above personality types. More likely you are a combination of them, leaning toward one but also having elements of other types in your own profile. Where you fit is unimportant, but knowing your type and that of your partner will help you be more effective as a dance partner and will also help you expand your dance skills. Take the time to evaluate your personality types and use it to improve your ability on the floor.

Photo from Delta Cup by Ivo Dimitrov

Author George Pytlik

Before turning pro, George achieved impressive results as an amateur competitor, holding the 35+ Latin championship in BC, Canada for 7 consecutive years with his wife Wendy. The couple twice achieved a top-3 Canadian ranking in senior Latin as well as a 3rd place Canadian ranking in senior 1 Ten Dance. Today, George and Wendy teach with a vision of growing a strong dance community in Delta near Vancouver, BC.

More posts by George Pytlik

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