Shuffling With Syncopated Triples

West Coast Swing Online Footwork

Last week, we looked at how the shuffle rhythm drives the rolling count triple in WCS. Now it’s time to practice the shuffle feel in our syncopated triples.

First, a reminder: a normal triple has a step on the downbeat, a step on the upbeat, and a step somewhere between the downbeat and upbeat. In straight time, we count the triples with an &: we say 3&4, 5&6. With the rolling count, we use the “a” beat—3a4, 5a6—to push the middle step of the triple closer to the upbeat.

The rolling count triple, with the middle step closer to the upbeat

The rolling count triple, with the middle step closer to the upbeat

In a syncopated triple, the timing changes. Now, the first step will happen before the downbeat; the second step is on the downbeat and the third step is on the upbeat.

Syncopated rolling triple

The rolling syncopated triple, with the first step occurring before the downbeat

In any triple rhythm, the step between the beats creates more energy going into the full beat. So, our normal triple has a natural accent on the upbeat. The same principle applies in our syncopated triple: the step between the previous upbeat and the downbeat creates an accent on the downbeat.

(As a sidenote, you can easily see the influence of the music on the dance’s pulsing. The next time you go social dancing, watch the dance floor during a club-style song. You will see tons of dancers doing &34 in their basic six-count rhythm instead of 3&4, especially on tuck moves like the sugar tuck or left side tuck. Because many club songs accent the downbeat as much as the upbeat, dancers are syncopating their triples to hit that accent as an unconscious habit.)

The Drill: Put on a song with a shuffle rhythm and practice dancing syncopated triples. A great slow song with shuffle rhythms is Baby What You Want Me To Do by Etta James. It will be easiest to get started if you count &a7&a8 rather than 7, 8 because the first step of the syncopated triple can catch you by surprise if you aren’t already thinking about a counts.

You should be able to match the shuffle rhythm with your syncopated triples. Remember that usually the drummer is doing a shuffle rhythm for both the downbeat and the upbeat. We normally dance to the shuffle leading into the upbeat because WCS is pulsed on the upbeats, but you can call attention to the shuffle leading into the downbeat with your syncopated triples.

Your goal for this drill is to become as comfortable smoothly dancing the syncopated triple on the shuffle rhythm as you are with your normal triples. If you feel like you’re getting off time, make sure that you are rolling through the whole downbeat: that step now gets a full beat of music, not the partial beat of a normal triple.

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