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Annotation for Dancers Sheet Music Rhythms - How they are Established


Annotation for Dancers Sheet Music


Sheet Music - Annotation for Dancers Sheet Music

Skippy Blair © 1985 Rev. 8/02 – 5/03 - 8/04 - 7/05 - 9-08 

There is one Downbeat and one Upbeat in every 2-Beat Dance Rhythm. There are six available Counts in each 2-Beat Rhythm UnitOne Downbeat, one Upbeat,  PLUS one &-Count and one a-Count that precedes each Beat of Music.  Put those counts together and you have a full Rolling Count Dance Rhythm: &a1 &a2”.  Those 2 Beats of music use 6 Counts.

In 4/4 time, this rectangle represents one 2-Beat Dance Rhythm (2-Beat Unit)       

The rhythm structure always includes one Downbeat, followed by one Upbeat.

Downbeats are the odd numbers: Beats “1, 3, 5, and 7” of every Set-of-8.  Upbeats are the even numbers: Beats “2, 4, 6, and 8” of every Set-of-8.  ALL Dance Rhythms start with a Downbeat.  Every Dance Rhythm, to 4/4 time music, is confined to Counts: “&a1 &a2”  - “&a3 &a4” - “&a5 &a6” or “&a7 &a8”.   There are no Dance Rhythms that start on an Upbeat. 

In 3/4 time, the rectangle contains a black stripe, representing one 3-Beat Dance Rhythm (3-Beat UNIT)  This is a Waltz Rhythm.  It contains one Downbeat and two Upbeats. The Downbeat always comes first. 

The most recognized annotations of the Universal Unit System® are the Dots, Slashes and Circles. With the use of the Dots and Slashes, the dancer can SEE and Count the weight changes (Steps) in each Dance Rhythm.  The number of weight changes establishes the  Dance Rhythm.  Regardless of size, the DOTS represent  Weight Changes (“Count the Dots”).  Each Beat of Music (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8) - must have a symbol under each specific Beat of music in the Dance Rhythm.  In basic Social Dance, it will be a black DOT or a SLASH.  There will never be an empty space under a Beat of Music (either Downbeat or Upbeat).


= One weight change on a Beat of Music.  (2 sizes of Dots - Large and Smaller))


= A weight change on an &-Count or an a-Count - placed under that specific count.


= A Slash represents a Beat of Music with no weight change.  ( a hold, kick, freeze)  Slashes should be placed under an actual beat of music - never under an “&” or an “a-Count.”   (K) = Kick. )   (Tch) =Touch   Most moves are written out and enclosed in parenthesis: (Hold) - (Knee Lift) - (Tap) - (Point) - (Drop) - etc.


= An Open Circle indicates a Hop, Slide, Scoot or Chug.  The Body moves but the weight stays on the same foot. Circles come in two sizes also, depending on placement.  Hops usually occur directly ON the Beat of the Music.  Skips, Scoots, and Chugs occur on the a-Counts just prior to the Beat. 

 &-Count – In a Rolling Count, Symbols are RARELY placed under the &-Count, except when stepping on both the &-Count and the a-CountA small DOT, under an &-Count, denotes a weight change on that specific “&”-Count.

a-CountA small DOT under an a-Count, denotes a weight change precisely on that “a”-Count.   (Used frequently for Syncopations and always used on Rolling Triples)

MARCHING (Double Rhythm) occurs by stepping on every Beat of the Music, alternating feet, either “Left Right - Left Right” or “Right Left - Right Left”. 

“Rolling Triples” occur when the SAME foot steps on both the Downbeat and the Upbeat.  The other foot simply steps on the a-Count, just before the Upbeat. “Step &-Step-Step” or “Left &-Right-Left” or “Right &-Left-Right”. (SAY the “& count” in order to keep the rhythm).

ALL Rhythms are mathematically pre-determined.  It is hard to imagine, but there are no “new” rhythms - no new syncopations.  We may rearrange rhythms that have a different look & style, but each distinctive rhythm already exists as a mathematical equation.  In addition to stepping precisely ON a Beat of Music, we create syncopations by stepping on an a-Count, - instead of stepping on the Beat of Music, or in addition to stepping on the Beat .  An exception is Hip Hop Swing - sometimes danced as Straight Count for musical interpretation - but only if the music hits a persistent accentuated “& Count.”  Some high level dancers are able to use Straight Count in the feet, while maintaining Rolling Count in the body.

SYMBOLS under the Counts (Direction refers to where the CPB travels before the foot lands)

L or R = Left or Right Foot -The line immediately below the rectangle generally shows which Foot is being used. (Smaller Capital letters indicate smaller steps).  3rd or 5th actually dictates foot positions. (Usually used to clarify specific foot positions that vary from the basic norm.) -   “T” (Together) is 1st position unless otherwise specified.

B or F = Stepping straight BACK or straight FORWARD in 4th Foot Position.              

S = SIDE  If Left foot is free – step Side Left to 2nd foot position with left foot and  if Right foot is free – step Side Right to 2nd foot position w/ right foot.

X = CROSS one foot over the other, with a backward motion, placing the toe of the crossing foot near the arch of the other foot. A CROSS is a weighted Foot Position.

OX = OPEN CROSS is a SIDE step to the opposite side as the foot that is stepping.   Dancer usually starts in 2nd foot position and rotates to an Open Cross.  Used in several West Coast Swing Whips.

T =  Together - Weight change in 1st Foot Position. (Sometimes in 3rd for WCS)

Tch = Touch - NOT a weight change.  An action of the free foot on a specific count.

pl =   In Place - your weight change returns to it’s last position.

HK= HOOK one foot behind the other, with a forward motion, placing the toe of the hooking foot near the arch of the other foot.  A HOOK is a weighted Foot Position.   

X/F= Cross in Front is a DIRECTION rather than a Foot Position.  As in a Grapevine that travels either left or right =  “Side - Cross in front - Side - Cross behind” etc.

X/B= Cross Behind is a DIRECTION rather than a Foot Position.  As in a Grapevine that travels either left or right =  “Side - Cross in front - Side - Cross behind” etc.

▲◄ ►▼= Wall Marks =  Wall the dancer is facing.  Top of the page = Forward Wall.  Left side of page = Left Wall.    Right side of page = Right Wall.   Bottom of page = Back Wall.

    (   )     = Inside the parenthesis notes an action of the free, non-weighted foot, clarifying an action that is NOT a weight change -Ban be a (Hold),  (Kick),  (Tap),  (Point), etc.

Curved Arrows show direction of a turn - place them under or around the specific appropriate count, or around the Foot - or the Direction.. 

= Straight Arrows show direction of Movement for specific body parts Foot positions are sometimes used for further clarification. (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, Hook or Cross)





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Rhythms - How they are Established



Rhythms - How they are Established (4/4 Time Music)

Skippy Blair  © 3-03, Rev. 4-09 

In 4/4 Time Music, the Beats of Music are grouped into 4 Beats per Measure.  However, these 4 Beats are not identical.  They come in pairs.  Each Downbeat is followed by an Upbeat.

Since Webster’s dictionary defines a Unit as the smallest section or part of something, we use the term Rhythm Unit to define the smallest component of Dance:  One Downbeat & one Upbeat equals one Rhythm Unit.  Two Rhythm Units form one Measure of 4/4 time music.

Each Dance Rhythm is recognized by the Number of Weight Changes within these 2 Beats of Music.  Learning Dance Rhythms and how they are established, forms a solid foundation for learning all forms of dance.

Because of the importance of Rhythms in Dance Education, the Golden State Dance Teachers Association developed an Annotation System, through the Universal Unit System®.  Each separate Flash Card graphically shows the weight changes and where they take place in each 2-Beat Dance Rhythm. 

  The RECTANGLE provides a border for each 2-Beat Dance Rhythm

                A Solid Dot represents a Weight change.  (Simply Count the Dots)  Large
                        Dots are on the beat of the music - Smaller dots for the “&” or the “a”

               Slashes represent Beats of Music where there are NO Weight Changes.
                        (Slashes do not appear under an “&” or an “a” count).
       O    A Circle represents a Hop or Scoot on the SAME foot.


The Four Basic Foundation Rhythms include: Blank - Single - Double and Triple.
A Delayed Single is a more advanced Rhythm, but necessary for all forms of Swing.

                     Blank Rhythm                                                   Single Rhythm

                          1              2                                                       1              2


     No Steps  (No Weight Changes)                          One Step to 2 beats of music

(Could be a Kick, Hold, or whatever)                      (Stepping only on the Downbeat)

A Slash is the Most important beat in any pattern 

                                             1              2                                                  1   &   a    2


                                        Double Rhythm                                             Triple Rhythm

                             2 Steps to 2 beats of music                          3 Steps to 2 beats of music

                                    Step on each Beat                           Step on each Beat plus the “a”    
                                   (either L-R or R-L )                              (Say: “&a STEP and Step-Step”)

One of the Primary differences between Lindy & West Coast Swing is what the Follower does
          when stepping  “Right – Left”. (That’s the Double Rhythm)  (see above)                               
The Follower does a Rock Step  (Away from each other – Opposition Resistance)
West Coast Swing
: The Follower does a Walk Forward ( Both partners move in same direction)