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Off Beat Support Group


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    OFF BEAT Support Group...
    Is Your Partner a Non-Dancer or Off-Beat...?
    by Edie, The Salsa FREAK!!

    What a're dancing partner or life partner doesn't know the rhythm. OR, your life partner doesn't dance, and you've got the Salsa Bug Addiction...

    "Excuse me, but what BEAT are you on???"


    "Dear Edie,
    What happens when the guy you're dancing with goes off the beat of the music, and doesn't follow the rhythm? Do you follow
    a guy when you are dancing even if he is not following the beat of the music?

    Sometimes I keep the rhythm for just a bit even though my partner is not, thinking that if the guy is inexperienced, it may help him out.

    But--I have danced with some who refuse to follow the music. Do you feel obligated to follow even if you know are only dancing to the rhythm in his mind and not to the music? My boyfriend says follow and the guy will think you are a great dancer. If the female does not follow, then the guy will think it's the girls fault and that she can't dance. How stupid do these guys think we are? - Sick of Off-Beaters

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    ... And I have to Follow this Idiot?

    Dear Sick of Off-Beaters,

    Well, you can do several things. You could brow beat, and force them into Salsa Submission by pushing them to take classes, or you could just call your going out till all hours of the night, your "aerobics session". Or, you could get a divorce, and swear your next spouse will be a dancer of at least some sort... All of the above are what I did.

    You can also check out our Instructional DVD section at for all the info on a brand new Timing CD I recently made. It's GREAT!!! I highly recommend it!

    Whatever you decide, I want to hear about it. If you're having problems, write me about it. I've been through two situations myself. My life partner, who refused to dance or go dancing with me, which, I'll have to tell you the story when I get a chance to write about it...
    .....and my former dance partner, who is a self-admitting off-beater, but an awesome dancer. How did I deal with it? Read on...
    I encourage those of you out there to please comment below. We NEEED this support group. I'm finding more and more people and mail on the subject, and together, as one, we can get over it!!!

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    A guy asks you to dance. You accept. You start the first step, and within seconds you realize he's not dancing to the beat. What do you do? You could do one of three things:
    1. Force him to dance to the rhythm by slowing him down or speeding him up. Backlead him into the rhythm.
    2. Stop dancing in the middle of the song and walk off.
    3. Follow him anyway, and forget about what's right or correct.

    Let's talk about #1.

    If the guy sees that you are dancing to a different rhythm than what HE hears, you will both subconsciously fight to see who leads who. You both will run into each other, and have a less than desirable experience. The woman will eventually win this little fiasco because the guy will basically let her. He will chalk this up as a terrible experience, and move on. Men have been taught that the woman should follow; they take it as, no matter what. If the woman doesn't follow him, he will think she's impossible to maneuver and control. He will think she's not following the rules. This is a problem when the woman knows the rhythm, and the man does not. If the man doesn't know the rhythm of Salsa, his ego will not allow any woman to show or tell him that. He will just think she doesn't know jack, and not dance with her again. He'll tell all his friends she's impossible to dance with, and a terrible dancer. Even if she's a great dancer with other men, he will assume that she can only dance with certain men, and is inflexible to dance with anyone else. Some women prefer this. If to never dance off the rhythm is your objective, then you must realize that you are limiting yourself to only dancing with certain dancers - the elite, the best. You will lock yourself in with these dancers only, and when they don't show up at a club one evening, or are so busy dancing with other women, you will not have a very good time - especially if there are so few of them to go around. They will spoil you with their smooth as silk leads, and you will miss out on a lot of potentials out there that would make each night more enjoyable than the last.

    This is your choice. All I know, is that when a guy doesn't follow the rhythm, he truly does not know nor understand it. I honestly feel sorry for them. They place more emphasis on getting the moves and tricks right, playing traffic cop, and keeping the girl interested, than they do on the rhythm. There are people that literally cannot hear the rhythm nor beat of any music - much less Salsa. They try and try, and listen, and listen, and still, cannot hear where the "1" is, much less where the "2" is. Some people will just NEVER get it. This is a sad fact. They are "tone deaf" to the beat of Salsa. They may do a Merengue or Cha Cha fine, but for some reason the rhythm of Salsa is not "heard" by everyone in the same way.

    I've had the experience of dancing with men, where they have been dancing for YEARS, and still don't know where the rhythm is. They know all the moves, the tricks, the dips, the flips..... but they just never, never get the rhythm. They think they have to follow a certain instrument. The problem with that is, that the instruments can change so often in the middle of the song. Don't fall into listening for specific instruments. This will throw you off when they stop playing. You need to hear the pulse of the music. the underlying tone and catch the beginnings of phrases or voices. Salsa is an eight-count, but we dance to a six count. 1,2,3 pause, 4,5,6 pause. Or if you dance on the two, it's pause, 2, 3, 4, pause 6, 7, 8 pause. It's difficult to describe in words, but I have a Timing CD that can help you understand the timing.

    For women who don't hear the rhythm, it's not so bad because the guy leads them into the rhythm. We can get away with it - the guy unfortunately can't. My instructor, Luis Vazquez NEVER let me get away with it. When I used to dance with him at a club, and get offbeat, he would point his finger to his ear. That would be my signal basically saying, "Edie, you're off...." I hated that, but it was the truth, and it worked.

    So if you want to make an enemy out of the guy you're dancing with, back lead him into the rhythm, and force him to step with you. He'll never ask you to dance again.

    Let's talk about #2
    If you see the guy is not dancing to the rhythm, it is VERY RUDE to just say "Thank you" and walk off. Number one, this shows that you have zero tolerance, are "Holier Than Thou", are extremely picky, and you will be considered, and thought of, as a complete a__ss You will really hurt his feelings and destroy his ego. Remember ladies, "revenge is sweet" because one day, if he finally DOES get it, and becomes a phenomenal dancer in the process, he will remember what you did to him. Men don't forget - ANYTHING.

    Another thing this does is discourage budding Salseros. We want Salsa to grow, not shrink. I've spoken to men in the past who told me they "gave up" on Salsa because the women were bit-ches and it was too hard to dance to. This saddens my heart to hear that.

    This type of attitude closes clubs.
    Men have told me that, if you aren't awesome, the women don't want to dance with them. This couldn't be further than the truth, but this is obviously the way they feel, and must feel that way for a reason. They must have had a terrible experience and their egos won't let them forget it. It's a personal problem I know, but one that could be prevented if handled with sympathy, empathy, and compassion by a woman. Woman have a big influence over men. Men have told me that there is nothing more wonderful than a woman helping him out a little when he's learning. We need to encourage men, not destroy them. This is supposed to be fun, REMEMBER? Don't forget where you came from ladies, you weren't always awesome.... Yes, you too sucked when you started.
    Remember ladies, what goes around, comes around. The only time you should ever leave a guy in the middle of a song is:
    1. If he's drunk and dangerous
    2. If he smells bad
    3. If he can't lead to the point of where he's hurting you
    4. If he's being a pervert on the dance floor
    5. If he keeps trying to:
    a) Kiss you - and you don't want kisses
    b) Talk to you and ask you personal questions
    c) Says rude things to you.
    d) Pulls your hair down during a dip (some men think they have to do this to get the woman's head to go back for a dip. I HATE that.)
    e) Purposely touches parts of your body you don't want touched.
    f) Constantly correct and insult your dancing.
    The bottom line is, don't just walk off because he's not dancing to the rhythm.

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    Now, let's discuss #3.
    Ladies, there "is" light at the end of the tunnel.

    I ALWAYS say, you've GOT to bloom where you're planted.
    My partner and I have won six competitions. He has no rhythm. He doesn't know where "1" is, nor "2", ... sometimes I think he dances on the five....

    Another professional Salsa dancer friend of mine has also won major competitions, and her partner doesn't know where the "1" or "2" is either. Why? How is this possible? What were the judges thinking about?
    I'll tell you how we did it. WE JUST FOLLOW THEM, NO MATTER WHAT. I've had countless women come up to me and ask how I can "look so good" with "so and so", because they just can't dance with them. They look terrible with everybody else, but with me, they look awesome! My former partner and I have won countless competitions due to him "knowing" where the "peaks" are in the music. He would be "right on" those peaks, which would give the "illusion" of us being on the rhythm. Ha! Fooled the judges, but after a while they caught on. I had NO CHOICE but to follow him, because he would PULL me into the move, but not always the perfect time....

    I FOLLOW my man, no matter what. I stop thinking about the music, the rhythm, the beat, the lyrics, everything. I just concentrate on him, duplicating his style, and most of all, concentrate on making him look good at all costs. I know guys, some of you are thinking - Well that's my job, I'm supposed to make the woman look good. Well I'm hear to tell you that it also can work beautifully in reverse. I've seen it done, and have done it myself.
    When I see a guy is off beat, I basically give up all hope for the remainder of the song, and make him look as good as possible. This is the woman's job. This is also the man's job. You are supposed to BOTH look good on the dance floor, compliment each other, not fight, nor end up with one partner completely stealing the show.

    I've had to learn this the hard way. I tried back-leading, I tried going to the back and clapping to the rhythm with them, I've tried sitting down and explaining the rhythm, I've tried the basic with them over, and over, and over again, I've written it out, I've sung it for them, I've tried stepping with them to the beat.... everything. For some people, NOTHING works. I don't fight it anymore. After I dance with a guy off-beat, I always ask him, "do you want to learn the rhythm, because I noticed you were off." If he gets insulted fine. If he doesn't, I'll spend time with him. Of course, I'm the exception, not the rule.

    One word of caution. Make sure you dance with other people who truly know the rhythm often. If your partner is the type who doesn't know the beat, you will develop very bad habits, and without even realizing it will end up off-beat with other men you dance with. This tragedy happened to me. After about a year with my partner, I danced with my former instructor. He told me I kept getting "off beat", and said I used to dance better before...
    I was livid.

    So if you can't beat them, join them - temporarily. Keep dancing with many, many men that DO follow the beat, and follow them,
    No Matter What.
    Heed my advice ladies...

    Happy Dancing!
    - Edie, The Salsa FREAK!!
    Attached Files

    • ediester
      ediester commented
      Editing a comment
      Your article regarding dealing with leaders who are off-beat was a real eye-opener. I must rethink what I am doing.... This is a very important issue. I had decided I preferred to limit myself to the very best dancers as it is no fun for me otherwise and luckily, there usually are enough of them who ask me... HOWEVER, I do know that the few that I danced with VERY early on who were poor dancers DO remember that! And it is amazing how fabulous some of them get! The problem is a I seem to go backward in my dancing when I dance with "poor" dancers, in other words, I need to be (selfishly) challenged by good dancers to improve AND for the salsa "high".

      You have given me some VERY helpful ideas in how to handle all of this. Basically, at this point, somehow it is just understood by some of the poor dancers without my saying anything - they don't ask me... tho I do try not to say no and also some, as you pointed out, are downright dangerous... It is an inequity of life, that men can drag a poor female dancer around and make her a good dancer, but not vice versa and I also cannot teach anyone (I've lost track - I think I've been dancing 13 years or so and ballroom before that).

      I may have a completely different issue at hand, however, and that is those who keep CHANGING the beat - so that you have to stop and start over constantly...there is no way for anyone to look good in this situation is there? Were you talking about that as well? After a few attempts, I usually just try to dance apart (which I hate - I love salsa because it is a partner dance) and as you stated, it is amazing how many men know all the moves, but just can't get the footwork - if they keep you moving in turns, etc., they almost get away with it! It never dawned on me that some people just can't hear the beat - ever! It seems so natural, but then again, I am musically inclined and grew up with a metronome timing my playing my instrument! A

      nd yes, I have tried pushing the guy back into the proper beat - and yes, that is a lost cause and I do not want to make any enemies... By the same token, we are allowed to say no aren't we? I have not quite figured out the correct way to say this... I used to say "not right now, thank you" but then if a fabulous dancer comes by, there I go, so that isn't right... so my friends say just say "no thank you" - that I do not have to explain.... I do like to maximize the number of people I can dance with, because you are right, some nights none of the good dancers are there....and I just figure this is the price to pay if you want to dance with only the best.

      Unfortunately, it is easier for men to work on new moves than women, because as you know, if I learn something new, I have to wait for a man to lead me in it, whereas the man can go right out and try it... I guess that is where a dance partner comes in... I have had some great ones in the past... haven't been able to find one again...the few responses from the partner search on this site have been poor dancers.... It's funny how important this topic is... but only if you are really in the salsa world I guess. It was also VERY interesting, what you had to say regarding relationships and salsa. As I am single without a boyfriend, etc., I always try to keep my dancing - as only dancing! (God forbid, if I could not go to my favorite club because it was too painful to run into someone!)

      I have often tried to figure out whether it is better to be with a dancer or non-dancer as a better husband, etc. and I was thinking that since my impression is that the BEST dancers are "Players" as they can have the pick of the women, I am better off with a non-dancer, but I liked what you had to say....You are right - it would be difficult to be with a non-dancer - tho I would just go on my own if I were married to a non-dancer - I would never give it up! Also, since I am not a "bar" person - only go to dance - I would think that many men there are bar goers, which I would not really want anyway... so.. anyway, thanks for all you had to say. I live in Chicago, but go out to L.A. a lot and LOVE dancing out there (smoke free! - imagine choking on cigar smoke while working out dancing!) and am going out to L.A. tomorrow (13th to the 31st) and hope to come by your studio as I stay in Santa Monica and of course will go to the Boat House! Thanks, Shirley
      Last edited by ediester; 06-26-2011, 11:56 AM.

    • macguy4321
      macguy4321 commented
      Editing a comment
      A couple of comments on your article. I completely understand that learning to be on beat is a learning process. And as I've said before, I have had some wonderful, amazing teachers and partners that have helped me along the way. They understand that I'm understand that I'm not perfect 100% of the time. And there have been some nights when I swear I couldn't find the beat with a road map. And there are some dances where I do lose it. But then, I just stop, do a brain reset and start again. Fortunately, I've found partners that are understanding and we continue on. And it has apparently been working. I've had several people, both partners and guys who are watching, comment that my timing has gotten a lot better. So timing can be learned. On the subject of significant others dancing, I'm coming from the other side. I'm the single guy dancing with the married women. I've gotten to the point where a lot of the husbands or boyfriends actually like me to dance with their wives / girlfriend. In fact a while back, a guy said to me "Go dance with my girlfriend, please." I think the reason that I get comments like that is that, one I treat the women with the utmost respect. Yes, I will give a turn off the hip and play with her, but I'm never disgusting or try to cop a feel. The guys see that I'm treating their women with respect and they trust me. And two, I try to make friends with the guys. That way, they don't see me as threatening or a jerk. And then they can go dance with other people too. And I try to think, how would I want my mother, my sister, my niece or girlfriend treated.

    • Rose the Salsera
      Rose the Salsera commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks so much for this, I was really at a loss about what to do when the guy is off beat. The 2 things that my teacher tries to drill into me is following well and staying on beat, so it's really difficult to know what to do when the 2 of those things are in conflict with each other (especially for a beginner like me because I struggle with both things anyway, especially following well!) I asked my teacher what to do when this happens, but all he said was, "It sucks." haha! But, after reading your article, it seems so obvious because it's just following a general life principal: whenever an ambiguous situation occurs, the default response is always to care for the people involved because that's what really matters.
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