Posts Tagged ‘dance ballroom’

How to Hear The Music and Know What Dance to Do

Monday, December 14th, 2009

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.

ballroomdancing4

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.

Ballroom Dance Shoes

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

I knew when I tried the first pair of ballroom dancing shoes on that they were the ones for me. The saleswoman had correctly identified the shoes that would best fit the size and shape of my feet. I tried other pairs on, but none felt as comfortable or as right as that first pair.

I bought a standard pair within two weeks of starting the introductory ballroom dancing class. I knew I would continue with the dancing lessons and I wanted the proper footwear. I decided they were worth buying as they would help me to feel more like a dancer. I have found that to be the case with other sports and physical activities, such as rock climbing and golf. I learn more quickly with the right equipment.

Dance shoes make it easier to dance due to their weight and flexibility. Ballroom shoes are generally lighter than street shoes because they are made of lighter weight leather. I noticed this when I tried a pair for the first time. I  don’t expect them to last as long as street shoes even though I intend to only ever use them for dancing.

Ballroom dance shoes are flexible, have more padding in the insole and have more room to move and don’t squash your toes. This latter feature I like especially for the tango where I have the tendency of tensing my toes.

Shoe Styles

For men there are two main types of shoes: Latin (rhythm) and standard (smooth). Apparently, latin shoes are more fexible than the standard shoes. I chose a pair of standard black shoes because I want to dance both styles. Men’s standard shoes have the same heel as dress shoes, while latin shoes have a one or two inch heel.

I have heard that ladies shoe styles are as varied as dance styles. The basic designs are open toe or closed toe with either slim or flared heels which range in height from one to three inches. Slim heels make turns easier. Flared heels provide more stability, especially for the Latin dances. Basically, a standard ladies dance shoe – closed toe with a two to two-and-a-half inch flared heel and an ankle strap – will work for a number of dances.

copyright: fernashes' (flickr)

copyright: fernashes' (flickr)

Both ladies and men’s ballroom dance shoes have non-slip soles. The sole is made of thin suede which means we keep in better contact with the floor and have a greater range of motion. This split leather sole works better because of the napped (fuzzy) surface.

Men's dance shoes

Men's dance shoes

Work Less, Dance More

Is it worth buying dance shoes when you are a ballroom dancing beginner?

I believe so. I think it is true that my feet are more comfortable with dance shoes which means I can dance longer in dance classes and practice sessions. There is less strain on my feet, legs and knees and there is more ease of motion with improved control. This makes it easier for me to learn to ballroom dance and make the most of the ballroom dancing lessons.

I am glad that I bought better quality shoes as better suede means less risk of slipping. What we want are shoes that let us pivot or spin halfway around on one foot, but do not let us slip and fall.

Where to Buy?

Ask your dance studio where to buy locally. I bought mine in person from a local store recommended by the dance studio. The experienced salesperson helped me to find the proper fit and style.

I would expect to spend a minimum of $100 for a good pair of ballroom shoes. I paid $140 CAD for mine. I love the craftmanship of these shoes.

Buying Tips

  • Try on many different shoes. Give yourself plenty of time to find comfortable shoes as you can’t take them back if they are worn.
  • Do some dance steps to simulate what you expect your feet to go through. It’s ok to look and feel silly. If possible, play some ballroom music.
  • Choose a good fit, avoid toe-crushing. Find shoes that are both comfortable and functional.
  • Make sure the salesperson identifies whether you require a narrow or wide fit, and whether you need shoes for Swing or Latin or standard Ballroom.

Shoe Care Tips

  • Don’t get them wet
  • Don’t wear them outside
  • Carry them in a bag and put them on when you get to class or to the ballroom
  • Use a metal brush frequently on the suede sole

If you have any helpful advice for beginners based on your experience of buying dance shoes, please leave a comment below.

Music for Ballroom Dancing

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Apparently, the last thing that men pay attention to when they are learning to dance is the music. This is because they are more focused on learning the following fundamentals:

  • How to do the steps
  • How to lead the steps
  • How the frame feels when doing it right

I have found that this is true for me at first. As a beginner to ballroom dancing, I do need to understand the pattern before leading someone else. I believe that a solid understanding of the fundamentals is essential. (This was the case when I was learning rock climbing, golf and soccer.)

However, once I have learned the basic footwork I find that I learn more quickly when the music I am dancing to has a clear beat and I know what the timing of the music is. When I can feel the rhythm timing in my body, I find that I can do the steps to the music more easily. I also feel like I know what I am doing because my partner and I are dancing to the music.

As a beginner, some music seems easier to dance to than others.

Liking the music really helps me to be on time with the music. I have been buying songs that I like – where the timing is clear –  so that I can practice what I have learned in a lesson in a fun way at home. I often listen to this music while doing things around the house so that I learn the timing of the music without conscious effort. For more on this, read my article How to Hear the Music and Know What Dance to Do.

I have listed the songs that I like for each dance below. I will update this list as I go.

Cha Cha

  • Sex Bomb - Reload – Mousse T & Tom Jones
  • I Wanna Dance - Afro-Disiac- Willy Chirino
  • Kiss Me Honey Honey – Shirley Bassey
  • You spin me round – Dead or Alive
  • I’m gonna getcha good – Shania Twain

Foxtrot

  • The Pink Panther - 100 Greatest Film Themes –  The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Sixteen Tons – 100 Hits: Rock & roll 1950’s – Graham BLVD
  • Walking my baby back home – Nat King Cole

Jive

  • Hit the Road Jack - Anthology -Ray Charles
  • Wake Me up Before You Go Go - Make it Big – Wham
  • Candyman – Back to Basics – Christina Aguilera
  • Jack is Back – C’lan
  • Hound Dog - Elvis Presley

Mambo

  • Baby Keep Smiling – A Little Bit of Mambo – Lou Bega
  • Mambo No 5 – A Little Bit of Mambo – Lou Bega

Rumba

  • Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps -
  • Under the Boardwalk -
  • Take my breath away – Berlin

Salsa

  • Corazon Espinado – Ultimate Santana –  Santana

Tango (American)

  • La Comparsita
  • Libertango – Sharon Shannon and Kirsty Macoll

Waltz

  • Come Away With Me – Come Away With Me – Nora Jones

The Dancesport site can help you find more music.