Why is the rhythm of the music so important to dancers?

Dance is the expression of feelings when listening to music. The music makes you want to dance and move your body to express how the music is making you feel. Without the music we are not dancing, we’re simply moving.

Each piece of music has a beat or pulse. The steady repetitive pattern which gives us the timing of the music. As dancers we either move freestyle, (expressing freedom of movement) or with structure (in a dance routine), or in partnered social dancing we lead and follow (within a framework of figures).

No matter how we move, we are directed by the rhythm and eventually the count of each phrase. Each phrase has an opening and ending place within the pulse and then repeats itself. This is often known as the Dancer’s count, Dancer’s bar or Dancer's measure.

For example: musically, the piece might be written in 4/4 timing (having 4 counts per bar) but as dancers we think of 2 musical bars as 1 phrase, thus having 8 counts to work with.

Some people can naturally and instinctively find the pulse or rhythm in the music, but they don’t always succeed in moving their bodies to this in a structured way.

Others may be blessed with not only hearing the pulse but also being able to move their bodies on demand in time with the pulse.

But what happens if you can’t hear the pulse? You won’t be alone. Learning to find the pulse (steady beat) and then finding where the phrasing is (1 to 4, 1 to 8 etc) is crucial for dancers, and not everyone can do it instinctively. Listening to many types of music, taking some music theory lessons and practising the counting are all exercises for dancers.

There are some excellent guides on Youtube for helping you to understand the music. Especially Don Baarns 'Music4Dancers' here: