Dance 2024: Online & DVD

Rhythm & Music for beginner dancers

by | Dec 9, 2020 | Shawn Trautman Instruction | 0 comments

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     Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to know much about music to be a great dancer. Assuming you know very little about music, I’ll get you started here with the essentials that will have you feeling like a pro in no time. I’ll briefly describe what you need to know about each of the following terms, and then I’ll talk about how to apply these concepts to dance.


And, these were taken directly from my book Picture Yourself Dancing – comment below if you have any questions or need help in any way…

  • Beat. The heartbeat of the music. What you would tap your feet to. The recur-ring pulsation that is constant and reg-ular. Watch a metronome or a second hand on a clock or a watch, and you’ll understand what to relate the beat to.
  • Step/count. The amount of time allocated to each step taken. For example, a “slow” step denotes a step requiring two beats of music, and a “quick” step denotes a step requiring only one beat of music.
  • Measure. The number of beats grouped together according to the time signa-ture (the top number). For example, in most songs you’ll hear a series of eight beats that continue to repeat them-selves through the entire song.
  • Downbeat. The first beat of a given measure. This is your starting point. You first have to know when the measure is ready to repeat itself, and then you get ready and go so that your first step is actually down on the first beat, or downbeat. This is where the expression “5-6-7- 8” becomes extremely useful, because it prepares you for the ending of a meas-ure and gives you your starting point.
  • Upbeat. The last beat of a given measure. This beat is often called an “and” count when starting to move with the music. Rather than the “5-6-7-8” mentioned in the previous bullet point, one might say “ready, and” and then start dancing. It would be the equivalent of the count 8 in the previous example.
  • Rhythm. The arrangement of beats in a given song. Essentially, rhythm is symmetrical groupings formed by the regular recurrence of either heavy or light accents. In a regular rhythm, the dancer’s movements should look natural and be even and symmetrical, and all walking steps should be the same length.
  • Tempo. The rate of “speed” of the music, measured in BPM (beats per minute). This is how you determine whether the song is slow, medium, or fast, and it will give you an idea of what dance to dance.
  • Phrase. Two or more measures grouped together. This is more important for advanced dancers in dealing with choreography or in social dancing when you are trying to align your dance with the structure of the song, but it’s good to understand. It may or may not help you immediately, but it will one day prove its value.



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