When it comes to musicality do you feel that the partner is always worse than you or better? Ever wonder who better: men or women? Here is an interesting question I received via email on this topic.
I have a
question about musicality...
I just started dancing classes and one of my main issues is having a hard time following my partner. It's as if the music makes me want to dance in a certain rhythm and I'm not really following my partner lead. I'm aware I'm the unexperienced one in the class and I'm always told I have to loosen up and just follow the lead.
My question is,
do you think that musicality is as important for the man as is for the woman? What if I develop my musicality and happen to dance with someone weaker in that aspect in the real life, (not in class), won't that worsen my already weak follower abilities?
And here is my reply
The first question is an easy one to answer. Yes. Musicality is just as important to all of us.
The second question is interesting, but I want to first talk about how to deal with this in class.
It seems to have no real solution. On the one hand, you are pretty sure that you know what you’re meant to do in response to the music. However, on the other hand, someone who seems more expert than you suggests (implicitly) that you’re not meant to do that.
It makes you ask numerous questions:
- Am I wrong with my timing?
- Are the wrong with theirs even though they are more experienced?
- If they are wrong, then what am I mean to do; dance out of time?
- If I am wrong, then what is that I am doing wrong?
The combination of uncertainty about who is wrong and uncertainty about what to do about it makes for a very unpleasant experience. This can really rob you of the pleasure of dance and it’s really not what dance is mean to do.
At this moment you might be thinking ‘Thanks, Clint; you’ve pointed out what I do know but how about you tell me what to do about this!?!’
That would be a fair call, but I am trying to establish that when we feel this way – like there is no clear way to move forward to solve a problem – we need to do something that we do not often do. We need to change the problem.
The problem is not that you can’t keep time. The problem is that he can’t keep time. The problem is not that you need to know how to fix someone’s timing and musicality.
The problem is that something feels odd.
That’s the problem that you need to solve. Everything else is unknown and needs to be worked out so that you can first solve this problem.
I have said numerous times here in my emails and in my e-books that timing was a big issue for me. I am only now after years of dance feeling comfortable to rely on my instinct and just dance with the music. I still need to count every once in a while to be sure. I know how hard it can be. I also remember watching a video on timing a few years ago and the instructor said ‘NEVER do any dance practice out of time with the music!’ You really want to make sure that you are always trying to stay on the beat so that timing becomes instinctive. This made me even more stress about my timing I was worried I will develop erroneous musical instincts.
As hard as it was for me, I know I was not alone. That’s good news because it means that no matter what you are having trouble with your teacher has probably seen that and then more.
So the answer to this problem is your teacher. But: how you ask your question of the teacher?
I would start off by saying to the teacher first that something feels odd and you’re not sure what it is. All you know is that you feel like the music is trying to tell you to do something different from what you feel your partner is telling you to do.
Notice the use of the word ‘feel’. This is important because it means you’re not saying anyone is wrong. You’re just saying that there seems to be a conflict somewhere and you want to work at resolving it. Remember the man you’re dancing with is you “partner” so work with him. He is just keen to improve as you are and just as concerned with his ability as you are with yours. If you start with the known problem (something feel odd – like there is a mismatch in what you’re feeling) and then work from there with your teacher and your partner, then you can’t help but improve.
Now what to do in the real world? This is trickier.
First, remember the following: try to be mindful of other people who are trying to learn and do not get upset if someone else seems to have difficulty dancing with you.
That means that you are allowed to say something. It also means that if you have been polite, then there is no need to feel bad if they get upset. It’s not your fault if they are having a bad day or feel that they are not doing as well as they would like. Just let them deal with their issues in their own way. You can leave if you do not like how they are behaving, but don’t let it get to you.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about what you can do.
I recall two times when I was the man in this issue. One woman was not sure and asked if I was dancing in 2 instead of 1 – we were doing salsa. The other woman asked if we could count together out loud as we danced so that we could see if we “heard” the music the same way. This actually worked quite well, and I would recommend it to any woman who feels something is off.
Depending upon what you think the man is like you might want to be more accommodating. If you’re really concerned, then try the following:
‘I am not sure if I hear the music right. Would you please count it out loud so that I can get the timing?’
Unless he has read this post he will simply assume you need help. If his timing is out, then he will potentially have a look of fear, but you never criticised him so there should be no anger towards you. If there is, then he really has issues. However, don’t assume that he is upset with you when he might actually be upset with himself.
If you hear it differently from how he does, then you can say ‘Oh – I hear it like this’ and then you count out loud. You are now in a situation where you are both considering a problem of mismatching of timing. How you progress from there depends upon you and him. Hopefully he would be just as motivated to sort out any issue as you. If he wants to get better then he should be.
In summary – don’t deal with this conflict of whether you should dance out of time so that you can follow. Solve the problem that you know is there in cooperation with those around you.I hope that helped. Post below if anything seems unclear.