The Dancing Bug

Crunching the Numbers

Posted on: March 28, 2013

Hey, it has been a loooong time since I blathered on about footwork variations. Far too long. As my loyal readers know, I’m a huge fan of footwork, not just for its showoffyness, but for what practicing it does for your brain, coordination, musicality, conditioning and a whole bunch of other good stuff. Plus, it’s just fun to do.

Now sometimes when I say footwork variations, I’m talking about sticking jazz steps into your basic. This isn’t one of those times. Today I’m purely talking numbers. I’m talking about how we can take our normal eight counts and divide them up in a bunch of different ways.

What I’m referring to are the “ands.” You know, “one, two, three AND four.” That’s step, step, triple step, right? Well, we can take that “and” and move it anywhere in those four counts. We can take it out from between three and four, and stick it, for example, between one and two. Now we have “one AND two, three four.” This translates to triple step, step, step. Perfectly legal.

For any given four counts, there are four different places you can put the “and.” And every eight count pattern consists, obviously, of two of those possible four-count variations. According to my calculations, that makes sixteen different eight-count patterns, just from moving the “ands.”

When you move the triples to different spots like this, suddenly you have new syncopation patterns. This opens up whole new realms of awesomeness. And this is the sort of thing the pros do all the time in their dancing. But for us normal dancers, it takes a bit of working out for the information to get from our brains to our feet. It’s definitely worth the effort to get it all figured out.

Now just because I’m so nice, I’ll save you the trouble. Here’s the sixteen patterns I came up with:

  1. 1 2 3 & 4 5 6 7 & 8
  2. 1 2 3 & 4 5 & 6 7 8
  3. 1 2 3 & 4 5 6 & 7 8
  4. 1 2 3 & 4 5 6 7 8 &
  5. 1 & 2 3 4 5 6 7 & 8
  6. 1 & 2 3 4 5 & 6 7 8
  7. 1 & 2 3 4 5 6 & 7 8
  8. 1 & 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 &
  9. 1 2 & 3 4 5 6 7 & 8
  10. 1 2 & 3 4 5 & 6 7 8
  11. 1 2 & 3 4 5 6 & 7 8
  12. 1 2 & 3 4 5 6 7 8 &
  13. 1 2 3 4 & 5 6 7 & 8
  14. 1 2 3 4 & 5 & 6 7 8
  15. 1 2 3 4 & 5 6 & 7 8
  16. 1 2 3 4 & 5 6 7 8 &

Like I said, the pros do these sorts of footwork variations constantly. Just watch any competition clip on You Tube. But you have to actually look at their feet to see it. If you’re not looking at their feet, you might miss it, because their footwork doesn’t throw off the rest of their dancing, and it doesn’t disturb their connection. That’s what we’re after. And that’s why it’s so important to drill this stuff.

I suggest taking each of these patterns and practicing it in the following ways:

First, simply practice it in place, just to get the syncopation in your feet. As always, practice to music. Once your brain and your feet are communicating, the next thing is to practice dancing the pattern as smoothly as possible. Don’t let your head bob up and down. This will help make sure your footwork doesn’t screw up your partner.

Then practice it the opposite way: try to get level changes in there. Does the pattern suggest any jazz steps or crazy stuff to you? Make it as big as possible. This is so you can use the variation at any point in your dancing where you’re not connected to your partner and you want to show off.

Now go back to dancing smoothly. The next thing is to try taking the variation and turning with it. Use the footwork pattern while you turn in place, both clockwise and counterclockwise. This is because sometimes we have to turn while we’re dancing :)

And because sometimes we have to move in a straight line while we’re dancing, the next thing you want to do is practice your pattern moving forward, moving backward, and moving from right to left and from left to right.

Finally, take your pattern and move all around the floor with it, randomly. This is sometimes referred to as “dancing.” Dance all around with your pattern and enjoy your music and the fact that you’re getting more awesome every day!

Practice a different pattern every day and reap the healthful dance benefits :)

4 Responses to "Crunching the Numbers"

I miss this! Reading this post has reminded me how much your blog has influenced my dancing for the better. Thanks for writing it!

Thank you, that’s very kind :) I’m glad it’s been useful to you!

I did some similar crunching recently. Except I allowed for multiple &s, and syncopations that omit a count: 12&3&45&78. And also completley dropping counts 123_56_8. Doing that, you have 16 patterns per two count. Remove the one with no step taken and you have 15. Over 8 counts that’s over 40000 step patterns (some of them don’t make sense or work better with kick ball changes). Require that they have an even number of steps: over 20000. Require that they have at least 2 steps per 2 counts and its still nearly 5000 patterns.

If only one in 10 of these actually made sense to do, that’s a lotta patterns!

Holy smokes! I like the way your mind works :)

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