All swing variants, including EC Swing, WC Swing, Jitterbug, Jive, etc have odd phrasing as the patterns do not match up neatly with the bar-lines of the written music. The basic pattern in all of the aforementioned consists of 6 counts, whereas the individual bars / measures of music consist of only 4 counts each. This creates an interesting dilemma, for which there are many solutions.
If one is to count strictly the music, he should count only to 4, regardless of the construction of the patterns being danced. This is the most "correct" way to count, but not always the clearest, and very difficult for the novice dancer. Many dancers actually prefer to count to 8, which has its own set of advantages, but still technically less correct since there is precious little music written in 8/4 time.
Also simpler than counting to 4 is counting to 2 (e.g. "1a2, 1a2, 1, 2"), which like the 8 count is less musically correct where the time signature is concerned. But it does solve the problem of the 6's of the patterns and the 4's of the musical bars not lining up. With this method, everything is broken into smaller pieces, and those smaller pieces always line up neatly.
Another way to count, which is the method we've chosen for EC Swing, is to ignore the time signature and count the structure of the patterns. We have found that people learning to dance tend to respond best to this method, because it is simple and clear. True, it isn't technically correct, but neither is counting to 2 or 8. And "technically correct" is not always in the students' best interest -- especially dancers, many of whom don't know what a time signature is.
If your goal is to take an exam, I might recommend buckling down and spending the time to count properly. Counting 4's over 6's is an interesting challenge that helps develop your musical brain. But if you're a dance teacher with a new student, or, say, a guy dreaming of building a website to teach the masses, you might be better off starting with a simpler presentation that doesn't involve complex polyrhythms. This is where either counting to 2, or simply counting the structure of the patterns is most advantageous.
Regards, Jonathan Atkinson www.ballroomdancers.com