Ballroom Dance > My partner lacks musicality

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by Alice.W, Apr 21, 2013.

  1. Alice.W

    Alice.W Member

    I started with a new partner some time ago, hoping to compete with him in Standard. It's pleasant to dance with him until we try to dance with music. He is just off beat, especially in quicker dances. It's a little strange to me, as he obviously thinks of himself as a more advanced dancer than me (and I agree). I had other partners before, pro- and am-, and I never faced this problem. He tells me not to worry about music so much and just follow him, but I just can't do it. Then he starts telling me it's my poor technique that makes us off-music. I gave it some time, thinking it might improve, but it doesn't. I suggested we go to rounds and maybe just dance simpler routines to develop that connection with music, but he doesn't want to do rounds until we "get better".
    At this point, I pretty much decided it's hopeless to continue with him. Has anyone else had this problem? How can I help the situation? and can I, really? The funny thing is that I realized we almost never dance with music at lessons, every time our instructor offers music, my partner says: "no, let's just work on this particular figure", which we do for the next 45 min. Maybe I should bring it up with the instructor? Maybe it IS all my fault? I already decided I need to start looking for a new partner, but maybe there is still hope.
  2. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    you definitely need to bring it up to your instructor and dance to music in front of them
  3. bia

    bia Well-Known Member

    He definitely needs to hear about it from an instructor rather than from you. Though if he's a relatively experienced dancer, I would expect that he has before. The fact that he avoids dancing to music where anyone else can see (lessons or rounds) makes me wonder if he knows it's a problem but would rather hide it than work on it. If that's the case, I don't see the partnership working. I also don't like the blame on you and the outright rejection of your suggestions. (Is this a general pattern for all of your suggestions, or do you have a more equal partnership on other issues?) Based on this report, I'm not particularly hopeful, but you won't know for sure until you bring in your instructor.
    smidra86 and Bailamosdance like this.
  4. snapdancer

    snapdancer Well-Known Member

    Sometimes I'm following the music, but my partner is also following the music, and following it faster. And by "faster" I mean sooner after the beat than I am following it. Which adds stress to me, and one of the first things that goes when I'm under stress is my timing.
  5. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    There's four reasons he's not a great partner that have nothing to do with whether he can keep time...

    1. He doesn't get to tell you what to worry about, or not worry about, in your dancing/partnership.
    2. "Following" does not mean "mindlessly doing what your partner decides is correct."
    3. He is trying to turn this around and blame you, but won't let you do anything to fix it.
    4. He's not willing to put in the work to improve (and might be afraid not to do it "perfectly" the first time).

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again: an amateur partnership where one person acts as the "teacher" or "the better partner" will fester, create bad feelings, and ultimately fail. Sure, one of you will always be slightly better - no two dancers are ever exactly at the same level. But when that turns into a power imbalance, it's bad news.

    Go see a pro. Tell them that you feel the partnership is off time. It's quite possible that it IS you - but that doesn't make him right, either. I've had timing issues in my partnership, and it we discussed it, tried to fix it, saw an instructor, etc. - neither of us told our partner to "just lead/follow" or "don't worry about it."

    And avoiding rounds until you're "better"? Laughable.
  6. Janson

    Janson Active Member

    I agree with the others about talking to an instructor. There is a problem with dancing to music (which let's face it, is quite a big part of ballroom...) and so it makes sense to fix it whether it is him, you or both. This is the number one point to do.

    Otherwise, I think doing rounds is always great. It breaks up practice if nothing else. If following music is difficult for him, make sure it's a really obvious beat and the slow end of the tempo range. I've often found timing becomes tricky if I'm not confident with a particular figure (or the music is just awful!) but should be able to do basics without too many problems.
  7. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    Actually, on that note - if you have the ability to slow down the music, dance to that. Suddenly there is more time between notes, and it's easy to notice when someone is stepping to early/late.

    That's what my coach suggested for our timing problems... not sure why I didn't think to mention it :p

    IIRC Audacity can slow music down like that. It's a little hard to get the hang of at first, but it's free and safe and useful.
  8. snapdancer

    snapdancer Well-Known Member

    The free VLC player can slow down playback speed.
  9. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    Rhythm is something that can be learned. It can be entertaining too. If you can get him to do it, just clapping hands to the music or saying the timing as you dance can do wonders. He probably has a lot going through his head, and sometimes you have to decide on the priorities, but give enough time to work on one thing (ex. rhythm) before changing focus.
  10. Miss Silly

    Miss Silly Well-Known Member

    My partner has no musicality [yet] and struggles to stay on time. Then I struggle to dance with him during those times where i ask myself, do i dance with him or dance to the music and try to subtly backlead him? As an ex musician, this does hurt my insides LOL. I tell him when he dances offtime, somewhere in the world it kills a unicorn. And consequently he feels that i'm either blocking him or pushing him over (when i'm just trying to encourage him to dance on time) and our flow as a team just falls apart.

    I've tried to help him by explaining some basic musical concepts, having him listen to a lot of music and clap the beat or some sort of rhythm that emulates "slow, quick quick", etc. I am happy to report that unlike say, being colour-blind, it CAN be a learned skill. He is improving but as DanceMentor mentioned, he has moments where i can tell his brain is too occupied with other things that timing gets forgotten especially when we're attempting newer material. Of course, i need to work on my patience ;-P

    But IMO dbk really hit some great points.... the true issues are a little less the musicalty & timing but rather the lack of mutual partner respect and willingness to truly explore the weaker points (be it one partner or both). Even the fact that you're sounding so frustrated is indicative that this issue should get addressed sooner rather than later. My opinion is to also seek 'council' with an instructor; it would likely be received more open mindedly.
  11. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I've only ever seen a entire roomful of people all being totally with the music once, when it wasn't a pattern dance, but then I'm a strictly social dancer. Sadly, there are women I don't dance with, who I know would be good - if they would get the music. Even more sadly, teaching to the music does not seem to be a high priority to many people who teach.

    Maybe it would help to find a new teacher who understands how essential being with the music is..

    Perhaps more correctly, he knows more steps and patterns that you do. I would MUCH rather watch someone do a few basic steps and patterns in time to the music than do a bunch of complicated things with no relationship to the musc.

    As a social dancer, I will at most ask someone to slow down/speed up to be more with the music - one time.

    You have more at stake here, but if your partner is not interested in learning about how dance and music are related even on the most basic level, and your instructor hasn't been teaching it.... You have a tough row to hoe, as a gardener would say.

    I could see maybe if there was a consistent pattern of your partner being ahead or behind the beat, but if hels tellign you to "not to worry about music," and if you can't not pay attention to the music (like me), it's most likely not your "fault."
  12. Soulmate61

    Soulmate61 Active Member

    t alu
    As an ex musician I would give up on the spot, it is too painful. Height makes a difference, sometimes posing an insuperable problem, so does a big gap in musicality.

    Every musical phrase doe not match every dance phrase. With bodyweight and movement to manage above and beyond the ear, a skilled dancer may sometimes delay for a splitsecond then quickly pay back the deficit and get back into rhythm. Classical musicians will play rubato, but always with good reason, not with tasteless self-indulgence. A slight air of hesitation before a transition can be a charming way to draw attention, but a genuinely musical person will never lose the beat on the dance floor even if an earthquake intervenes. Failing to follow the beat because of too-fast movement would be a different matter.

    If a dancer always wants to avoid practising to music, then I suggest politely asking him to count to music when standing still "to help you with the count". If he cannot count to save his life, then to save your sanity come to Europe and partner me. Your days will be full of music, your nights full of stars. :D
  13. FancyFeet

    FancyFeet Well-Known Member

    Bahaha! Love this!!

    Can I borrow it?
    Sania, dancelvr, stash and 2 others like this.
  14. Gorme

    Gorme Active Member

    It's tough. I have no musicality either. The only time I can have enough mental power to focus on the music is if I'm not thinking about any of the technique. Perhaps you can try dancing very easy figures (e.g. Bronze) and see how well he can dance to the music.
  15. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    the longer you dance the more musical you become especially once you can approach each dance from something other than a techiquocentric view

    eventually you must develop musicality, or your dancing is just stepping prettily
    vit likes this.
  16. Miss Silly

    Miss Silly Well-Known Member

    Hahah of course!:D
    FancyFeet likes this.
  17. Loki

    Loki Well-Known Member

    Mmmmmmm! Unicorns! Tasty!
    Sania and Leon Theou like this.
  18. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    tastes like chicken!
  19. DL

    DL Well-Known Member

    Folks seem surprisingly willing, absent first-hand knowledge, to find shortcomings in the fellow described by OP, but I think there's not enough information to say much either way, and advice from some to consult a teacher is by far the best.

    I will say that (before I went on hiatus) my partner and I hashed over this issue many times. On occasion, she didn't like my timing. In such cases, I often was frustrated that she wouldn't follow what I was leading. Without confidence that she would follow where I led, it was hard for me to arrange for timing to work out even as I intended, let alone as she might have desired. We often came to a point of me promising, yes, to try a different timing -- but insisting that she live with an undesirable one temporarily while I was working that out. She only ever agreed grudgingly, but usually was pleased with the eventual result. One thing that helped: Whenever a figure worked out in a way that we both liked, we tried to figure out how to repeat reliably what we had just done. Not only was that good practice, but it helped build trust/confidence/communication/positive reinforcement.

    This might be a too-broad statement of things but: The follower simply doesn't get to pick the timing. The job of the follower is to go when and where the leader indicates. The follower is perfectly entitled to complain bitterly after the fact that the timing didn't suit, but *only* if she followed it faithfully. To the extent that a follower "just can't do it" -- I suggest that while there may be a timing issue for him to work on, there is also a following issue for her to work on.

    As for not wanting to go to rounds -- I will say that there were often things I did not want to work on in rounds until I felt I was in control of them. Depending on the local group of attendees, rounds can definitely be the place NOT to be an out-of-control couple trying to work on something new.
  20. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    A good number of people have already said "go see a pro/teacher/coach/whatever." And if a lack of "first-hand" knowledge should prevent us from giving advice, I'm pretty sure this (and most internet forums) should cease to exist.

    I am very tired of seeing "you don't know their situation" as an argument in online forums... we should all be working on the assumption that this is the case, it being an online forum...
    Bailamosdance likes this.

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