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While some songs have very specific beat patterns that make it easy to find the fitting dance like Discofox or Wiener Walz, others are missing such an obvious rythm. For example what makes it possible to dance Bachata or what are the differences between Chacha, Rumba and Jive?

What is a good approach to find the dance for those songs (as someone with little knowledge of musical theory)?

  • This question reminds me of assigning songs to Dancing With the Stars dances. This is a question worth asking, IMO. – Dekkadeci May 17 '18 at 15:53
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Cha-cha has a 4/4 time signature. The first three beats are quarter notes, last beat is two eighth notes, which are emphasized. So you get: one-two-three-CHA-CHA one-two-three-CHA-CHA etc. The beat is up tempo. The mood of the dance is flirty and playful. Search for "cha cha" on YouTube for examples. Another great example of a more current cha cha tune is Santana's "Smooth".

Rumba is a slower, more romantic dance. It is also in 4/4, but much slower. The first two beats are a half note, then two quarter notes. You can think of it the way the timing is for the steps - SLOW, quick, quick where the slow gets two beats. Search YouTube for the tune "Perhaps".

Jive is completely different. It's fast - REALLY fast, danced at 150 bpm or more. The time signature is 2/4, and the basic step sequence is dotted eighth-sixteenth quarter note, dotted eighth-sixteenth quarter note, quarter note quarter note. Or as we think when we dance it, tri-ple step, tri-ple step, rock step. Search YouTube for the song "Runaround Sue" by Dion.

I hope this helps. For any other dance music related questions, let me know.

  • Thank you for your great answer. Do you also know a resource with descriptions like this for other couple dances? – Gimli May 20 '18 at 15:46
  • I don't know of any sites or materials with this kind of information. I wrote those descriptions for you. So what the heck, let's do the rest of the standard ballroom dances, shall we? – Jamie Doll May 20 '18 at 22:22
  • Foxtrot is 4/4 time. There are two main patterns - Half note, quarter, quarter and quarter, quarter, half. When dancing, the quarter notes are danced as a "quick" step, the half notes are danced as a "slow". Foxtrot is medium tempo, kind of bouncy with a bit off a swing to it. Listen to "Kick in the Head" by Dean Martin or just about any Frank Sinatra song. – Jamie Doll May 20 '18 at 22:29
  • Waltz is 3/4 time. It has three equal beats per measure - quarter note, quarter note, quarter note. The mood of waltz is ethereal, romantic, with rise and fall in each measure. Great examples are "Tennessee Waltz" or any classical waltz by Strauss. – Jamie Doll May 20 '18 at 22:34
  • Salsa is a very, very, very, very fast 4/4 ( C cut time really). The main pattern is two quarter notes, half note. BUT salsa rhythms go all over the place. The basic steps of the dance are quick quick slow, and everything else is derived from that. For an example, if you can, turn your radio to any Spanish station and listen to any fast, vibrant song. – Jamie Doll May 20 '18 at 22:44

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