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He’s Dancing Off Time – What Do I Do?


This Salsa tip came about from one of the most common questions we hear follows ask.

Some guys are on beat, some guys are 50-50, some guys struggle as they get used to Salsa music and there are others who are off in their own world dancing to an ‘amazing’ rhythm that no one else can hear.

As always, you’ll have to approach each partner a little differently, but the ultimate question still remains – do I follow him and dance off beat, or stay on time? Here’s some advice for both the leads and the follows.

Ladies Tips

If you’re both new to Salsa, be patient and encouraging

It takes time to develop rhythm recognition. If the lead is brand new to Salsa, you’re going to have to cut him some slack. Follow along the best you can and be encouraging. It’s quite possible that he’s nervous or thinking too hard about the new move he’s learning. Either of those things will easily take his focus off the music.

If you’re at an experienced beginner level or higher, stay on time

No matter the style of dance, staying on time is one of the most important things you can do. If he’s off beat, don’t do him any “favours”. Stay on time. Doing otherwise will further the problem and he’ll probably never know he was ever off time. It’s important that he realizes he’s not on beat. It’s an important part of the learning process.

Leads Tips

Why you are rushing and how it happens

Leads, if you don’t have a keen sense of rhythm recognition, you can easily become off beat with a song. Generally this is OK if it happens momentarily and gets corrected, but what often happens is that the problem gets compounded. When you’re off time, you feel like things need to move faster because the steps just don’t seem to be working properly. You are under the illusion that there’s not enough time. So what do you do? You speed up. And that makes the dance even more challenging to navigate.

When it comes down to it. Rushing the lead gives both partners less time to execute a step, causing more harm than good.

Staying on beat gives you more time to complete your moves

Keeping the rhythm of ‘quick, quick, slow’ – ‘quick, quick, slow’ is critical in Salsa. Use that period of ‘slow’ to maintain perpetual motion throughout your movement. Getting into the bad habit of dancing on the infamous ‘quick, quick, stop’ rhythm will make partner dancing far more difficult than it has to be.

Don’t expect the ladies to follow your incorrect timing

If you’re an intermediate dancer and you still can’t keep the beat, that’s on you to improve. You should not expect the ladies to follow you with complete disregard to the music. How can they? You are seemingly dancing to an entirely different rhythm in your head and they have no way of predicting the timing. Dancing is to music, so you must learn to use that music to dance. At this point, it’s best to invest some time in developing your rhythm recognition so your partner dancing becomes more successful.

Make learning rhythm recognition a priority

The sooner you learn to dance on beat, the sooner your dancing will feel smooth and your partner connection concrete. One great way to practice this is by focusing on the song and not worrying about doing fancy tricks. Keep your movement simple and execute only those steps that you can stay on beat with. If you find yourself speeding up or slowing down, move on to some simpler steps that you’ll be able to execute while maintaining the proper rhythm.

Use your partner’s rhythm to stay on time

If you know your partner is a more experienced dancer, they have likely got the whole rhythm recognition thing down pat. Use this to your advantage. Pay attention to the speed of their dancing and placement of their feet. Those are your simple cues to get back on time.

Your Turn

Have an interesting “off-time” experience you’d like to share? Got some more advice on this topic? Leave a comment below!
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