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Ballroom Dance Rhythms for Musicians and Dancers



Ballroom Dance Rhythms for Musicians and Dancers






By Ronald Steriti, ND, PhD



Ballroom Dance Rhythms for Musicians and Dancers

By Ronald Steriti, ND, PhD

Copyright ©

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, including photocopying, including in a web site, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, without expressed, written permission of the copyright owner.

The contents of this document are the sole property of the author.


Ballroom Dance Rhythms for Musicians and Dancers describes dancing in musical terms. It compares the dance steps for different styles of dancing with their basic musical rhythm.

Table of Contents


1. Introduction

2. Finding the Beat

3. Jitterbug

4. East Coast Swing

5. West Coast Swing

6. Lindy Hop

7. Jive

8. Country Two-Step

9. Fox Trot

10. Quick Step

11. Nightclub Two-Step

12. Waltz

13. Rumba

14. Clave

15. Cha Cha

16. Salsa

17. Tango

18. Mambo

19. Samba

20. Hustle

21. Pattern Dances

22. The Bo Diddley Beat

23. Three Steps


About the Author



Chapter 1. Introduction

This book outlines basic ballroom rhythms and their corresponding dance steps. It is written for both dancers and musicians that want a better understanding of music and dance.

Many ballroom dances focus on one or two musical styles. East Coast Swing dances are a retro favorite, sometimes referred to as a “Sock Hop”. West Coast Swing with Nightclub Two-Step is a common combination. Big Band Swing and Foxtrot is a fantastic combination. Mixed ballroom dances usually have a variety of styles throughout the evening.

In mixed ballroom dances, the dance style (or genre) is usually announced at the beginning of the song. A starting count is needed for pattern dances, such as the Cowboy Cha-Cha, so that everyone starts at the same time.

Smooth and Rhythm Dances

In smooth (aka standard) dances, the dancers move around the ballroom floor in a counter-clockwise progression. In rhythm (aka Latin) dancing, the dancers face each other. The following is a list of common dance styles.

Smooth: Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, 2-Step

Rhythm: Cha Cha, Rumba, Salsa, Swing, Hustle

American and International Styles

There are two major styles of contemporary ballroom dancing. The American style was developed by the major studio chains (Arthur Murray and Fred Astaire), and by independent U.S. studios. The International style was developed by the British Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD) and International Dance Teachers’ Association (IDTA). Both styles are similar.

Music Notation

The following is a brief review of music notation. A 4/4 (four-four or common) time signature is assumed unless otherwise specified.

In 4/4 time, a quarter note gets one beat, an eighth note is half a beat, and a sixteenth note is one-quarter of a beat. One beat can contain one quarter note, two eight notes, or four sixteenth notes.

A dot following the note adds half the value to the time. A dotted quarter note is equal to a quarter plus an eighth note.

A set of three notes in one beat is referred to as a triplet, and is denoted by the number 3 above the bar.

A pause can be one beat, or fractions of a beat. A quarter note pause takes the same time as two eighths or four sixteenths.

Of particular interest is the eighth note pause. This measure emphasizes the downbeats (notice the trailing pauses).

This measure emphasizes the upbeats (notice the leading pauses).

Common Time

Common time is usually referred to as 4/4 time, which denotes four beats in a measure, and a quarter note per beat (1234 or 1&2&3&4&).

Waltz Time

Waltz time is 3/4 time, which denotes three beats in a measure, and a quarter note per beat (123).

Cut Time

Cut time (alla breve in Italian) is in 4/4 with an emphasis on beats 2 and 4. Cut time songs are usually very fast tempos and are often written in 2/2 time. The downbeat on every other beat mimics the steps in a march.


Common time (4/4 or four beats in one measure) is usually counted in eighth notes where the “and” denotes the upbeat (1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &).

We can also count in sixteenth notes: 1e&a 2e&a 3e&a 4e&a. When calling out the rhythm aloud, this is pronounced “one ee and ah two ee and ah” etc.

Triplets (three notes in one beat) are counted using the a number followed by the word: “One trip-let, Two trip-let, Three trip-let, Four trip-let”.

Dance Step Notation

Dancers use numbers to keep track of their steps. In general, the number “one” usually denotes the dancer’s first step, which may not be the first beat in a measure. The step numbers often do not correspond to count of the musical beat.

Dancers usually count the main beat and refer to beats one and three as the down-beats, and beats two and four as the up-beats. Musicians call the & an up-beat, which also means that one beat (1) for a dancer is actually two beats for a musician (1&).

In most dance styles, slow steps are quarter notes (one step per beat), while quick steps are eighth notes (two steps per beat). A break-step or rock-step refers to when the dancers step forwards or backwards, usually as a quick-step. We can write the dancing counts to their corresponding music notation as follows.

Single-Step (1 step in 2 beats)

Double-Step (2 steps in 2 beats)

Triple-Step (3 steps in 2 beats)

Notice that the count for a triple step may include a pause, where the count for one measure in common time is “1&2 3&4”. Dancers count a triple-step as “trip-le-step”.


The word syncopation is derived from the Latin meaning “to omit a letter or syllable” (Syncopāre), and the ancient Greek words “with” and “to cut” (sin and koptein).

In lyrics, words are often syncopated by leaving out letters or syllables in the middle, in order to match the song’s rhythm.

In music, syncopation can refer to stressing a beat that is normally weak. The most common example would be the backbeat, which is stressing the upbeat. Some state that the backbeat is the basis of rock and roll.

Syncopation also means unexpected.

Dancers can syncopate with an unexpected touch-step or kick. Syncopated steps are also those that don’t fit the accepted pattern. For instance, an extra quick step may be added so that the next pattern begins on the “incorrect” foot.

Syncopated rhythms in music have notes in unexpected places. One example is swing where the & is delayed. Syncopated musical rhythms place notes before or after the main beats.

Syncopation is also used to describe mixing different counts in both music and dance.

The Swing Beat

Swing rhythm refers to delaying the &. The sound is difficult to explain in words, but easily recognized in rock and roll or blues songs. The table below shows the swing beat. Notice that there is a delay followed by two notes close together (i.e. &1 &2 &3 &4).

Some use 12/8 time for swing timing, where the & falls on the “let” of “triplet”.

Great songs combine all of these elements (swing, syncopation, triplets) and vary them throughout the song.

Sixteenth Note Rhythms

Many songs have a rhythm in sixteenth notes, which corresponds to 4 notes per beat in common time. A single measure would have 16 notes (4 notes/beat x 4 beats/measure). Musicians use the notation “1e&a”.

A swing beat using 16th notes is counted “a1 a2 a3 a4”.

Syncopated 16th Triples

Modern songs (such as funk and hip hop) often use syncopated 16th note rhythms that combine groups of 2 and 3 notes. There are a few common patterns.

Songs with syncompated 16th triples present a challenge to dancers when the syncopated notes (e’s and a’s) are emphasized, and the quarter note rhythm is absent. These emphasized syncopated notes aren’t in quite the right place. Many songs, however, emphasize the “a1” to form a “modern blues”.


Chapter 2. Finding the Beat


Beginning dancers often have difficulty finding and keeping the beat. It takes time and practice. In this chapter, we begin with the sounds of common beats, followed by a musical example of how musicians play them.

Rhythm and Melody

A song’s rhythm is defined by its pattern of strong and weak beats, along with the instruments that play them. In most music, the drums are the easiest instrument to listen for the beat. In modern music, the “rhythm section” usually consists of the bass guitar and drums. In contrast, classical and Latin music have “percussion sections” with many instruments.

A song’s melody is a linear group of notes (referred to as a phrase) that is usually repeated throughout the song. Typically the rhythm is in lower tones (i.e. bass and drums) and the melody is higher registers (i.e. guitar and vocals). The combination of melody and rhythm along with harmony create a song.

Although it is possible to dance to a song’s melody, it is not the same as the rhythm. Most songs vary the melody considerably, and tend to start the melody before or after the first beat. A song also has several parts (such as verses and chorus) that have different lyrics (melodies).

Finding Beat One and Counting

The first step in finding the beat is to listen for the strongest beat, and then count beats until you hear it again. In most cases, the first beat (one) in a measure is strongest. However, many songs emphasize beats two and four.

In the waltz (3/4 time), this would be “ONE, two, three; ONE, two, three”.

A song in 4/4 time would be counted as: “ONE, two, three, four; ONE, two, three, four”. Notice that beat three is also emphasized, although not usually as loud.

The backbeat (beats two and four) is often emphasized. It can be counted as: “one, TWO, three, FOUR; one, TWO, three, FOUR”. People usually clap on the two and four.

Swing and blues songs have a “and”, and is counted as “One and Two and Three and Four”. The swing beat moves the and closer to the next beat, which can be spelled as “&One &Two &Three &Four.” Sometimes this distance (in time) between the & and the beat is so short, that an “a” is used: “aOne aTwo aThree aFour.”

Many songs combine both swing, blues and cut-time by emphasizing the two and four with several instruments simultaneously. Beat one is also emphasized in other ways, but might not be the loudest. For instance, a blues song with cut-time emphasis would be “aOne aTwo aThree aFour.”

Song Genres

After you have found and counted the beat next step is to figure out the dance style. The easiest way is to match it to the song’s genre, for example: big band swing, blues, country, Latin, etc. With experience, you’ll be able to figure out the beat and the song’s genre and match it to an appropriate dance style.


Some songs, however, are not so easy to figure out. Musicians are creative and like to combine things in new and exciting ways, which often results in complicated rhythms or songs that are not so easy to dance to.

The next step is to listen for different instruments. Many people listen to either the lyrics or the drums. Some listen to the bass guitar. The general idea is to begin listening to each of the instruments separately. A great song often has parts where different instruments are featured, such as a drum or guitar solo, a chorus, or a break-down in the middle of the song.

A Basic Drumbeat

In order to understand how a rhythm is constructed, we’ll outline a basic drumbeat.

The snare drum is the small drum held by “The Little Drummer Boy.” There are several snare sounds: “tick”, “click”, “clack” or “snap” from a wood drum stick on metal, or two wood sticks together. In most songs, the snare is played on beats two and four. Another common snare sound is a “clap”. The snare sound is usually short and clear, which makes it a great first sound to find the beat.

The bass kick drum is big and loud. It sounds like “boom” or “thump”, which is usually heard on beats one and three, although it may be heard on all the beats. An upbeat and downbeat right after each other has a “BaBoom” sound.

The drummer usually plays all the upbeats and downbeats on the high hat cymbal. We’ll use the word “tish” to describe its sound, which can vary depending on how the cymbals are played.

The following table shows a basic drumbeat with two variations.

“Boom clap, Boom clap” for “1234”,

“Boom tish clap tish, Boom tish clap tish” for “1&2&3&4&”,

“Boom tish clap, BaBoom tish clap tish” with an “&3”, and

“BaBoom tish clap tish, Boom tish clap” with an “&1”.


Most dance steps begin on the downbeat. In swing, the timing is modified so that the upbeat and downbeat are close together in time, which sounds like “BaBoom (pause) BaBoom (pause)”. It’s important to realize that the second note (“Boom”) is the downbeat.

Dancers usually prefer to move smoothly (or gracefully). This becomes challenging in songs with deep swing beats (i.e. those with long pauses). One common technique is to step on the downbeats, and take even steps (in time). This means that they often do not step exactly on the upbeats. Some dancers, however, modify their footwork to be exactly on the beat, which is a form of syncopated dancing.

Advanced Rhythms

In contrast to songs where the rhythm has one dominant drum pattern that stays fairly constant and can be heard clearly throughout, songs with “advanced rhythms” are not that straightforward. This includes Latin music, such as the salsa or cha cha, which often have many rhythms playing at the same time, usually on different instruments. Some songs may change the rhythm in different parts, usually in a break.

Latin songs rely heavily upon the clave, which has a rhythm pattern of: “1 & 4, 23” or “23 1 & 4”. It is a non-symmetrical rhythm with two notes close together, and three that are farther apart in time. Although most Latin songs are based on the clave, it is typically played by several instruments in layers. It is much easier to listen for simple repeating patterns.

Beginning on Beat One

In the waltz, beat one is strongly emphasized and fairly easy to find. Other dance styles in 4/4 time, however, can usually be started on any beat, especially when the rhythm emphasizes the downbeats. Some songs and syles, however, are more complex.

Most dance styles are based on three beats. However, songs are typically based on four beat measures. As a result, the first step of 3 beat dance patterns will begin on a different beat for three measures: “1, 4, 3, 2”. In addition, most songs have phrases that take 8 beats (2 measures). This is why the dance patterns often don’t coincide with the song’s melody. There are several ways that advanced dancers can compensate for this.

Rock and Roll

Rock and roll has its origins in dance, beginning with simple even beats, such as the Jitterbug. East Coast Swing slows the tempo and adds triples to the beat. West Coast Swing songs are even slower, and are often blues songs with a deep swing beat.

The percussion style for rock and roll songs (Jitterbug, Jive or East Coast Swing) is “Boom-tick Boom-tick” or “Boom-ta-ta Boom-ta-ta”. Both can be combined into “Boom-tick Boom-ta-ta”, or other variations. Most songs are written with two measure phrases (eight beats), often in a call, break, answer pattern.

Chapter 3. Jitterbug

Jitterbug is danced to fast tempo rock songs at 150 – 230 beats per minute (bpm). The dance pattern is in three beats. The dancers move from side to side, then apart in a rock-step (back-step).

Jitterbug is also called single time swing, referring to one step per beat. The dance steps correspond to a rhythm of “1 2 3&”.

Jitterbug songs include:

“Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” by the Andrews Sisters

“In The Mood” by Glen Miller

“Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley and The Comets

“Rockin Robin” by Bobby Day

“All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley


Chapter 4. East Coast Swing

East Coast Swing is referred to as Triple-Step Swing, or Single-Time Swing. The basic pattern takes eight-steps: “triple-step, triple-step, rock-step”; “1&2 3&4 56” (5&). It’s similar to Jitterbug with slower songs (115 – 140 bpm) where the side steps are replaced by triples.

In some Big Band songs the accents are on every third note. This is an example of syncopation where groups of three are superimposed on a double rhythm.

The East Coast Swing dance steps and count are as follows.

East Coast Swing songs include:

“In The Mood” by Glenn Miller

“Mustang Sally” by Wilson Pickett

“That Thing You Do” by the Wonders

“Rock My World” by Brooks and Dunn

“You Got What It Takes” by Michelle Wilson

Chapter 5. West Coast Swing


West Coast Swing rhythm is typically triple-double in 4/4 time. Songs are slow tempo music at 80 – 130 bpm.

The basic step is “double-triple-triple: in 6 counts (12, 3&4, 5&6), although some patterns are 8 or more. The songs are typically slower than East Coast Swing or Jitterbug, and the longer count allows for more complex patterns.

The dance steps and count are:

The Rolling Count

Skippy Blair recommends a Rolling Count: “&a1 &a2 &a3 &a4”, which allows the dancer time to prepare for movement. The count is based on 12/8 time. Specifically, the “&a” or “&” allows our bodies to prepare to hit the following beat (“1” or “a1”, respectively). A Rolling Walk is counted as “&a Right &a Left” and Rolling Triple as: “&a Step & Step-Step”.

The rolling count is designed to match swing rhythm.

Here’s the West Coast Swing basic count (12 3&4 5&6) with the Rolling Count (12 3&a4 5&a6). Some omit the & to describe the footwork (“12 3a4 5a6” or “12 3_a4 5_a6”, where an underscore is used in place of the rolling &).

West Coast Swing songs include:

“I’m the Only One” by Melissa Etheridge

“Let Me Love You Baby” by Stevie Ray Vaughan

“Mustang Sally” by The Commitments

“Take it Back” by Reba McEntire

“The Way You Make Me Feel” by Michael Jackson

“Rolling in the Deep” by Adele


Chapter 6. Lindy Hop


The Lindy Hop (or Lindy) originated in 1920’s and 30’s Harlem, New York. It includes footwork borrowed from the Charleston and Tap. Lindy Hop is a medium to fast swing usually associated with big band music. The tempo is 130 to 200 beats per minute.

Lindy Hop has two basic rhythms.

The six-count basic is similar to East Coast (triple-time) Swing, with the rock-step first (12 3&4 5&6).

The eight count basic rhythm is “rock-step, triple-step, rock-step, triple-step” (12 3&4, 56 7&8).

In the Lindy basic, the couple moves in a full circle that begins with the lead stepping back and moving his right arm back in a motion that looks like he is “bowling”. The follow swivels her hips as she walks forward during the first two steps.

Lindy Hop songs include:

“Roll ‘Em” by Benny Goodman

“Stompin’ At The Savoy” by Benny Goodman

“For Dancers Only” by Duke Ellington


Chapter 7. Jive

Jive is very fast swing music at about 176 beats per minute.

The Jive basic dance pattern is “rock-step, triple-step, triple-step” (12, 3a4, 5a6).

East Coast Swing begins with a triple step, whereas Jive begins with a rock step. Jive is known for its high kicks and bounce.

Jive songs include

“Jailhouse Rock”

“Baby Likes to Rock It”

“At the Hop” by Danny and the Junior

“Jump Jive ‘n’ Wail” by Brian Setzer or Lous Prima

“Stray Cat Strut” by the Stray Cats

“Zootsuit Riot” by the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies

Chapter 8. Country Two-Step


The count for the Country two-step is "quick-quick, slow-slow" (1& 23). It is very similar to the fox trot, although the 2-step moves straight forward, with a walking step.

Country 2-Step songs include:

“Busy Man” by Billy Ray Cyrus

“Old Enough to Know Better” by Wade Hayes

“Boot Scootin’ Boogie” by Brooks and Dunn

“Love Somebody Like You” by Keith Urban

“Home” by Michael Bublè

Triple Two-Step

The Country Triple Two-Step is a variation of the Two-Step that is appropriate for slower songs. As with Jitterbug and East Coast Swing, the slow steps are replaced by triples (1a2, 3a4, 5 6).


Chapter 9. Fox Trot


In 1913, Harry Fox, a vaudeville comedian, introduced a trot to a ragtime song in the 1913 Ziegfeld Follies. It became America’s most popular dance and remains so to this day as the standard of social dances. Fox trot are Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, and Dinah Shore.

The Fox Trot is Big Band Swing in 4/4 time, with a tempo of 120 to 136 beats per minute. The underlying percussion pattern is “Boom tick, Boom tick” at a slow tempo. The first beat of four measures is usually accented, and there may a double tick (eighth or sixteenth notes).

The fox trot basic step takes three beats: Slow-Slow-Quick-Quick (1 2 3&). The dancers move forward for two steps, then sideways for the quick steps (step-step side-close). The international style of Fox trot is slow-quick-quick. The slow steps have a unique style that’s referred to as “lilting”.

There are two basic Fox Trot rhythms.

Fox Trot songs include:

“Hello Dolly”

“You’ve Got Possibilities” by Matt Monro

“Cheek To Cheek” by Fred Astaire

“Fly Me To The Moon” by Frank Sinatra

“I’ve Got You Under My Skin” by Frank Sinatra

“Our Love Is Here To Stay” by Ella Fitzgerald

“A Wink And A Smile” by Harry Connick, Jr.

“When I’m 64” by The Beatles

“Haven’t Met You Yet” by Michael Bublè

“Crazy Love” by Van Morrison

“Moondance” by Van Morrison

“Teen Spirit” by Paul Anka

“Jump” by Paul Anka


Chapter 10. Quick Step


The Quickstep originated as a fast foxtrot in the Jazz era of the 1920’s. The Quickstep is upbeat, light, and airy, with lots of running, locking steps, hops, and syncopated chasses. The Quickstep is an intermediate or advanced ballroom dance.

Quickstep songs are usually jazz or swing with a brisk tempo of about 200 beats per minute, which is a little faster than a brisk walking pace.

The Quickstep is fast tempo Big Band Swing songs usually in 4/4 time. The percussion pattern is a fast Boom-tick with an emphasis on the first and fourth beats. The basic dance step is slow-quick-quick, slow-quick-quick (1 2&, 3 4&). The rhythm is:

Quickstep songs include

“It Don’t Mean a Thing” by Herman Brood

“Puttin’ On The Ritz” by Judy Garland

“Mr. Pinstripe Suit” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

“Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” by They Might be Giants


Chapter 11. Nightclub Two-Step


The Nightclub 2-Step is a slow, romantic dance. Wedding couples often choose it for their first dance because it is easy to learn and fits well with modern love songs. The couple looks beautiful as they glide over the dance floor with simplicity and grace. Buddy Schwimmer claims to have invented it with his sister in 1965 when he was 15 years old.

Nightclub two-step is in 4/4 time with a double-single rhythm (i.e. “shi-shi-boom”). The dancers face each other and move from side to side with a “Back-step, Side; Back-step, Side” (1&2_, 3&4_). The sideways movements are slow and graceful.

The nightclub two-step rhythm is “quick-quick-slow”. The side movements are long, which is denoted by the dotted quarter note. The sixteenth notes are often by the hi-hat or cymbal.

Another count is in even time, which is similar to a Rumba.

Nightclub 2-Step songs include:

“I Could Fall In Love” by Selena

“Because You Loved Me” by Celine Dion

“Lady In Red” by Chris De Burghe

“Take My Breath Away” by Berlin

“I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt

“Breathe” by Faith Hill


Chapter 12. Waltz


The waltz originated as a 17th century Bavarian country folk dance before it found its way into European ballrooms in the early 1800’s. The waltz swept out of Germany in the middle of the eighteenth century.

The waltz has a 3/4 time signature, with a tempo of 84 – 130 bpm. The underlying rhythm pattern is with equal spacing (i.e. even timing, quarter notes).

Waltz has three beats with a strong first beat, commonly called “Oom-pa-pa” or “Boom-tick-tick”. The root of the chord is played on first beat and the upper notes on the second and third beats. The pattern may be heard in percussion, piano or other instruments.

The Waltz is a “Three-Step” dance that can be counted in three or six: “123 123” or “123 456”. The first step alternates, and dancers often count with the first foot (i.e. for leads: “Left-2-3, Right-5-6”).

The waltz rhythm is:

In ballroom waltz, the dancers move forward one step, followed by a side-close. There is a rise and fall motion where they appear to float or glide across the dance floor. The rise occurs on the 2nd and 4th steps. The first beats (1 and 3) are usually strong. Some traditional ballroom waltz songs emphasize the rising beats (2 and 4) with other instruments and a volume swell.

Ballroom waltz songs include:

“Teach Me To Dance” by Greg Holland

“Tennessee Waltz” by Patti Page

“Three Times a Lady” by The Commodores

“Sweet Memory Waltz” by Vince Gill

“Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica

“Open Arms” by Journey

“Rock And Roll Waltz” by Kay Starr (1954!)

Viennese Waltz

The music of Johann Strauss helped to popularize the faster, elegant Viennese Waltz, which is characterized by sweeping turns and graceful movements. Viennese waltzes are usually fast and are often written in 3/4 or 6/8 time with a tempo of about 180 beats per minute (twice as fast as waltz). The steps are short and all forward, and the first step is usually longer.

Viennese waltz songs include:

“Blue Danube” by Johann Strauss

“Kiss From A Rose” by Seal

“Annie’s Song” by John Denver

“Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Elvis Presley

“I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain

Western Waltz

The Western waltz tempo is similar to ballroom waltz, although the steps are all forward, which is sometimes referred to as “walking with style”. While the ballroom waltz is typically formal and elegant, the Western waltz is relaxed and easy. Western waltz songs have a distinctive sound because they are, of course, Country tunes.

Western waltz songs include:

“Tennessee Waltz” by Anne Murray

“Last Cheater’s Waltz” by TG Shepard

“Waltz in Love Tonight” by Reba McEntire


Chapter 13. Rumba


The Rumba began at the beginning of the Cuban and Latin American dance crazes, and is danced to music inspired by African rhythms and Spanish melodies. The American Rumba was the basis for the Mambo and the Cha Cha. In the U.S. Rumba rhythms have found their way into Country Western, Blues, Rock & Roll and other popular forms of music.

Rumba is in 4/4 time, with three steps. The Rumba box step is identical to the waltz box step, with a pause (slow) step that lasts two beats, and two quick steps tht last for one beat. During the pause, the dancers sink in with a motion referred to as “Latin hips”.

American rumba is “slow, quick-quick” with the following rhythm.

International Rumba has an opposite rhythm: “quick-quick, slow”. The difference is slight, but changes the feel.

Rumba songs include:

“And I Love Her” by The Beetles

“It’s Now or Never” by Elvis Presley

“I’m Not Giving You Up” by Gloria Estefan

“Besame Mucho” by Xavier Cugat

“Falling Into You” by Celine Dion

“Neon Moon” by Brooks and Dunn

“Under the Boardwalk” by The Drifters

“Kokomo” by Beach Boys

“Girl from Ipanema” by Frank Sinatra

“Follow Me” by Uncle Kracker

“A Groovy Kind of Love” by Dan Finnerty

“Breathe” by Faith Hill

“I Belong To You” by Lenny Kravitz

“Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder


Chapter 14. Clave


Latin songs typically use a son clave, which translates to “sound code”. Clave is also the name of the hardwood sticks used in Afro-Cuban music ensembles.

3/2 Son Clave

The following is a 3/2 son clave (3 notes followed by 2 notes), which has a rhythm pattern of: “1&4, 23”.

2/3 Son Clave

The 2/3 son clave is commonly used in cha cha and round dancing. It is the opposite of the 3/2: “23 1&4”.

Some songs switch between the 3/2 and 2/3 clave.

Rumba Clave

The 3/2 Rumba clave has a rhythm pattern of “1 & &, 23”.

Bembe Clave

The Bembe clave is in 6/8 time and has a rhythm pattern of: "1 2 3&, & & &".

Chapter 15. Cha Cha


The Cha Cha (or, more correctly, the cha cha cha) began as a variation of the Mambo called triple Mambo. The Cha Cha was so easy and fun that it became the rage of the early 1950’s.

The creator of cha-cha music, Enrique Jorrín noticed that syncopated mambo rhythms confused dancers. He designed the cha-cha with minimal syncopation, and emphasized beat one to make it easier for dancers.

A triple step (the cha-cha-cha) was added for slower songs in the same way that Jitterbug became East Coast Swing.

Cha cha is played to 4/4 timing. The music tempo is 110 to 130 beats per minute.

The basic step covers two bars, or eight beats of music. For each bar of music there are 2 slow and 3 quick steps: “break-step, cha-cha-cha”. The cha-cha-cha is a chasse (triple step), which is a “side-together-side” or “side-close-side”.

In cha cha, five steps are taken to four beats of music.

There are two ways dancers begin the cha cha: “on the one” or “on the two”. Cha cha “on the one” begins with a side step (1 23 4&1), whereas “on the two” begins with a break step (23 4&1). In both methods, the cha-cha-cha is 4&1. Many find it easier to start on the accentuated one, although some consider this incorrect. To confuse things even further, there are two ways to count the cha cha: “two-three cha-cha-cha” (23 4&1) or “four-and-one two-three” (4&1 23).

Cha Cha songs include:

“Smooth” by Santana (featuring Rob Thomas)

“Oye Como Va” by Santana

“Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” by the Pussycat Dolls

“All I Wanna Do” by Sheryl Crow

“Love Potion No. 9”

“Spill the Wine” by Eric Burdon and War

“Corazon Espinado” by Santana

“Sway” by Michael Bublè

The Cowboy Cha-Cha

The Cowboy Cha-Cha is a “round” or “pattern” dance where the dancers follow the same choreographed pattern moving in a circle around the dance floor. Cowboy Cha-Cha songs include:

“Neon Moon” by Brooks and Dunn

“I Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum

“Just A Kiss” by Lady Antebellum

Chapter 16. Salsa


Salsa is the Spanish word for “sauce” denoting a “spicy” and “hot” flavor to this popular dance style to a complex mix of many different rhythms.

There are indications the term Salsa was coined by radio jockeys in Puerto Rico as early as the 1960’s and later associated with a New York sound developed by Puerto Rican musicians. Salsa is considered the national music and dance of Puerto Rico. The fusion of an Afro-Caribbean beat with enhanced jazz textures results in an aggressive high-energy pulse which has become popular everywhere.

Salsa is in 4/4 time with a tempo typically 180 to 210 beats per minute. Three steps are taken followed by a pause. Dancers count it as “123_567_” with beats 4 and 8 as the pauses where no step occurs. The rhythmic count is “1&2 3&4”.

Salsa songs include:

“Volcano” by Jimmy Buffet

“Oye Como Va” by Cheo Feliciano

“Simplemente” by Chayanne

“Tu Carinito” by Puerto Rican Power

“Start Without You” by Alexandra Burke

“I Need to Know” by Marc Antony


Chapter 17. Tango


The Tango began in the West Indies and found its way to Argentina. It became the rage in 1921 after the silent screen star Rudolph Valentino brought this romantic dance to millions in “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”. More recently, it has been danced in movies such as “True Lies” and “Scent of a Woman”.

The Tango is a dance of passion and fire. The man, entranced by her beauty, pursues the woman, while she looks away – aloof and uninterested. They dance close together – sometimes their knees brush against each other. The movements are staccato (i.e. composed of abrupt, disconnected parts) to match the dramatic music.

American Tango

American Tango is in 2/4 time; "Slow, Slow, Quick-Quick, Slow" (1 2, 3& 4). An easy way to remember is to spell the word: "TA-NG-O". The last step (“O”) is slow and drawn out. The dance patterns are typically 3 or 5 steps (the word “TANGO” contains five letters).

The rhythm is:

Tango songs include:

“Tango Jalousie (Jealosy)”

“La Cumparsita” by Julio Iglesias

“Welcome To Burlesque” by Cher

“Bad Romance” by Lady GaGa

“If You Go Away” by Patricia Kaas

“Objection” by Shakira

“Guitar Tango” by Hank Marvin & The Shadows


Chapter 18. Mambo


The Mambo originated in Cuba in the 1930s. The word mambo means “shake it.”

Mambo songs are in 4/4, with a tempo of 188 – 204 beats per minute. The basic dance rhythm is: “234_, 234_”. It is counted as “quick-quick-slow”. There is a pause or “chill” (no movement) on the first beat.

The rhythm is:

Mambo songs include:

“Mambo Italiano” by Rosemary Clooney

“Papa Loves Mambo” by Perry Como


Chapter 19. Samba


Samba was developed in Brazil during the 19th century, and considered the dance of celebration and joy at Carnival celebrations in Rio.

Samba songs are medium tempo (about 100 bpm) Brazilian-Latin music with strong downbeat.

Samba is in 2/4 or cut time. With three steps to every bar, the Samba feels more like a 3/4 timed dance. It is very similar to the salsa.

Samba has a quick beat that requires fast footwork, and has a characteristic bounce. The basic rhythm is “1 a2, 1 a2” that is danced “slow quick-quick” where the first step is forward for leads (backwards for follows), and the second two steps are in place.

The rhythm is:

Samba songs include:

“Vive La Vida (Sube Que Sube)” by Gusanito

“Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira

“Crazy in Love” by Beyonce

“Hey Mama” by The Black Eyed Peas

“Blame It on the Bossa Nova” by Eydie Gorme


Chapter 20. Hustle


The Hustle is a catchall name for several disco dances that originated in the 1970’s Disco Era and was popularized by John Travolta in the movie “Saturday Night Fever.” Both the music and the dance swept the country like wildfire. Fortunately the white suits and gold chains have faded away. It is still one of the most popular nightclub dances today.

The hustle is a unique dance where the couple moves towards each other.

There are several variations of the hustle. One form that is similar to East Coast Swing begins with a back step with the arms down and apart, followed by moving together for the step-step.

The New York hustle begins with the couple at right angles to each other. The lead takes a side step, while the follow (lady) moves forward and turns. It is a slotted dance similar to West Coast Swing.

The underlying percussion pattern in hustle is a simple, loud and clear “boom-boom-boom-boom”. Many hustle songs often emphasize the backbeat (“ta-ta-boom-boom”) usually at the beginning of the measure.

The New York or Latin hustle is a three-count dance, even though the music is in 4/4. Hustle dancing consists of 6-beat patterns, plus 4-beat and 8-beat breaks.

The rock step is at beginning: "Rock-step, Step, Step" (&1 23). The syncopated beat, however, can be placed at any step (for example "12 &3").

Another Hustle step has faster rock-steps (sixteenth notes) that are on the balls of the feet. Many use the count “&1 2a3”.

There is also a four-count hustle. The steps are forward back together forward, in even counts (1234) similar to a march.

Hustle songs include:

“Night Fever” by the Bee Gees

“Rock With You” by Michael Jackson

“Blood On The Dance Floor” by Michael Jackson

“Monarchy of Roses” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers

Chapter 21. Pattern Dances


Electric Slide

The Electric Slide is a beginner line dance in four parts: vine right (four beats), vine left (four beats), back steps (four beats), rock and turn (six beats).

The vine or grapevine step is in four counts: “side-behind-side-touch”. The last count can be a touch, scuff or stamp. There’s an obvious (i.e. loud) difference in the songs that use a touch or stamp.

There’s also a difference between a stamp and a stomp. The stomp involves a weight change. The stamp allows the dancer to stay on the same foot, so they can move from side to side with a chasse (three steps) in four beats.

Electric Slide songs include:

“Electric Boogie” by Marcia Griffith

“Last Night” by Chris Anderson

“Let’s Get Loud” by Jennifer Lopez

Ten Step (Polka)

The ten-step polka is also called the Texas or Country ten-step. The Tennessee 12-Step adds two counts at the end. The couples dance in promenade, with both facing forward, and the lady standing on the gentleman’s right side.

Ten-Step songs include:

“Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep” by Middle Of The Road

“Devil Went Down To Georgia” by Charlie Daniels

The Mexican Salsa

The Mexican Salsa is a 32-count beginner line dance line dance that is fast and fun.

Mexican salsa songs include:

“Maria” by Ricky Martin

“Off To See The Lizard” by Jimmy Buffett

“Almost Jamaica” by the Bellamy Brothers


Chapter 22. The Bo Diddley Beat


Bo Diddley was one of the biggest influences in bringing the Rhythm and Blues (R&B) sound to rock guitar. The “Bo Diddley Beat” uses left-hand muting, syncopated strumming, scratches, and sounded notes to create an implied clave syncopation.

The rhythm is the same as 3/2 son clave, although the note durations are different.

The Bo Diddley beat can also be written in 2/4 time.

Chapter 23. Three Steps


This table shows several different types of three’s used in dance and how many beats of music they take. These are unconventional names (there is no standard nomenclature).


About the Author

Ronald Steriti is a graduate of Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and currently is researcher for Jonathan V. Wright at the Tahoma Clinic and Meridian Valley Lab.

For hobbies, Ron plays guitar, dances, reads and writes. He loves blues and dances mixed ballroom and country with a preference for West Coast Swing. This book came about after learning how to play many of the dance songs.

Dr. Steriti has published several books available from his web site. NaturDoctor.com

Great Health Quotes contains wonderful quotations about health, healing, disease, doctors, and medicine. Some are thoughtful, others serious, and a few are humorous.

An Introduction to Naturopathy and Naturopathic Medicine covers the history and fundamental principles, including natural hygiene, nature cure, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, herbology, dietetics, nutrition and mind-body techniques.

Complementary and Alternative Medical Lab Testing (CAM Labs) contains summaries of the published research on lab tests, primarily from PubMed trials on humans. Each chapter (disease) begins with a brief summary of conventional lab tests, followed by additional lab tests, including diabetes, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, inflammation, etc. There are sections on endocrine hormones (thyroid, adrenal, sex steroids) and environmental medicine (toxic heavy metals). The nutritional assessments section includes minerals, vitamins and amino acids.

Nutritional Genetics is a very brief review of nutrition and genetics with a summary the published research, primarily from PubMed. Part 1 is an introduction with sections on vitamins and nutrients and metabolism. Part 2 describes nutritional genetics labs. Parts 3-6 have sections on diseases with references.


Many thanks to everyone that helped.

Ballroom Dance Rhythms for Musicians and Dancers

Ballroom Dance Rhythms for Musicians and Dancers shows the dance patterns or steps for different styles of dancing with their basic musical rhythm. Table of Contents 1. Introduction 2. Finding the Beat 3. Jitterbug 4. East Coast Swing 5. West Coast Swing 6. Lindy Hop 7. Jive 8. Country Two-Step 9. Fox Trot 10. Quick Step 11. Nightclub Two-Step 12. Waltz 13. Rumba 14. Clave 15. Cha Cha 16. Salsa 17. Tango 18. Mambo 19. Samba 20. Hustle 21. Pattern Dances 22. The Bo Diddley Beat 23. Three Steps

  • Author: Ronald Steriti
  • Published: 2016-08-14 20:35:17
  • Words: 6687
Ballroom Dance Rhythms for Musicians and Dancers Ballroom Dance Rhythms for Musicians and Dancers