Most of us as beginner dancers have heard the infamous statement: "You are not with the music". Ballroom Dancers work really hard to dance to the beat of music. Isn't this a major reason why we Ballroom Dance? How can you not dance to the beat of the music? Why wouldn't you want to dance to the beat of the music?
New dancers (guys in particular) don't even know that the music is playing, let alone being able to identify the beat. This drives the ladies crazy because they normally hear the music right from the beginning. The guys are so focused on the physical movement that they are not even aware that the music is playing. As the new dancer progresses, he becomes more aware of the music and the beat. At this stage, the man dances to the beat of the music and the lady dances the physicality of the man. The beat is the man's responsibility.
The beginner dancer is now aware of the beat and tries to move accordingly. The beginner moves on each beat just like a mechanical robot. I call this movement: "dancing like a drummer". Each step consumes little time, like a drum strike. As the dancer evolves, the dancer realizes that each beat has duration, like pressing a key on a piano. This changes the physical interpretation of moving to the beat. The movement is more fluid but it still has a slight hesitation as the beat is interpreted.
In high school, I played the trombone in the school band. The trombone almost always plays the counter melody of the song. In addition, I played in the 3rd, 2nd and 1st trombone sections and all of them have slightly different parts. My brain has now been conditioned to exist in this place in the music. Now as a Ballroom Dancer, I am trying to muddle through all of these different parts of the music and trying to figure out where I should be.
In my opinion, the Silver Level and above Slow Foxtrot is the hardest of all the Ballroom dances. It is as if it is one continuous fluid movement. It seems that the interpretation of the beat is even more critical in Slow Foxtrot than any other dance. I had a very hard time trying to understand the beat of the music to create the Foxtrot's classic smooth even movement. I tried really hard to hear the beat of the music behind the melody but my movement always felt a little stilted. My interpolation of the beat seemed to interfere with that wonderful gliding Foxtrot feeling I was trying to develop.
How can this be fixed? What is the answer? How do professional singers and musicians correctly interpret the beat of the music? It suddenly occurred to me; let the professionals do the work. Dance to the melody of the song, not the beat. The melody of a song is performed to the beat of the music by the vocalists and the musicians. Ergo, you simply dance the melody that has been interpreted for you. Let the professionals make the interpretation between the beat and the melody. Now all the Ballroom Dancer has to do is to move to the melody of the music instead of trying to interpret the beat. This accommodates a more controlled, uninterrupted and consistent movement.
It is not clear to me that you don't have to go through the experience of trying to dance to the actual beat of the music. It may be that I am unconsciously reacting to the beat while focusing on the melody of the song. The mind is a curious thing. No matter what is actually going on, it works for me. Now when I dance to really good Foxtrot music, it is as smooth as glass (an absolute joy). This has had an incredible impact on my dancing and it is a seemingly simple transition. If you are experiencing this type of problem, try dancing to the melody of the music (whatever this means) and see if it will work for you.