Freebie Video



(NOTE: Click on links in the Contents to drop down to a video or jump over to a free chapter)

Intro: 10 Tips to Fred Astairedom …………… 11

Part 1 – Music

Chapter 1: The Beat of the Music ……………………………………… page 23

Chapter 2: Counting Music: Finding the Sets of 8………….. page 29

  • Video 2.1: Count Music – Hear the Beat by Counting Sets of 8
  • Video 2.2: Skippy Blair counting sets of 8 with a hand exercise
  • Video 2.3: Count Music – 32-Beat Major Phrases

Chapter 3: Downbeat and Upbeat …………………………………….. page 38

  • Video 3.1: Hear the downbeat and upbeat in dance music


Part 2 – Rhythm

Chapter 4: Rhythm Patterns ……………………………………………. page 47

Chapter 5: Marking Rhythms ………………………………………….. page 61

  • Video 5.1: Basic Dance Rhythms: Single Rhythm

Chapter 6: Counting Step Patterns ………………………………….. page 68

Part 3 – Dancing

Chapter 7: Posture and Dance Frame ………………………………. page  81

Chapter 8: Positions ………………………………………………………… page  85

  • Video 8.1: Matching Resistance in Closed Ballroom Position

Chapter 9: Movement and Timing ……………………………………. page 87

Chapter 10: Lead and Follow …………………………………………… page 92

Chapter 11: Step Patterns ………………………………………………… page 100

  • Video 11.1: Survive Any Dance with the Basic Side Step


Part 4 – Survival

Chapter 12: Slow Dancing ……………………………………………….. page 111

Chapter 13: Survival Dancing …………………………………………… page 118

Chapter 14: Surviving the Wedding Dance ………………………… page 126

Chapter 15: 16 Tips for Surviving a Dance ………………………… page  132

The Last Word: Reality Check ………………………………………….. page 143

Glossary: Quick Definitions ………………………………………………. page  145

Meet the Author ……………………………………………………………….. page 149


Freebie Video


Here are the Freebie Videos that go with the book (page numbers refer to the book). Think short and homemade, not Spielberg meets Astaire. Vids I post that do not fall under Freebie Video will get tagged by topic, which can be searched under “Categories” in the sidebar. If you want to be alerted to new vids, subscribe to the blog or follow me on twitter. Lights, action, cheap-camera-and-iMovie! (Thanks to Skippy Blair at for some of the video clips on this page.)

Page 35 – Counting Sets of 8

Learning how to count sets of 8–a set of 8 is also called a mini-phrase–is one of the secrets to hearing the beat. Even if you can’t hear them, sets of 8 (sets of 6 in waltz) are in the music. Think of a mini-phrase as a “sentence” of music. These videos demonstrate counting sets of 8.

  • Counting sets of 8 in easy music (video: 4 min., 6 sec.):

  • Skippy Blair counting sets of 8 with a hand exercise (video: 1 min., 15 sec.):

Page 36 – Counting 32-Beat Phrases

While dancing to the 32-beat phrases is intermediate level material,  I think beginners should begin to develop an ear for this stuff. The 32-beat phrase (four sets of 8) is the most common type of major phrase. Think of a major phrase as a “paragraph” of music. This video demonstrates counting 32-beat phrases.

  • Counting 32-beat phrases in easy music (video: 6 min., 40 sec.):


Page 41 – Hear the Downbeat and Upbeat

While sets of 8 are the secret that defines the beat of the music, I feel the downbeat and upbeat are the secret to hearing the beat. Even if you can’t hear it, beats are naturally paired, a downbeat followed by an upbeat. This video identifies the downbeat and upbeat.

  • Hear the downbeat and upbeat in easy music (video: 5 min., 49 sec.):


Page 64 – Marking Single Rhythm

A single rhythm is one weight change in two beats of music (double rhythm is two weight changes in two beats of music, triple rhythm is three weight changes in two beats of music). In survival dancing, you’ll use mostly singles and doubles. While a double rhythm feels kind of like walking because you step on every beat of music, single rhythm steps on every other beat of music so it’s a little trickier. This video demonstrates single rhythm.

  • Marking single rhythm (video: 2 min., 41 sec.):


Page 85 – The Closed Position

The closed position is the familiar embrace used in most ballroom dances, although it has variations from dance to dance. It’s the dance position to use in survival dancing. Check out some images and a video clip on how to create a dance connection in the closed position.

  • Skippy Blair shows how to match resistance in the closed position (video: 3 min., 23 sec.):

Page 103 – The Side Step

The basic side step may be the easiest and most versatile step pattern on planet earth. Really, you can do this to just about any kind of music (okay, not a waltz). This video demonstrates the basic side step.

  • The basic side step with a rotation (video: 2 min., 15 sec.):


Page 119 – The Sway (aka Oversway)

The sway (technically known as an oversway) is something to fall back on anytime you get lost or confused or don’t know what you’re doing. But it needs to be done on time (weight changes occurring on the beat of the music) and with a little technique, otherwise you just get an awkward rocking back and forth. This video demonstrates the sway.

  • The sway basics


Buy the book on Amazon

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate December 9, 2015 at 3:06 pm

you know that’s funny what you mention about baollrom dancing being a competition and sport. salsa/latin/ANY kind of dancing is kinda like that in Malaysia. Historically, we don’t have a strong street/social dance tradition.Dancing is set in the palace of royalty or to be displayed for entertainment or for rituals (entertaining the gods).I didn’t enjoy dancing in Kuala Lumpur/Singapore as much because the dancers pose’ too much. I was like, dude chill out..Plus I still don’t fit in with the popular girls, back in HS they were your equivalent of cheerleaders. You only get into dancing if you’re pretty/rich/popular/all of the above. Salsa in KL is still feels too show-off-y.So I’m a big advocate of social and cultural dancing!


D November 15, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Hi James,
Have you thought of doing skype classes in keeping the beat? I have been practicing listening and counting, but the problem is I dont quite know if I am getting it right.


Joe November 22, 2012 at 4:47 am

Hello James,

This explanation came at a time where I have been struggling for years without really not hearing or seeing the beat. I have one question regarding the 8 set count. Can this be applied also for Jazz? If so how the count proceeds? Appreciate any reply and thank you for opening the doors to a better understanding of rhythm.


James Joseph November 24, 2012 at 10:43 am

JLart, jazz is counted in sets of 8 with a couple of exceptions, which I’ll mention in a moment. You count a set of 8, also called an 8-beat mini-phrase, by starting on any count 1. Then count: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, then start over. Finding a count 1 is the challenge and I suggest you read my chapter, “Counting Music: Finding the Sets of 8,” posted free online. (Note: a musician counts a little differently, but that’s a different topic.)

One exception would be a jazz waltz, which would be in sets of 6, but they’re not common. Here’s a version of “Jitterbug Waltz” by Fats Waller on YouTube (when I teach or deejay I use the version by Junior Mance). Here’s a wikipedia entry for “jazz waltz.” Also, I’m not sure but I think jazz musicians can take most any waltz and jazz it up to make it sound like jazz.

Another exception, and I think this is rare, would be an uncommon time signature that finds its way into a jazz piece. The only example I can think of is Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five.” It’s created in 5-beat measures, which is the 5/4 time signature. (Virtually all jazz is created in 4-beat measures, the 4/4 time signature. Waltz is created in 3-beat measures, the ¾ time signature. But I don’t like to talk about time signatures because I think they’re confusing to dancers.)

Waltz can be found across many genres of music, but it’s still not that common (I might hear one or two or three in an evening of listening to music, or I might not hear any). So the only thing you need to know is that virtually all mainstream and popular music, including jazz, is in sets of 8, with an occasional waltz, in sets of 6. If you get an uncommon time signature, it’s probably not going to be the best music for partner dancing.


Geoff April 6, 2012 at 9:57 am

Hi, you said the rolling count is 1&a2 etc then discussed it as 1a&2 ( in, “no weight change on the a”)
Was this a mistake, ie the & and the a switched about?
So where is the “no weight”, on the & or the a ?
(I presume/figure it to be on the rolling count that comes directly after the 1 ?)

Found the videos very helpful, as i often start dancing on the 5, thinking it was the 1 !


James Joseph April 6, 2012 at 10:47 am

Geoff, oops, sorry about that, it was my mistake and I’ve corrected it (for others reading this, the mistake was in my reply to a comment dated 11/4/11). The rolling triple, which uses the rolling count, is 1&a2, with no weight change on the & count.

Distinguishing between count 1 and count 5 was very hard for me. While I could hear 4-beat measures with some degree of success within a couple of months, it was closer to 2 years before I was 100 percent sure which measure came first (measures are naturally paired to create a set of 8, so the order matters).

While both count 1 and count 5 are usually accented–usually, but not always–count 1 will usually have a stronger accent. The other way to do it is to listen to the melody. Thematically, a set of 8 beats will have a beginning and an end, ie, count 1 should hit your ear as the better place to start the next 8 beats than count 5.

What I didn’t realize when I started was that some music is easy and some music is hard. For example, not only can accents and melodies be soft or elusive, but sometimes a song can slip in an extra 4 beats. Stick with easy music–if you don’t get it quickly, skip that song and move on. Plus, get feedback–make a list of songs that stump you and play them for your teacher.


Eric November 8, 2011 at 5:58 pm

If words could get me the rolling triple step, I suspect yours would do it. This is a case where I need to go real slow – maybe with a real slow piece of music and slowly count it out. In retrospect, several of your videos showed very slow, called foot motion. This worked well for me because of the speed, your voice, and being able to watch and resync to your motion dynamically. It might also be significant to me that your voice sounds like a helpful buddy rather than containing any judgmental notes.


James Joseph November 11, 2011 at 8:43 am

Glad to hear my words and voice (really?) help. I know your frustration well. Progress will be slow so give it time.

An important note about practice: Even though I tell people to train on their own, I urge you to get occasional feedback. As Skippy Blair always says: “Practice makes permanent; only perfect practice makes perfect.” So whether it’s through a private lesson, or grabbing your teacher after a class to check you out, or dancing up and asking your partner for feedback, or accosting a great dancer at a social dance to watch you dance, you should occasionally have someone check to make sure you’re doing it correctly.

I would definitely get music with a slower tempo for practice. Tempo is a personal thing but I’d poke around in the range of 80 to 100 beats per minute (BPM) to work on the rolling triple. Here’s a convenient website for calculating beats per minute. Just tap any key on your keyboard to the beat and it’ll display the tempo.


Eric October 20, 2011 at 7:54 pm


If I could ask for one more video, it would be to have video like the basic side step with rotation, but for a triple using the Skippy Blair / West Coast Swing style. Despite her DVD, something about the step 1 on 1 and two steps on the “and a two”, have me confused. When I see her do it, I can imitate it briefly then it doesn’t make foot-sense any more as soon as she stops.



James Joseph November 4, 2011 at 9:05 am

Eric, a video demonstrating the triple rhythm using Skippy Blair’s rolling count, aka a “rolling triple,” would be good. Thanks for the suggestion, although it’ll be a while before I get to it. Triple rhythm is good to know as it’s used in all forms of swing dancing, and there are many, plus samba, polka and nightclub two-step. And it’s tricky because, unlike single and double rhythm, it’s not like a walking step.

I didn’t get into Skippy’s rolling count in my book as it was going to be hard to put into words and probably confuse people with too much information. But I believe in the rolling count, I use it and I’ll eventually do some blog posts on it. For those who don’t know, straight count is: &1&2–&3&4–&5&6–&7&8. Rolling count adds an “a count” between the “& count” and each beat of music like this: &a1&a2–&a3&a4–&a5&a6–&a7&a8. You see, everyone just said to themselves, “Huh…say what?”

On page 67 of my book I give two tips for dancing triple rhythm (1&2), which is often verbally called like this: STEP-THREE-TIMES (that’s three weight changes in two beats of music). The second tip suggests you call it like this: STEP-then-STEP-STEP (no weight change on the “then”), which is actually a rolling triple (1&a2, no weight change on the “&”). The feeling is sort of like you’re hanging back into the music, which will put a swing into your step–and elevate your dancing.


lolita tesoro October 1, 2011 at 7:23 am

i learned how to count and listen to the beat of musics ..helpful for my dance


Gravel August 6, 2011 at 1:05 am

Thanks for a comprehensive response. Unfortunately much of it is over my head. I have just about mastered counting easy music in sets of eight and applying the double–single–double–single rhythm pattern. (I am informed by a reliable source that is what the ‘Survival Side Step’ above is.) That was a major revelation, so thanks very much. I suspect anything more than that will beyond me for a long time. In any event a realistic goal is to know enough to get round the floor credibly at a wedding / similar. Some steps, like many in the foxtrot, add to the confusion because they do not work to a count of eight over two bars of music.

The Survival Side Step seems fine for dancing on the spot, but I could find myself in a situation where everyone else is progressing round the floor. I’m still confused as to how to make the 8-count double–single–double–single rhythm pattern progress around the floor credibly. Can you add anything more?”)



James Joseph August 19, 2011 at 9:50 am

Let me take another stab at a strategy for how to progress line of dance (LOD) around the floor at a social dance (like a wedding), with an easy, foxtrot-like basic pattern:

1) Traveling around the dance floor will be harder than dancing in one spot. So my first suggestion is to move towards the center of the dance floor and do an 8-count basic side step in one spot (scroll up to the video clip on this page titled, “Page 103 – The Side Step”). Don’t be concerned if others are traveling (it’s not uncommon to have a mixed dance floor, i.e., spot and traveling dances being danced together). The only risk I can think of is if it’s a larger dance floor and everybody is traveling and you’re the lone couple in the center, which will make you feel in the spotlight. But at a wedding you’ll find many who can’t dance and who will do their thing in one spot because it’s easier. (And some will commit the crime of sticking to the perimeter and get in the way of those who are traveling.) Bottom line: dancing the 8-count basic side step in one spot, which you can do to foxtrot music, is easy and requires minimal training.

2) My second choice is to travel with the common 6-count basic ballroom foxtrot step pattern. True, unlike an 8-count pattern, a 6-count step pattern cannot be naturally phrased to a set of 8 in the music. But at the beginner-level, phrasing your dance to the music is difficult and not expected. On the plus side, traveling with a 6-count looks better than traveling with an 8-count (an 8-count will look cumbersome, see #3 below). You should start your dance on a count 1, and you should be training your ear to hear the major phrases, but as long as you’re on the beat I would not be concerned that you might be off the major phrases. Phrasing 6-count patterns to the major phrases (e.g., 32-beat phrases, 48-beat phrases, etc.) is hard so, unless you’re at a wedding with guests who are trained dancers, I doubt anyone is doing it. Bottom line: it’s easier to travel with a 6-count pattern versus an 8-count pattern.

3) You can travel with the 8-count rhythm pattern used in the basic side step (double—single—double—single). I asked dance educator Skippy Blair and she said you can do it but “it’s a little cumbersome.” She points out that it’ll be a slower progression (than the 6-count foxtrot pattern), which means it would be particularly awkward on a large dance floor. Skippy points out that traveling “requires contra body movement and it requires training.” She added, “he will not do it gracefully…but it will work.” If you want to travel with the 8-count rhythm pattern used in the side step, a good verbal call would be: SIDE TOGETHER—FORWARD—SIDE TOGETHER—FORWARD. The “SIDE TOGETHER” is the double rhythm (aka, a QUICK QUICK–two weight changes in two beats of music), which moves to the left or the right; the “FORWARD” is the single rhythm (aka, a SLOW–one weight change in two beats of music), which steps forward. Finally, I suggest that you DO NOT hug the perimeter of the dance floor, which is where couples travel the fastest. Because an 8-count travels slower than the more common 6-count foxtrot, try to find the zone between the perimeter and the center where couples are traveling at your speed.

If this does not answer your question, perhaps you could give me more info: Why do you want to travel with an 8-count pattern? Do you dance socially with people who are very good dancers (intermediate level and above—at least 2 yrs of training)? Are you taking lessons? Have you learned the common 6-count foxtrot basic step pattern? Are you dancing to foxtrot music or some other kind of music? Do you hear the major phrases in the music? Besides weddings, what other types of venues do you dance where you want to travel with an 8-count pattern?


Gravel July 26, 2011 at 6:42 am

This is a great site (and book) particularly for those, like me, who want to know only enough to get by at the occasional wedding / similar. I had taken some dancing lessons but had no idea how to hear beat until I saw the ‘Counting Sets of Eight’ video.

I am told the foxtrot is a useful dance. The problem is that most foxtrot steps do not repeat in a cycle of eight beats. Most work to a cycle of six or ten. It is necessary to count steps for three, four or six bars. If I try this I loose track completely.

The ‘Side Step’ looks as if it would work but it does not progress round the floor. Some of the dances you recommend it for do progress.

Is there a generally accepted Foxtrot step which works on a cycle of eight beats. Or is there a way to make the ‘Side Step’ progress round the floor



James Joseph July 27, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Thanks for the nice comment. That’s a big question but I’ll take a shot. The answer, which is my opinion (others might differ), is from a social dancer (versus a competitor) and I have not trained much in foxtrot. But even if I knew foxtrot well, I would care more about connecting to the music (musicality) and having fun with my partner than doing a textbook foxtrot. (The only kind of partner who would care that I do a textbook foxtrot is someone who has had a lot of formal training and that would be uncommon to find at a social dance like a wedding.)

The first thing to do is to click on the link in the right-hand column for Chapter 2 of my book, scroll down to the comments and to the answer I gave to a question that I posted on June 17, 2011. I talk about “phrasing” and the process of dancing 6-beat step patterns to music structured in sets of 8; I talk about being on the beat but “off phrase”; and I give some ways to phrase 6-beat step patterns to 32-beat major phrases in the music. Basically, the goal is to start a new step pattern on the first beat of a major phrase and to end a step pattern on the last beat of a major phrase. This way, your choreography is in line with the beginning and ending points in the music. Note that even though all dance music is in sets of 8 (except waltz), not all music is phrased in 32-beat major phrases so phrasing to unfamiliar music is a moving target (read: it’s way hard, advanced level dancing).

I’m not a maven in foxtrot music but I would say that much of the big band music from the 1930s and 1940s has a simple structure, that is, I believe it is mostly structured in 32-beat major phrases. That’s good news if you stick to that music. But my suggestion, after you nail down 32-beat music, is to elevate your dancing and practice doing 6-beat step patterns to music that has more complicated phrasing (major phrases can be any length and songs can have extra beats thrown in). Advanced level West Coast swing dancers are great at doing this (many videos on YouTube). I’m not a musician so I’m making this up, but an example of something more complicated might go like this: 32-beat phrase, 32-beat phase, 48-beat phrase, 16-beat bridge, then repeat. My goal as a social dancer is to be able to dance to any music; I want no song to stump or intimidate me.

You state: “It is necessary to count steps for three, four or six bars.” A “bar” is a 4-beat measure, right? So you’re saying you have to count step patterns in 12, 16 or 24 beats? I’m not sure what you mean. My hunch is that you don’t hear the 32-beat major phrases or you’re talking about songs with more complex phrasing. You should take a simple song, structured in only 32-beat major phrases, and count the four sets of 8 for each major phrase like this: count the first set 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8; count the second set 2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8; count the third set 3, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8; count the fourth set 4, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Then start over. Once you hear the 32-beat phrasing in the song, practice dancing to the 32-beat phrases. Learn to phrase to easy music before you try the harder stuff.

Finally, foxtrot is usually taught as a 6-beat basic step pattern (double—single—single, verbal call is STEP STEP—STEP HOLD—STEP HOLD; note that some may teach it single—single—double, which is essentially the same dance). While I’ve never learned it, there is also an 8-beat step pattern in foxtrot that travels (double—single—double—single, verbal call is STEP STEP—STEP HOLD—STEP STEP–STEP HOLD), which is the same rhythm pattern that I use for the side step. So, yes, you can travel with that rhythm pattern. I suggest you experiment and see what works. Just start walking forward as you call out the verbal call. You can do many things with that rhythm pattern. What you need to do—this is your homework—is to play music at home, alone, and shadow dance. Go through a variety of music in both tempo and genre and goof around with that rhythm pattern (make sure you start on a count 1). Move side-to-side, move forward and back, rotate left, rotate right, walk forward, walk backward, walk forward and turn as you go, etc. Move any which way you want. Then improvise rhythm patterns. Mix singles (STEP HOLD) and doubles (STEP STEP) in any way that feels like you’re connecting to the music. Throw in some blank rhythms (HOLD HOLD), which are great when the music winds down, for doing dips and finishing phrases. Get comfortable “not dancing” with blank rhythms, like doing dramatic pauses, which will be comfortable to do if you’re connected to the music.

One more thing. You said you were told that foxtrot is a useful dance. I agree. But it would be hard to find a full evening of just foxtrot social dancing. I suggest you search YouTube for “blues dancing.” It’s a dance that has its roots in foxtrot, swing and slow dancing, and it’s being danced socially more and more. It’s sort of a contemporary and creative manifestation of foxtrot (to music with slow to medium tempos); it has few rules and lots of improvisation. For social dancing, I think it would be a good way to supplement your foxtrot. I think you’ll find it a fun and useful dance, especially on crowded floors. It does not travel so it’ll be a way to learn how to foxtrot in one place. Play around and don’t be afraid to make stuff up—if it fits the music.


Leave a Comment