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I’m not much of a car person. In fact, I know nothing about cars. You could even say I’m “automobile challenged” most days. So when something feels off while I’m driving my Dodge Durango, or I start to hear strange noises from under the hood, all I do is pray I can get home in time to have my dad or brother fix it. Because there’s no way on earth I’d even know where to start let alone figure out what is going on.

Unfortunately, this past weekend, my car refused to start and no one was there to help. All I heard when I tried to start my Dodge were strange clicking noises. With the...

By: Lexi Reeve

Too often I hear people say, “Oh I would never do that,” or “That’s not for me, that’s too dangerous,” often in response to life experiences everyone who is physically able to do should do. Yes, there are negative statistics out there concerning the number of deaths related to certain activities, but there are statistics for everything. Since when did we start letting statistics rule our lives?

“Life is too short,” and “live everyday like it’s your last” shouldn’t just be favorite quotes we spout off—they really should be a way of life. To help you get started, I’ve listed five...

By: Serena Piper
Metroleta Team Member

Five months after graduation, I quit my illustrious full-time food service job, packed up my things in the trunk of my friend’s car and moved the nearest major city. Jobs – the kind that pay more than fifty dollars a day, and don’t require you to ignore the high-schoolish antics of a cast of apathetic co-workers – were on my mind. A lot of folks would say I made a big mistake.

Recessions are defined as a...

By: Joel DeVyldere
Metroleta Team Member

How many times a week do you see the kids mope around the house complaining they’re bored? In case you’re running out of ideas for them, the next time it happens, toss one of these suggestions their way. They’ll keep busy enough that you can prepare dinner, get some office work done, etc!

1. Make crayon art.

2. Blow up a bunch of balloons and see how many you can keep in the air at one time.

3. Write a short story complete with pictures.

4. Make a card for a...

By: Serena Piper

Most of my childhood memories consist of waking up at the crack of dawn, climbing into my dad’s SUV with my gear on hand, and heading up to Meadows for a ski day on the mountain. I’d been raised to be a skier since I was six years old, and some of my best memories took place at the Mt. Hood Meadows ski resort. Learning to ski with my brother on the bunny slopes, drinking hot cocoa in the lodge to warm up after a long day in the snow, and even night skiing with the mountain all lit up in the dark, finding my way down to the chairlift with minimal lighting and nothing but a layer of white in...

By: Lexi Reeve
Metroleta Team Member

TRENDING

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Most of my columns for Better Living have been about how to better our own lives, but here’s a new idea: what if you could have a better day by making someone else’s day better? No, it doesn’t involve spending a ton of money. In fact, only some of my ten suggestions below involve spending your own money.

Studies show that when we choose to do good things for others—such as donating to a charity—we activate the brain’s subgenual area, the part of the brain that produces feel-good chemicals, like oxytocin. This release of feel-good chemicals gives us a kind of high, making us want to...

By: Serena Piper
Metroleta Team Member
Decorated Yard on Peacock Lane, Portland OR

Tis the season! If you want to get into the holiday spirit this winter break, why not visit some major attractions in Portland, Oregon with beautiful light displays, Christmas carols, and lots of hot chocolate on the ready? Here are some of the best places to visit in Portland to get into the holiday spirit! 

1. Zoo Lights

Every year, the Oregon Zoo transforms their park into a magnificent light exhibit filled with decorated animal figures, moving ornament displays, and plenty of places to buy hot...

By: Lexi Reeve

Summer is slowly coming to a close, and I’m about to start my senior year of college. Reflecting back on my last three years at the University of Oregon, I distinctly remember the beginning of my freshman year and being terrified of the transition from high school to college. It’s a difficult process regardless, but if you have no experience with university academics, it can be stressful. From understanding the credit hours you’ll need to the university major requirements, to the amount of coursework each night, it’s overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re doing.

So...

By: Lexi Reeve
Metroleta Team Member
help wanted, joblessness, job search

It’s 11:30 a.m., my second day in Portland, and I’m already starting to grow nervous. This job search is going well if you count resumes distributed. If, however, you’re counting interviews scheduled, positive replies, or even "yes, we’re hiring"’s, you’ll be relatively down for the count.  

I’m moving storefront to storefront asking if they’re hiring, like my mom told me to do when I was 16 and wanted a car. Outside the shops,...

By: Joel DeVyldere
Metroleta Team Member

Most of my childhood memories consist of waking up at the crack of dawn, climbing into my dad’s SUV with my gear on hand, and heading up to Meadows for a ski day on the mountain. I’d been raised to be a skier since I was six years old, and some of my best memories took place at the Mt. Hood Meadows ski resort. Learning to ski with my brother on the bunny slopes, drinking hot cocoa in the lodge to warm up after a long day in the snow, and even night skiing with the mountain all lit up in the dark, finding my way down to the chairlift with minimal lighting and nothing but a layer of white in...

By: Lexi Reeve
Metroleta Team Member

Splitting Beats

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Splitting Beats

Go to 3 different ballroom classes and you’ll probably hear 3 different ways of counting calls:

  • “One, Two, Threeeeeeee, Four”
  • “Quick, Quick, Slooooooow”
  • “One, and, Two, and, Three, and Four, and...”

AND SO ON! It gets worse. Go to a Salsa class, and you’d hear “...,1, 2, 3, ..., 5, 6, 7, ...” (I know! where’d the 4 and 8 go?). Or “..., 2, 3, 4, ..., 6, 7, 8”. And that depends if you’re in an “on-1” or “on-2” school. Ha! It’s enough to test the determination of any beginner. So let’s get to the basics then, and sort out this jumble of counting methods.

First the Basics

In the interest of uniformity, all figures or dances referred to are as specified in the INTERNATIONAL STYLE SYLLABI, of the Modern or Latin divisions of the ISTD. Also, I will use numerals for the numbers (1234), “&” for “and”, “Q” for “Quick”, “S” for Slow, and “a” for “Ah”.

123 is the same as QQQ is the same as 3 foot-stomps on the floor is the same as the 3 beats in a Waltz measure or bar.

1234 is the same as QQQQ is the same as 4 foot-stomps on the floor is the same as the 4 beats in a 4/4 bar or measure like the FOXTROT or English Quickstep.

Unless you’re way advanced—in which case there is no need for you to read this article, really—the preceding counts typically mean that your teacher wants you to take 3 (or 4) steps to her counting. So for the 1-3 steps of the Waltz Natural Turn, your teacher will count “1,2,3”.  One step, one beat. Typically.

Now, to emphasize a particular dragging motion or to encourage expression, that teacher might say: “one, twoooooo, threeeeee” (emphasizing the closing of the feet common in the Waltz). Where it gets weird is when your teacher starts counting the Waltz as QQS (though this is arguably a common count among your more advanced dancers—it emphasizes expression instead of accuracy. But more on that later).

The Whole (note) Problem

If you’re a music major, or have had some form of music training, this will get confusing. So I will add a little more detail. (My music-major students usually get it after a couple of passes, so there’s hope.)

Three Things to Remember:

First, a reference to a “whole” note (which truly and colloquially, refers to a BEAT in a measure) in ballroom dancing is TYPICALLY different from a whole note (or semi-breve) in music-theory (as in a 4-beat note in a 4/4 measure or bar). You must understand the context in which it is discussed.

Second, a syncopation in ballroom dancing is VERY different from a syncopation in music-theory. Syncopation (in ballroom) refers to splitting the beats so you can take more steps or movement.

Third, by convention/general-usage, each BEAT in a musical measure, is given a count of either 1,2,3,4, or Q (or a foot-stomp, for some teachers). A “slow” count (“S”) is typically used where the measure is 4/4ths. The “slow” is typically assigned the value of two (2) beats (two foot stomps, or a foot-stomp and a pause).

You may recall that except for the Waltz which has 3 beats to a measure, the typical timing in ballroom dancing is 4-beats to a measure). Here’s a Wikipedia article about beats, bars, and measures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bar_(music).

Beats and Steps

The duration or amount of time it takes to make a “dance” step in a figure is measured in beats (often erroneously referred to by some teachers as a “whole” note). A step may be measured in a fraction of a beat, a whole beat, a whole beat and a fraction, or two (or more) beats. For the uber-technical, in Modern/Standard, a dance step is measured from “feet-together” (or when the feet PASS each other) to “feet-together”.

First the simple stuff: a step for each beat. The Waltz Natural Turn has 6 steps taken over 2 bars or measures. That equates to 6 actual steps for every beat of music.

Next, combining beats. The Foxtrot Feather Figure has 3 steps taken over a measure of 4-beats (4-beats per bar in 4/4 music). The first step is taken for a duration of 2 beats (beats 1-2 or “SLOW” or “SLOOOOOOOOW”). The last 2 steps are taken in the last 2 beats (QQ or 3,4).  

It is important to note that there are many figures that do not fit in measures or group of bars (instead, they "bleed" into adjacent beats, like dances that start their figures on the 2nd or 3rd beat of the bar). A well-known example is the American-Style Foxtrot basic figure. The usual count for basic is SSQQ, taking one and a half bars, or 6 beats, which does not fit neatly into 2 bars of 4/4 music. Another good example is the Rhumba Basic figure is “2, 3, 4-1”, which some express as “QQS” but count it starting from the 2nd beat of the measure. The 2nd and 3rd beats are taken with 1 step apiece, and the 4th and following 1st beat is taken in one step as a “Slow”.

It should be noted here that there is another way of looking at measuring timing that is often introduced at an advanced stage of learning. This is especially true for the Foxtrot and the Waltz. The "BASIC" or simpler way of counting beats, i.e. from closed-feet to closed-feet, is done here to introduce the subject to beginning and intermediate dancers. It is important to note that the steps in Foxtrot are usually measured by body-movement or body-flight.

Of Splits and Syncopations

Things get complicated when a beat is split and thus becomes a ballroom “syncopation” (remember, this is NOT the music-theory syncopation. So from this point on, when I refer to “syncopations” or “sync” or “syncopate”, I am referring to BALLROOM syncopation).

3 Things about syncopations

First, a syncopation is the act of dividing a beat so that you can take more than 1 step in the duration of that ONE beat. There are two ways a beat may be divided or syncopated. a) You may split the beat in HALF (each half is called an “AND” and represented by an ampersand or “&”, or b) you may divide the beat in THIRDS (each third (1/3) is TYPICALLY called an “AH” and represented with an “a”. Thus, a syncopated beat is typically performed with 2 steps, taken at a 1/2 x 1/2 split, or a 2/3 x 1/3 division. Taking 3 steps during a syncopated beat is extremely rare, except perhaps in the slowest of Foxtrot movements.

Sample syncopated timing counts are “12&3” (2nd beat is split), “1&23” (1st beat is split), “QQS&” (the 4th beat is split), “1a23a4” (2nd and 4th beats are divided. The “a” is a 1/3 of a beat, the “2” and “4” remainders are 2/3 of a beat).

Second, (again "TYPICALLY") when splitting a beat in HALF, the syncopated HALF BEAT symbol (the “AND” represented by an ampersand or “&”) is placed AFTER the beat number that is split. Thus, the count: “1&23” means that the first beat is split—the “1” and the “&” share the same amount of duration or time. The “12&3” timing means that the 2nd beat is split, and so on.

Third, the syncopated THIRD symbol (the “a”) is USUALLY PLACED BEFORE the beat number that is divided. Thus “a123” means that the first beat is divided—the “a” and the “1” counts have a 1/3 and 2/3 beat duration, respectively. BUT NOTE that this is by general practice only. You might find the "a" placed AFTER the count that was split, which is entirely valid too. (So in the previous example, it would come out as "1a23" instead). Dividing a beat into 1/3 has been the realm of Latin dancing. There, like in the Samba, the accent or syncopation placement works nicely by placing the "a" BEFORE the split number. When in doubt, ask the teacher where the split is.

Applications

I would recommend that beginning and intermediate dancers learn the syncopated steps prescribed in syllabi. There are figures that have steps that are designed to be syncopated. Typically, Chassés (like those from a Promenade Position) are syncopated with timing like “12&3”, splitting the 2nd step. These types of steps are often specified in detail in the syllabi of the dance styles.

Syncopation and Expression in Dance

Expression is indispensable in high-level dance. And to achieve expressive movement, you need to know where to put fast and slow movement to provide good contrast. This is achieved simply by stealing a bit of time from a step, and putting into another beat so you can hold a pose longer or stretch a movement better and more expressively.

As a final example, consider the first 3 steps of the Waltz Natural Turn. You can take the timing as “1, 2, 3” with precise metronomic dullness. Or, you can stretch the 3rd beat by changing the timing of the first two steps to 2/3 time each and pushing the 2/3 you gained (1/3 + 1/3)  into the 3rd step. Thus the time duration for each step of the figure becomes (2/3), (2/3), (1 + 2/3).

Lastly, a good understanding of syncopation is necessary if you want to raise your dancing from good to excellent. The ability to syncopate steps at will, when mastered, can open an entire new world of expressiveness.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Happy dancing!

See you next time.
MadMaximus

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Go to 3 different ballroom classes and you’ll probably hear 3 different ways of counting calls:

  • “One, Two, Threeeeeeee, Four”
  • “Quick, Quick, Slooooooow”
  • “One, and, Two, and, Three, and Four, and...”

AND SO ON! It gets worse. Go to a Salsa class, and you’d hear “...,1, 2, 3, ..., 5, 6, 7, ...” (I know! where’d the 4 and 8 go?). Or “..., 2, 3, 4, ..., 6, 7, 8”. And that depends if you’re in an “on-1” or “on-2” school. Ha! It’s enough to test the determination of any beginner. So let’s get to the basics then, and sort out this jumble of counting methods.

First the Basics

In the interest of uniformity, all figures or dances referred to are as specified in the INTERNATIONAL STYLE SYLLABI, of the Modern or Latin divisions of the ISTD. Also, I will use numerals for the numbers (1234), “&” for “and”, “Q” for “Quick”, “S” for Slow, and “a” for “Ah”.

123 is the same as QQQ is the same as 3 foot-stomps on the floor is the same as the 3 beats in a Waltz measure or bar.

1234 is the same as QQQQ is the same as 4 foot-stomps on the floor is the same as the 4 beats in a 4/4 bar or measure like the FOXTROT or English Quickstep.

Unless you’re way advanced—in which case there is no need for you to read this article, really—the preceding counts typically mean that your teacher wants you to take 3 (or 4) steps to her counting. So for the 1-3 steps of the Waltz Natural Turn, your teacher will count “1,2,3”.  One step, one beat. Typically.

Now, to emphasize a particular dragging motion or to encourage expression, that teacher might say: “one, twoooooo, threeeeee” (emphasizing the closing of the feet common in the Waltz). Where it gets weird is when your teacher starts counting the Waltz as QQS (though this is arguably a common count among your more advanced dancers—it emphasizes expression instead of accuracy. But more on that later).

The Whole (note) Problem

If you’re a music major, or have had some form of music training, this will get confusing. So I will add a little more detail. (My music-major students usually get it after a couple of passes, so there’s hope.)

Three Things to Remember:

First, a reference to a “whole” note (which truly and colloquially, refers to a BEAT in a measure) in ballroom dancing is TYPICALLY different from a whole note (or semi-breve) in music-theory (as in a 4-beat note in a 4/4 measure or bar). You must understand the context in which it is discussed.

Second, a syncopation in ballroom dancing is VERY different from a syncopation in music-theory. Syncopation (in ballroom) refers to splitting the beats so you can take more steps or movement.

Third, by convention/general-usage, each BEAT in a musical measure, is given a count of either 1,2,3,4, or Q (or a foot-stomp, for some teachers). A “slow” count (“S”) is typically used where the measure is 4/4ths. The “slow” is typically assigned the value of two (2) beats (two foot stomps, or a foot-stomp and a pause).

You may recall that except for the Waltz which has 3 beats to a measure, the typical timing in ballroom dancing is 4-beats to a measure). Here’s a Wikipedia article about beats, bars, and measures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bar_(music).

Beats and Steps

The duration or amount of time it takes to make a “dance” step in a figure is measured in beats (often erroneously referred to by some teachers as a “whole” note). A step may be measured in a fraction of a beat, a whole beat, a whole beat and a fraction, or two (or more) beats. For the uber-technical, in Modern/Standard, a dance step is measured from “feet-together” (or when the feet PASS each other) to “feet-together”.

First the simple stuff: a step for each beat. The Waltz Natural Turn has 6 steps taken over 2 bars or measures. That equates to 6 actual steps for every beat of music.

Next, combining beats. The Foxtrot Feather Figure has 3 steps taken over a measure of 4-beats (4-beats per bar in 4/4 music). The first step is taken for a duration of 2 beats (beats 1-2 or “SLOW” or “SLOOOOOOOOW”). The last 2 steps are taken in the last 2 beats (QQ or 3,4).  

It is important to note that there are many figures that do not fit in measures or group of bars (instead, they "bleed" into adjacent beats, like dances that start their figures on the 2nd or 3rd beat of the bar). A well-known example is the American-Style Foxtrot basic figure. The usual count for basic is SSQQ, taking one and a half bars, or 6 beats, which does not fit neatly into 2 bars of 4/4 music. Another good example is the Rhumba Basic figure is “2, 3, 4-1”, which some express as “QQS” but count it starting from the 2nd beat of the measure. The 2nd and 3rd beats are taken with 1 step apiece, and the 4th and following 1st beat is taken in one step as a “Slow”.

It should be noted here that there is another way of looking at measuring timing that is often introduced at an advanced stage of learning. This is especially true for the Foxtrot and the Waltz. The "BASIC" or simpler way of counting beats, i.e. from closed-feet to closed-feet, is done here to introduce the subject to beginning and intermediate dancers. It is important to note that the steps in Foxtrot are usually measured by body-movement or body-flight.

Of Splits and Syncopations

Things get complicated when a beat is split and thus becomes a ballroom “syncopation” (remember, this is NOT the music-theory syncopation. So from this point on, when I refer to “syncopations” or “sync” or “syncopate”, I am referring to BALLROOM syncopation).

3 Things about syncopations

First, a syncopation is the act of dividing a beat so that you can take more than 1 step in the duration of that ONE beat. There are two ways a beat may be divided or syncopated. a) You may split the beat in HALF (each half is called an “AND” and represented by an ampersand or “&”, or b) you may divide the beat in THIRDS (each third (1/3) is TYPICALLY called an “AH” and represented with an “a”. Thus, a syncopated beat is typically performed with 2 steps, taken at a 1/2 x 1/2 split, or a 2/3 x 1/3 division. Taking 3 steps during a syncopated beat is extremely rare, except perhaps in the slowest of Foxtrot movements.

Sample syncopated timing counts are “12&3” (2nd beat is split), “1&23” (1st beat is split), “QQS&” (the 4th beat is split), “1a23a4” (2nd and 4th beats are divided. The “a” is a 1/3 of a beat, the “2” and “4” remainders are 2/3 of a beat).

Second, (again "TYPICALLY") when splitting a beat in HALF, the syncopated HALF BEAT symbol (the “AND” represented by an ampersand or “&”) is placed AFTER the beat number that is split. Thus, the count: “1&23” means that the first beat is split—the “1” and the “&” share the same amount of duration or time. The “12&3” timing means that the 2nd beat is split, and so on.

Third, the syncopated THIRD symbol (the “a”) is USUALLY PLACED BEFORE the beat number that is divided. Thus “a123” means that the first beat is divided—the “a” and the “1” counts have a 1/3 and 2/3 beat duration, respectively. BUT NOTE that this is by general practice only. You might find the "a" placed AFTER the count that was split, which is entirely valid too. (So in the previous example, it would come out as "1a23" instead). Dividing a beat into 1/3 has been the realm of Latin dancing. There, like in the Samba, the accent or syncopation placement works nicely by placing the "a" BEFORE the split number. When in doubt, ask the teacher where the split is.

Applications

I would recommend that beginning and intermediate dancers learn the syncopated steps prescribed in syllabi. There are figures that have steps that are designed to be syncopated. Typically, Chassés (like those from a Promenade Position) are syncopated with timing like “12&3”, splitting the 2nd step. These types of steps are often specified in detail in the syllabi of the dance styles.

Syncopation and Expression in Dance

Expression is indispensable in high-level dance. And to achieve expressive movement, you need to know where to put fast and slow movement to provide good contrast. This is achieved simply by stealing a bit of time from a step, and putting into another beat so you can hold a pose longer or stretch a movement better and more expressively.

As a final example, consider the first 3 steps of the Waltz Natural Turn. You can take the timing as “1, 2, 3” with precise metronomic dullness. Or, you can stretch the 3rd beat by changing the timing of the first two steps to 2/3 time each and pushing the 2/3 you gained (1/3 + 1/3)  into the 3rd step. Thus the time duration for each step of the figure becomes (2/3), (2/3), (1 + 2/3).

Lastly, a good understanding of syncopation is necessary if you want to raise your dancing from good to excellent. The ability to syncopate steps at will, when mastered, can open an entire new world of expressiveness.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Happy dancing!

See you next time.
MadMaximus

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