How important is a sense of rhythm?

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by pygmalion, Feb 15, 2004.

  1. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    We've all seen them. The guys and girls out taking dance lessons because they have to get ready for a social event. The only problem is that they have NO sense of rhythm. And they struggle. And struggle. Question to you -- how important do you think that innate sense of rhythm is, when you're learning to dance? Can you become a dancer, or even a good dancer, without it? Can you develop it, or is it something you have to be born with? Comments, anyone?
  2. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    In reply to all questions tis' a matter of opening the mind/body to the music. It's when we shut that out focusing on a certain beat/count/steps that we lose it. And to "dance" and not just "do the steps" you need it.
  3. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    I don't mean to discourage anyone who is out there. Really!! Dancing does not come easy to everyone, and it didn't to me!! But I believe that each person out there has this sense of natural movement of their bodies that is stifled. What makes it come out can be different for each person, and for some it amy be in dance, or others some of those body awareness movements...the one that come to my mind are pilates and somatics...I know that there are quite a few others, though.
  4. JonD

    JonD New Member

    I was convinced that I had no sense of rhythm and that people who could dance were born with some kind of special ability. Then, when I was 41 years old, I was dared to go to a dance class by the kids of some friends. I was truly hopeless and shook with terror in the first class but walked home that night giggling because I'd had such a great time. The next morning I was telling my business partner where I'd been and complaining that I had "no natural sense of rhythm" and so would never be able to dance. Ann replied that rhythm hadn't come naturally to her but that she'd learnt to let her body move to it - she's ex Ballet Rambert! That gave me the confidence to try and learn and so I started playing the "steering wheel bongos" whenever I was driving and trying to move to music in the privacy of my own home. I kept going to weekly dance classes and it was about 3 months before I started hitting the beat on anything other than an accidental basis. The encouragement and kindness of fellow dancers kept me going.

    Now, when I'm coaching beginners I try to convince them that what Sagitta says is true. We can all move naturally in rhythm if we let ourselves. Often, particularly with men, it is about confidence so a completely non-judgemental environment is important. Fortunately it seems that most dance classes are just that - non-judgemental.

    Can someone without a natural sense of rhythm become a good dancer? I'm not brilliant but in 3 1/2 years I've got to a reasonable standard. While I suspect Ann was lying about her sense of rhythm, she made it to Rambert main company before an injury stopped her career and is pretty amazing on the social dance floor!
  5. peachexploration

    peachexploration New Member

    Well, I'm a stickler for this one. To me, it is the "most important" aspect of dance. One of my pet peeves is watching a television show or movie where they shoot a scene and edit in the music later. When you watch, it is extremely obvious that no one is on the beat and no music was being played at the time of shooting. That drives me nuts! :evil: Now, if we were to dance with no music, then rhythm wouldn't be a problem or dancing would be more "in your head" type movement. Moving to your own beat so to speak. But since music is connected to dancing, there has to be a since of rhythm to be considered a "dancer". I mentioned in another thread that I have a niece who is deaf and you would think that she would be the one who would dance "in her head" but she doesn't. How does she dance and keep the rhythm? She goes over to the speaker and "feels" the music. So yes, rhythm can be learned and yes, you can become a good dancer once you get over the rhythm hurdle. But "getting" the rhythm is the foundation for becoming a good dancer.
  6. dancin_feet

    dancin_feet New Member

    It is critical to gain a sense of rhythm. Otherwise you are not dancing to music. You are just counting your steps. Some people are born with it, and some are not, but if you are going to get anywhere in dancing, you need to gain a sense of rhythm. Otherwise what is the point of putting music on to dance to?
  7. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    It's interesting that you say a person needs to gain a sense of rhythm. Do you think that's possible?
  8. JonD

    JonD New Member

    I don't think that anyone would seriously dispute the need for rhythm in dancing. If you aren't moving to the music then you aren't dancing!

    I tend to think of it more as a need to "unlock" a sense of rhythm rather than "gain" one. There are a lot of people who think they can't dance because they lack this magical ingredient but they do other things which demand rhythmical movement. Having said that, I do know some people who seem a lost cause!
  9. dancin_feet

    dancin_feet New Member

    Yes I do believe that someone can gain a sense of rhythm where there wasn't one before.

    Anyone remember the movie, Footloose, and "Let's here it for the boy" sequence? I know it's only a movie, but I am the eternal optimist that you can teach anyone anything, if they are willing to learn.
  10. Hank

    Hank Member

    I think that people have widely varying natural ability in all aspects of dancing, including rhythm. But, I also think that everyone has some natural ability to hear the beat and move to it. To support my assertion, have you ever heard anyone sing "Happy Birthday" off time? E.g., you're singing "happy" while they're singing "birthday?" I've heard thousands of people sing "Happy Birthday," and I've never heard anyone sing off time. If you can move your mouth and diaphragm on time to the music, you can move your feet on time.

    Further, I've noticed that many people start on time, but then drift off time. This is probably from lack of concentration and too high of a workload for their current ability. They're so consumed by following, leading, or moving their feet that they lose focus on the beat. With some more practice, often they can improve. Also, many people get off time, e.g., in swing or cha cha, because they take too big of a step on the rock step and put all their weight back on their heel; this takes too much time and when they finally rock foward, they're off time. Once their teacher points this out, they can improve dramatically.

    From my own experience, when I started dancing, I had trouble hearing the beat in mambo/salsa music because this music has so much going on rhythmically that the beats are not very distinct from one another. But, with practice hearing the music, I improved dramatically.
  11. msc

    msc New Member

    LOL. Let's just say I'm certain it's possible.
  12. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Hey. Have mercy on me. It's so hard to keep these conversations going while being noncommittal. :? I think it's possible, too. I've seen it. I also think it's possible to start with one "natural" level of ability, and to improve it over time and with practice.
  13. Swing Kitten

    Swing Kitten New Member

  14. msc

    msc New Member

    I don't think you quite got my point.

    After I first started out (back in Oct. 99) in took me at least 6 months to hear the beat in Salsa.

    Seriously.
  15. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Ah ha! I had a feeling. :wink: :)

    I also have experience with this. Even though I wasn't rhythmically challenged, per se, I started out at a level -- mediocre, let's say. But, because I was a music major, I was forced to take years of rhythmic dictation, which is where random and increasingly complex rhythms are played, and you have to hear them, decode them and write them down. I was pretty hopeless at first, but after several years of doing that five days a week, even the most weird syncopations start to feel simple to you. I don't know if you can gain a sense of rhythm, but you sure can take whatever you started with and make it much, much better.
  16. MapleLeaf Salsero

    MapleLeaf Salsero New Member

    Interesting thought JonD. When I first started dancing, I had major problems understanding the beat. It seemed to me that I was rhythm deaf and there was no way for me to overcome this limitation. I honestly believed that only people with an innate sense of rhythm (as Pygmalion put it) could ever become dancers. I got very frustrated when some friends from class seemed to be picking it up very easy. Since then I´ve "developed" a sense of rhythm, not sure if it was "unlocked" or "gained". Up till now, I had always believed it was gained. Now I´m starting to think it was unlocked...

    Hmm... What does "moving to the music" mean exactly? I think people hear the music in different ways. On Friday I was dancing with this girl and we seemed to be desynchronised. I told her that it was a slow song (salsa) and that she was moving to fast. She answered, "I´m moving to the way I hear the beat". She was the energetic/electric type which preferred fast songs whereas I prefer the slower ones. I believe this may subconciously affect our interpretation of the rhythm. I may have a tendency to move a little slower and she a little faster causing a slight desynchronisation between us. This has happened to me before even though it´s very rare. When it happens it´s always with ladies who love fast songs and quick moves. Has this ever happened to anyone?
  17. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    jUST having attended a workshop on that very theme: dancing to rhythm in tango, yes I thinks its essential and yes I think it can be learnt.

    I echo some of the previous comments about 'hearing' the rhythm in Salsa. The same is true for me in Tango: its a case of listening and filtering out those bits you don't need to hear and focussing on the underlying structure , listening for changes - double time , steady, lycracil violins, changes of key suggesting happy sad whatever.

    Well most of us can do this filtering at social occasions: we can listen to aconversation the other side of the room that is more interesting than the boring person who has cornered us. its a case of finding simple pieces to listen to first, listen to them at home, tap your foot, do steps etc.

    i do know a couple of people who seem to be dancing to something totally different to me, but I put that down to 'artistic interpretation'. But some tango music IS JUST NOT RIGHT FOR DOING GANCHOS TO!! :evil:
  18. SDsalsaguy

    SDsalsaguy Administrator Staff Member

    This describes me to a T as well MLS. For months I couldn't come close to finding where in the music any given beat was. It was really bad because I couldn't start a single song/dance on time on my own... not a good characteristic in a lead! :shock:

    I also couldn't stay on beat... I just really didn't hear it. Worse, than not hearing it though, was thinking I heard it and finding out that I was nowhere close... To this day I think I was trying too hard to find a beat to dance to that I wasn't receptive enough to let it come to me. Now that formulation would have made as much sense to me as classical Greek does if you'd told me that then... :lol:

    Seriously though, I remember being stuck in one small club, with very, very few dancers one night, so asking a salsera to dance. Well, we hadn't danced together in a year and, as we were leaving the floor after the dance she looks at me and says "hey, you finally fixed that timeing problem!" Talk about a back-handed compliment if I ever heard one! :lol: All's well that ends well I guess, because she now says that I'm her favorite partner to dance with! :D

    Heck yeah. And it's not fun for me in the least. I do think that there's another distinction I can make though... there seem to be the people who (A) love the fast/quick/sharp stuff but can do slower/more sensual, and (B) those who love the fast/quick/sharp stuff but cannot do slower/more sensual. People in the B group are often those who really don't have a command over their own dancing/triming/balance/rhythm yet, so fast music lets them rush from thing to thing in a way that a slower tempo would never enable. Just an observation...
  19. KevinL

    KevinL New Member

    Everyone has a sense of rhythm, and everyone can move to that rhythm. When was the last time you saw someone (not counting people with neurolgical disorders) walking down the steet arhthmically? Everone walks with a certain rhythm, whatever that rhythm happens to be.

    The real question in this topic is, "Can someone learn to recognise a musical rhythm, and then move with that rhythm?" Everyone (again, not counting people with neurolgical disorders) can be trained to any task. Certainly some people will be easier to train than others, but everyone can be trained to dance rhythmically, if they put in the effort.

    Kevin
  20. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    I think you're right, Kevin. People can learn to recognize rhythms. I think, a lot of the time, it's more about mental blocks or self-limiting beliefs than anything else.

    I don't want to get off onto a tangent here, but I was reading an article some years back about creativity and how the American educational system "disciplines" creativity out of children. It said that, if you go into a class of kindergarteners and ask them,"Who can draw?" everyone will raise their hands. But, by the time kids get to middle school, or worse yet, adulthood, only people with extraordinary talent would say that they can draw.

    Same thing with dancing. I believe that, somewhere along the line, many people who do have a sense of rhythm, come to believe that they don't. Maybe they're comparing themselves to the "ringers" out there, or maybe they have unfair views of themselves. They do have rhythm. They just have to dig a little deeper to set it free. At least, that's what I think.

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