Swing Discussion Boards > Frustrated learning to dance

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by mrrumba, Apr 7, 2011.

  1. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Hey, mrrumba, let me add my welcome.

    I was really lucky, I guess, that when I started learning to dance I was taught "single rhythm" for East Coast Swing.

    That would be simply step, step, rock step. The step, step is "single rhythm".
    The rock step woudl be a "double rhythm".

    There was also a "double rhythm" swing, which is
    step tap step tap rock step.

    The version you were taught uses a "triple rhythm", then the double rhythm for the rock step.

    Guess which of these is most difficult?

    Based on the wrtings of Laure Haile, who was a national director of dance for Arthur Murray studios, you were supposed to know all of these rhythms to dance "swing" and advance to "Western Swing", which used all three rhythms and considered to be "what to do after Lindy".

    Also, in the early 60s, at least one writer noted that you could/should use the less demanding double or single rhythms for faster songs.

    You should note that probably less than 10% of the general dancing population actually dances in time to the music, based on my observations. So, in one sense, you are setting yourself a fairly difficult, but very worthwhile goal.

    I've been known to compliment total strangers who dance simply, but in time to the music.

    And that business about losing the beat when leading turns, etc? Happens all the time. If you are AWARE of the beat, and feel that you are off, you are on the right path! (Man, does that bring back memories!)

    If you stay engaged here, we can point you to a bunch of information that could be very helpful (although it may make your head hurt).
  2. Spitfire

    Spitfire Well-Known Member

    That's pretty common; to teach the single step and progress to triple step and I think when there's been Lindy classes taught here this is what's taught initially to beginners.
  3. madmaximus

    madmaximus Well-Known Member

    Hi mrrumba.

    I will echo the excellent advice and sentiments already posted (and note to reread megeliz's and steve pastor's replies).

    When we begin to dance, we all have difficulty with a number of things. It's just a little different among other beginners. Here's a few suggestions:

    ENJOY what you're doing for what it is---not what it can be.
    Practice without music first (until you don't have to think about the movement), then try it with music that has a pronounced beat. (This should be easy in ECS.
    Find someone who can help you identify beat 1 of a measure first (forget the other beats--for now--as long as you can sync to the 1 beat, you should be fine).
    Avoid the grass-is-greener syndrome. Focus on the results of your efforts not other's.

    Oh, and did I mention ENJOY? Relax man. Dance is fun if you allow yourself to enjoy what you are learning!

  4. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Going backwards: music theory can help you understand what you know, but I'm not sure it's so great at learning what you don't know. Put another way: it's good for organizing how you think, but I suspect your more immediate concern is not needing to think.

    Also, the vocabulary in music theory is enough different from how we use similar terms in a dance context that I would expect it to make things harder, rather than easier, until you "get it."

    Stepping back to counting - how "accurate" a count is depends on what you think the count is supposed to be doing. It's primary purpose is to tell you when to take steps; but the secondary purpose is to tell you how to step. The number counting (123&4) is more accurate for the latter than counting "halfs".

    How to demonstrate the difference. If we were just walking forwards, in a big circle, for example, all of the steps would be the same, except for how fast they were (or if you prefer, how long you stay on that foot). But that's not what we do when we are dancing triples - the middle step of a triple is not like the other two (not only is it on a different foot from the other two, but it uses a different part of the foot). The "3&4" count emphasizes this difference. The "half half 4" count makes the last step the different one, instead of the middle step. Oops.

    One thing that might help, is to stop thinking about individual steps, and think instead about the steps in rhythm groups. Boom-Boom. Boom-ba-Boom. Boom-ba-Boom. In other words, there's no such think as a "tri" step plus a "ple" step plus a whole step. There's just "triple step" - a single thing with three weight changes in it during two beats of music, that has a consistent rhythm to be learned.
  5. Martel

    Martel New Member

    Hi MrRumba,

    I would recommend that you learn Single Time East Coast Swing (rock step, step, step). It is a lot easier to count and stay on beat with ST ECS. Then once you can stay on beat, go back to Triple Time ECS. Most dance moves are easier to count and do on beat when you slow every thing down and ST ECS will help with that.

    I've been dancing ECS for 4 years and it took me at least a year before I could consistently dance on beat. But, and its a big one, if your only social dancing, dancing on beat doesn't matter that much.

    In social dancing, its much more important to be able to lead those turns and spins well than lead them on beat. Because, as previouly stated, 90% of the people you dance with won't have a clue if your off beat. Don't let your frustration with this one problem drive you away from dancing.

    I am not a counter, I still can't count the music to save my life and this is after 4 years of social dancing 3 nights a week. I can feel the music well enough to dance on beat though (and that took me a while of moving to the music on my own).
  6. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Actually you described the counting very well. Usually dance teachers would say "3-and", for example instead of "half-half". Basically, when they say "and", that means a half beat. So in your example above, just substitute 1, 2, 3-and 4, 5-and 6, and it means the exact same thing.

    So it's just a matter of learning the terminology. It's just different words for the same concept.
  7. bia

    bia Well-Known Member

    Yes and no, IMO. Absolutely, don't let this drive you away from dancing. And for the time being, don't worry about it too much when you're social dancing. I agree with Dancelf on the three things you need to learn, and that it makes sense to deal with them separately to start with. Focus on listening to music and counting and/or moving to it. Separately, practice steps so they get into your muscle memory. And separately, go social dancing just to have fun and let happen what's going to happen. Of COURSE it's not fun to be trying to count and trying to plan the next step and trying to lead it, and do your own part, and avoid running into other dancers, and, and, and... Don't expect it of yourself right now. Practice time is for focused practicing, and social dancing is for fun. (ETA: or for practice leading, just in case you're not having fun yet -- you still know you're accomplishing something there.)

    All that said, let me get to the "no" part. I disagree that dancing on time doesn't ultimately matter much for social dancing. As a follower, I find it much much harder to follow a step when it's off time. My body feels the beat and wants to move to it, but the lead is telling me to do something else, and the conflict between the messages I'm getting makes the dancing harder for me. (Some of those followers who are dancing off beat know very well that they are, but they also know that the social floor is not the place to try to correct the person they're dancing with.) In case you're worried, I am NOT going to judge or criticize or turn down a dance with a new dancer who dances off beat. We all do the best we can, and if that's what you're doing, I'm going to enjoy dancing with you.

    So dancing on beat is not for you to obsess about on the social floor right now. But do keep working on it in practice time. Eventually it'll show up at social dances even without your thinking about it.
  8. Martel

    Martel New Member

    Yes, this is what I ment Bia, thank you.

    Separate it out, work on the hard stuff in the lesson and do your fun (if less technically accurate) dancing when your social dancing. The practice stuff will eventually merge into your social dancing when you are comfortable with it.
  9. bia

    bia Well-Known Member

    Btw, let me add my welcome to Martel and mrrumba!
  10. rbazsz

    rbazsz New Member

    We all have our Waterloo music. I have been dancing about 6 months. Following ECS has been fairly natural to me as long as the music isn't too tricky.

    On the other hand, Latin music drives me nutso. I can't tell you how many times I have stood motionless with my partner staring at me, while I try to figure out where to start. Assuming I start right I can get off track very quickly. Latin music can change tempo within a given song and that really makes me feel like never doing Salsa again.
  11. mrrumba

    mrrumba New Member

    I am concerned that the woman I dance with will not enjoy it if I am off beat and missing steps. My worry makes me anxious and don't enjoy the dance myself. You say don't worry about it?
  12. CANI

    CANI Active Member

    Speaking only for myself...as a woman, nope... a leader off beat and missing steps doesn't diminish the dance for me in the dance you are referencing, nor the others I've done. Why? Don't really know, I guess following the leader's beat is primary, although I do hear the music and I dance to it, but secondary to the leader. I'm probably not explaining myself well...

    However, either way, if it is, or isn't a big deal for the woman, you adding worry and getting anxious will probably head the dance in the less positive direction, than the positive one. My advice would be enjoy the dance and don't worry about it because in that moment you can't do anything about it.

    After following the advice you are getting in this thread and with the appropriate practice and time, it will then likely become a non-issue for you. Until then, just do your best.
  13. bia

    bia Well-Known Member

    This. It's true that I prefer it when a leader is with the music. But if the choice is between a leader who's happy and relaxed and dancing off the beat, and one who's stressed and frowny and dancing closer to the beat, I'll enjoy the dance with leader A more.

    I also wonder if some of the stress for you in social dancing is that you're trying to do steps you're not comfortable with yet, because you're worried that your follower will get bored otherwise. And then the harder steps throw you off beat, and then you're worried about the beat, too. Fancy steps are another thing not to worry about. Add new steps to your social dancing when doing so feels fun or playful for you, and not until then. And if they do throw you off the beat, meh, who cares, we're just playing. Make a mental note to practice those steps more during your practice time, and move on.
  14. mrrumba

    mrrumba New Member

    Thanks, CANI & bia. The thought of going to a dance feels a little less stressful now. I'll try not to worry and have fun.

    I do worry about boring women when I dance, mainly by doing the basic step too much and not other steps. It helps to hear that I don't have do fancy steps, although I rarely try those anyway.
  15. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    are you able to identify the different textures in music - melody, harmony, rhythm/bass, etc.? being able to pick out a specific element, especially part of the rhythm section (drums, bass, etc.) that play repeating patterns can make it easier to identify the overall tempo and beat.

    i have an extensive musical background which began in childhood, so there's a lot about music that i take from granted, but i have this suggestion - watch other people listen to music (dancing or not), and observe how they respond - some will hum/sing along, and a lot of them will move in time with the music. even try to note when they breathe (for vocalists and wind instrument players, taking a breath often indicates a change of phrase, which also gives hints to where the downbeat is.) and even though what some of them do may seem unnatural at first, try to emulate some of those responses you notice when you listen to the same styles of music - and if you can, identfy what in the music prompts these responses in other people. that should go a long way towards being able to feel the music without having to understand the technical aspects of it.
  16. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    let me join the crowd that would rather dance basics
  17. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    learn the basics well. When you get bored with dancing just the basics, you'll have motivation for more. ;-)
    And remember, you may be dancing the same couple of figures with each lady, but the ladies get a different dance with each partner, based on what the other leaders know and can do.
  18. megeliz

    megeliz Member

    This. This is some of the best advice in the thread. Don't worry about moves, learn your basics so well that you can do them on autopilot in time to the music. I lead WCS, and honestly, for the first 6 months, ALL I did were basics. I didn't even TRY to learn any variations until my foundation was strong enough to support them. Even now, I only have a small handful of moves that aren't basics or very simple variations. And really, that's pretty much the case with EVERY average leader. Most of the guys I dance with all have their 5 moves that they do, but the thing is, every guy has a different 5 moves, so I'm getting a different 5 moves every dance, and the magic isn't in the fancy moves, it's in the perfectly executed basic that's fit in just right with the music.
  19. Ray Sison

    Ray Sison New Member

    :cheers: to this...
  20. anametuer

    anametuer Member

    Inspiring! And yes, it is good to have friends when you are feeling low.

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