Salsa > Is staying on beat important?

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by ticolora, Mar 4, 2017.

  1. ticolora

    ticolora Member

    This is not the first time I have noticed this.

    As I watch people dance, I notice that I often see people offbeat, and seem to enjoy themselves. There is a whole range of this offbeatness - on beat, but on half-phrase (dancing on 5); on beat, but off phrase; or just off beat; to a different tempo entirely.

    What's even more confusing, I see people who obviously know there stuff - very well executed moves, great style, posture, control. But off phrase or even offbeat.

    I understand that music as metronome is the lowest form of musicality, but I would expect the dance to be aligned with music, beat and phrase; I understand there is syncopation, and fake steps - but you still should be in some form of alignment with the music.

    It seems that people are literally deaf.

    Am I overestimating the importance of the music in the dance?
    Is it common to see people who manage to master moves and forms, but clueless about musicality?

    What's concerns me practically, is that it seems most women (have to mention that I've been only dancing for couple of months, so I stay within my league) are ignorant-incompetent about beat and phrase (I will post a separate question on this).

    Am I completely off the track with my approach to dance?
  2. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    Off phrase is unimportant unless showcasing. It useful in competition but can be disrupted by floor craft issues with stopping etc. Socially phrasing is irrelevant. One and 5 are the same in salsa for example. Salsa can be on one or on 2. If a pattern is started on 3 or 4 that is off beat and is wrong. There's a start. I'll let others add on
    ticolora and Bailamosdance like this.
  3. bia

    bia Well-Known Member

    Yes, many people have a hard time finding the beat or staying on it, and fitting the phrase is another degree harder. And while timing typically improves with practice, there are certainly experienced people who still have trouble with it. I have not noticed a gender difference, though I've heard some people say they see an imbalance in the opposite direction. But yes, it matters a lot. As a follower, I'm supposed to follow the leader's timing, and when he's off, it's not just less enjoyable, it's significantly harder. As a practical matter, I'd advise you to just be grateful, first that you already have the aptitude/training to identify and dance to the beat/phrase, because it's not easy to learn if you don't already. And second that you're a leader, so you get to set your dancing to the beat that you hear. Yes, you'll sometimes run into followers who have trouble matching you; in that case, I'd suggest focusing on gently increasing the clarity of your lead, and if that doesn't help and it bothers you a lot, using it as one criterion in who you ask to dance. No need to be judgmental about it, though; plenty of people just find it genuinely hard.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2017
    IndyLady likes this.
  4. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    Well, there is the fact that experienced dancers can mess with timing. They may choose to dance ahead of or behind the beat, or to vary their own tempo a bit in response to what they feel in the music. They might also choose to deliberately throw in extra 2-count or 4-count elements and go off phrase for a while (probably doing it again later in the song to get back on 1). And in certain dances that have a 6-count basic, it's impossible to stay on phrase, unless you have one of those rare pieces of music in 6/4 time.

    But: just because someone has been dancing for a while, that doesn't necessarily mean they have good timing. I've seen lots of people who danced for years and never learned proper timing. And you may see a couple where one of the partners just isn't on time at all, and the other partner knows it's off time but they choose to just work with it for the duration of the dance, to avoid unpleasantness with their partner.
    IndyLady and raindance like this.
  5. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    West coast has no phrasing per se musically speaking. Any even number works lol
  6. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I basically agree with your observation that most people are "off beat."
    I used to think - for a long time - that maybe I was missing something.
    Now I'm convinced that most people have little or no connection to the music.
    Still, what I hear most often when this comes up is, "They are having a good time so what difference does it make?"

    I encourage you to "stick to your guns," learn to do it correctly, and appreciate the people who DO get it right.
    tangotime likes this.
  7. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Tongue in cheek?
    Mr 4 styles likes this.
  8. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    Yes, being on the beat is important, unless you're deliberately syncopating. One of the many things people should learn before lots of patterns but don't.

    Good phrasing is nice, but difficult to pull off socially.
    IndyLady likes this.
  9. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    There are occasions in Salsa, where timing may change ( not uncommon ) due to clave changes, and or, the song "speaks " to something different, to what was being played. Salsa music is VERY complex.

    There are often occasions, where a song may change into a Cumbia or Guajira rhythm and back again to original score .
    This,invariably, is ignored my many "Prof's" (?)

    But, as you observed., timing is a large problem for many. I even teach my ladies ( whilst dancing with me in private lessons ) to adapt to timing changes ( as in breaking on 1,2 and 3 ) during the course of a song . This preparation, sets things up for the social world .

    You need to go to Salsa Forums, where there are numerous articles on music and dance, that will answer many of your questions , from some very learned and seasoned dancers/teachers.
    Plus, more vids of different styles ,than you can imagine .
  10. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Hi ticolora, your observations may be true. But consider also, that besides beat and phrase there is a third level: the rhythm. And rhythm actually can be very knotty. Some cuban music follows a cross-rhythm. That means that there are different layers of rhythms you can relate to. And these rhythms may sometime sound incompatible to our western ears. So if someone who is deep into cuban music dances rather curiously he may indeed hear something different than you can hear at that moment.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2017
  11. PaulBunyon

    PaulBunyon Active Member

    While sitting on the side lines I often find myself watching dancers who are completely disconnected from the music and appear to having a marvelous time (at least one of them anyway). My only conclusion is that it must be incredibly liberating to have no regard for the rhythm and meter in the music. :)
    ticolora likes this.
  12. Mia

    Mia Member

    This is a really interesting thread, I'm glad it was started!

    When I first started to dance, I found that it was very hard to stay with the beat. After dancing for a while, do others here also find that it is very *hard* to dance off beat???
  13. Jag75

    Jag75 Active Member

    I'm going to chime in here as well.

    You mentioned in another thread that you haven't been dancing very long. How do you know those you're observing are off time?
  14. ticolora

    ticolora Member

    Fair question. The answer is 7 years of formal music education. I am fairly certain my analysis is correct.
  15. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    I have a flash for you. I have taught 2 prof musicians ( among many over the years ) one of world re-known, who could NOT stay on 2 in Cha cha ( he was a drummer ) another, who could not keep time in Social FT ( a 1st Chair in a major orch. ).
    That is NOT to say, you are in that category..

    There is a common assumption that, if one is a musician, then dance timing, will be easy.
    IndyLady and raindance like this.
  16. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    But I think there's a difference between recognizing when other people are off and being able to stay on time yourself.
    RiseNFall and vit like this.
  17. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    Musical knowledge is a hindrance at the beginning of your dance journey and a help when you are more advanced.
  18. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    Sometimes yes and sometimes no.
  19. Mr 4 styles

    Mr 4 styles Well-Known Member

    More often as I described
  20. Jag75

    Jag75 Active Member

    Ok fair enough.

    Are you sure the other dancers were not dancing to a different time, i.e. On2?

    Also - there's a phenomenon when dancing On2 where the first step is not precisely on the 1.

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