by Martin Roe
(italics, caps, and underscores are Martin’s; instead of “lead”/ ”follow” he uses “man”/ ”woman”)
You’ve seen them. They never had a lesson, yet they dance so beautifully with that air of confidence we all wish to have. I’m sure most of them don’t understand what makes it sooo easy for them. “Just a natural dancer”, they’d say, and we’d believe.

Well, I didn’t understand either until November 27, 1976 (and I had been a dance teacher for 30 years). At a party on Saturday night of November 27, 1976, I witnessed one of those easy, relaxed, confident dancers teach a little girl to waltz. She, the dancer, simply said “JUST STEP ON BEAT, AND GO WHERE HE PUSHES YOU”. It hit me like a ton of bricks.

Then I realized that THEY DON’T DO STEPS—THEY DO RHYTHMS. They start the rhythm with their feet first and then let their body move in the direction they wish to go. If they want to move forward, they just keep doing the RHYTHM and drift forward, or they can drift backward, turn right, or turn left. It’s so simple that it’s ridiculous for any of us to have learned the other way. The other way I had to learn was to go forward by first learning the “Forward Magic Step” on beat. Most beginner men usually take about 10 hours. We’ll do that same “Forward Magic Step” tonight. We’ll learn it in about 2 minutes on beat by using the FIVE RHYTHM SYSTEM. It’s FAST, EASY, and builds CONFIDENCE!

We use these FIVE RHYTHMS in every dance we do: FOXTROT, WALTZ, SWING, RUMBA, CHA CHA, SAMA, etc. Sometimes we use only one RHYTHM (Rumba, Waltz, Swing), and sometimes we use a combination of 2 or 3 RHYTHMS (Cha Cha, West Coast Swing, Jitterbug). Dances that use 2 RHYTHMS are, of course, harder to learn. These dances usually require at least several lessons.

The man is said to lead because he determines which of the FIVE RHYTHMS to use as well as where to go on the dance floor--notice that he can only go forward, go backward, turn left, or turn right. The lady must know the FIVE RHYTHMS well enough to immediately react to the man’s lead. She matches her rhythm with his (much like two drummers getting together on the same beat), and they are off across the floor enjoying it and feeling it (much like the drummer in the band).

Tonight you’ll learn those five RHYTHMS. It will only take a few minutes (7:45pm to 8:00pm). If you listen closely, it will be easy. Then you and a lot of others will learn to use those FIVE RHYTHMS in a dozen different ways.

One night, you will learn:
Foxtrot, Texas Two-Step, Swing, Waltz, Tango, Cha Cha, One-step, and Polka.

Next lesson, you will learn:
Rumba, West Coast, Swing, Polka, Samba, Slow Foxtrot, Triple Jitterbug, and Disco.

This handout recreated courtesy of
... are not studio dances. We do not play strict tempo music where everyone does the same dance. We are not teachers. On the other hand dancing at Waltz Eclectic allows you the freedom to find your own style and to find the dance within each piece of music. We encourage you to bring what you know, to be open to what your partner can show you and allow yourself to be inspired by the music. We hope that this allows your dancing to be a fun, social, energetic, non-competitive and creative experience.

A question that often comes up at one of our dances is what dance to you do to a particular piece of music. This is actually an exercise Richard Power's uses in many of his workshops. It requires listening to the tempo of the music, its rhythmic structure and the feeling or passion enbodied in the music. There are no absolute right answers just individual interpretations.
Portland Dance Eclectic events ...