Salsa > Hitting Breaks

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by rails, Sep 21, 2004.

  1. timbafreak

    timbafreak New Member

    Hmmm, this is why I end up dancing to my favourite songs alone. Hmmm, I'm only on page 1, let me continue...
  2. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    ITA Devane. I posted a similar theme under one of the other dance styles but the idea applies to any dancing at all. I've seen some some people post the opinion that basic musicality (i.e. dancing with the music) is an advanced concept that can be learned later on, after the dancer has mastered other things. A few even criticized me for expecting too much and suggested that I stick to freestyle!

    And in talking with certain people in my dance classes, it's the same thing. When I express the idea that you're supposed to dance to, and feel, the music, I get blank looks! This totally astonishes me.

    I can only guess that some people are not dancing in order to express themselves; they take up dancing just to get out of the house, meet people, or stay in shape. Essentially, to them, it IS like a form of aerobics but with nicer clothes and being with the opposite sex.

    Dance teachers don't help the situation either. They jump right into teaching the steps whether the students have rhythm or not. I would love to see teachers spend a little time just playing the music first, and making sure everyone can follow the beat by tapping their feet or clapping their hands.
  3. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the " blanket " statement-- ALL ?-- it depends greatly from whom you take your instruction, true in any form of learning.

    I empathise with your feeling , and know, that yes, there are people teaching, who have no concept, of many of the aspects required, to develop understanding that would be applicable to the task at hand .

    Like most forms of learning, one sometimes must spoon feed information, and at what period, is dependant upon those attending . I will agree--- sooner the better-- but not always appropriate in very early stages.

    Rhythmical application, is the " Musical Icing"
    on the proverbial cake-- you cannot add it , until the cake is made .
  4. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Salsa, Argentine Tango, country western two step...
    It don't matter to me.
    If you aren't moving to the music you aren't dancing. You are doing steps and "moves".
    When I learned Argentine Tango, (the latest in a number of dances) I basically refused to move until I felt the music. Yes, I stood out like a sore thumb. And I took a great deal of flak. But, you know what? It was worth it.

    I have come to the point where, if someone points out a "good dancer" who is not moving to the music, I will state, without equivocation, that that can't be good if they aren't with the music.

    Dancers in general (the great majority of whom show no evidence of hearing the music, let alone showing evidence of "advanced" musicality) would be better served by instructors who build "moving to the music" into each and every lesson.
    Course, that would be in a perfect world. Because you have to have students if you are going to teach, and most people don;t know the difference.
    Hey, here's a thought. Maybe this should be part of basic education. You know. Teach kids about music and dance, and like that. Like, public education to foster the common good.

    Governments just waste the tax money they collect. (Just kidding about this last sentence.)
  5. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    ITA! Perfectly said.

    Sorry tangotime, rhythmic application is not "icing on the cake". It IS the cake - or at least one of the essential ingredients.
  6. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    If you can put icing on a cake that isnt even baked -- tell me your secret ?-- the discussion is not whether it is- or is not -- important, but when to introduce the ingredient .
    Have taught comp. dancing for a number of yrs, and if you believe for one second, that is my # one objective ( icing ), you would be correct-- but-- there would be many other " ingredients " needed to be added, before that could take effect .
  7. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    In a group class, students often have different goals than the serious dancers (and teachers) who frequent a board like this. If an instructor take too much time discussing the music to beginning students, they act like you're wasting their time. Some already know the music and they just want the steps, some don't know anything, and some just want to meet someone and pretend they care about the dance.

    If the student is taking a series, where they are committing to a set of classes, then the instructor can do more in that area. If you teach beginners, you have to find something they like, so they will have some fun and return to learn more. When someone wants to learn, then it's easy to teach.

    Across the spectrum of instructors, some are more tuned into the music than others. But even those who are like you and love the music often leave some of the musicality out in the early stages.

    For some people, learning about the music is not simple, they need some ear training and to actually start listening in a way that is totally new to them. It can be work, and most beginners don't sign up for more "work". They think they can start this week and with just "one or two more lessons" they will ready for 'Dancing with the Stars'. People on a board like this know a great dancer is generally a few years away.

    I wish it was different, but beginners often simply want to hold someone else a while, and not look stupid. They are primarily focused on getting the footwork to the point where they are moving without stepping on their partner, and not looking like a grey haired white guy.
  8. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Understood...that's what I meant to say but I think you expressed it better. I fully understand and respect the fact that many people don't plan to become "serious dancers" and just want to look acceptable. Nothing wrong with that at all, and I mean no criticism of it. I have many friends who never studied dance their entire lives and just now are learning and having a great time; it's wonderful.

    My point is that IMO their goal could possibly be better and even more quickly accomplished if the musicality was better integrated into the learning process. If the student understands the rhythm and structure of the music a little bit, it will give him/her a frame of reference for the steps - i.e. if you're learning, for example, an eight-count pattern, and you can feel those eight beats (normally two bars) in the music, then the steps will come much more naturally and quickly to you.
  9. dansah

    dansah New Member

    The original question in this thread asked about the handling of breaks in the music. The poster said people just danced thru them 123...7. There are, as mentioned by Sweavo, different types of breaks. In some, the music absolutely stops... for a while then starts on 1. In others, there is a dramatic change in the feel of the music but rhythmically it continues. For the former, you have to anticipate it and have a plan hopefully by the previous 1. For instance: Copa to Lasso position and you and partner are attached at the hip and stationary for the break. Or 567 into sweatheart position with a dramatic stance on 1 into a freespin. For the latter- dips, caresses, poses are effective.
    The topic is generally more applicable to the more advanced dancer. We seem to have many levels of experience here so I don't think that its possible to expect an intermediate leader to be able to handle some of the expectations of musicality mentioned. No doubt a noble goal but a follow who turns her nose up at an intermediate lead dancing thru breaks isn't being nice.
  10. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    "follow who turns her nose up at an intermediate lead dancing thru breaks isn't being nice" Agreed. But, a mind set in which someone shouldn't / couldn't learn to use those pauses in the music isn't very nice either.
    The trick, I think, is to raise the bar just a bit every now and then, even with your social dance partners.
    How did that story about the light and the cave go?
  11. basicarita

    basicarita Member

    So Don, if one is a beginning-to-intermediate dance student, but a more advanced musician, what would you say is the appropriate way to communicate to your instructor that you want to continue to learn to dance with the breaks -- and be firm about that if they're dismissive of it -- while still being respectful of the instructor's knowledge?
  12. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    Maybe it applies to intermediate dancers, but understanding the music can/should happen early in learning to dance. Nobody hits all the breaks, but since you can practice listening/understanding the music while driving your car, most people can get to hearing the music structure in months if they use their drive time to practice.

    A beginner should be made aware of the concept (not necessarily on the dance floor) and then as they progress they can integrate the concepts into their dancing. The bigger issue is many guys focus on advanced moves while having a very limited concept of how the music works. Ideally the music education parallels their movement/pattern development, and then they need fewer patterns.

    It also depends on the music. If the break repeats 3 times in the song, it's realistic to miss the first one, maybe the second, but I'd submit you should do "something" by the 3rd break if you are intermediate.

    Because songs have a repeating structure, it's something anybody can do if they decide it's worth the effort, and in many cases it's not limited to advanced dancers. We are all a work in progress, so awareness is the first step.
  13. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    Hmmm... Good question and I'm not sure, because it depends on the instructor and the situation. (Are you taking classes or privates?)

    My overall theory is: If the instructor understands and values the music, that will show through in their teaching, even if they don't stop and take 15 minutes to explain things in depth. Most classes should have references to the music and not just the steps.

    My first impression based on what you said is to find a different instructor OR take privates. In my mind, all instructors should be introducing people to the music early on, and while teaching the steps should be including references to the music. In other words, it should be "sprinkled in" while discussing combinations and during practice times. If you are the only musician in the class, the instructor may not focus on those aspects because simple concepts for you may be over everybody elses head (depends on the situation)

    It won't take much since you are already a musician. Now it's a matter of pointing out how the dance fits with the music.

    While my experience says taking 15 minutes (or more) to discuss a song would help a beginner get to a higher level MUCH faster, I would rarely do that in a group situation, unless it was a longer class OR part of a series, where the student has committed to XX classes.

    Note that I teach musicality classes (at the SalsaMambo Festival in Palm Springs) where the whole class is dedicated to the music, but then people attending know we will be listening, feeling, and exposing the way the music is constructed, and relating it to the dancing.

    When teaching beginning classes most instructors (including me) integrate some of musicality concepts as we are teaching basic footwork (or they should, from my point of view). I want my students to know that when we take our first step, there is a logical point in the music where that step makes more sense. As we practice to music I often point out aspects of the music I believe people will find interesting, hoping to peak their curiosity so they want to learn more. One the other hand, I do NOT take 10 minutes and have them listen to a tune

    In privates it's a different matter. There we are focused on "accellerated learning". I know my students are making an investment, so I'll discuss the value of investing time in the music early on... I make sure they understand the return on investment from breaking down a song or two, so they can start practicing in the car and get the music in their heads.

    I want them working toward feeling it as their body movements/pattern vacabulary grows. If they are unaware, they may or may not be hearing some important clues in the music.

    I don't know if I really answered your question, so let me know if I can clarify any points.
  14. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    You put it better than me, but we are in total agreement on your message above. The sooner a newer dancer is aware that music and dance are intimate partners (or should be) the sooner that dancer will move to another level.
  15. basicarita

    basicarita Member

    I've taken classes in the past. I was also in a non-partner dance troupe in college (jazz and modern).

    In the quest for a good instructor for privates, I'm looking to find one where I don't have to struggle with the instructor for the first half of the lesson over whether or not we're going to dance to the actual music.

    (The above is more of a "hit-the-breaks"/"where do the phrases stop and start" issue in salsa. It's more of a "WHY are we doing 6-count step sets in 8-count phrases and NO I don't feel like counting to 24 beats b/c then I can't concentrate on what I'm actually dancing" issue in lindy.)

    I notice that Edie is coming to the NYC Salsa Congress at the end of the summer to teach a workshop. Are you coming to teach a workshop as well?
  16. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    You have it right, I often use classes to see if I like the instructors style before considering privates with them. They should be talking about the music even if they don't break it down. BEFORE I take a private I want to be sure they get the fact that the music is foundational to dance. Some are into that and some are into teaching moves. With your jazz/modern background, you'll recognize great instructors quickly.

    I'm not clear on the above statements. Maybe you can reword that for me?

    I doubt it... I have my classes here in LA (at Mama Juana's), although I teach with her at her LA workshops and at her Palm Springs events. Edie is a master instructor and has forgotten more than most will ever know. Yet I've seen her change her mind if presented a reasonable case for change. She never feels like she knows enough and keeps looking for new approaches. I always learn a ton from working with her.
  17. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    One more thing: If I were looking for someone to take privates with, I'd talk with everyone around me to see who they like and why. I know NYC is full of excellent instructors/dancers, so your issue is probably going to be too many great choices and it will be location, cost, and availability.

    If you attend Edie's workshop, she tends to know the great instructors and may have some suggestions for you.

    Please let us know who you find and how it works for you!
  18. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Why are you doing 6 movements ?-- you are actually doing 3 to each bar-- the value of each beat-- q=1 / q =1 and slow= 2. --- 4 beats total, repeated on the second half of the octave .

    If you want to count,--- count in bars -- as in qq1--qq2- qq3 etc , this will come out to a series of eights , sixteens and thirtytwos .

    This is where chorus and refrains repeat ( or not ) be careful-- there is often a 4 bar " switch " in the middle of the song .
  19. Don Silver

    Don Silver Member

    It's too bad musicians and dancers don't count the same, but I've always been uncomfortable with the "quick, quick, slow" (qqs) counting concept. (I've seen some excellent instructors use it, so I recognize it's a valid method even if I prefer something else...)

    In my mind, the words "quick" and "slow" still require someone to understand that "slow" is really two counts (using 8 count), so why not just use the counts? And I'm not clear what instructors using that method do when footwork or hand motions fall between the "quick" counts. (quick, quicky, quick, quicky, slow? )

    QQS does have the advantage/disadvantage that you can ignore 1 and start the QQS on 2 or 6 if you wish, but I'll trade that off for using the numbers and being able to sub-divide when needed.

    At some point then a dancer has to learn how the QQS relates to the count in the music, so starting with a counting concept makes more sense to me.

    Lots of people use this method, but I don't see the advantages overall.

    Please let me know what I'm missing!
  20. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Being ballroom trained , that is the method that has stood the test of time ( 90 plus yrs ) . My theory is this-- numbers do not speak to speed perse, they indicate for sure , the amount of movement that is required to complete a given sequence, but they do not tell me how fast and how to allocate my time.
    Most trained prof. use a combo. of # and rhythmic explanations in their teachings ( I count weaves in my b/room numerically, having established they are all quicks and the # of slows on a spin turn numer. )

    As important, when I am coaching Amat. and or Prof. competitors, I need to know the # of bars in a given sequence, as well as the total amount with which I have to work. I have taught mambo and salsa since the fifties among the other genres I teach, and have never had a problem , getting a very quick understanding from any of my students with this method .

    To go back to the q posed by the poster-- they did not understand , how 6 went into eight,--I believe I answered that question with an appropriate response .
    By the way, this topic has been discussed to death , and the majority of sasla teachers, have, as again I have stated, little or no formal training ,and of course, they pass down, like we all do, the methods with which they have been shown.

    Choose what you wish to achieve your ends--- I am required by my soc. to examine in the same methods, in which I teach .

    lastly -- do you mean footwork ? or foot positions ?--2 different animals

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