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Adventures in Counting

Eclectic Edge Ensemble

Adventures in Counting

Unfortunately, this blog is not in reference to a Sesame Street segment, but a chronicling of my journey with the art of counting.  When dancing to music, we put movement to counts to correlate it with the rhythms of the music.  In the early rehearsal process, learning the choreography and pairing it with the correct musical counts can be the most complex and sometimes frustrating part.  Once I’ve remembered what comes next, I’m usually off the counts and might as well die (dramatic but effective demonstration of my point).  Truth be told, this is not every dancer’s issue, but it is surely mine.

Counting is an essential skill for dancers but for some it comes more easily than others.  Some people are natural ‘counters’ and I would call myself more of a ‘feeler’ (please ignore the awkwardness of this label).  I want to spend more time indulging in the sensation of one movement than moving quickly onto the next resulting in a lag behind the counts.  I’ve been the girl that just looks a little off of everyone else receiving responses like, “You are so passionate, but end up a little behind the group” (great, passionate but slow. super.).  For years, I have grabbed the ‘counter’ in the room (oftentimes EEE member Desiree Dantona... holla!) and had her review counts with me over and over again. 

Karis (Sloss! the director, the boss, the head honcho) loves complex rhythms, but does not always love the counting part of the equation.  She creates original movement that is fully inspired by the music. Karis teaches us complex jazz phrases and in some instances, figuring out the counts is a group effort.  This is great for my brain.  Participating in the counting process has helped me keep up with the quick minds of the rest of the dancers.  I’m so thankful for the opportunity that I have in Eclectic Edge Ensemble to be challenged by brilliant jazz music, choreography, and dancers.

Staying consistent with the counting theme of this blog, I’ve made a numbered list of things that I’ve learned in my counting adventures…

1)      Keep a notebook full of counts and choreography, so that once the counts have been given, you have a constant reference.

2)      Add the passion and indulgence into movement once the counts are solid in your mind and body- because it is easier to add not take away. 

3)      Study the music!

4)      Keep a clear mind.  This sounds sort of new-agey, but it helps when you (oooh! A list within a list!)

  1. Don't freak out when given complex counts
  2. Keep emotions on low and repeat coordination of body with counts over and over and over and over and over etc.

At the place that I am in my dancing career, I am so thankful for the challenges that counting choreography has provided me with.  Through growing in my ability to hear and feel the music accurately, I know that I adapt to the music earlier in the rehearsal process, and dance with more musicality, clarity and confidence than before.  So bring on the syncopation, the complex rhythms and all the challenge and growth that the new EEE season is certain to include.

Cheers to choreography with complex counts!

-Mallory Dykema

p.s. I want to thank any EEE members that have been pulled aside to review counts with me.  Thanks to Des for reviewing counts with me for the last 8 years.