Men in general, learn from the floor up. They need to know what their feet are supposed to do, what direction to go, what pattern to dance, etc., and the last thing they do is listen to the music. The man must develop some muscle memory of the patterns before he can free up his brain to listen to the music. Ladies, in general, learn from the music down. They hear the music first and their bodies follow.
Unfortunately, or fortunately depending how you look at it, the lady is at the mercy of the man in partnership dancing. The man dances to the music and the lady dances the man's body (hopefully to the music). The lady can only dance as well as the man leads.
Dancing to the music is not as obvious as it might seem. There are two ways to dance to the music: as a drummer or as a piano player. Most men, in the beginning, equate a beat of music to a completed weight change. He tries to have his step completed on the beat. This means he must start his movement before the beat in order to have it completed on the beat. This is dancing like a drummer. When you play the drums, the beat is an instant in time (when the drum stick strikes the drum). In reality we want the man to dance like a piano player. The piano player striking a key, this is equivalent to a dancer starting his step. The duration of the key being held down (making a tone) is how long the dancer has to complete his step (finish his weight change). The step starts at the beginning of the note (beat) and is completed when the note ends.
If I were to dance a measure of waltz (1, 2, 3) and the associated musical notes were A, B, C; it would look like the following example:
The man starts his first step on "1" and continues through the duration of "A" and is completed with the weight change of the first step at the end of "A" ("2"). The hard part is to start the step on the beginning of the "A" ("1") and use the duration of the note to complete the step.
The dancer's second step starts when he first hears the "B" note and is completed when the "B" note ends ("3"). The step is executed using the duration of the "B" note.
The dancer's third step starts when he first hears the "C" note and is completed when the "C" note ends (start of the second measure-"1"). The step is executed using the duration of the "C" note.
Now that we have the man moving at the right time in relation to the music there comes another problem. The man sees an experienced couple dancing a waltz and tries to match them. He soon finds out he is dancing too fast for the music even though he is matching the other couple. The problem is speed. The experienced couple is taking much bigger steps so they are traveling mush faster. If you take smaller steps and try to maintain the same speed, you will be too fast for the music. The size of your steps determines speed. The frequency of your steps does not change because it is (supposed to be) controlled by the music.
We have addressed the start timing problem and the speed movement problem but there is still at least one other problem. The man typically tries to make each step of the 1, 2, 3, in waltz for example, feel the same. Most of the time each step feels different (some faster than others). Example: The man dances 1, 2, 3 of a bronze waltz "Open Left Turn". The first step (a heel) moves from under the body forward say 1 1/2 feet in one beat of music. The second step moves from 1 1/2 feet behind the body to 1 foot (a toe) in front of the body in one beat of music. The third step moves from 1 foot behind the body to together (toe-flat) in one beat of music. The point is that step one traveled 1 1/2 feet, step two 2 1/2 feet and step three 1 foot, each in one beat of music. The steps feel different because they are traveling different distances in the same amount of time.
Understanding these three problems should help you to get closer to dancing to the music.