Salsa > Musicality?

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by MacMoto, Jul 7, 2004.

  1. MacMoto

    MacMoto Active Member

    I've come across an interesting article written by Edie the Salsafreak:

    Focus on the Music FIRST … The Beat (Timing) SECOND…!!! (

    Musicaility has been mentioned many times on this forum as an important element of good salsa dancing, but what is it exactly? Is it about hitting the breaks and pauses in the song, or is there more to it? Is it something you either have or you don't, or can it be learned through training? How do you develop your musicality? Also, is it equally important for the follower? Is it something beginners should also try to achieve, or is it an advanced skill?
  2. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    So true. The article. You know I actually like closing my eyes and feeling the music for salsa and AT. Briefly, unfortunately, as I am the leader after all! :( As to whether it is an advanced skill...once you know a certain number of simple moves I believe this is the next thing that people should work on. This focus on moves is way overblown, IMO.
  3. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    wepa... I haven't read the article but I think finally someone has touch upon a much debated subject which I say, knowing the beats of salsa really isn't the first approach to learning, if you will, musicallity! I'll have to go read the article.
  4. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    One reason why Spanish is what I must learn!!
  5. Danoo

    Danoo New Member

    that article is so true
    thanks for posting that
  6. borikensalsero

    borikensalsero Moderator

    lol... she sounds like she dances in NY City every day! lol...

    Salsa has become just that, how many patterns a leader can do! Yet think musicality is knowing 1,2,3 5,6,7... Boy, oh, boy, that article should be required in Salsa 101.

    besides the difference in opinion that not everyone has the same views of hitting pauses, and climaxes, hence, the reason not to dip or take off, I totaly agree with her.
  7. Danoo

    Danoo New Member

    totally agree with u
  8. Lita_rulez

    Lita_rulez New Member

    Well, there we go !

    Something sensible everybody should read. Then again... as so few dancers do play with the music, I kinda feel special doing it, so I'm not so sure I want everyone to start doing it just yet, give me another year or two to get much more solid, technically speaking :wink:

    Seriously, musicality is to me at least 50%* of what separates a good dance from a great dance. [​IMG]

    It is that litle something that makes you not just like the dance, the song, and your partner, but actually fall in love with the combination.

    And there is more to it than just hitting the breaks and pauses in the song. There is actually everything you could think about or come up with. It goes from hitting the break, plain and simple, to chosing a particular instrument to play with, because you know (or even better, you feel) that it is going to take over one part of the song.
    One of the greatest compliment a follow ever paid me was saying "it is not fair, I'm not a great dancer, and you invite me on a song you know by heart down to each break" on a song I was hearing for the first time in my life (well, OK, I probably had heard it somewhere before, but never even bothered to get the title or the name of the band)
    This is what musicality is to me : feeling the music, and not only listening to one thing (ie : the clave, or the beat your on, or even the melody) but rather finding out what instrument to listen to at what part of the song.

    It is probably something hard to grasp for a beginner, for more than a reason, the main one beeing that it is usually never taught in any class.
    Since you are focused on learning the steps, the paterns, the intricate moves, the beat (what ever you find out afterwords in musicality, you still need the beat to dance with your partner, otherwise you might juste dance single dances...) that musicality comes dead last.

    But I find that once you are confortable with finding your one (or your two.. or whichever beat you want to dance on) instinctively, and you have a solid basic, CBL, a few turns and paterns at your disposal, it is time to focus on musicality.

    *the rest beeing :

    - 40% connection to your partner [​IMG]

    - 10% cleavage [​IMG]
  9. squirrel

    squirrel New Member

    SO TRUE! Edie has really had it! She is a swell dancer and can do all those tricks, but she is interested in something else! And that pointless dicsussion about on1 vs on 2... gosh! I got sooooo bored! I don't even dance on 2, but I wanna learn it, the same way I wanted to learn merengue, bachata and Rueda and the same way I shall take classes of AT ... it's about dancing, feeling good and enjoying the music... interpreting it! I mean, there are different ways you can dance to the same song, depending on the mood, the partner and other things... why don't people see the beauty of dancing and tha richness of music????
  10. MacMoto

    MacMoto Active Member

    So... I will never be able to give you a perfect dance since I haven't got a cleavage? :cry: :cry:
    How about tons of eye contact and smile :D instead?
  11. MacMoto

    MacMoto Active Member

    Now that we all agree that Edie's great :)lol: and she really is -- I'm a BIG fan), my question is:

    How can one acquire/develop musicality? Can it be taught? How? Does anyone here have any experience of "musicality lessons"??

    Also -- Edie talks about leaders who ignore what the music says, but how about followers and musicality? Is it less important for the follower, since it's the leader who decides how to interpret the music (or not to interpret it at all as the case may be :lol:)?
  12. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    While a follower may not be able to excute certain moves how he/she moves his/her body is not dictated by the leader. There can be be a great deal of freedom there. It's not what you can't do, it's what you can do. Helps to look at it that way.
  13. salsachinita

    salsachinita New Member

    Ideally, this very lesson should be taught first, to ALL salsa newbies, same as "colour theory" should be taught to all budding art/design students.

    But generally, that's not the way it works out in reality. Why?

    Because these are concepts. And lessons on concepts are by far the most difficult to risk either boring the students, or the information may not get properly absorbed, due to the lack of active participation.

    However, once learnt, concepts stay with us for life.

    IMHO it's just as important for the follower, if not more so. While the leader initiates moves & dictates (personal) styles, it is quite often the follower who keeps the timing (especially true in the case of Cuban style, where it was the guy who shows off while the girl keeps on beat).

    I know for a fact that when dancing with a newbie, I cannot show him moves (so he has to know enough basics to begin with), but I can often show him the style/timing/feeling of the song that we are dancing to at the time, providing he is open to me.

    I'm still wating for someone to come up with a more effective way to help people develope musicality. Unlike flava/sabor, musicality IS more teachable, if one knows how.

    Personally, I learnt mine by feeling (quality) leads over time. I'm currently passing on what I know by getting people to feel my following. I'm still not sure if this is the way :oops: .......

    *btw Edie was the reason I ended up here in DF....her articles inspired me & motivated my sharing/learning via the net*
  14. ThatHaitianSwede

    ThatHaitianSwede New Member

    If the lead and follow are both doing shines, or if your just very close simply doing the basic there could be a lot of room for the follow to interpret the music. I know that in lindy there are times where the girl is said to 'steal the lead' for a beat or two, I dunno but there must be similar times in salsa, just the in the way you step to the basic or in a one hand hold...

    anyway I liked the article. i definitely feel that just dancing should be emphasized a lot more. so what if you wanna stop in the middle of the basic and break it down freak style to that crazy brass section of the song. DO IT

    Interpreting musicality might have just as much uniqueness as flava... and lessons, hence, a very arbitrary thing.
  15. salsachinita

    salsachinita New Member

    Well, the kind of lesson I'm talking about is perhaps an anatomical point of view on salsa music itself. By understanding the structure of it, it will be easier for dancers to 'play' with the music, developing 'light & shade' into their dancing.

    Something like what Boriken said on another thread:
  16. brujo

    brujo New Member

    Yup. I think the common misconception is that if you were 'born with the music', then you don't really need to understand it at an intellectual level. But there are many things that can be taught in musicality that can help people become better dancers.

    I took a musicality class here in TO, here are some of the concepts that were taught

    -All the different instruments and the way they interact with each other. Ear training to isolate highly reliable instruments ( bongos, cowbell ) vs melody instruments to keep beat. Also the trance-inducing repetition of the instruments. Learning how each of the instruments sound like and being able to identify and dance to individual instruments. Listening and internalizing each instrument and the emotions they can bring.

    -The wave-like repetition of the beats. 1-8,1-8,1-8. You miss a beat, you can always wait for the next 'wave'.

    -Anticipating changes in the music, understanding the structure, repetitions of a salsa song. (When the chorus comes in, when the one is, when the lead singer is going to start, anticipating breaks, etc).

    -Understanding how salsa songs are aranged. What is really meant by 'the music changed'. Really envisioning the 4 and 8 bars and how they interact with each other through visual illustrations and clapping exercises.

    -Finding the sense of humor from the musicians, seeing how musicians will grab something that the dancer expects, then switching it up completely to throw them off. ( Such as a cowbell that goes off repeatedly but then suddenly not sounding on a 5 or a 7 ). Or how sometimes a rhythm pattern that is expected from one instrument is played with another instrument.

    -Exercises to condition the body to automatically develop rhythm and coordinate timing by listening to the music.

    The class itself was perhaps 50% explanations, with actually playing the instruments and trying to imitate the sounds. 25% exercises that involved just basic stepping to music and walking around clapping to different patterns (clave, the 1,3,5,7 of the guiro, etc). 25% was ear training, doing the basic step to many different instruments.

    The class helped me as a dancer because now instead of thinking 'on1', 'on2', etc. I could try to dance to the bass ( on3 and on7, depending on which foot you wanted ), or to the clave or to really any instruments. Having that understanding also allowed me to play more with the music, using my feet as percussion to fill gaps in the music. It's amazing how once all that information is revealed, you start hearing more and more.
  17. SalseraLaura

    SalseraLaura New Member

    i think understanding the music is the most important thing in salsa, i swear id much rather dance with someone who is a total beginner but who can feel the music and do a basic for 5 songs and stay on the beat than dance with someone who has all the moves but cant stay on 1 or on 2 or whatever.

    ive been playing music since i was 6 ive been listening to salsa my whole life, i started playing salsa when i was 13 and i started dancing salsa when i was 16 so it was something i never had to think about. ppl would come to me and say how do you know where the beat is all the time? how do you dance like what your doing is made for that song? and how can you anticipate whats coming up next? well the thing is i cant really give them a spiel on music theory.

    my uncle is a salsa musician and he teaches a class called latin rhythm for salsa dancers, its a basic once off workshop and i couldnt believe the results i was dancing with ppl thinking holy....when did this guy get good? then after theyre like oh i went to your uncles workshop...can you tell? i was like well i knew something changed. i think its important that salsa dancers go to something like this. this is scary!!! :shock: because this has happened more than once and with more than one guy. well be dancing and hes all over the place...not moves wise but music wise, hes not dancing on any discernable beat and im starting to lose the basic turn patterns cos my feet are just locked into the music. hes like whats wrong? am i messing up the turns? is it my lead? is it my timing? im like ....well its just that youre not dancing on 1( which is what he was meant to be dancing on...just cos thats all that these guys know....and i know for a fact he wasnt trying to dance on 2 or any other beat) hes like i dont counting 123 567 in my head i said yeah but where, hes like it doesnt matter where you start does it? im like yes!! the music has a 1 in it too not just you!!! these guys actually didnt know that the timing of dancing was related to the that in my opinion is just wrong...this should be something thats incorporated into lessons from day 1 as far as im concerned
  18. MacMoto

    MacMoto Active Member

    This sounds like a really interesting concept, Brujo. I wonder if this sort of teaching is offered in the UK...

    I have experienced only one musicality class, which had quite a different approach. It was billed as an intermediate/advanced level class and was basically all about how to play with the music when you didn't know the song. The teacher says that the musical phrasing of salsa songs is actually quite formulaic, and it is therefore easy to anticipate when a change in the mood of the music occurs (like "every so many bars") even though you don't know what the change will be. All you have to do, therefore, is change your dance exactly at that point. Another tip is to remember the intro of the song because, when it appears again later in the song, it often marks the end of the song so works as a cue for rounding up your move for a big finale.

    Since it was a higher level class, the teacher expected the students to be already familiar with salsa music (and be able to count beats/bars!) and left it up to them to put the theories into practice (the class wasn't hands-on -- no exercises, just explanations and a couple of demos). It was more of a "cheat's guide to musicality" than a salsa music fundamentals class, but I suppose the ideas explained there were still useful. I think you would need a very different approach to teach musicality to less advanced students though -- like that described by Brujo (and also Boriken).
  19. MacMoto

    MacMoto Active Member

    :lol: :lol: :lol: :roll: :roll:
    Seriously though, you are absolutely right. It really does throw me when the leader is dancing on the wrong beat.

    When Angel Ortiz came to Scotland to teach a couple of workshops (not an everyday occurrence, you understand), I was a bit scared wondering what dazzlingly difficult turn patterns he was going to teach us. But, no, the first session of his class was "where's the 1?" (it was an on1 class). He played a song and told us to start the basic step when the 1 beat came. His point was that knowing where the 1 was and dancing on that beat of music was the most important thing in salsa dancing. Sounds ridiculously basic, yet when you look at the dancefloor, you see many people starting on (or slipping to) the wrong beat all the time. Musicality is certainly not only about being and staying on the beat, but it is an important starting point.
  20. squirrel

    squirrel New Member

    I could use some of those classes... :( I cannot hear the 2 even if my life depended on it! And the clave... it is obvious when it plays, but I cannot keep it the entire song!

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