How to Become a Good Dancer, Part 4 – Developing Your Sense of Rhythm
I have always said, “If you can walk, you can learn to dance.” This past weekend, that statement was proven wrong. That’s weird! I was judging at the Texas Showdown where there was a gentleman who was dancing in a wheel chair! He danced Bachata, Cha Cha, Waltz, and literally everything under the sun. You would be amazed how well he was leading and moving his partner to rhythm. So if he can do it, so can you! No excuses like, “I don’t have Rhythm” or “I have 2 left feet.” We walk in rhythm, and we talk in rhythm. All you have to do is learn how to translate that onto the dance floor. Arthur Murray’s book “How to Become a Good Dancer”, written in 1947 outlines how to develop your sense of rhythm. I am amazed at how well his explanation is so clear and still relevant today!
HOW TO KEEP TIME TO MUSIC AND DEVELOP YOUR SENSE OF RHYTHM
There is a mistaken impression that learning to keep time to music is difficult. I have taught people over 70 years old to keep time to music, although they had never been able to carry a simple tune before they began their lessons. The unfortunate belief that they have “no sense of rhythm” keeps many people from enjoying the pleasures of dancing.
If you can march to band music – if your foot can beat time to ordinary dance music – you have a good enough sense of rhythm to enjoy dancing.
Everyone was born with a sense of rhythm.
Nine out of ten good dancers do not know one note from another, but they can keep time.
A knowledge of music is not necessary in order to keep time to music.
IF YOU CAN CARRY A TUNE
If you can sing, hum, or whistle a tune – any tune, whether it is a popular dance number, a nursery lullaby or “Yankee Doodle” – then you have already proved that you have sufficient rhythm to become a good dancer.
IF YOU CAN’T CARRY A TUNE
If, however, you have difficulty in following a tune – remember, is not the high notes or low notes in a piece of music that determines the dance. It is the tempo – the rhythm of the music.
If you are standing at a curb when a parade band passes by, you automatically feel the beat and tempo of the march being played. The “oompah – oompah” of the big brass horns and the “boom, boom, boom-boom-boom” of the big brass drum arouse in you a regular, rhythmic pulse. Your muscles automatically get ready to swing you off in perfect step with the rest of the parade!
The same principle is true of dance music. When you hear a popular song played on the radio or phonograph, you cannot help feeling the underlying tempo, or beat, or pulse of the music. If a orchestra is playing, this beat is usually carried by the bass drum. As you listen, shut your eyes and visualize the drummer’s foot working the pedal of that drum. At each beat his foot goes down and a soft “boom” accents the tempo.
These accented or “boom” beats are all you need for dancing. To make sure that you recognize them (if there still is any questions in your mind), do these two things:
1. Seat yourself in a chair – and either hum or whistle a tune, or turn on the radio or phonograph. As the music plays, imagine you are the drummer and simply beat time with your foot on the floor, as though you were hitting the pedal of the bass drum. Tap your hand on the chair arm in time with the music’s beat too. Keep this up until you can successfully beat time with either hand or foot.
2. After you have learned to beat time, walk around the room, taking one step to each beat. If you find this a little difficult at first, try it again. Walk in time with the beat of three or four songs. In a surprisingly short while you will find your feet “carrying the tune.”
And that’s all there is to keeping time with the music!
While I understand not everyone is naturally rhythmical, I love how Arthur Murray gives you an easy solution on how to develop your sense of rhythm. His method of instruction is the same when learning the dance steps as well. He uses this same formula, breaking it down into easy bite size elements so that anyone can learn. Using the same method, with a little of instruction and practice, anyone can learn to keep time to music.
Remember the most important thing in your journey to becoming a phenomenal dancer: Practice Makes Permanence.
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