Many new dance students get this idea suck in their heads – “I can’t dance because I don’t have good rhythm.” However, it is a common myth that people need to have “rhythm” before learning to dance. Rhythm is something that people can develop as they continue to dance, but one thing beginners can focus on is the idea of timing.
Rhythm is defined as “a strong, regular repeated pattern of movement or sound”. In dance, it refers to how well a person is able to consistently time their own dance steps, regardless of whether or not music is present. However, timing refers to how well a dancer can move along with the beat of music. It’s best for new dancers to focus on the concept of timing rather than rhythm because it’s easier to dance when given a steady beat provided by a certain instrument or song.
Good timing may not come naturally, but we are going to give you a few tips that will help you develop it. Over time you’ll start feeling more in-tune with the music whenever you dance!
Listen to the Music
Before you try to dance along with music, a good exercise is listening to a song and trying to pay attention to the tempo and beat of it. If it’s hard for you to find the beat, pay special attention to instruments in the music such as drums or guitars. First, try finding music with little or no lyrics so that it will be a bit easier to identify the primary instruments. These instruments typically indicate the song’s beat, and if you can follow along to them, you should have a handle on timing. Once you get comfortable with identifying steady beats in instrumental music, see if you can find the beat in songs with lyrics. Keep in mind that the melody of singers will not always match the actual tempo and beat of the song, so it’s best to stick to the strategy of identifying the strong, primary instruments.
Watch Other People Dance
Sometimes the best way to learn is by watching someone else. If you are struggling to stay on time, watch other dancers and see if you can keep up with their timing. Students will eventually match their instructor’s timing if they are in frame and dancing together, but instructors will also dance alongside their couples to help them out. Trying to keep up with your instructor’s timing when learning how to dance is a good idea since they should be on point most of the time.
Count Out Loud
Once you are certain that you can accurately identify the beats in music, the next step is counting along with it. Once you find a good song to listen to, count out loud with it, seeing if you can match your counts with the beat of the song. Most dancers count music in eights, so once you get to “eight” you can just go back to “one” and repeat yourself throughout the entire track. Counting out loud will help you learn timing fairly quickly, especially if you are practicing this on a regular basis.
Start Dancing to the Beat
Finally, once you are able to identify the beats in music and also confidently count along, it’s time to start dancing. Start slow by just tapping your foot or clapping along to the music. You can also count out loud as you do this; it will help you to catch the timing easier. Again, listen out for prominent instruments like drums that you can tap or clap along to. Once you feel confident enough with those small movements, see if you can do a few dance steps in time with the music. Don’t worry if you are offbeat for a few measures. Practice makes perfect, and your timing should improve if you keep working at it!
Timing is something you can practice even if you don’t have music. You can find anything that has a steady beat such as a metronome, the ticking of a clock, or your pulse and count, tap, or dance along to that. You also don’t need to be in a dance setting to work on it. As long as you have music or a steady beat, you should be able to work on improving your timing. So next time you’re stuck in traffic, turn on some music and tap away!
Happy Dancing! ^_^