How to Find (and Dance to) the Beat

Imagine this: You’re walking in to your first private dance lesson. It’s the first time you’ve ever been in a studio. You find yourself in a big open room, with mirrors, and you realize you are, well…NERVOUS!

One fear I’ve heard many times from new students is that they “can’t find the beat” or that they “have no rhythm.”

In the hundreds of beginning dancers I’ve worked with, I find that this is rarely true in reality.

I won’t go into all the reasons why people believe this about themselves (right now).

What I find is that by slowing down and finding some patience, everyone can learn to find the beat – and move to it. (I have worked with a few dancers with hearing loss; its still very possible).

And it often comes easier than you think.

Here’s a mini-lesson to get you started:

How to Dance to the Beat:
(Warning: This may cause you to feel silly. We often feel silly or embarrassed when learning something new with our bodies. If this is true for you, you might want to try this alone as you build confidence!)

1. Find a piece of music with a solid beat, like this song from South African artist Mandoza. (I frequently use this song in my dance classes!)

2. Close your eyes and let your body bounce. Most of the time some part of your body is moving with the beat. For many it’s the head nodding, for some the knees bouncing, and others a tapping toe.

3. Trust that you found a pulse that the music is feeding you.

NOTE: There are often 2 primary pulses in a pop song. In ballroom dance world they are called “quick” and “slow.” In music they are called all kinds of things, but that’s for another time. If you do this with another person, they might find a different pulse, and that’s ok. Trust that what you feel is a match.

4. Start clapping your hands to match the pulse your body found. Feel the clap in your hands and also hearhow the clap matches the song. Continue bouncing or nodding or tapping your foot while you clap. Don’t be shy – go for it!

5. Trust again that your body is matching the music.

6. Now, step one foot down each time you clap.

7. Focus on the moment your foot steps down. Feel the floor beneath you. See if you can notice the change in pressure in your foot when it meets the floor.

8. Now you should be essentially marching in place and clapping. Your hands clap at the same moment each foot hits the ground.

9. When you can feel your feet from the inside, stop clapping your hands and continue moving your feet to the beat.

Guess what…. You’re dancing!

For added flair, feel free to move around the room, stepping down on the beat, adding some of your own personal groove 

Now, 3 times this week, put on the radio, or Pandora, or Spotify, or whatever fancy music playing program you love, and try this with 5 songs in a row that you don’t know.

May your week be off to a foot-stomping, hand-clapping start!

In Joy,
Maren Waldman, Head Boulder Instructor

Elizabeth Marberry