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Re: Syncopations
Posted by Waltz123
11/26/2012  3:01:00 PM
One of my instructors pointed out that only one step in a syncopation has to be danced faster than the others. In other words, if the count is 1-2-&-3, only the & "happens" faster than normal.

Actually, it has to be two steps that are faster than the others (or multiples of two, for multiple syncopations). For example if you have 4 steps taken in 3 beats, two of them would be full beats and two of them would be half beats, since 1 + 1 + 1/2 + 1/2 = 3.

In a typical "12&3" syncopation, the beat value of each step respectively is whole, half, half, whole. So the second AND third steps are twice as fast as the first and fourth.

Nonetheless, your teacher is probably right when he or she tells you that you have more time than you think. Chances are good that you're moving too fast, getting slightly ahead of the music, and not taking full advantage of the time you do have.

That's probably only part of the picture, however. One can actually place their footfalls exactly on time and still give observers the impression of rushing, based on the quality of the movement. Qualities that tend to convey anxiousness and rushing are unnecessary tightness of muscles, loose or sloppy leg and foot action, body moving too far ahead of the feet, and dancing too high with the center of gravity.

I recommend shifting your priorities from timing first to quality of movement first. That's not to say that any aspect of your dancing is NOT important, but that you should simply rearrange the order of importance so that, at least temporarily, quality becomes your #1 priority, and timing comes after that. One way to do that is to turn the music off and treat every step of the syncopation as though you have all the time in the world. Recognize the qualities that make the movement better when danced this way (or better yet, have a teacher help you do this), and then reintroduce the music at a much slower tempo. Do your best to maintain the same quality of action, and if you fall below a certain threshold (say, 80%), either slow down or turn off the music and build more slowly.

Eventually, you should be able to achieve a nice quality of action at full speed, at which point people will stop saying that you're "rushing". Realize that it's physically impossible to dance exactly the same at any two significantly different speeds, so don't make that your goal. The idea is simply to improve your dancing at full speed by injecting as much quality as is physically possible, which is less than you'll have without music, but probably much more than you have now.

Jonathan Atkinson
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