Hello, True Believers! Have you ever been dancing, and realized that out of nowhere you’ve suddenly fallen off time with the music? Losing the beat so suddenly is a strange phenomenon that happens to beginner and intermediate dancers and they never quite know what to do to handle it. I recalled when I first started I was happy to be able to find a beat within a short amount of time. I also recall several of my classmates who would have a hell of a time picking up the beach.
As I got better with my dancing, I was able to start on the first beat of the music and break on the ‘2’ without issue. As all New York style on2 dancers know, we go backward on the 2 and forward on the 6. What would be a big surprise is, all the sudden I would realize I was going forward on the 2 and back on the 6th beat which would be akin to dancing the Puerto Rican Style ‘on2.’ How did this happen? Did I do something wrong?
It turns out that I needed to learn a little bit about music. There are some great teachers out there who make learning music a part of their curriculum, and I think that’s cool. The small problem is, I find that it can be overwhelming for students to not only be able to pick up the moves and technique we teach them, but also understand the polyrhythms that are happening in Latin music. In short, I’m a big believer in the 80/20 rule, and I try to get students to be able to hear the beat without having to become music majors.
So how can learn a little bit about music to help us stay on time, and stay consistent for our partners while we’re dancing? It’s quite simple really. As dancers, we move our basic step over eight counts. It’s better to think of this as two sets of four counts, and if it were up to me, we would only ever count up to 4 as this way we would never officially be out timing, and this blog post would not need to be created. My reason? It’s mainly because this is the way the musicians themselves are playing the music, in 4/4 timing. In other words, they only ‘count’ as we dancers know, up to ‘4.’ What ends up happening when we suddenly fall off timing is that the musicians finish their four count and move on to a new section of the song. Sadly, us dancers are still in the middle of our eight-count basic step or pattern, and we suddenly find ourselves in the abyss of timing purgatory.
If you think about the practicality of dancing and only four counts like musicians do, it will make sense that we would never lose timing because we would always be breaking on the second beat no matter what. But, what I would do and how things are are mutually exclusive. So, to keep up with the Joneses, we have to make sure that we always stay consistent and do our back break on the ‘2’ and our forward break on the ‘6.’ This is the New York style as Eddie Torres designed it and dammit, If Eddie said so, so be it!
The following will probably be augmented with a video and is a good reason to film another episode of MMA TV, but I digress. I am presenting you with two straightforward and easy to understand ways to recover when you suddenly find yourself off timing. Ready? You should be, your dancing needs it!
1) Kick step
If you can picture taking a basic step in ladies timing and you were finishing your back break by stepping ‘6, 7,’ you should be transitioning your weight from your back foot which is your right foot to your forward foot which is your left foot. But what if you find that in your back break, you’re suddenly stepping back on the count of ‘2’ instead?
Our first solution is simple.
Now then, we have in the Mambo style what are known as ‘flicks.’ To explain this in words is quite tricky, but I’ll do my best. Imagine raising one knee so your foot comes off the floor and just flicking your shoe forward as if you were trying to kick a Chihuahua off your new kicks. And of course, you would point that foot, riggghhhtttt? Now then, after you step your out-of-nowhere 2, 3 back break as a woman who is now on men’s timing, I want you to flick on the ‘5’ with your right foot, and fall right into another break back and staying in the same position.
What you’ll find if you do this correctly is that if the music changes, then you’ll be able to get back on time immediately and continue dancing. To repeat, you will do a flick on the count of ‘5’ and break back again. Why does this work? If the beat has suddenly flipped, you were dancing ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ and all the sudden the ‘5’ beat is now the count of ‘1’ again. In essence, you’re now on men’s timing.
So if we flick on the ‘5’ then fall back on the ‘6’ we will put ourselves back into women’s timing and if you continue to do that in a sequence, you can flip between men and follow’s timing with absolutely no effort. If that sounds confusing to give it a shot, and you’ll notice how you can flip between men and women’s tempo in an instant with minimal effort. This is an excellent tool to have at your disposal to cover timing issues.
2) The body roll
Here’s one for all my Bachata the loving people out there. Before I move forward, I’ve been doing a little trick to write my blogs for the past few months. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I can now dictate directly into Google drive and use the word typing feature to do a rough outline of my blog. There’s more to it, but the initial draft comes out about 70% correct before I have to go back and do some grammatical corrections. Well then, when I say the word ‘Bachata’ what Google Drive ended up picking up was ‘butt out.’ Isn’t that hilarious? Moving on!
If you find yourself off time, and you’re dancing with someone, you need to act fast and be cool like Fonzy. Thankfully, all you need to do is get your partner in a loose frame or into a two-hand hold and execute grown and sexy body roll. Not only is this a nice & smooth way to do things but you can be musical with it. The body roll has been my go-to move when I’m dancing and require beat adjustment on the fly with someone for quite a while. Because the kick step technique wouldn’t work in a partnership, the body roll is a better go to move. Pretty simple huh?
With these two actionable tips, you should have no problem recovering from a sudden change in clave. Hopefully, you’ll be able to adapt almost instantaneously and will no longer be fearful when you’re suddenly on the wrong side of the eight count.
If you enjoyed this blog, don’t forget to like it and share it on all of your favorite social media platforms. I also encourage all of my readers to ask me questions here in the comments below or on our Facebook page. I’d be happy to answer and give my thoughts on any social dancing related subject.
Until next time, to your dancing…