I feel that my dancing improved a great deal when I deliberately invested some time in dancing the woman's role. Any man can try this at a typical contra dance event; there's no requirement for you to be particularly interested in gender-free contras. See what it's like to do a traditional courtesy turn in the woman's role. Try a single twirl. Try multiple twirls. Learn the ladies' chain from a woman's point of view. Learn how to do a ballroom swing with right hand extended and left arm curving around toward your partner's shoulder blade. Learn to roll out at the end of the swing so that you finish the swing on your partner's right.
When I returned to dancing the man's role, I found myself correctly anticipating where I should be (in space and time) to meet my partner or neighbor for a balance and swing, a courtesy turn, or a right-and-left-through. I found it was possible to simultaneously be a smoother dancer and (if desired) a more energetic dancer, because less physical energy was wasted in "Black & Decker" twirls or meaningless flourishes which contributed nothing to the real intensity of the dance experience. Where spontaneous flourishes occurred, they tended to flow with and be appropriate to the particular dance. Female partners and neighbors responded favorably to these developments, and my enjoyment of dancing increased.
In dancing the woman's role, I discovered for myself what works (and what doesn't work) with regard to timing and twirling. As Russell says, it should be the woman's decision to twirl or not twirl. When some flashy fellow practically yanks your arm out of its socket, you'll understand exactly why some women always refuse to dance with that person. And you'll suddenly have some insights about how to do a courtesy turn - with or without twirls - in such a manner that those same women will always be pleased to share a dance with you.
Bob Golder <firstname.lastname@example.org>