Many dancers habitually syncopate their triples. Instead of dancing 3&4, they dance &3, 4. While there’s nothing wrong with a syncopation when done intentionally, doing it all the time is a bad habit that should be corrected.
Syncopating the triple is common on tuck-type movements because it creates the compression on the downbeat, which is very useful when you need to accent a musical hit. However, many dancers use that syncopation inadvertently in all of their movements—regardless of whether or not there is an accent or if the syncopation would show anything in that pattern.
The syncopated triple introduces some problems when done habitually. The biggest issue is that it encourages rushing. In order to step the & before the downbeat, the dancer had to cut short the step beforehand (e.g., count 2 before a 3&4 triple that was syncopated to &3, 4). Now the dancer has to done several short steps and has to fill the time for both the 3 and the 4 with one step per beat. Many dancers struggle with that change. Newer dancers will frequently end up off time—too early—for their anchor. More experienced dancers will delay their movement to start the anchor on time, but lose body flight during that time because they can’t control their movement that slowly.
Habitually syncopating the triple also affects your partner. It can change their timing if you are not good at maintaining your body flight unchanged when altering your footwork. Syncopating unintentionally can also take away styling options from your partner. As a result, it’s important to be deliberate when you want to syncopate—and to keep the standard rhythm as your default.
The Drill: Put on some music and dance basic patterns while concentrating on the timing of your first triple. Be certain that your first step of the triple happens on 3, not before. It can be helpful to have a friend watch without dancing and check your timing (or record yourself to check on video).
Be vigilant about your timing. Because the syncopated triple is an unintentional habit for many people, you may not realize that you are stepping before the beat. Having a partner or video as an objective reference is helpful, but ultimately you need to become aware of when you are moving your feet. Pay attention!
Because the syncopated triple is so common in tuck-style patterns, be sure to dance a lot of passing tuck turns, sugar tucks, etc. to non-syncopated timing.
You may find it easier to practice this exercise with music that does not feature many accents on the downbeats. Blues music or old school R&B are great choices; contemporary music is more likely to accidentally reinforce your bad habits because the music naturally includes hits on the downbeats.
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