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#10: What is syncopation? How is it valuable?

Have you heard of Mikhail Baryshnikov?  Of course you have.. lol, who hasn't, right? Well I stumbled on upon a great video that I want to show you, of him and Gregory Hines dancing together using something that I adore and that is.. syncopation.

Watch the video and then come back to me!

https://youtu.be/ImzkWZkaIIM?t=74

How'd you like it? They're not perfectly tight together, but it is a super fun number none the less.  What's fun about it, is when they DON'T step when you think they will, OR, when they accent any other beat other than 1!  

Definition of Syncopation: A temporary displacement of the regular metrical accent in music caused typically by stressing the weak beat. (Webster Dictionary)

So, first what is the strong beat? That would be beat 1 generally.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 

Easy enough, right? Sometimes beat 3 is given a medium accent, so Strong - weak - Medium - weak like the numbers below. 1 is strong. 3 is medium strong.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 

Are you with me so far?

Now let's try doing some syncopation!

Count out loud with me and I want you to clap or stomp your foot on the bold/black parts.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +|

1 + 2 + 3 + |1 + 2 + 3 + |1 + 2 + 3 + |1 + 2 + 3 +

+ | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

How was that?!

Did you enjoy it or was it somewhat hard? Here's one more just for kicks! 

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |

Sorry, that's a really hard one! lol

So, the question is, how does this apply to you as a ballet teacher?  Well, if making sure your dancers are musical is important to you, then creating exercises with some syncopation in them is a great idea to challenge their musical/mathematical brains!

Ways to Use Syncopation

  1. Foot and leg work: Tendus, degages and grand battements never get old, right? So, if you want to work your students' brains in addition to their body, create an exercise that has an intentional accent in or out, and then change it up in the exercise.
    1. Tendu example: AND third and hold AND third and hold,  Devant, close, side, close. Notice how the accent is 'AND close'. Accent in. THEN, half way through, I changed it to an accent out at count 5. That's the beginning of syncopation in foot work exercises.
    2. GB example: Front close fifth ____, back close fifth SIDE close-back hold hold, SIDE close front hold hold. (Can you hear how  the accent changes from being on the count to be on the anacrusis of the music?)
  2. Allegro: This can be really fun! Syncopation in allegro is shown by having a plie on the 'and' and asking your dancers to be in the air on the count.
    1. warm up sautes: plie on 'and'. and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and Relevai down plie and stretch.   This is calesthentics for the brain for sure!
    2. Grand allegro: Ask your dancers to actually be in the air on the count!
      1. For example, say you were using a galop for grand allegro around the room. You'd actually want your dancers to aim to be IN THE AIR on the count! Very different way of using a galop compared to pique turns where they're precisely on their foot on the count!

Syncopation is a real delight for your math geeks in the room!

Take Action Challenge

My challenge for you is to create an exercise using syncopation for your dancers! I'd love to see it so if you do, please RECORD it and tag me on it on FB or in IG with @thebarrepianist #syncopation! I'd love to see what you come up with and how your dancers handle it. :D 

P.S. If you're looking for a fun way to introduce rhythm to your dancers, I recommend grabbing my FREE rhythm poster PDF. You can download the PDF, upload it to a local print shop and get a poster made for your studio in minutes! You can have new artwork AND work with your students on rhythms! Win-Win right?

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