Getting Down, With the Downbeat!
by Michael Piland

The beginning dancer, when first starting out, has basically one concern...They want to learn to dance! They want to learn to dance and they're given a ton of information, right away, to get them started on their way to dancing bliss.

They are quickly educated on things such as: line of dance, directional movement, foot positions, room alignments, rhythm and so on.

Unfortunately, one area that does not often receive immediate attention, but is essential to ones' dance health, is the rhythm of the music, not to be confused with the interpretation of the music.

When you talk about rhythm, you're talking about "slows and quicks". Rhythm, allows you to properly count your slows and quicks in order to keep proper time to your music. Interpreting your music is whole different ball game. Interpretation is the personal way your body responds to the music while following the rhythm, or beat of the music. To be able to do this, we first need to find the down beat.

Your down beat is your "one ", or starting point, in any given measure of music. Dance music consists of many bars, or measures of music. We often dance to music written in 4/4 time. (four beats of music = one measure).

It is very important to be able and find your down beat, in a measure, regardless of the tempo or speed, of your music. Believe it or not, a lot of people have a hard time hearing the down beat. It takes a lot of practice, but is essential.

This may make it a bit easier for you. Think of a check mark. The shortest line of a check mark is the down beat, the one, it is followed by three continuous upward beats of music. Then it starts all over again. The down beat can be indicated by a floor bass, bass guitar, lead guitar, cymbal, bass drum or keyboard.

The "beat" is that definite change (usually the heaviest beat) in your music that you are listening for. A good example of what I'm talking about, can be found in Bob Segers',

"Against The Wind". When you listen to that song, you will hear a definite change in the keyboard. That change indicates the beginning of the next measure, or the "one" beat. You can't miss it. It's there!

This may take some practice, but, once you get the hang of listening for the down beat, your dancing will take on a whole different meaning for you.

Michael Piland, a current member at,

was kind enough to take the time to write the following article for

all of us! He has almost 20 years of dance instruction experience

and is currently teaching in Fort Worth, Texas. For a complete bio

be sure and check him out in our "Getting to Know You" section.

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