Salsa > How on earth do leaders confuse the 1 and the 5?

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by nycsalsero, Sep 25, 2006.

  1. squirrel

    squirrel New Member


    Technique is good and should be taught from the very first lesson. And then maybe 1/4 of the people dancing now would still be interested to do it. :)

    When teaching for social dancing purposes, one should consider what the ultimate goal of the students is: to learn how to move a bit and meet others or become world's champions?

    Musicality is important (to me it is the most important thing) but people want to move their bodies and be able to lead 1-2 moves, w/o caring too much about the beat or the technique.

    I tried teaching simple musical terms and have them identify some instruments. They were bored! :( I tried to explain about the 1 and the 5 and... not too much interest! :(

    Same happened when I taught basic techniques (and not in an absolute beginner class - in a class whose students had been dancing for over 6 months already and were fairly good).
  2. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    Don't let yourself get caught up in the right and wrong. To the music it doesn't matter a lick what side we choose to dance. To fun itself it should never matter what in the wrold and when you are doing it, doing so only limits what yourself.

    while you hear a top layer change, the clave hasn't changed. To a person dancing directional on the 2 side of the clave, you are the one not listening to the music, you have made a change when the foundation never has. What gives? Not the music, but us, all dancers should be able to do as they please either fowards or backwards, especially in a "monotone" style dance...
  3. Catarina

    Catarina New Member

    After reading the other threads about how the "clave change" is superficial--the melody (or whichever musical term was used--i don't know it) rearranges around the clave which doesn't change, I completely agree with what you're saying boriken, and I am aspiring to get to that point when I dance. however, i'm still in month seven of dancing--no prior dancing background unless you count a year or two of ballet as a five year old. so for me, and maybe other relative newbies to dancing/musicality, etc, i need to keep in mind the structure of the music when I'm dancing otherwise i'd end up standing there confused a lot of the time. also, i know that the place i take lessons from teaches the basics fairly technically, and then builds from there. i wouldn't say rigidly, but still, more of a common foundation for the dance that once you've got that and a feel for the music, you can flow with it however you please.'s like having a good grasp of a language before you start writing poetry.
    so isn't there something to be said for respecting the basic step's relationship to the music? do other partner dances have this kind of discussion about "correct" placement of feet/dancing on the wrong side?
  4. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    other dances

    Very good q.-- Actually, a lot of the same rules apply. As one climbs up the proverbial ladder, it is expected of you ( the leader ) to interpret the musicality of the piece and to dance rhythmically to the music . It is, however , far more technical than you can imagine, and takes yrs of study to reach prof. levels -- or even amat.
    All movements are broken down to the nth degree .The major difference in the salsa world and the b/room world, is the number of dances involved ( well over thirty )
  5. devane

    devane New Member

    Interesting story......but can you see how people dancing different ways can cause problems. What if both partners are following the lyrics/melody but both coming up with different interpretations?
    Fine for solo dancing but a partner dance needs some common ground or it's not a partner dance.

    AT doesn't follow a beat so you have to learn to interpret melodies (you need to learn the songs). It's way harder than Salsa and that's why I liked it cos' it was really challenging.
    I was learning AT from a guy from Buenos Aires. He teaches from the botttom up. Meaning Musicality, exercises for posture and leading..........loads of things before you learn a pattern. No diluting of Tango standards here. Lots of sore shoulders and I was mentally drained for a while.;)

    You dance On2? I'm On1 but it shouldn't make a difference.
    As you know the speed of the bar dictates the speed of which you dance.
    I don't constantly listen attentively to the music to know if I'm on time. I will listen to a bar or 2 at the beginning. From time to time I will hear something in the music change like the chorus starting. If I'm on my left foot (1) , I'm ok. It's like a acknowledgement, I'm starting at the beginning of a bar when the musicians are also doing the same.

    If you're dancing half a bar out of sync you won't hear things when expected and you may feel uncomfortable. It can feel as bad as not dancing on time at all and when it happens to me, I'm likely to make a mistake as I'm on the wrong foot. It justs feels wrong.

    Just listen to changes in the music and take notice what foot you're on.

    Another point.....
    If you're a girl you'll probably more versatile anyway because a lot of girls have danced both as the guy and girl. Starting a bar on either foot makes no difference.

    Yeah you could get kicked in your shins if you don't anticipate when to start.
    Luckily I'm the guy so I don't have that problem.I have found that some girls just follow whatever the guy is doing and don't know a thing about On1/On2.

    Dancing half a bar out feels the same as being off time.

    Major props for teaching musically in your classes. People have different aptitudes to music (look at American Idol).
    Some people will get it after a simple explanation even with the fact that the music may be new to them. Some will never get it. Some see salsa class solely as a social outlet and will perceive any technical advice as irrelevent and boring.
    But for the ones who want to learn the art,the information is there.
    And yes there are worst things a dancer could have in an advanced class. I've had girls who bunny hop their basics and fall all over the place but want to do complex sequences! (and are let in the class)
    Even ones who don't realise they have half a bar to do 2 spins (5,6,7..). I will ask "should we do 1 spin instead?" She will say "no" and go at her own speed finishing whenever.
    I would rather do a simplied version well that might actually be added to the dance floor than a poorly executed wobbly piece of crap.
    Not understanding the basics of timing is the reason why they always go for the fancier option.Maybe it's not their fault if they haven't been made aware of it.

    As you said. "Social dancing". Don't expect too many people to care.
    The fact that you teach it is important. They can't blame you if someone says "this guy doesn't dance with the rhythm"
    I would add if learning about the Clave. Anyone I've shown how the do the clave rhythm can do it easily. Doing it for a whole song is hard . You have to go into a trance. But that's actively doing the rhythm as opposed to standing in a class listening and then say "I get it, yeah, us a new sequence now".

    You need to follow/understand the convention of your style before you experiment with other things. You can break the rules when doing the basics ( I do), shines etc........but what if your way interferes with your partner.
    It feels horrible for me to dance half a bar out. If I learnt to dance On5 maybe my partner On1 will feel the same problems I felt before. I don't see the point of learning to dance on every beat if the person I'm dancing with is accustomed to dancing On1.

    I gonna learn this On2 sometime but that's all for me I'm afraid.
  6. devane

    devane New Member

    30 different dances. You would need to be the dance equivalent of a Shaolin Monk.:cool:
    I heard of "Salsa University" but a dance temple?
    Nunca se sabe ;)
  7. noobster

    noobster Member

    That is why we have a leader and a follower. The follower may interpret however she likes, but only insofar as she doesn't interfere with the lead.

    I felt like this as well until recently. See my post on the first page of this thread, about a month ago. But after reading the opinions of borikensalsero and some others, I thought, well, why does it feel bad to dance half a bar out? I'm still stepping on all the same beats, it's just a mirror reversal (left foot instead of right, moving back instead of forward). Actually a woman dancing half a bar out is just dancing the guy's footwork. The choice of which measure to step forward on is completely arbitrary (not like actually dancing off time, as in paying no attention to the beat or melody at all).

    So I tossed the mindset. I decided, well, if the guy is half a bar out, that is fine and I am just going to follow. It's been very freeing and allowed me to have more fun instead of having this little irritation in the back of my mind. As well as that I can concentrate on more important things than which foot I happen to be on.

    Yes, this is a partner dance. That means both partners should contribute to making the dance as good as it can be. Not that one of them should be grumpy and allow arbitrary rules to interfere with his or her enjoyment of the dance.

    Anyway, I can see how this would be harder for guys. But they are the ones who control the timing, so if they care about dancing on-measure they will; and if they don't know the 1 from the 5, it won't bother them as long as the girl is willing to follow.
  8. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member


    Then I guess I am-- i personally teach 31 ( many many teachers who do same ) Simply-- -- 10 in Intern div,-- 13 in amer.standard plus sundry others like balboa, peabody, latin hustle etc etc. Not uncommon with ballroom teachers of long standing
  9. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Um, no. The leader leads, and has (arguably) the majority of the responsibility for musical interpretation. The follower is free to interpret the music and melody, but only within the framework established by the leader. I know primarily about AT (where the boundaries of the framework can be pushed by experienced follows), but I'd imagine the same to be true of other partner dances. Leading is still leading, and following is still following.

    Also, he'd said that South American trained dancers will often end up responding in similar ways to the same melody, even though they're each interpreting on their own. Interesting, and again, I'm not trying to make blanket ethnic statements.

    I'm well aware of AT. It is, by far, my favorite dance and the one I'm probably the most comfortable with.

    Whether or not it follows a beat can be debated. Straight tango doesn't really, but it's not always the melody that gets followed (rhythmic elements can be followed as well). However, vals and milonga are much more beat-oriented. And, I'd argue that you don't necessarily need to learn the songs, but instead need to learn how to listen to the music. Even without knowing a particular song, you can often get a pretty good idea of where it's headed if you know what to listen for.

    Not sure why your shoulders were sore, that just doesn't make sense to me. Feet, of course; back, possibly. But shoulders?
  10. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    I figured the same rules would apply and my ear for other types of music is better. That is what got me thinking about chacha. I never had the time or reason to study music in the past. So I am proof that the "You can not teach rythm" thread is bunk. Now, I can listen to music and hear some of the different elements. Add in a reasonable base of fun things to lead and I have a whole new world to explore :)
  11. kayak

    kayak Active Member

    Actually, I'm much better starting on the one. I just couldn't think of a way to describe starting with a back basic. I had an immediate example of two different "correct" teaching styles in the On2 and Chacha that put the couple 4 beats apart depending upon if they start breaking forward or backward.

    Breaking forward on 2 or 6 seems like it should be identical musical/dance differences to breaking forward on 1 or 5? At this point, I don't think that my leading is advanced enough that I lead anything different regardless of which count I break forward on. However, I have lots of space for learning.
  12. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    Yes and no, This really isn't a technical, rather a philosophical issue. What, why and how it feels wrong is not because of technique, but because of how we think we should dance. If we shift our philosophical outlook, then someone else’s style will never matter. We are no longer concern about ingrained ideas, rather communicating to the best of our abilities. Of course, if I want to force my ideas upon someone who believes different there will be problems, but convention isn't what I'm after, rather communication. This is the prevalent issue with dancers, they want to force everyone to dance likewise, causing a mess of the dance. As a dancer I should only adhere to convention when convention is shared by both individuals.

    I tend to equal this dancing thing to love. If someone was to tell me that they can't fall in love with someone because of language difference, then I'd tell them they've never been in love.

    Dancing is about communication, adhering to convention as a must creates difficulties, it is not technique that causes it, but how we choose to apply that technique. Finding a way to communicate is what matters on the social floor, whether she dances cuban and I NY Style. It is our responsibility to communicate and create a meaningful dance. It is not forcing her style on me and mine on her. That is not a technical problem, but a personal inability to adjust to outside stimuli. Basically, philosophy... Just like loving someone who doesn't speak your language, you sure as heck will find a way to let the person know your love and devotion without words... But if you just want to talk to her and make her understand you by the mere words, then you’ll have the bumps you speak of in convention. Even if there are bumps, what ultimately matters is to communicate, that can only be done by tossing convention to the side when a must and adjusting. That’s the technique we are after, learning to adjust to one another, not force one another adjust to us. If you want to fall in love with someone of the same language, then by all means do that, then practice convention at that time because the situation calls for it.
  13. devane

    devane New Member

    I haven't got time to agree, disagree or agree to disagree at the moment. I'm running out the door. I'll get back to you.

    Salia con una Española (de Galicia). Me dijo "en mi cama hablamos Castellano o Gallego". Apende rápido.:cool:
    I know people can translate this. It just works better in Spanish.
  14. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    Different issues are at work...

    the music itself doesn't care how nor where your are stepping. what matters at this point is why you are dancing. It really all depends on our reasons for doing so. Then and only then can meaning be created for this question. To me, I could particularly careless where, when and why I step, though I understand that a mambo community has its rules, so I obey the very basics of them, unless it is a fundamental philosophical difference.

    How you want to dance and the rules you want to place are all up to you. Want to change on the 1, then by all means do so.

    To me, the 2 side of the clave still feels like the 2 side of the clave no matter how many times the top layers change. Body positioning has absolutely nothing to do with how I feel the clave. It feels exaclty the same to me whether I step forward to the 2 side as it does to step backwards on it.
    A palindrome is a palindrome no matter body possition when reading it. That's how I view the basic in relation to the clave. There is a 2 side and a 3 side, no matter if I'm standing on my head, the 2 side will always feel like the two side and the 3 side will feel like the 3 side to any part of my basic. All the arguments of phrases, begining, end, "clave change", etc, are all details that don't particualrly have anything to do with how much I enjoy a song and dance.
  15. dosvueltas

    dosvueltas New Member

    I can't really say how to differentiate between the 1 and 5, but somehow, you just know it. And the fact that you know that transition has occurred is what perhaps makes it irritating. For people who couldn't tell the difference, they'd probably continue blissfully, and hopefully still on time, although 1 has switched to 5.

    Surely though, sometimes it must be obvious? What about that salsa romantica song No Me Ames? It's so obvious it's jarring and uncomfortable.

    But what takes the cake must surely be one horrible cut I've heard of Celia's La Vida Es Un Carnaval. There is a point in the song where the count goes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 1, 2...! Anyone hear knows that horrible version I mean?
  16. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    And therein lies the challenge of teaching the difference. But it's already been posted technically what makes the difference. It's so nice when you just hear it though... then you just dance, and you don't have to think about timing, just like you don't think about breathing..
  17. fallenangel

    fallenangel New Member

    Sum it up, just get your timing right.
    Especialy the leaders, when they want to lead complex moves make sure your timing is correct.
    A slight hesitate or late on the lead the lady will go off, although she can cover it up, that gives u something to think about after the dance.
  18. pianoman

    pianoman New Member

    YES!! You've got it! I came out of lurking just to say thanks for articulating what I've been trying to explain for ages. As a musician it just comes to me but you've finally explained the basis of my intuition. Thanks!

    I've found that a slightly easier application that works most of the time is that over the 4-5 the singer is usually in the middle of his phrase and over 8-1 (s)he's resting. I know it's not *always* the case but 95% of songs played at a social salsa scene will be one where that has 8 beat lyrical phrases starting on 1 and ending on 8
  19. salsamarty

    salsamarty New Member

    There is definately a difference between the 1 and the 5. It takes practice and close listening to the music but once you get it it's almost impossible not to find it easily.

    By far the most popular style for the leader to dance on 1 is to step forward with the left foot on 1. I'm currently taking a class to learn patterns on both 1 and 2. The teacher is however teaches on 1 both by going forward on either 1 or 5. On 2 you start back on your right foot and then break on the 2 with your left foot . . . unless you are doing classic mambo and you start forward with your left foot on 2. The point is that salsa styles are pretty fluid but it is very important to know, find, and follow the beat.

    Following the clave can be tricky because there is both forward and reverse clave and they can switch in the middle of a song. The clave percussion isn't always present. However, the downbeat on 1 is always there loud and clear.
  20. GTO Bruin

    GTO Bruin Member

    On2 (ET2) as a leader, you start back on your left, then break backward on the 2 with your right. Some folks On2 (not ET2) will start forward on right then break forward on the 2.

    Sometimes I wonder if the latter would be easier for someone who is used to dancing On1 to transition to On2 since one would be breaking in the same direction of the salsa measure, just a beat behind. Then again, it would change the left-right-left on 1,2,3 to right-left-right. I can see the trade-off.

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