Use Rolling Count to Dance the Heartbeat

West Coast Swing Online Musicality & Timing

Many beginners struggle to dance rolling count songs because they don’t hear many rolling count songs played. But, while blues music is played much less frequently than 10 years ago, a lot of contemporary music has opportunities to dance rolling count—if you know what to listen for.

Many contemporary songs, especially in the lyrical style, use the rhythm section to create a heartbeat: ba-DUM, ba-DUM, ba-DUM. Although the song itself does not use a shuffle rhythm, rolling count matches the heartbeat pulse very well. When you learn how to listen for that element of the songs, you can find many more opportunities to use rolling count on the social floor!

The Drill: Find a contemporary song that has a heartbeat in the rhythm section, such as Open by Rhye. Count the song using the rolling count: &a1 &a2 &a3 &a4, etc. You should feel like the rolling count fits the heartbeat pulse better than a straight count would. Even if the rolling count isn’t a perfect fit, the syncopation of the a and the following beat should match the dynamic of the heartbeat.

Once you can hear the syncopation in the heartbeat and connect it in your head with the rolling count, try dancing some basics using the rolling count. Pay attention to how your body expresses the a and the following beat. Again, it should capture the feeling of the heartbeat much more than a straight count triple rhythm would.

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