Fill in the Dots to Dance Through the Beat

West Coast Swing Online Musicality & Timing

Have you ever had a teacher tell you to “dance through the beat” or “dance between the beats”? Dancing through the beat is the difference between the smooth, controlled look of a professional and the jerky, stumbling motion of a beginner. But what does that mean?

Instead of dancing, let’s draw a curve. We can start the curve with a couple of points:

pwcs curves-01

From this picture, you have a rough idea of what the curve will look like: it goes up, comes down a ways, and then shoots up again. But, you’re not sure yet exactly how the curve will get from each point to the next.

Let’s add in a couple more dots, like so:

pwcs curves-02

Now we’re getting a clearer picture of the curve. There’s a lot more definition around the bottom curve, and we’ve smoothed out the first rise.

If we keep adding dots, the curve will become smoother…
pwcs curves-03

… until eventually, the dots start to blur together into a single curve.

pwcs curves-04

Can you see the connection with dancing? We start off with the basic “points” on the curve: the foot placements of our patterns. But, it’s still a rough picture. To fill in the picture, we need to add more dots: rolling through the feet, contra-body rotation, hip action, arms, etc. By the time we’re adding details like body isolations or facial expressions, our dots are so small—and there are so many of them—that our motion looks like a continuous flow rather than discrete moments. This is dancing through the beat.

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