Many of you may have heard this term in lessons and workshops. But do you know what it is? What is Rolling Count?
Most answer with "&a1 &a2 &a3 &a4 &a5 &a6", which is correct...but if you're just trying to dance to a count, you're missing the point. To me, Rolling Count is more than just numbers. It's a notion, a concept, of perpetual motion. Since dancing is movement, and movement is energy, one can say that Rolling Count is the way to be in a constant state of movement. Putting it in the context of number counts makes it easier to process at first. Hopefully the student will start to feel the energy, more than just reciting numbers, becoming part of the body's natural movement. Here's a great article on Rolling Count , written by Skippy Blair, that's definitely worth reading.
So why do we start our journey in WCS with [1-2][3&4][5&6]? It's just easier to learn. Can you imagine having to learn a rolling count while learning new patterns and movement? Crazy!! That count will have dancing WCS but it won't be smooth and fluid. It'll feel jerky and flat and too fast. It lacks transition movement. Once my students have a better sense of timing in this dance, I move them out of this early count structure and into a basic Rolling Count. See it as a stepping stone into the full-feldged Rollng Count.
Start by adopting this new count where you place & between every beat. Looks like this: 1& 2& 3& 4& 5& 6&...etc. This is still Straight Count but it will help you transition to Rolling Count a bit better. It worked for me. This means that every beat number has an & attached to it that needs to be seen. Each beat now has two separate movements that must take place before you go to the next beat: the beat number and the &. You also know that only two of those &s actually have a weight change...in the triples. So, 3& and 5& have a double weight change. I call them "Active". All the other &s only mark that time in the music by collecting, or passing, by the foot. I call them "Passive". So now you have Active and Passive transitions. They both have to be seen.
Try this exercise:
It would feel/look like this:
These movements need to be done in time to the music (start with very slow music). This will help your body determine where the half beat is and be able to move accordingly in order to do it on time. As the songs gets faster, keep the movement of the &s on that half beat mark. Be extra aware of the foot placement when passing, collecting, the foot on the Passive transitions. Make sure the ankles line up at that time.
So let's get into the thick of it with the Rolling Count. Not only does it promote very smooth and fluid movement, it also helps you "swing" your dance. More on that timing on a future article. Let's start by saying that the "&s" never go down, meaning you don't step on them...any of them. They are meant to be only Passive (passing). Ever been told that "your dance needs to breathe more"? It really means that you're rushing through the transitions between the beats...aka, the &s. By making sure you transition properly, you slow down the movement hence "breathing" in the dance. So, if the &s don't go down, how do I do the triples? That's where the "a" comes is; as in 3 &a4. Since you can't step down on the "&", you now have to do it on the "a".
The motion of the triple, for example 3 &a4, will now be as follows (Leader footwork):
Even though the Rolling Count is most useful in the triples, it also plays a big part throughout your dance. Let's look at the walks and redirections. The collection of the feet that was discussed at the start of this article is now moved from the "&" to the "a", further slowing down the transition movement. When stepping down on any given beat number, only one part of your foot must be on the floor. You pick which one (ball of foot or heel) will help you most for the movement you want to do. I recommend stepping on the heel if you want to move forward, and ball of foot if you want to move back as those movements help you "roll" more efficiently in that direction. This will also improve your range of motion by preventing you dancing "flat-footed".
So, why is all this stuff important? I feel it's important for two main reasons: 1) it allows for smoother transitions between movements. 2) it puts you in complete control over your center tranfer rate on the foot. You now have more control over your movement in order to be more expressive musically. Is this easy to do? Not a chance! You must put in the time, on your own, to develop these skills and drill it into muscle memory. With practice, you can do it!! Please leave a comment below if you have any questions or suggestions.
Have a great practice and happy dancing!