As ballroom dancing comes from music, it is all about recognizing the fundamental elements of timing and rhythm. Each dance, such as the Foxtrot, Waltz and Rumba, expresses the rhythm and timing of the music that the dance was created for.
We dance to the rhythm of the song, not its melody nor the words. This is a skill that can be learned. Being able to recognize the rhythm of a song is the way to hear the music and know what dance to do. The ability to recognize the same musical elements in your favourite dance music (e.g. cha cha cha) is an important learning for beginners to ballroom dancing.
How do we start to recognize these elements?
We listen for the bass line to discern the timing of the music. Play one of your favourites songs to dance to and listen for the consistent beat of the drum, percussion or bass guitar. Turn up the bass on your stereo and turn down the treble in order to hear the bass line more clearly and aid your ability to clearly hear the rhythm of the music.
The first thing to realize is that it is possible to hear the differences between songs for the different dances. We can hear the difference between a jive, a tango and a rumba. Each dance was developed to match its own music. The more songs we listen to, the more we will be able to identify the music type and what dance to do to it. By listening and dancing to many different songs, we will unconsciously learn the differences between music types.
When beginning, it is helpful to listen and dance to songs that have a strict tempo e.g. the music of Glen Miller. Strict tempo is a consistent and dependable beat – the number of beats and bars remain the same throughout the song. I find that dancing to songs with a dependable beat makes dancing more enjoyable. It is therefore vital that we learn how to find the beat in a song.
For some suggested songs to practice dancing to, read my article on ballroom dancing music.