Finding the rhythm in all the layers?!

Hi Everyone!

This past January I started to take group AT lessons and im loving it! It's the first type of dance i've ever done. :lol:

My question revolves around finding and keeping the beat. With some music I can find it and keep it fairly well. On the music where the beat is elusive I get totaly lost and just dance "off beat". I also have a hard time when the music is fast, tending to sit out whena milongas is played. :(

I also have noticed and been told that I have one "speed". With the exception of the double step to get into ocho's I tend to do everything on whatever I percieve the beat to be.

The whole "quick, quick, slow.." thing is something that Im totaly bad at with.

I have a bunch of tango music and listen to it alot.. I think im just musicaly challenged.

What can I do to find the beat and stay on it?? :D

It's funny, James. I, like so many dancers, can find a beat instantly, but you're not alone and it's not always easy. The other night I did a salsa with this AMAZING dancer.

I'd been wanting to dance with him since I was a beginner and finally felt able enough to keep up with him, so I asked him to dance. He said yes and guess what, the dance was awful!!!

I simply could not find the beat. It was shocking. I felt like a beginner again and rarely have this problem. It was a weird song and the tempo kept changing. I don't expect him to dance with me again, but it illustrates that you're not alone.

As for finding it, I try to "peel" away the layers of the music and hear the absolute core beat, which I'm sure you've tried. It works really well, particularly if you foxtrot, which uses the slow-slow timing.

The other thing is to sometimes trust your body. Just let your feet tap without thinking. You'd be surprise at how intuitive your tootsies can be!


Well-Known Member
I can't tell anything for salsa (and that's why I don't post in the salsa forum), but for AT I once read an interview of Carlos Gavito, where he explained how he used the different intruments of a tango orchestra:
- He followed the cello/bass for his own steps.
- He led the follower on the violin.
- He used the bandoneon to get inspiration.

So, he basically claims that he doesn't dance on the "main beat", which may be true after all: I saw him performing, and the guy dances very, very (very) slowly.


Well-Known Member

The best authority on the structure of the dance is Joaquin Amenabar. Do go to one of his workshops if you get the chance.

From what I understand a tango is made of five parts. The first part repeats in third and fifth part so leaving parts tow and four to change often changing key and becoming more flowing.

How to interpret the beats; none of these are requirements they are only possible interpretations:
1. Pause. This is perfectly acceptable in tango. You can pause at the end of a movement; or waiting for the next strong beat, or just ‘cause you feel like it.
2. Sharp or long step. If of the four beats there is one stronger than the others – a Pugliese trademark – then make a more dramatic step- could be longer or stop sharply, or lead to a boleo, sacada or gancho.
3. Difference between stepping and arriving on the beat. If you arrive in a vertical balanced position (and hopefully your partner does too) on the beat and STOP then the step has to come a fraction early before the beat.
4. Flowing movements: eg ochos, giros etc can come with flowing elements of the music.
5. Contra steps. Adding a step in between a beat: can be a rocking step, a change in direction; a step that you lead your partner to do or a hidden step that she doesn’t follow say if you want to change from parallel to cross system.
Try stepping one – two on the beat then 1-2-3 in two beats ie slow slow – quick quick quick.
6. Acceleration: this is basically moving from one rhythm to another. I do this lots if there are two overlaying rhythms. It also works with fast pieces like Libertango (try Grace Jones’ version) or some Gotan tracks, if you reduce your steps to every other beat played.
Just put on a track that has changes in tempo and practice moving at different speeds: simple rule: faster steps have to be smaller
7. Hesitation. You know when your follower is good when you hesitate because you’ve run out of steps to do and she dances the hesitation. But it can be deliberate: the first part of a follower’s step is sending the leg without any transfer of weight. This should be in response to a small signal from you eg just leaning forward a little. It can become playful and teasing


Well-Known Member
Hamez I'm musically challenged too, so all isn't lost with you. Thursday night someone told me to start calling rueda and I got a littel flustered because I couldn't do my move sort of thing to get into the music and just start moving...or anyway I'm not used to starting in rueda (salsa dancing in acircle).

I justs started At this month and initially I had a hard time. Now I just move, letting my body move naturally, as MadamSamba suggested. So far no one has complained. :wink: :) A few have said that I have muiscality etc, for a beginner!! Just like you I'm having a hard time for the milonga quick quick, rocking steps...but they are coming better slowly, with practice, making sure that I don't transfer weight back and keep it forward etc.

BTM thanks for all that info. Usefull stuff. :)


New Member
Musicality Lesson last night..

So last night we dedicated our group lesson to musicality. I feel that I improved ALOT last night.

Im able to find the beat in most tracks now (vocal tracks are still REALLY tricky).

Now I find myself struggeling to find the 1 count.
Actualy, I can hear it.. just after it's happened and then i've gotta figure out where I am again.

Any suggestions for this.. Im currently praticing by listening and counting the beats aloud.

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