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

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

  1. sweavo

    sweavo New Member

    I think there's a useful subdivision here: people who can nod their head to rock music but can't get the rhythm in salsa, and people who simply have NO concept. I.e. people who have rhythm but can't "find the one" have an intellectual challenge of learning enough about salsa rhythms to be able to hook up what they are hearing into their own understanding of rhythm. Those who can't even clap the downbeats evenly have a different issue.

    I am hopeless at teaching this latter group because I have no idea what it is no to have rhythm.

    I also think the poor guy in the original post is suffering with confidence rather than with rhythm per se. A positive, relaxed mental attitude is incredibly valuable when learning anything, but especially when learning something that is driven by music.

    In my (beginner) class last week, I had a couple who spent the whole class saying "I can't!" "I've never done any sort of dance before!" "I'll never get it!" and I just wanted to strangle them. It made it incredibly hard to stay positive for the rest of the class.

    I was leading the woman simply in a basic step and she kept burbling about how she couldn't do it.

    "Have you heard of affirmations?" I said
    "No! I haven't done any style of dance."

    After the class they said they had had a great time and would definitely be back. Go figure.
  2. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member


    Ya did it again, funniest quote of week !!. by the way steve, its also very common ( maybe more so ) in the b/room genre .I also get more than my share in my salsa classes, oddly enough , many of them persevere and eventually have some sense of achievement .When it it comes to consistently staying on a given beat, most men, as has been proven many times, generally take longer than ladies, for many obvious reasons . With a very tenuous connection, partnerwise , as opposed to b/room, it leaves its self open to many errors that would not occur in a completely closed hold ( the b/room presents a host of other problems ) .Ladies need to realise, that the responsibility of " Lead " , is a very complex animal , and has to be brought along at a suitable pace to each individuals learning ability .I have suggested in the past, to people with severe learning problems, to undertake private lessons .; even that is daunting to many . I guess what we are saying , is-- ladies, give the guys a break, they really are doing their best !
  3. Tony_Salvi

    Tony_Salvi New Member

    Yup...that pretty much sums up everything I wanted to say. :)
  4. Ron Obvious

    Ron Obvious New Member

    I used to start out with severe rhythm problems, not only was I unable to find the 1, but also the tempo. It took maybe one year of listening to salsa music (and trying to find the clave), and now girls usually mention that many guys usually dance off-rhythm, but I never (actually I'm not perfect, but maybe 98% on time). And I even got asked by our DJ to come and practise with a salsa band.
  5. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    I can remember sitting out for about a half hour of abject frustration during an organized practice session in my first year of dancing, because I just couldn't "hear" the waltz that was on repeate.

    The embarassing part: The CD was one I had loaned to the instructor, who had forgotten to bring any!

    (later I learned what to ignore and what to listen to in that particular track)
  6. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    You don't have to "do" anything to a guy who's scared stiff to intimidate him. Even though you didn't do anything, your attitude no doubt came across. If you don't want to be with somebody, trust me, they can tell. That made him feel worse. What he needs is not a bad attitude, or even nothing at all, but LOTS of positive encouragement. I was once scared stiff whenever I would dance socially, and the most fun and best help I got was from girls who smiled big and looked like they enjoyed the dance. I dance with girls now in class or privates who are scared stiff, and I can physically feel them shaking. I just smile big, talk to them, and ALWAYS compliment something. Did they wind up on the floor? No? Then, congratulate them on a great effort and the dance.
    ocean-daughter likes this.
  7. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    It's been somewhat left of never since I've seen a dancer with no rhythm.

    No rythm is Steve Martin in the Jerk. It's Paul Atreides walking across the sands of Arakis, or John Cleese walking through the Ministry. It's a petit mal seizure.

    Or, to put it a different way, I can't remember the last time I saw anyone who could move well described as having no rhythm. If you are clumsy, you have no rhythm, when you are more advanced you are "off time".

    Based on my experiences (always look for the disclaimer), beginning leaders with "no rhythm" are really late, because they are adding superfluous movement to their steps (when I see this in salsa, it is almost always over commitment of weight on the breaking steps - but I don't have the chops in this dance, so I keep my mouth shut).

    Once that starts to get out of the way, they're off time (simply from lack of practice listening to the music - they've been busy with their other issues). Also curable, with an effective instructor.
  8. CEB

    CEB New Member


    My sense of rhythm is impeccable. I'm a former professional musician. I played with national touring acts in my younger days. Music was my livelihood.

    My dancing sucks. I'm a beginner in my 40s. I’ve been to a lot of dances but I was always in the band. Now my wife and I are learning how to dance. I get off on my timing because I am trying to think about the steps. I need to get to point where I don’t think and just do. I am not there yet.

    I guess my point is problems are not necessarily a person's sense of rhythm.
  9. devane

    devane New Member

    Yes, aptitude or lack of aptitude does exist. When people start to learn to dance you will see that some are better than others. They may be bringing atributes from other dances or sports......or by the fact that dancing isn't just about mere physical movement but about music too, a keen ear for rhythm is needed too.
    So even from day 1 we have different levels but most people (mostly all women) seem to get the rhythm straight away. I've been dancing with beginners every week for years it seems to be the way. The guys will have problems starting out.
    When I started out I didn't dance in time but I wasn't told what dancing in time was. Also I was already listening to the music for many years before I started dancing so the music wasn't foreign to me. I was too worried about getting the basics down anyway.
    I noticed it by accident.....when the instuctor was doing the warm-up, I was always out by a second because I was following with my eyes. Then weeks later, I could see the instructors foot move at the beginning of a musical phrase.....I had it, but unfortunately I had to figure it out for myself.
    My point being the "monkey see, monkey do" method isn't enough. A few minutes here and there explaining how to listen to the music will get most people up and running.

    Actually I think unless his basic is subconscious, trying to syncronise with the music is gonna be difficult.
    When I started I practiced the basic at home without the music. After a while I could do it without much thought I would vary the speed. Concentrate on the feeling of the rhythm of the steps. As it became subconscious the basic became 2 movements..... forward on the left, back on the right NOT 1,2,3..5,6,7.. I stopped counting from then on.
    The only time I count is when practicing a move without music but "dah dah dah .." works the same too. You're not really counting, only creating an audible rhythm to follow. So don't be surprised if a teacher says "5,6,7" at the wrong time as this has no tangible meaning to them, only the noise of it .
    If I'm dancing with someone who counts I chat to them to prevent them from counting. I always tell them later of my little ploy If you have the music you don't need to count to determine the speed. It forces them to pay attention to the music and the feeling of the steps as a whole.

    The suggestion for a private is a good one or even a few minutes with someone can dance on time could fix it. People learn different ways. You can be totally confused about something and then someone else's way of explaining things clicks for you.

    I recently start Tango (properly) recently. There are a few fellow salseros in the class too . We all agree that starting Tango a for person with no dance experience would be 10 times harder than salsa. It's not easy for us too. I can lead in salsa but in Tango you lead in a different way. I can do a sequence that is shown but that's not dancing. The lead is difficult but it just takes longer to get the basics down. I can't remember exactly when I started Tango (this summer sometime) but it's only now that I'm doing the basics right, without using to much force/movement. No more sore shoulders.

    A new beginners Tango class stated recently and 2 girls I know said they prefered dancing with other girls as the guys were too clumsy and too forceful. You're not alone but you have to accept that guys take longer to get going.

    My class is going to be taken over by some guy from Argentina on Wednesday. He's supposed to be a big name in Tango... y no habla ingles. I hope I don't come back with more sore muscles.
  10. devane

    devane New Member

    Once you can do the steps without thought, you can sync them up with the music, no problem.
  11. devane

    devane New Member

    Yes it's true even Edie the Salsa Freak admits this.....
    The challenge is the way you communicate these concepts.

    look for ......
    JJ: What’s the hardest thing to teach a beginner student?

    Her method may work to a degree. But we have live band on Wednesday's. even though we dance On1 you need to listen to the clave to start as the live music is nothing like studio version on a Cd. The structure at times isn't very clear but the clave never lets me down.:)
    ps the masculine clave (2/3) :cool:
  12. kfineyouw1n

    kfineyouw1n New Member

    Of course it can be learned. Practice makes perfect.
  13. Ron Obvious

    Ron Obvious New Member

    Interesting. I read somewhere that when you're off-time, you are ALWAYS ahead of the rhythm.
  14. englezul

    englezul New Member

    That's just as true as when you're off-time you're ALWAYS behind the rhythm.

    It's a matter of perspective.
  15. DennisBeach

    DennisBeach New Member

    I started taking lessons because, I thought it was something we would like. In the process, I learned that moving to the music was enjoyable. Some of us get into dancing without a clue about what we are getting into. That is also why a lot of people drop out early on. Having or not having rythym was not even something I thought about in deciding to take lessons. About 5 months into learning, I discovered I could recognize the beat and dance to the music.
  16. DennisBeach

    DennisBeach New Member

    I think most of us go through that phase. Your mind can only do so much at a time and you are so focused on thinking about steps, leading etc. There does not seem to be any brain capacity left over to listen to the music.

    Once you get past that stage, it becomes a lot more fun. For me each dance had a point were the mechanics started to fall into place and I could start listening and dancing to the music. We just started working on Quickstep and I am back in that phase with that dance. I looking forward to getting through that phase, since I really like Quickstep music and am sure I will really enyoy dancing to it.
  17. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    Good point. I'm a musician too, and I'm convinced that musicians actually start dance at a bit of a disadvantage, in a sense. Yes, we have the sense of rhythm in our heads, but those sensations are tied to the body motions that we use when playing an instrument. The body movements in dance are completely different, and they serve a different purpose -- when playing an instrument, the body movements are just a means to an end, but when dancing, the body movements are the whole point.

    So we start out thinking we've got it covered, but then we realize that we have to first erase a lot of our muscle memory, and connect our mental sense of rhythm to an entirely new set of muscle motions. And we have the balance issue, which we generally didn't have to worry about as musicians. (Except for those of us who like to impersonate Mike Rutherford, playing a 25-pound double-neck guitar while balancing on one foot and poking at bass pedals with the other foot. :D) That was a leap that it took me a while to make.
  18. Ron Obvious

    Ron Obvious New Member

    Wouldn't the other perspective be that the rhythm is behind YOU (heaven forbid!). Haven't heard anyone say that though.

    The point I was trying to make was that when you're out of rhythm you're accelerating.
  19. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    ron o

    Not always-- sometimes de- celerating, its technical term is " drift ", and again. do you mean rhythm or timing ?
  20. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    it is a common mistake to group timing and rhythm, together.

    I was at a club with one of my friends, a professional jazz musician, and he was trying to dance. The girls moked that the had no rhythm. I became annoyed because the on2 salsa crowed, especially in NY City, is the worse group of elitist I've seen. I said that he was absolutely dancing to the rhythm of the music, what he wasn't doing was dancing on time. Had you known more than numbers, you would have figured-it-out without my help. It is so frustrating to hear and see salseros toss their ill thoughts around!

    The achievement of rhythm for many is made longer and more difficult because of approach. Rhythm is already in all of us. However, we are supplied sequences to memorize that feed the wrong part of the body; the mind. The more we think, the less apt the body can react... By trying to gain consious understanding of things unrelated to rhythm the progress of rhythm is hindered. It is all attached to the belief that to be dancing, there must be some sequential program statisfying the thousand variables ingrained in us. We seem not to be able to separte advanced concepts with fundamental ones... so we teach advanced as if the basis...

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