Salsa > How do you make dancing fun for followers who can't stay on beat?

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by PsychoSalsaGuy, Oct 29, 2009.

  1. Where I dance, a lot of the girls just can not lock into the rhythm of salsa. They dance too fast, a lot. I personally can't stand dancing off time but I'm wondering if I'm shooting myself in the foot when I dance a normally fast song (as opposed to a very fast one) and I try to stay on beat.

    I do my best to keep them on beat, without forcing them. I try to keep it interesting and simple and I engage them. I use a lot of personality and creativity when I dance. I have a very light attitude. I smile constantly. I always accept the blame and I try to keep the pressure off of the girl. What I'm trying to say is that I do everything I can to keep it fun for them. Sometimes I vocalize the music to make the beat more obvious without making it obvious that I am helping them hear the beat. Sometimes I count. But I don't want to be a teacher when I dance socially. But it seems like they enjoy themselves so much more when they dance with guys who can't hear the beat.

    And these guys aren't like beginners either. In fact some of them are teachers. They are good leaders with good control, balance, connection and body movement. They also include a lot of creativity in their dance. Some of them have been dancing for years, so they know quite a bit. They just can't dance with the music. They essentially know what they are doing so I don't think that it's a matter of the girls being nervous when they dance with me.

    What do you do when you get a girl who just can not get into the music? What if her balance is off enough that she is constantly falling out of her steps and turns? What if she is capable of doing a lot of moves but she just can't do them in time? Do you "influence" her timing with good body leads? Count for her? Go with her flow? Keep it simple? Make it complicated? Try to make simple moves more fun? Show them new moves? Or what? I try all of those and it just doesn't seem to keep them as happy as the guys who can't hear the beat. It's almost like they would rather dance fast even if it's not on beat.

    What can I do to make it fun for them? Should I compromise and dance faster than the music?
  2. soplo

    soplo New Member

    I never force the timing. If they can't do the turn or whatnot in the appropriate amount time then I let them take as long as necessary and then do a fill till the 1 arrives. On girls that speed up, I slow them down with my body to keep them on time. Or at least I try :) My mileage varies. Every dance is an adventure but most girls have a good experience with me because it's rarely about the timing anyways. I engage them and make the dance fun way before I make it technically correct. So if timing needs to go out the window, I will throw it out. This is rare, though. Most intermediate+ girls tend to follow whatever timing I give them.
  3. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    I take my dancing more seriously, but when it's good I have great fun. To me, if my partner isn't on the music, the dance just isn't happening. I want the dance to flow from one movement into another, and the music is the glue that binds the couple together. I'm willing to help a beginner a little bit, by putting her back on the music once or twice, but other than that, I don't dance with partners who don't stay on the beat. It's crucial to me.
  4. Joy In Motion

    Joy In Motion Active Member

    Sometimes giving a stronger and firmer lead (without jerking her around of course) helps to get them there on time. I typically find that with time beginners typically work out the timing issue, assuming they do a lot of social dancing versus coming only sporadically. It puzzles me that you say advanced leaders - even teachers - have this problem as well. I find that many intermediate dancers lack the ability to fit their moves to the music and sometime get off time a little in the middle of executing combinations, but as far as staying on the basic beat most of the time... that actually surprises me.

    I think it is natural for many beginning followers to rush the beat and dance too quickly. When I first started learning salsa, I did not have a hard time following the beat but I did naturally start getting ahead and speeding up for a little while until I developed experience and calmed down a bit. Sometimes nerves can cause a beginning follower to speed up even if they can hear the music well, especially when they're trying to make sure they respond to the lead and finish a move in time. So hopefully this will work itself out over time.

    It should be common practice for the follower to adapt to the timing of the leader. I would start by doing a few basics without any turns or moves to emphasize the beat to see if she follows you. Sometimes reverting back to a few basics will bring her back to the correct timing, and she may start trying to keep that going as you go back to combinations. If not, I'm not sure what to tell you. I would be patient with a beginner or with an intermediate dancer who is genuinely trying but having difficulty. If it's someone that just doesn't seem to care whether they are moving to the music, I would probably start dancing with them less often because I just wouldn't enjoy it. I take this stance with leaders who can do lots of moves but have no regard for the music or their connection with me. A lot of ladies watch those leaders and fawn over how great they are and love to dance with them, but I am not one of those followers. I think at some point in your dancing life you begin to decide what your philosophy on dancing is. You may not completely stop dancing with certain people, but you definitely become more choosey about who you will dance a lot with. I am very patient when it comes to people who don't know a lot of advanced-level stuff, but people not having regard for the music and their partner is very frustrating. In general, you can usually tell the difference between someone who lacks knowledge/exposure and someone who lacks interest.
  5. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    see if you can find her groove and share it interpretively. it's just for the length of a song. a good exercise in musicality and connection. :D
  6. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    that can really help! i've been with more than one guy whose lead was so quiet i simply could not feel his sense of rhythm...a slightly stronger lead would have made all the diff.
  7. Joy In Motion

    Joy In Motion Active Member

    Good point, Samina. I do this with leaders who dance off the beat. I typically think of it as something the followers adjust for the leaders, but you could of course do this the other way as well. There are a few times I've done this where I really felt how flexible I could make my footwork to accomodate the movement of the partnership while still maintaining the beat. So yes, definitely a good exercise on occasion, although probably not something you will want to do all the time.
  8. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    This assumes that she is hearing a beat, but just differently. I agree that it's sometimes (often) interesting for the lead to synchronize with the follower, but if she's not grooving at all, it's hard to find it.

    @Joy In Motion: Yes, beginners typically dance too fast. If they can learn to relax a little, slow down, they'll find the dance much easier.
  9. Joy In Motion

    Joy In Motion Active Member

    Typically what I do here is try to keep the forward/back movement of their basic on their timing but keep a different timing with my feet through syncopations to stay on this music. A very challenging exercise.

    I agree, but I do think that sometimes this is just a normal part of the learning process. Typically I find that this passes quickly with experience. At least it did in my case. For some it might take longer and usually for those people it is because they are losing the timing a bit or just can't seem to settle their nerves.
  10. People usually dance off beat unintentionally for two reasons, I think. One is that she has a hard time finding the beat. You can tell this by dancing a few basic steps. Two, is that you lead her to do something that she doesn't have the skill to do yet, so she slows down to think it through (It's as it you can see the wheels cranking in her head). And then she realizes she's off beat but she doesn't know how to get back on because she's not experienced. In the former situation, you have to be really solid on your beat and have to have very good- solid, body rhythm. If you can pull that off, you can keep her on the beat to a great extent. In the later, you'll have to find a modification of the moves you lead like a single turn instead of dble, outside traveling turns instead of inside, etc. I have stopped trying to use my arms to get her to move faster. That'd just get her off of her balance, and then it'd get messy. And then try to get her on the beat again on the next measure.

    Kudos to you for trying to make the basics more fun. I know what it's like to look at a girl when you know all you can do comfortably well with her are just a few basics meanwhile knowing in the back of your mind that she's expecting to be swept off her feet.
  11. MacMoto

    MacMoto Active Member

    Personally, I never consider a leader who can't keep time to be a good leader. To me being consistent with their timing is an essential skill a good dancer must have. I suspect these guys are making the situation worse for people like you, who can hear the beat, by indicating to these girls that timing doesn't matter. As far as I'm concerned, they are wrong.

    Followers go off-time for a number of reasons:

    - They can't hear the beat in the music (don't know where the 1 is).
    - They can't keep their balance and step too early coming out of turns to stop themselves falling over.
    - They turn/move too slowly and end up behind the beat.
    - They anticipate a move and do what they think you are trying to lead, and when they guess wrong, the count doesn't add up (whether behind or ahead of the beat).

    Now, I never really had a problem hearing the beat, from day 1 (I have a musical background). But as a beginner I did have problems with balance, keeping up with the speed of the move, etc., and sometimes ended up on the wrong beat. And it always annoyed the hell out of me when the leader took it as a cue and shifted their timing to match mine! :evil: I could still hear the beat even though I was temporarily on the wrong foot, and all I needed the leader to do was to wait, reset and start on the correct beat.
  12. timberamayor

    timberamayor Member

    Normally I thik beginners tend to dance too fast because they can't hear the beat but the music "feels" fast to them. As a follower you should be able to feel the beat in your lead's bodymotion even if you can't hear it yourself.

    The other day a guy asked me to dance and he was dancing much slower than the beat. In order for the dance to work I just danced the speed he was dancing although it bothered me to not be dancing to the music. It was like performing dance moves to some other song that was in his head or something. Afterward he complemented me for being a good dancer :) . He's probably used to his partners battling with him to try to get him on the right beat, but I didn't even bother because the dance wouldn't have worked between us if we were dancing different speeds. So in the threesome that is dancing me-mypartner-themusic, on this occasion the music got left out. On the other hand I won't be dancing with him again.
  13. timberamayor, brilliant. When people have this problem I always say, "who would you rather dance with, the music or your partner?"
  14. bjp22tango

    bjp22tango Active Member

    I also think beginner dancers dance faster than the music because they don't have a balanced core/aren't used to moving thier torso in small quick movments so they overdo their movements. This then slows them down in relation to the music. so they speed up their body movements to try to keep up and end up overdoing it.

    It would be interesting to see if soccer or basketball players would be natural salsa dancers because they are used to moving suddenly from one direction to another.

    When I follow, if the leader is off time, I try to ignore the music and dance the leads rhythm (if they have one). I usually won't dance with them again, as it is so hard to ignore the main reason you are dancing in the first place.
  15. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    To dance slowly or quickly does take some physical skill. However, there is a middle tempo that requires mainly the common skills that any person would have. I think lots of beginners dance too quickly because they are anxious about following and trying to guess what they should be doing, rather than relaxing and just allowing the leader to lead. I find one of the most common obstacles to better dancing is simply going to fast.

    On the other hand, there are leaders who lead poorly, or too late, and the followers must guess at what they should be doing.
  16. timberamayor

    timberamayor Member

    :oops: Why you make me blush

    I'd definitely rather have the dance with my partner work better. I also know that some people are beginners and I was too once, so I pretty much never say no if asked to dance unless the guy is sleazy on the dance floor. But it is somewhat painful to be dancing to a non-beat. Still what's five minutes of my time in the larger scheme of things? Maybe in 6 months this guy will be a monster on the dancefloor and he'll rememer how "well" we danced together ;)

    Then there are actually people who I think are beat-deaf just like there are people who are tone deaf and they never ever ever get the beat, at least not in this lifetime. But they a very few. Most people pick it up eventually if they really want to. I think listening to the music all the time is key to learning to feel the rhythm. People who attend class for 1 hour once a week are going to have a much harder time, or at least a longer learning curve.
  17. timberamayor

    timberamayor Member

    I think this may depend on the type of salsa a person dances. I dance casino and there aren't any sudden movements, or sudden changes of direction and the torso movement and arm motion are the same as when a person is walking except heightened or exaggerated, or however I should put it. And the beginners still often dance too fast.

    I think sometimes beginners also focus too much on the "hip motion" rather than on getting the basic step down. The hips come from the steps and will come naturally in time. I don't know if you saw the movie "Dirty dancing - Havana Nights" but I had to laugh when the Mexican actor was telling the girl she was "too stiff" and then showed her how to move her hips. He was totally "pushing" his hips out and looked just as stiff as any non-latino beginner.:) I guess it's hard to find a good actor who actually dances.

  18. timberamayor

    timberamayor Member

    Yes there is a problem of followers anticipating what will happen next. That's one good reason to dance with people you don't take classes with. When people from the same class go out together it gives you a set of 'safe' partners and is a good way to practice stuff from class, but all too often I think it falls into routine patterns from class. Dancing with people you've never met requires you to really hone your following skills, your sensitivity to signals from different leads. But of course it can be scarier too.

    Yeah. I confess I've been off the dance floor for a while and just started going out again recently. Because I am less accoustomed to dancing these days, I really notice the difference in leads. When you're out all the time it's easy enough to compensate for a poor lead, but when you are there waiting for the signal and it's too late or it's unclear which direction they want you to go I have a hard time guessing these days.

    I danced with a guy a couple weeks ago who is obviously from an LA or NY style back ground, i.e. he has linear salsa as his base. But he also knows some stuff from casino. But I had a pretty hard time following him and we were all over the place dancing on 1 then 5 then 3 then 1 again. I actually started laughing because I just thought it was so funny that we were all over the place. I don't think he even noticed and just thought I was laughing because I was having fun. After the dance he complemented me on my dancing, which made me want to laugh again because I know we were all over the place...Not exactly the same problem as being off beat but the whole business of changing timing over and over...I guess maybe I was good at quickly slipping into whatever beat he happened to be on and that's why he thought it was a good dance:?:

    Like I said, since I haven't been out much for a while I thought maybe it was just me, but a good friend of mine who has danced every weekend for years and years non-stop and even teaches classes nowadays told me she had the same experience with the guy. But I guess tht'äs what makes each dance and adevnture. :lol:
  19. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Sometimes the beat changes in the song. For example, from 2-3 to 3-2 clave. So, if a person changes what they dance on maybe they aren't really changing bit keeping track to the music? Not saying that this is the case here, but just as a comment in general on songs.

    I know that I sometimes dance salsa on3 and sometimes on1 depending on the music, though I don't really mix that up just randomly in a song. I think that it is important to match or try to flow with the music, rather than fighting it, just as it always is easier to let the river current take you along than rowing upstream.
  20. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Oh, another thing...if a person cannot get the beat I just do some moves so she just steps like walking and doesn't interfere, timing the moves to sych with aspects of the music. I don't have to follow the quick quick slow...or quick,quick,quicktap or whatever other basic is followed. This way I can really enjoy myself rather than just matching either music or partner.

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