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Count On It: How to Count While Dancing

Most of my students are not what I call "counters." Instead, they are more intuitive when responding to music. However, it is valuable to be able to understand the "math" of music. It's really easy once we break it down into parts; Beat, Measure, Rhythm, Tempo, Accent, and Time Signature.


A beat is a unit of counting.


A measure is a structure in which to arrange these units of counting.


A rhythm is the pattern or arrangement of these units of accounting within a measure.


A tempo is the speed at which this arrangement of beats is played.


An accent is an emphasized beat. It takes up the same time as an unaccented beat.


The count is the number of beats within a measure of music. For Westerners, this is expressed in something that we call a time signature, which means either 2/4, 4/4, 9/8, 6/8.

Music can be counted in two, four, or eight beats per a 4-count measure.

So, if you take a look at a 4/4 rhythm, that simply means that you count to four. However, there is time in between each count or beat, it is called the “and." 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &.

One of the first skills that a dancer needs to acquire is the ability to count Including the beat, which is the downbeat, and the “and,” which is the upbeat. This way you can confidently use the music while you are performing.

The same measure can be counted two ways, depending on the accent:

&     1    &      2     &     3     &     4


      1     &     2     &     3     &     4     &

And, there are two different ways to count; the Musical and the Dancer methods.

Dancer Counting Method: 1/4-Time

Musical Counting Method:1/4 Notes

1     X     X     X     2   X       X     X     3     X     X     X     4     X     X     X Dancer Counting Method: 1/2-Time Musical Counting Method: 1/8 Notes 1     X     &     X     2   X       &     X     3     X     &     X     4     X    &     X Dancer Counting Method: Full-Time Musical Counting Method:1/16 notes 1     E     &     A     2     E     &     A     3     E     &     A     4     E     &     A

RHYTHM IS A DANCER While playing the Finger Cymbals, keep in mind that a "whole beat can be expressed in one, two, three, or four strokes." While dancing with Finger Cymbals, "sometimes your step matches the rhythm completely, beat for beat, and sometimes it doesn’t, but the counting is the same." Just make sure that your "step always reflects the tempo of the music." So long as "your hands, your feet, and hips, are all following the beat of the music; they are all working together, and they are not opposing each other," you're starting out on the right foot!

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