Although we learn the west coast rhythm of double triple triple by rote, higher-level dancers actually lead (and follow) doubles and triples differently. By learning how to lead or follow a specific rhythm pattern, it becomes possible to dance variations such as triple double triple or double double double.
In lead-follow terms, triple steps occur for two reasons. First, triples occur because of an acceleration; as more energy is put into the connection, the body is asked to move more. Nota Bene: this does not mean that triple steps are necessarily bigger; the movement can come from rotation or redirection as well as distance. Second, triples can occur because the follower’s center is asked to move further than two weight transfers will permit. Again, this does not need to occur because of distance down the slot.
The Drill: With a partner, practice leading and following side passes. To create a triple on 3 & 4, the leader should give the follower a slight acceleration through the connection on 3. The follower should concentrate on moving in time with the connection, which will result in an acceleration of the center beginning on beat 3. In response to the energy in the connection, the follower should feel the need to take a triple step in order to keep the feet under the center.
Leaders, be careful not to initiate the acceleration before 3. If you create the acceleration on beat 2, you will ask the follower to do a syncopated triple of & 3 4 rather than 3 & 4. Being able to control that syncopation is a useful tool, especially for hitting accents on beat 3 of the pattern, but it should not be your basic. You should practice leading the difference between 3 & 4 and & 3 4 with your partner.
Bonus Variations: Once the partners feel comfortable creating and responding to the acceleration on 3, the leader should try taking out that energy. If the leader does not accelerate through count 3, the follower should continue to do double rhythms (walk walk). Try changing it up: lead a mix of normal count side passes and side passes of all walks.
Once you both are able to respond to the acceleration for a triple or the lack thereof, extend that principle into your other patterns. It should be possible to lead/follow all your basics with no triples, to lead/follow where the triples occur in the basics, and even to lead patterns of all triple rhythms (although your footwork will need to adjust).
For a gold star, try leading/following a right side barrel roll with nothing but walks. Again, the key is to not provide any acceleration into the spins. If the lead is constant, the follower should not feel the energy asking for a triple step through the spin.