Can you "learn" how to have rhythm or a general aptitude for dance?

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by yippee1999, Oct 1, 2006.

  1. yippee1999

    yippee1999 Member

    My opinion is "no"... that having a sense of rhythm either comes naturally or it doesn't. There's a guy that I first learned salsa with, and while he has learned alot of technical stuff re: partner work, he has no sense of rhythm. When I dance with him, I can see him counting in his head the steps. He even told me he bought a CD that teaches you how to hear the rhythm in salsa songs, so you can dance to it properly. And yet every time I dance with him, it feels like I'm dancing with a robot.

    I also recently took a beginner tango class. There was one guy in the class who was so painful to dance with. He just had no sense of rhythm, no ability to understand what was being taught him. Everytime I had to partner with him, it was a complete standstill. He just froze. So I basically had to tell him what to do. And even then, he just jumbled all the moves. I encountered this same guy in a beginner Hustle class, and had the exact same experience. He was really bad. And I thought to myself "how can someone not realize that they have no aptitude... that maybe they should just give it up?" And I don't think it had anything to do with his being a beginner in either class. We were all beginners. But you know how you can just sense if someone understands basic dance concepts and/or has a sense of rhythm?

    Anyway, I know I will probably come off as a dance snob/witch, but I really have no patience for people in dance class or at a club/social, who imo shouldn't even be there in the first place. It's one thing if you're at the type of dance class/social where everybody is a bumbling dancer, but if you are at a school/social where pretty much everybody has basic dance skills/rhythm, why make everyone who dances with you suffer? I just don't think you can "buy" an aptitude for dance or rhythm. I think most people fall into one of two camps: those who can have all the dance lessons in the world, and they'll always be bad dancers with no sense of rhythm, and those who, even with limited lessons, can easily pick up the basics or develop their own attractive dance style, and who always have rhythm no matter what the type of music playing.
  2. englezul

    englezul New Member

    I honestly don't think you have the aptitude to tell who has no sense of rhythm, and who shouldn't be where. But it sounds to me that if anybody is suffering in those classes you're taking, is the parteners who get stuck with you. You might think this is harsh, but really, you have a terrible attitude.
  3. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl New Member

    At the (ballroom) studio I go to, there's an advanced amateur dancer who is a beautiful dancer and routinely wins competitions. Recently, someone told me that, when he started (more than 10 years ago), he was really terrible, especially about hearing/keeping the rhythm, and everyone predicted that he'd never amount to anything as a dancer.

    Pretty much any skill can be learned, as long as there isn't an actual physical obstacle (I was going to say, like being deaf, but I know a deaf dancer, and she's very good!).

    Now I offer a small prayer of thanks for all the partners who cheerfully danced with me when I was an awkward, bumbling beginner and redouble my commitment to "pay it forward."
  4. yippee1999

    yippee1999 Member

    I'm sorry Englezul, but it wasn't like I made it obvious how I felt about this guy. And mind you, this was a 3-hour long class with only 10 men/10 women, so all the female students got matched up with this guy many times during the class. And it was just torture to stand there with him, while he just kept mumbling how "bad" he is, and then I was expected to smile each time to be "polite", or else say "oh no, you're not so bad". Each time I was paired with him meant a routine I didn't get to practice, because he didn't know how to lead at all.

    I know that if I were in a class and I was clearly not able to keep up with the other students during partnerwork, I'd either get some privates or take a group class more at my level. And in fact, it's much worse for the women, when the men don't know what they are doing, because they are the ones who are supposed to lead. If a man doesn't know what he's doing, the woman is stuck doing nothing with him. But if a woman isn't familiar with a particular routine or turn pattern, at least she is in a better position to guess what to do based on her partner's cues or leads.

    Also, while you know nothing about my level of aptitude, it is irrelevant anyway, as anybody regardless of dance skills can spot a person who has rhythm versus one who does not. And those who can't readily see the difference probably don't have rhythm themselves.
  5. KiwiMambo

    KiwiMambo New Member

    If you are willing to learn, find good instruction and put in the effort then I believe anyone can develop rhythm. Yes, you sometimes see the type you just described - no sense of rhythm, poor body coordination. You also see those types of people stay that way for many years because they don't put forth the effort. Going to class a few times per month is not going to do it. I used to teach Martial Arts and I've seen stiff bodies transform into a fluid moving martial artist. Now, these people that were naturally stiff to begin with never became the elite but they did teach their bodies to move.
  6. Catarina

    Catarina New Member

    My guess is that people can learn to have rhythm--definitely with a lot of practice, both moving to the music and listening to feel the music, not just hear it. When I go to my dance class each week, I get there early and a lot of weeks end up watching the last 15 minutes of the beginner class. It's neat to just watch and see guys and some women who, a month or so ago, couldn't walk smoothly, gradually be able to do the basic with the correct timing and without looking grotesque in their body movements. Granted, they may not be as graceful or smooth as experienced or dancers with a "natural" sense of rhythm, but they definitely showed improvement. So maybe it just takes a lot more practice for some than for others.

    And who doesn't get more rigid and stiffer when they're nervous? That just makes it all worse! I feel for the guy, even though it wouldn't be a picnic dancing with him.
  7. DennisBeach

    DennisBeach New Member


    This does not seem to be a rythym issue. Sounds more like he has a serious confidence problem. It sounds like he is so lacking in confidence, he is not even trying to lead and is to scared to be able to do anything. I think he should work with a teacher in private to try to get over the confidence issue.

    I have seen guys like this and most quit after a short amount of time. I have also seen people like this, who with the help of good teacher, become good dancers.
  8. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Sorry yippee, but I must disagree. I couldn;t find the "1" for my first two months, even with private lessons, whereas I am now regulalry told that one of the reasons women enjoy dancing with me is that I am always right there on the beat for them. Whether they're right or not isn't the issue, but the fact is that I'm obviously quite some way from not being able to find it to save my life. ;)
  9. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    I don't know that I agree. I'm positive that at least some people can learn to have a sense of rhythm; otherwise, there would be a lot fewer musicians and dancers in the world. I am prepared to admit the possibility that there are some people who can't do it. Certainly, anyone who has ear problems (either hearing or balance) has a big hill to climb. (Although there are deaf people who dance just fine.)

    How long have you and this guy been dancing? We've discussed the learning curve for leaders vs. followers before, and someone on another thread recently posted the link to Edie the Salsa Freak's article about this. If you are a 1-3 year dancer, don't fall into this trap. If you do, in another year or two, you may regret it.

    Well, the thing about beginner classes is that sometimes they are full of beginners. As in people who have no dance experience at all. I assume you took the beginner class because you are learning a new dance, but as an experienced dancer already, you are already past most of the newbie students even though the specific dance may be new to you. You might should have started with an intermediate class, or at least an accelerated beginner class for learning-another-dance dancers. Where are beginners supposed to learn if they shouldn't be allowed to dance with anyone else? You mentioned in another posting that the guy kept apologizing for how bad he was. Clearly, he was initimidated. You made it worse. Go see the "What motivates guys to dance" thread -- because what you did ain't it.
  10. yippee1999

    yippee1999 Member

    Ok, thanks guys for your input. I see I was wrong on the not having rhythm/never to have rhythm thing!

    Cornutt, I didn't "do" anything to intimidate him, except that maybe he saw that I seemed to be more comfortable with learning the new steps than he was. I'm sure he was the same apologetic way with all the women.

    But I see what you're saying about beginner classes for dancing beginners, versus beginner classes for beginners for THAT type of dance. Might be a good idea if more schools had different classes for the two separate groups, since the overall learning curves would differ...
  11. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    Yep, when a guy imagines things that could go wrong learning to dance, this thread would be up there.
  12. noobster

    noobster New Member

    I used to believe as yippee1999 did - that you either have rhythm or you don't - but by now I've heard/read too many testimonials from dancers who started out with 'no rhythm' to continue making that error.

    What does surprise me is that people who 'don't have rhythm' ever have the interest and commitment to put forth the effort and learn to dance. I definitely admire them for it; but I don't really get it. If I didn't loooove the feeling of the rhythm moving my body, I don't think I would see what was fun about dancing, and I certainly don't imagine I would be willing to log so many hours trying to learn steps, balance, spinning, following, and all the other technique issues that you have to deal with in order to get to the point where you can be in that rhythm with someone else.

    What does someone with 'no rhythm' enjoy about dancing that makes him/her willing to put the work in to learn it?
  13. Catarina

    Catarina New Member

    I wouldn't put myself in the category of never having had rhythm to begin with, so as one who is trying to go from having an average sense of rhythm--as in i can hear it and if i'm relaxed enough move with it, maybe this insight will help others out: first of all, keep in mind the coolness factor. It looks really cool to see someone dance really well and move in unexpected, yet perfectly fitting ways to the music. Who doesn't want to learn how to do that? Then, as you learn, the hope and encouragement that you're actually getting better makes a big difference in motivation to keep trying ;)

    Also, I love a good challenge and don't have much tolerance for not being good at something, so figuring out how I can have a better sense of rhythm to complex music and be able show it with how I move is a new type of challenge...but that's me...
  14. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    I'm sorry; I shouldn't have said that you did. What I should have said is that that was the effect it had, whether you intended to or not.

    Allow me to suggest that the next time you find yourself dancing with an absolute newbie in group class, try to engage him in conversation a bit and find out how long he has been dancing. That will help break the ice, and also give you an idea of what you can expect out of dancing with him. If he really is a total newbie, you might try helping him a bit with the basic elements of the lead-follow. Remember, he could turn out to be a really good lead some day, and if he remembers you as someone who was friendly and helpful back when he was a beginner, then you are ahead of the game. :cool:
  15. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    Same reason that people who are afraid of heights learn to skydive. :D Seriously, some times you just want a new challenge, something totally outside of your previous experience. Although my general sense of rhythm is pretty good, I knew precisely nothing about dancing when I started. Why did I stick with it? Because once I'd learned a few steps, I thought it was pretty cool. And (obligatory for Fascination), I get to dance with pretty women. Nothing wrong with that! ;)
  16. genEus

    genEus New Member

    WHOA. Sometimes I think I have a twin out there somewhere!

    I keep asking myself the saaaame question over and over! How can someone, who is consistently off beat enjoy dancing? Is it just the sporadic movement and leading turns and patterns which, not only have no relation to the musical phrasing, structure, diminuendo, crescendo, etc., but have no relation to anything at all? But then, I tell myself to shut up, in fear of people thinking of me as arrogant, when that couldn't be farther from the truth...

    As to the original question, I just posted this in another thread and am copying it here:

  17. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl New Member

    IME, the body knows more about rhythm than the mind does. If someone can't hear or count the rhythm, they may still be able to move to it. Most people can clap along to a song or tap their toes. I am really not musical, but learning to dance with rhythm mostly took turning off my mind and letting my body respond to the music. Of course, you have to feel comfortable with your setting, partner, etc. to be able to do that at first.
  18. Tony_Salvi

    Tony_Salvi New Member

    Well Yippee I hope this guy isn't discouraged and keeps listening to that timing CD. I know it's worked wonders for me. I had no clue how to find the one for months. I listened to non-stop salsa and had a timing program I bought, but still it did no help. Then one day everything just clicked and I could "feel" the music. Also, the reason he feels like a robot is probably because he hasn't learned the rhythm, doesn't have a fluid basic, and is probably thinking too much because the things you have to do as a lead still are not second nature to him. With time this will change, but it takes practice.

    Wow...I really have to disagree with this strongly. I seriously doubt you should be judging this guy solely on that experience. There's this older guy(late 50s) in our scene who's been dancing about a year. He cannot dance worth a lick, but he enjoys himself and has a good time. And I know that he lacks some talent to be a natural dancer, but I know that he has gotten better over the months. If he becomes a great dancer or not I don't think it would ever be appropriate to tell him to quit because he's not getting it fast enough. Some people learn faster than others, but I beleive that with enough time and effort anyone can learn to dance.


    Ummm because it's supposed to be a fun and social activity. I dance with beginners from time to time because I was in the same situation before. Although I have more fun with ladies at my level I still want more people to learn salsa and I think dancing with beginners encourages this.


    Sure you can. You can buy it in the way of privates, group lessons, timing cds, DVDs, club cover charges, salsa music, congresses, and shoes. Am I missing something? What you can't buy is a passion for salsa...and the willingness to throw away your inhibitions and just express what the music makes you feel. That's what seperates a good dancer and someone who will "never get it" IMHO.
  19. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Rhythm

    With out it , your heart would not beat, and nor would you walk,.. Every thing you do has a " rythm " to it. One has to learn how to transfer that into the art of dance .Have taught thousands who initially seemed deprived, but eventually came thru the barrier . Some, just seem to have more sense of applying it at an earlier stage . It will always, like many things, come easier to some than others .
  20. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    names

    Rhythm and timing , are 2 different things, as are , footwork and foot positions . A common mistake .

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