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(Originally posted on SalsaNewYork
We very often notice that many On 2 dancers have difficulty maintaining proper timing outside of the classroom environment. We believe this is true because dancers place more emphasis on learning shines and turn patterns and neglect timing and ear training. Timing and ear training can be tedious and difficult for many dancers who dont have any formal musical training. However, it is important that the On 2 dancer incorporate timing and ear training to totally experience what our dance style is all about.
The key to proper dance timing is to understand the relationship between La Clave in salsa music and the On 2 dancers basic step. All salsa music is played in 4/4 time. This means there are 4 beats to a measure of music. Our basic step is executed over 2 measures of music. We often call the 2 musical measures we use to execute our basic step a dancers measure.
La clave (Spanish for The Key) is a syncopated rhythm that is usually played by striking 2 wooden sticks across a dancers measure. Although it is sometimes difficult to hear, it is always present.
There are basically 2 types of clave. The 3:2 clave plays 3 beats in the 1st half and 2 beats in the second half of the dancers measure and the 2:3 clave plays 2 beats in the 1st half and 3 beats in the 2nd half of the dancers measure. The 3:2 is played on the 1st, 2 ½ , 4th, 6th and 7th beats of the dancers measure. The On 2 dancer executes the 1st step of his or her basic step on the 1st beat of la clave. The 2:3 clave is played on the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6 ½ and 8th beats of a dancers measure.
The On 2 dancer executes his or her 1st step of the basic step the beat just prior to the 1st beat of la clave. Understanding la clave also lets the On 2 dancer know the tempo of the music. He or she executes the basic step faster or slower, depending on the tempo of the music.
is vitally important for the On 2 dancer to obtain timing/ear training
from their dance instructor. Many of the more experienced instructors incorporate some
form of timing/ear training in their class instructions. Some will actually play la clave while the class is
practicing shine steps. Other
instructors will have students count off the basic step before executing shine
steps. It is important for the new generation of dance instructors to
include timing/ear training in their classes. The On 2 dancer can purchase
CD, audio or
video tapes which include timing/ear training. We hope this article is
beneficial for many of you so you can better appreciate salsa music and dance to
the beat of la clave!