Which dance is right for the music?

How do I know which ballroom dance goes to the song that is playing?

It is a question that we often get asked – “I’m at an event, the music is playing and I want to dance - but how do I know which one is right for the music that is playing?”  There are a variety of answers to this and everyone will have their own way of working out which dance style is right for the music that is playing.  As dancers get more experienced is becomes instinctive to know what dance is right for the music, but it is easy to forget that no-one was born knowing this stuff.  Personally I favor a process of elimination and have set out below the way I show people how to work out which dance is right for the music.  For the purpose of this article we will assume that we are intending to dance a ballroom dance, not a latin dance (I shall cover latin music in a separate article)

The rhythm signature (the beat)

Firstly, listen to the music and try to count the beats in the song.  Forget the melody, lyrics and fancy musical twiddles for now, it’s the regular beats you are looking for.  The beats are usually played by the drums or double base and form the heartbeat of the music.  If you can’t hear the beat, close your eyes and relax, let your foot tap to the music - those taps are the beats you are looking for.  In simple terms you should find that the beats are in groups of either three or four. 

Speed and feel

If the music is in threes (counting 1-2-3, 1-2-3) then we have a choice of two dances – the Viennese Waltz or Slow Waltz.  The next question you need to ask yourself is does the music feel fast or slow?  If the music feels slow it is a Slow Waltz, if it feels fast it is a Viennese Waltz.

If you found yourself counting in fours (1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4) then you have a choice of either Foxtrot, Quickstep or Tango.   Tango has a very different feel to the other dances, if it feels like a Tango then it is one!

If it isn’t a Tango it leaves us a choice of either Quickstep or Foxtrot.  We then ask ourselves, does it feel slow and smooth or quick and full of energy?  If it feels slow and smooth, and you could imagine yourself swaying along to it  - it will be a Foxtrot.  If it feels lively, fast and full of energy it will be a Quickstep.

Dance Lessons Social Dances Workshops Subscribe