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

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

  1. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    boriken, you have very eloquently put into words the gripe I have with so many people (including my "lady love," as you would say :wink: ) who feel that sequences must be taught to beginners. For example, a couple of weeks ago I was dancing with my girl at a ballroom social. It was great, because I rarely ever get a chance to just anonymously social dance waltz, foxtrot, or tango, without being on the job or having the "teacher" label applied to me. While social dancing salsa can be challenging in a crowd, of course, dances that travel such as the ones I mentioned are much much (much) harder for the leader to navigate. She made a remark to me about how I should have a routine to follow, that way I don't have to think about improvising and can focus on navigating. I wanted to slap her (not literally). I'm thinking, "this is the greatest way to learn how to really dance--in a social setting with real obstacles (like real-life couples who are doing a box step on the outskirts of a ballroom floor, in the middle of traffic--yikes!), real music, and real lead and follow. I hate routines. Bleh.

    But then again, is it perhaps necessary for some people to learn routines to begin with (esp. the man), until they are comfortable enough to be "on their own" ?
  2. sweavo

    sweavo New Member

    Yeah, I think you, Boriken and I are on the same page (or at least in the same chapter) regarding the level "beyond"... but I'm not sure that can be taught. It's like trying to teach Zen or asking someone not to think of polar bears. I think patterns need to be taught, but they should be thought of more like a kata, a sequence that teaches your body the movements in a memorable order.

    Then we have the much harder task of getting people to listen to the music and express themselves.

    On a related note, I had the best dance I've ever had with Rachael at the UK Congress the other weekend... and the reason was that I just goofed off and didn't lead anything for ages. When she relaxed and started goofing off with me, we were both in the moment, and I could lead lots of stuff on her that she often doesn't get.

    Well, it was a bit related. Really I just wanted to tell everyone that it was great.
  3. englezul

    englezul New Member

    I'm a firm believer that I can learn anything, and that I can at least get good at it. I also belive that the above applies to everybody that is not challenged by mother nature in some physical or biological way. This tends to emphasize the power of mind over body, that regardless of 'talent' (which to me is utter BS) anyone (I know it's generally true for me) can achieve a certain level of expertise in anything. This is a very analytical way of doing things, you have to be like Neo in the Matrix, aware of everything in every moment, so that you can control it. With salsa I was very much interested in the mechanics of it. I had no previous dance experience at all, I was lacking balance, swiftness, centering, all of those things, I was trapped into the 'how do you do this' mentality, what are the steps, how do you walk over there, and do this and that...I needed to know the footwork for everything, because in my mind there were set rules for doing things. As a consequence I was absolutely resenting the teachers who couldn't verbalize motion to me, who couldn't explain how certain visual features of a good dancer are achieved.

    Now, after having trained my body for a while, after having understood the pulse of salsa (and mind you I have never had problems with timing, and hearing the measures, beats etc.) at a native, mechanical level, where my body can just respond to it without thinking, I have come to the realization that indeed learning to dance through verbalizing motion is the 'beginner', less efficient way to do it. The true way, is training your body to flow to the music. Then you achieve complete freedom. Nobody will do a body wave during a crossbody lead, thinking now it's 5 right foot back and at the same time push pelvis forward, etc etc. That's just stupid. Why would anyone want to think the zillion steps instead of just doing them. So while I do believe that a good teacher should be aware of every single muscle, every single joint in one's body, and the accurate mechanics of the dance so that he can pinpoint on the spot problems, I also think that they should cultivate more the visual learning. And granted, algorithmical teaching is good for beginners, it does help. Yet, overall I think it slows down the process. It's just a crutch.
  4. thespina13

    thespina13 New Member

    Yeah, I remember one private lesson where, for ten minutes, my instructor really pushed me to lower my body and bend my kness... really smoothing out my motion and not being so totaly erect. So we XBLed like 300 times like that, and that one technical change made all of my dancing totally different. y practice parter who I social danced with that night remarked immediately how my dancing had changed and how much smoother I had become, and my spinning and general following had improved dramatically. All this after one 10 minute tweak to my technique. Nothing to do with patterns whatsoever.
  5. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    Anyone ready to receive can be taught the subtleties of ****physics without any obstacle. Just like anyone ready to learn patterns can learn a pattern. The key is an open and ready student, as well as an able teacher. What differentiates is philosophical approach. One tackles locomotion while the other tackles the unseen obstacles of the mind.

    Philosophies must change in order to address that difference. In a linear-thinking society, circular/spiral ideas are challenging to comprehend, but not impossible. Though, the student must re-write all subconscious and conscious understandings to gain access to the esoteric, they are indeed reachable. That’s what the “master” is there to do, to ease that transition from concrete into abstract. It is not fancy, it doesn’t pay the bills in a materialistic world, many students won’t even care to learn it, but that’s ok because you are not their teacher… The outcome of such approach is freedom unparalleled to that of locomotion.

    The teacher must know what the student needs based on the students actions and reactions. Then he must tackle with no object in mind, with no goal in mind, he simply imparts ideas that will aid the student experience, finally reaching his own dancing destiny.

    It is a process I believe merits attention.
  6. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    Doesn't it make you just want to choke your ladylove? Ahhhhh, I feel you. I've been there myself!

    People are all different, therefore need different degrees and versions of education. Some of us have felt the music first, then done the patterns, where as others have done the patterns, then felt the music. All approaches are valid, it is only to those for whom the current approach doesn't work that philosophical approach must be revisited...

    I think the chinese look at it rather clever, if something works for one person, but not for a thousand, it doesn't meant that the approach isn't valid, rather that it was exactly what that one person needed to achieve his goal. So, it gets stored with all the possibilites to help a person.
    ocean-daughter likes this.
  7. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    That's such a perfect analogy sweavo. Sure there's a purpose and a use for kata, but you'd never tell someone to use their kata when sparring! Same for dancing.... learn patterns and sequences, sure, but only to train your body in certain ways. When you're on the floor actually dancing though, adapt to the specific conditions, same as you would when sparring!
  8. Ron Obvious

    Ron Obvious New Member

    That's funny. I have always considered learning salsa patterns similar to learning a kata. First you need to remember the overall pattern,but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Then you need to know the transition movements and understand what is it exactly that you're achieveing with those movements.
  9. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    Ding, ding, ding! :D
  10. sweavo

    sweavo New Member

    Well, I am if they're paying me :)
  11. CEB

    CEB New Member

    Hey I do the same thing. I have practiced Goju Ryu for over 25 years. I just figured I was being weird.
  12. KiwiMambo

    KiwiMambo New Member

    That is very well put Boriken. I've been doing African Dance for two months and the most important thing they stress is dancing to the rhythm and timing of the drums. All the moves are taught to the rhythm of the drums. I've never been to a Salsa class where they related the turn pattern or shine sequence to the rhythm of the music. Instead they count 123-567. In the Salsa world, most people get caught into the trap of I gotta learn that cool move. So the quest begins and the mind gets fed while the rhythm of the music gets put on the back burner. If only people knew that all advanced moves are an illussion and just made up basics flowing together effortlessly to the rhythm of the music. Then we could all just focus our training on the fundamentals and rhythm of the music. Then when we are ready, the advanced moves will just start to happen automatically.
  13. KiwiMambo

    KiwiMambo New Member

    I studied Okinawan Goju Ryu for 14 years. The last 5 years with Sensei Morio Higaonna. Then I studied Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for 6 years. The last 4 years have been Salsa and just recently African Dance.

    People often wonder why I have made such rapid progress in this short amount of time. It is because of my Martial Arts background. I practice at the intensity level of a Martial Artist. I never got caught in the trap of "learn a new cool move" every week. I knew I had to drill basics and fundamentals. That is what I did in my privates. I had to do it in privates, because unfortunately salsa group classes do not teach that way. Then the "advanced" moves just started happening automatically for me. Now I can do turn patterns in my sleep. New turn patterns even appear in my sleep - seriously! So I started focusing on body movement and rhythm of the music. I am now beginning to feel and dance to the rhythm of the music more. Not having to think about turn patterns allows me to do this.

    I feel I did all the right things as far as getting proficient in turn patterns. But as a Martial Artist, I did not have any understanding of musicality and musical-rhythm. I made a huge mistake in that department. I wish at the beginnning (instead of putting it on the back burner) I had started doing body movement isolation drills and focused more on doing things to the rhythm of the music instead of numbers. Physically lossening up your bodies allows you to feel the music flowing within. Unfortunately no instructor I went to told me this. I had to discover and find out my mistake for myself 4 years later.
  14. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member


    I have always taught ( from the beginning ) rhythm counts, most " trained " teachers follow that rule , where poss. I,m sure there are other teachers , that do same .
  15. naturallove

    naturallove New Member

    Each of my instructors counts but they also both do a lot of rhythm. One of them even breaks out different instruments to help us hear the different elements of the music and how to dance to them.
  16. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member


    Wish there were more like them, sadly, the majority " teaching " , sincerely believe they have mastered the art , and consequently move forward , all following behind , blindly, as tho they were the pied piper , loving the music, but not understanding how it is played.
  17. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl Active Member

    Obviously, she doesn't know anything about leading. A routine is the worst way to deal with floorcraft issues. Inevitably, someone will get in the way of the pattern you've planned and you'll have to improvise anyway. In social dancing the smooth dances, it's incredibly annoying to be on the floor with a couple who are doing their routine and won't change it no matter what. Even on the comp floor, where we are dancing routines, I don't think we've ever done the routine as choreographed. We always have to make adjustments around other couples.

    But for the non-travelling dances, it can help beginner leads to practice combinations of two or three patterns together. That way, they only have to decide what to do next every few patterns, rather than every pattern. Helps avoid the repeated-basic-with-a-panicked-look-on-the-face while trying to decide what to do next in time to do it. But that phase passes quickly.

    One reason to teach beginners patterns is that they will be dancing with other beginners and the patterns give them a common language. It takes a long time to learn to lead or to follow each individual step and weight change one at a time. If you had to wait until you learned that before you could social dance, not many people would bother!
  18. HF

    HF New Member

    I have been teaching a couple since some months. The women can not identify ANY rhythm. But she really wants to, so we count like mad, I explain the music etc. Anyway in the moment she is not strictly lead by her husband she is lost.

    But I never gave up and encourage them every lesson. Then today I brought my computer with a music program and we set up the conga (tumbao) rhythm. I did two bars, then had both of them complete one bar. They listened to the result, and after that the woman was able to identify the conga rhythm in a cha-cha CD. Ha!

  19. Dancing in Denver

    Dancing in Denver New Member

    So any suggestions for teaching my new boyfriend how to dance? From my observations so far, he has a poor (undeveloped) sense of rhythm. He's willing, even eager, to learn, so I don't want to discourage him.
  20. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Hi Dancing...

    We're in the salsa section, but I always enjoy watching this scene. And maybe the two of you can dance along to it.


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