Can you "learn" how to have rhythm or a general aptitude for dance?

#62
On the topic of why would someone with no rhythm be motivated to learn in the first place: I have an opposite reaction to frustration than most people. Most people, when they realize they're failing at something and get frustrated they want to stop. When I get frustrated it makes me want to try harder, and the more pissed off I get the longer and harder I'll keep trying. So it was actually negative emotion that fueled my determination for the first 4-5 months that it took for me to develop rhythm. Once I achieved that I worked on letting go and feeling happy while dancing, which was always my goal, but I had to work many hours to get to that point.

On the original topic of the thread - it reminds me I was at a salsa social with lessons beforehand. It was my second time going salsa dancing, but the first time I was able to make it to the lesson. I knew salsa rhythm by this time, and I had studied salsa instruction videos all month in preparation for the event, but I hadn't had lessons leading in person before and there's some aspects you just can't get the from the videos. I got paired with one of the performers from the dance school that the instructor asked to assist in the beginner lesson (I got the impression this person wasn't happy about being asked to dance with the beginners). She didn't know me, but I knew who she was because my wife and I are fans and have gone to see performances by the bachata group she is in (we are friends with another person in the group). Anyway whenever we'd get to a part in the lesson where I was supposed to lead the turn, she would just stand there and refuse to move. The first time, I was like okay that was weird. The second time, she said, "you don't have me on the right step, I'm not going to move." Okay I'm doing something wrong, but what do I do about it? "Am I off beat?" I looked around and listened, no, I'm pretty sure I'm not off. "Is the instructor counting us off time!?" Surely not... Anyway as I formulated and invalidated one hypothesis after another, each was met with chilly silence (and no turn).

A few days later I asked a friend who knows salsa what I was doing wrong, and she and I were able to figure out my problem in a single 8-count: I needed to be stepping back with my right foot while the girl turns; for some reason that night I had thought I was seeing the instructor leading the turn on and through the lead's step forward on the left. That's all it was.

While I appreciate the valuable lesson that bachata performer taught me by being unwilling follow an incorrect lead, she might have saved me - and the poor girls I danced with the night I was leading turns on an awkward step - a lot of trouble by just being straightforward rather than condescending. I still stayed until 1 am that night to see the bachata group she is in do their thing, and took some people with me to go see them again at our State Fair the next month.
 

tangotime

Well-Known Member
#63
A few days later I asked a friend who knows salsa what I was doing wrong, and she and I were able to figure out my problem in a single 8-count:

I needed to be stepping back with my right foot while the girl turns;
This is the very reason you do not ask another student for advice.

When Vueltas ( turns) are led, either walking or spin, you need to "mark time ". Its a very common mistake ,for leads to use a back brake , often seen and even taught.:eek:

Lets look at logic. Why would one want to move, in a counter productive and opposite direction to the partner, in this instance .Her "axis" needs to be stabilised .
 

Jag75

Active Member
#66
I think some people are a-rhythmic no matter what, and can never really learn to feel rhythm and timing.

This is based on observations of 9 years of dancing, however I *may* be wrong and I think the only way you'd really know is by conducting some kind of scientific study involving intensive training of people showing a-rhythmic characteristics.

The moment I started I could count all 8 counts of Salsa and had no issues with the rhythm - I also had no issues with the 4-beat timing of each measure. Having said that I grew up listening to latin music as I'm half South American.

I know people who've been dancing Salsa for years and seem to have zero sense of rhythm/timing. For me this is anecdotal evidence that some people simply cannot ever "get" rhythm or timing.
 

tangotime

Well-Known Member
#67
I know people who've been dancing Salsa for years and seem to have zero sense of rhythm/timing. For me this is anecdotal evidence that some people simply cannot ever "get" rhythm or timing.
I would dis-agree with that to a large degree. Timing problems, with correct guidance, may be cured. The main problem lies with those that, rely only upon their class instruction, where generally guidance and personal attention, is absent.
As to rhythmical expression, that really is a personal concept. How each individual responds to music, should not be formulaic.

Most never achieve the true "sabor " of latin rhythms, and,are quite content to go thru the motions.

We need to realise ( as teachers ) that, the vast majority of students do not have the dedication for excellence, Their prime objective is simply, to dance to a "social "level, in the true sense of the word.

Hers a quote from the late A. Moore.. (sic ) " After my first year of teaching, I suddenly realised that, not everyone wanted to be a world champion " .
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#68
Some of you know who Dean Collins is. Just happen to be working with this.
"Nobody can say he doesn't have rhythm. There's no such thing. Anybody can learn to dance. Rhythm is just associating with music." - 1972
 
#69
So any suggestions for teaching my new boyfriend how to dance? From my observations so far, he has a poor (undeveloped) sense of rhythm. He's willing, even eager, to learn, so I don't want to discourage him.
First of all, never let the nay-sayers convince you that a dancer-in-training can't learn rhythm and timing, as long as it's a priority for him. Like every other skill out there, it's about building muscle memory. This will take some sustained effort however, and the exercises used in the Footloose video (thanks Steve!) are a great place to start.

If you aren't already and can afford it, start private lessons. The instructor should have a lot of tricks up his sleeve to help him improve measurably over time.

In particular, working with him directly by walking to a beat with your hand on his shoulder, or back-leading the basic step, forces his muscles to step on the right part of the music. Don't let him cheat the timing, and above all, be patient. In all my years of teaching, nothing has driven a man away from dancing faster than feeling he is letting down or frustrating his partner.
 

RiseNFall

Well-Known Member
#70
First of all, never let the nay-sayers convince you that a dancer-in-training can't learn rhythm and timing, as long as it's a priority for him. Like every other skill out there, it's about building muscle memory. This will take some sustained effort however, and the exercises used in the Footloose video (thanks Steve!) are a great place to start.
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This is an excellent post. I have had to work on this a lot and I just want to add that it seems that as well as muscle memory, my ear is getting trained to pick up more detail and to discriminate different qualities of the movement. Sometimes I'll be listening to a song, and the different layers suddenly separate for me: I can hear the underlying rhythm separate from the vocals, etc.
 
#71
This is an excellent post. I have had to work on this a lot and I just want to add that it seems that as well as muscle memory, my ear is getting trained to pick up more detail and to discriminate different qualities of the movement. Sometimes I'll be listening to a song, and the different layers suddenly separate for me: I can hear the underlying rhythm separate from the vocals, etc.
Good point :) It's about pattern recognition, which is easier to 'feel' then explain.
 
#72
I've played guitar for 32 years and taught guitar over half of that. The first 5 or so years I had no rhythm and was convinced I was some type of musical klutz. Then, it started to all click.

Students always say some variation of the same thing...'My hands can't do that, it's impossible' or 'I can't think that fast'. Then the skills and muscle memory develop and they can start actually listening to the music rather than trying to play guitar.

I've just started taking Salsa lessons. Zero rhythm but I have the confidence to know that 'I will arrive' one day. I see having rhythm as the luxury of not having to think about the mechanics of doing the dance (or mechanics of playing the instrument).

I learned to drive on a standard transmission (my very patient dad). Until I got the clutch, etc. down pat with no thought, I couldn't go for a drive and admire the scenery.
 
#74
I've played guitar for 32 years and taught guitar over half of that. The first 5 or so years I had no rhythm and was convinced I was some type of musical klutz. Then, it started to all click.

Students always say some variation of the same thing...'My hands can't do that, it's impossible' or 'I can't think that fast'. Then the skills and muscle memory develop and they can start actually listening to the music rather than trying to play guitar.
Juliskamagyar, that's great! As someone who's always looking for better way to explain timing and rhythm, I'd love to know what you remember happening as it started clicking. Are you saying that you couldn't stay on time until you didn't have to think about what you were doing? Did anything else factor in?
 

cornutt

Well-Known Member
#76
I've played guitar for 32 years and taught guitar over half of that. The first 5 or so years I had no rhythm and was convinced I was some type of musical klutz. Then, it started to all click.
Ah, another musician! Glad to have you on DF. Yeah, it's a lot of the same principle: first you have to get the basic movements committed to muscle memory, before you have brain bandwidth to worry about the higher concepts.
 
#77
Thank you for the welcome.

I was reading an article in Psychology Today. Brain scans showed how an experienced pianist, chess player and those is a few other fields were using different parts of the brain than those learning the basic skills.

If playing blues, BB King is thinking creatively of inserting a rift a few bars ahead...the student is using a different part of rather brain concentrating how to switch from an E to a A7 then, where does the b7 fit? The newbie has no luxury of actually listening to the rhythm (using that part of the brain)... As in dancing, it's some other brain area on full alert getting ready to start a turn on the correct foot.

Anyways, I tell my guitar students to listen to the music. However, not always possible for them as other brain activity is dominant when learning the mechanics.
 
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tangotime

Well-Known Member
#78
Thank you for the welcome.

I was reading an article in Psychology Today. Brain scans showed how an experienced pianist, chess player and those is a few other fields were using different parts of the brain than those learning the basic skills.

If playing blues, BB King is thinking creatively of inserting a rift a few bars ahead...the student is using a different part of rather brain concentrating how to switch from an E to a A7 then, where does the b7 fit? The newbie has no luxury of actually listening to the rhythm (using that part of the brain)... As in dancing, it's some other brain area on full alert getting ready to start a turn on the correct foot.

Anyways, I tell my guitar students to listen to the music. However, not always possible for them as other brain activity is dominant when learning the mechanics.
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The last Prof guitar teacher, to which I taught salsa , had the most difficult time with the timing . I've come across this before with trained musicians .
Salsa, IF being taught to break on 2,is probably the main reason for the dis-connect. On "1", is more of a mystery .
 

agmtb

New Member
#80
Snap your fingers to the beat. Then sync up your feet. You should feel the rhythm in your chest. Feel the drums, you can listen to the music but the beat/rhythm is your focus and your dance step the vehicle.
 

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