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StreetDance Australia 's
Dance Survival Guides
  • The Yambus

  • General Technique

  • Tips and Tricks . .

  • Feeling the music .

  • Clave Theory

  • Dance Survial Guides...

    Technique - Feeling the Music

    If you are new to dance, especially the Latin Street Dances, you need to adhere to one important rule - have fun! While knowing and understanding the technicalities of dance is useful, developing an instinct for the dance is more important. Some people call it feel. It is from this feel that you will find the correct timing for the music you are dancing to.

    There are two parts to timing. The first is the static metronome beat that flows through an entire track and dictates when to move your feet. The other is the tempo of the music itself. Itís the tempo, that times the length of a dance step, the duration of a pause or how fast you should make a turn/spin and itís the tempo that tells you what move to do and when. Understanding what to do with the tempo will make you a good dancer.

    Becoming a good dancer is admirable achievement but why not aim higher. Do you want to become a great dancer? Then learn Rumba, Mambo, Salsa, Samba and Cha Cha. A lot of Salsa music starts with a "Son" or "Bolero" melody (Rumba), before breaking into an up tempo beat (Salsa), then the music might alternate between slower beats (Mambo) and faster beats (Salsa) or as the latest Marc Anthony single does, mix everything and break into Cha Cha Cha. At a primitive level all these dances use similar footwork, leads etc, so it isn't really that hard. Dance teachers like to teach them at different levels and differentiate them just because they are so alike. Besides, there are technical differences between these dances and to teach them all together, would probably just confuse the average student.

    To make life easy for the dance student (and themselves), teachers have to formalise the dance, and teach strict timings, patterns and groups of patterns (choreography). However, while a dance teacher can show you steps and patterns, they canít teach you to dance! What they can do, is give you the confidence, to get the dancer that is a natural part of you, out onto the dance floor. The rest is up to you! To become a really good dancer you need to feel the music and vary the steps and patterns you have learnt to suit the music. So get a hold of some CDs, turn the lights off, lie on the floor, listen to the music and dream that you are the greatest dancer that ever lived. You just might be!

    The reason the Latin Dances are formally referred to as street dances is because they are "made up" dances, they are not meant to have any real formality. If you read the section on the background to Mambo, Cha Cha & Salsa or even Samba and Merengue, you might have noted that these dances originated from dancers having to improvise steps and method to match the music. Sixty or so years ago, one of the dances they started with was the Rumba, speeded up it became the Mambo and faster still it became the Salsa. But the basic timing didnít change, thatís why all these dances can be counted quick, quick slow. This count is the metronome beat. The component of the music that truely differentiates these dances is their tempo. The poetry of Rumba, the staccato of Mambo and the abandon of Salsa is how I describe the feel of the Rumba based dances. The ecstacy of Samba and the seductiveness of Merengue is how I describe my other favourite dances.

    In the USA there are schools of thought that like to complicate the whole discussion about Mambo/Salsa timing. You will come across discussions, debating which beat of the music to start on - 1,2 or 3. It doesnít really matter. The timing doesnít change. Just listen for the quick-quick-slow feel and start. The truth is, the music dictates what you should be doing. You need to follow the feel of the music. Dance is all about listening and moving to the rhythm of the music.

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    Want to know something more about Latin StreetDance
    click on one of the followng

    Dance History
    Mambo, Cha Cha & Salsa | Merengue | Samba

    Latin Dance Technique
    Feeling | Technique | Tricks & Tips | The Yambus | The Clave

    Basic Timing and Steps
    Mambo | Cha Cha | Salsa | Merengue | Samba

    Basic Choreography
    Mambo, Cha Cha & Salsa | Merengue | Samba

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    This page was last updated November 2000
    copyright Paul F Clifford (2000)