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Foxtrot Music Theory: Is The Accent On 1-3 Or On 2-4?



Giacomo Pasutto, a professional drummer from Italy, will explain the music structure of this dance.

Matteo: What is the difference between straight tempo, swing, and shuffle?

Giacomo: Trying to write down the differences of the swing and shuffle as rhythmic style is a challenge because this kind of style has been passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. We should keep in mind that every theoretical approach is something that comes close, but not exactly where the definition of swing and shuffle should be. As Marco Di Battista says in his book Improvvisazione jazz consapevole this is also because “we use a European Approach, called Divisive, of the theory to explain styles that find their roots in the African Culture which is based on Additive conception”.

Every transcription, score, or music can also be played with more or less swing or shuffle “feel” that we can’t write down. For example, modern shuffle comping is different from the oldest one in terms of interpretation of the subdivision. It depends also on the musician’s choice and background.

To understand and explain which are the differences between these tempos in indications  I’ll offer some examples.

The Straight Tempo

The straight tempo is simply the exact interpretation of a regular beat in terms of feeling and playing a score or music. Imagine that we have a measure of 4/4 and 1 quarter note per beat so if we clap the hands on every quarter note, we will have 4 Claps/Notes in one measure that takes the downbeat and upbeat.

Foxtrot Music Theory: Is The Accent On 1-3 Or On 2-4?

Now, what happens if we want to clap the hands two times at the same distance, in one beat? We will have one clap on downbeat and one clap on upbeat. These are called “eighth notes” so 8 notes/claps in one measure.

We can check how the notes are regularly subdivided between the downbeat (numbers) and the upbeat (e). So, paying attention to the regular pulsation we can hear the “Straight feel”, a perfect subdivision of the beats that can be also played in quadruplet (per beat) so, 16 notes in one measure.  

Swing and Shuffle

Now imagine playing 3 eighth notes in one beat. We will have an “Eighth Notes Triplet” – an irregular group/subdivision placed between the downbeat and the upbeat.

If we place a rest on the second note of the triplet we can see the “basic” of the swing/shuffle triplet feel. The shuffle often is written in 12/8.

The regularity and the shuffle feel

Now comes the hardest part!

We should first say that the terms swing and shuffle can also be used to indicate a musical genre. But, here we are talking about swing and shuffle as rhythmic styles, so the differences in drumming are in the comping.

In swing and in shuffle, the strong pulsation is always on 2 and 4 of the measure.

For example, when playing the drums in the shuffle, this pulsation is strongly accented on the snare and the duration of the first note is something like two times of the third note. Nevertheless, it depends on genres: for example, in modern shuffle rock/blues the pulsation is more “regular”.

In the swing comping, instead, the 2 and 4 are accented on the Hi-Hat while snare keeps the “suspended feel” with free comping improvisation.

Foxtrot Music Theory: Is The Accent On 1-3 Or On 2-4?

And also in swing rhythm, the pulse is divided unequally. Therefore, certain subdivisions, typically either the eighth note or the sixteenth note subdivisions, alternate between long and short durations.

The “regularity” of the subdivision depends on the musician’s background, style, and musical genre. It can be changed by delaying the 3rd note of the triplet (the upbeat) close to the next downbeat. Here is a link where you can see all the differences in terms of ratio between the notes.

Here are two examples of “regular” triplet pulsation of the shuffle/rock comping:

In terms of musician’s choice, in “Pride and Joy”, you can hear how Stevie tries to “rag” the time while he’s singing, just playing a delayed chord on the upbeat with the guitar.

Now, if we take a look at this Jazz Shuffle record of 1961 we can easily listen how the 3rd note of the triplet (the upbeat) is much more delayed, close to the next downbeat. We can also observe how the swinging feel of soloists can coexist with the shuffle comping played by the drummer Philly Joe Jones.

Heads Up For Music Nerds: At min 2:50 something happens. Philly starts to play the Ride Cymbal on every quarter notes and the snare only on the 4th beat leaving more space for the Wynton Kelly’s solo and you can easily check how the pulsation becomes less “ragged”, and more of a  “regular” triplet.

Here’s another example of Jazz Shuffle played by the Roy Hargrove’s Big Band where you can hear the 3d notes delayed and the strong 2 and 4 accents on the snare.

The pulse perception

Often in the traditional swing, the Rhythm Section – the core group of instruments that plays the accompaniment – in the introduction of the theme does what we call “plays in 2” or half bass, a kind of halved time where the accent seems to be on the 1 and 3.

Let me give some definitions here:

  • Playing in 4 or Walking Bass = to play every beat of the measure;
  • Playing in 2 or Half Bass = to play half beat of the measures (example: 1 and 3 or 2 and 4, in a 4/4 time signature).

In the following example, you will listen to how in the first minute the bass movement is on 1 and 3 (plays in 2) but the left-hand piano plays the 2 and 4. At the minute 1:14 starts the B Section where the bass plays on all 4 beats and after that, they repeat again Section A with the bass on 1 and 3. But you should keep in mind that the pulsation is again on 2 and 4. After that, they will repeat the chorus all in 4 till the end, also on the trombone solo.

Matteo: What is the accent in music?

Giacomo: The accent, also called stress, is a momentary emphasis on a particular rhythmic or melodic detail. In metrically organized music, accents serve to articulate rhythmic groupings. This happens especially in music used in dancing, where the regular accentuation facilitates the patterning of steps. Usually, the heaviest accent falls on the first beat of the measure. The matter of fact, it is the accent that determines where the measure begins.

Matteo: These are some examples of the music we use to dance the foxtrot. The first is a more “classic style” and the other derives from modern popular music:

Is there any difference in terms of foxtrot music theory between the “big band swing” music and the modern one?

Giacomo: The first differences I noticed between traditional and the modern one are in the harmonic progression.

In other words, the modern one has pop melody and pop harmonic progression rearranged and played in “jazz” style. There are a lot of different music elements mashed up, that recall the second line style, the ragtime, and dixieland. The traditional ones are standard jazz songs, more complex in terms of arrangement, harmony, and structure. It also has articulated movement of the brass section in a perfect Big Band Style.

One of the most important things that I noticed is that the modern song is “played in 2” and doesn’t go in 4 so the bass plays on every beat of the measure.

Here is another example of the differences about the half bass and walking bass:

We can see how John Clayton plays in 2 (half bass) at min 0:42 when Clayton says “I get my bass and we went for a walk” and starts to play in 4 (walking bass) and you can feel the strongest 2 and 4 pulsation.

Matteo: As a musician, do you think we should dance in two different ways, placing the accent in different moments if we are dancing the classical swing or the modern one?

Giacomo: Honestly, I think I can not say what is best for a dancer to do. Nevertheless, in my experience as a musician in the ballrooms, I have always noticed that it is important to know a little about the basis of the dance and try to understand what the dancers need. At the same time, I think that even the dancers should try to get a little closer to the world of musicians and to the origins of the music they are dancing to.

I believe that “the end justifies the means.” For example, to facilitate reading of the scores for big bands, when I was at the Conservatory, the director said to visualize the groups of notes in blocks on one and three, but this does not mean that the strong pulsation is on the one and the three.

So, if you feel the need to “visualize” the one and three in order to count the steps or teach, I don’t think it is entirely wrong. Try to remember though that the natural pulsation of that kind of music is on the two and four, therefore it would be appropriate to emphasize the nature of that style.

I think any kind of music-related activity should pay attention to what the musicians are playing and the musicians should pay attention to the needs of those who are interacting.

Music, as we know, is a language just like dance is. Therefore, communication is essential and for good communication, it’s better to talk the same language.


Reference list:

  • Marco Di Battista, (2014) Improvvisazione jazz consapevole (volume 1) Jazz Convention


If you have more questions for Giacomo, you can follow him on:

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Is Dancesport An Individual Sport Or A Team Sport?



Dancesport, besides being a form of art, is also very athletic and it is also considered a sport. Generally, sports have been divided into two main categories:

  • Team sports
  • Individual sports

Because they are two different categories, they also shape you in different ways and teaches you different things in relation to yourself and with others.

Individual sports

They place you face to face with the reality of the competition. Only you can affect your performance and your result in a positive or in a negative way. Then, when you compete, you cannot count on the help or support of anybody else. There’s only you on the field, with your strength and your fears. What they teach you is that you have to rely only on yourself and be confident.

The peak of individual sports is that you don’t have to split the victory with anybody else. It’s you that wins and only you that loses.

Team sports

They are all about learning how to work as a team – several people discovering how to work together. They teach you how to position yourself with the other members of the team. You have to determine how to work with the others in any circumstances.

Most importantly, you have to learn to accept others’ mistakes – how to lose even if you played good. But one of the best parts is that you can count on the help of your mates and sometimes you win even if you didn’t perform at your 100%.

Dancesport – individual & team sport

Then in which category do we put dancesport? The competition is between couples, so we have to consider them as individual players competing against each other, but a couple is made of two athletes. So would you define dancesport as an individual or a team sport? What if it is both at the same time?

Why a team sport?

Definitely, you can say that dancesport is a team sport. First of all, there are two people trying work as one and the connection between the two partners is crucial in dancing. Everything needs to be in harmony and whatever one partner does, will affect more or less the other. If you make a mistake or do not perform at your best, the other half of the “team” can’t show their best.

Nevertheless, same as in any other team sport, you learn to accept and work with your partner as they are. Along with your coach, you decide what are your strengths and weaknesses and use them strategically. Furthermore, at the base of the partnership should be faith and support. You should believe in each other.

Why an individual sport?

At the same time though, dancing is so much individual. It is you on the floor. As dancing is a sport, you need to have the right technique, you need to be in shape, and take care of your diet. Nobody is going to do it for you – not your partner and certainly not your trainers.

Furthermore, being also a form of art, in dancing, you need to perform for the audience and engage with them. You need to translate the emotions you get from the music and your partner into your own movement. This is what will differentiate you among the other couples. You must be unique and together with your partner, your couple will be recognizable.

Dancesport shapes you as an athlete and as a person like no other sport. It is such a particular situation where two people become one unit, still being individuals inside it.


Also, make sure you check 4 Aspects of Dancesport Which You Won’t Find In Other Sports


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What Dancesport Training Camps Should You Go To?



One of the most important parts of the life of dancers is the preparation before a competition. Usually, before a busy season of competitions, there are several camps organized by great dancers or clubs. The role of camps is to help you develop into a better dancer through mastering the technique and learn key principles of dancing from the best teachers.

We have already discussed the topic of training camps in another article here, but this time we simply want to point out some of the best camps from the WDC and WDSF worlds.

1. THE CAMP – Wuppertal, Germany

Most of us dancers search for lectures online. In your searches is impossible not to stumble upon some lectures from THE CAMP – Wuppertal. But, what makes this camp so great?

First of all, it has some of the great teachers from the industry and the location – The Historical Town Hall – is absolutely stunning. Everything is so well thought and the purpose is to leave Wuppertal inspired and focused.

Here is the teachers’ list of the 2019 edition that has just ended:

What Dancesport Training Camps Should You Go To?

To keep a close eye on the next year’s event make sure you visit their website or Facebook Page

2. Dancing Superstars Festival – Bremen

In 2019 the Dancing Superstars Festival will be at its 6th edition and it is announced better than ever. The coaches that will hold the workshops are some of the biggest legends: Slavik Kryklyvyy, Catia Vanone, Fabio Selmi, or Julie Fryer just to name a few.

Here you can see the full list of coaches and apply for the Congress that will happen between 31st of May and 2nd of June. And a small hint from us, don’t miss out on the Galaball on June 1st. You’ll witness some outstanding shows from great dancers in a glamorous ambiance with a live orchestra.

3. Summer Dancecamp – Denmark

What’s a summer without a dance camp? Well, the perfect one would be the Summer Dancecamp. Why is it perfect? They are, as they state on their website a “dance camp independent of federations, dance schools, clubs and organisations – everyone is welcome regardless of affiliation”.

World Champions Kristina and Peter Stokkebroe and Frank Høgh are on their 8th year of organizing this camp for every dancer of any level to come and learn from the best. For us, it sounds like the perfect environment where every dancer will feel welcomed.

This year the camp is going to take place between 7th – 12th July, so make sure you sign up here.

4. Edita Daniute International Training Camp – Trakai

Happening in Lithuania between 14th and 21st of July, this camp organized by Edita Daniute – one of the best names from the ballroom world – is meant to develop all the aspects of a ballroom dancer. You will have morning jogging, aerobics & stretching, lectures and stamina practice.

Coaches: Edita Daniute, Mirko Gozzoli, Fabio Selmi, Pietro Braga, Salvatore Todaro, Catia Vanone, Alexey Silde, Alessandro Firmo, Marek Chojnacki, Michele Bonsignori, Anastasia Titkova.

5. Team Vivo Latino with la Grande Orchestra Italiana – Italy

Between 19-21 July, in Italy, Team Vivo Latino is organizing the biggest International Training camp and competition in Southern Italy. The camp and the competition will be in Mariotto which is 30-40 minutes by car or transfer from the Bari-Palese airport.  

Team Vivo Latino camp has one of the best line-ups of coaches. Are these ringing a bell?

  • Hans Galke
  • Sergey & Melia
  • Paul Killick
  • Andrej & Melinda
  • Viktor Nikovskiy
  • David Yin
  • Goran Nordin
  • Jukka & Sirpa
  • Maurizio Vescovo
  • Joanna Leunis.

And this is not all! The highlight of the event is going to be the “Jungle Pool Party” on the 20th July and the wonderful Grande Orchestra Italiana.

For updates make sure you follow Team Vivo Facebook or the organizer’s Instagram.

6. S&F Camp – Moscow

S&F Camp is organized by Alexey Silde and Anna Firstova dedicated mostly to latin. It is held in the Crocus Expo usually at the beginning of January and the second time it’s at the end of August and lasts for 5-6 days. During these days, the schedule looks like this: in the morning you have stretching sessions, around 4 PM you’ll have general physical preparation and in the evening there are practice sessions.

7. ZK Camp – Moscow

The ZK Camp is organized by Dmitry Zharkov and Olga Kulikova and is dedicated only to standard dancers. Same as the S&F Camp, it is held in Moscow in the Crocus Expo. The first ZK Camp is at the beginning of January and the second time is in September and usually, it lasts 3-4 days.

The schedule of the day is divided into two parts: physical preparation and practice sessions in the evening. Also, there are separate groups for children up to Junior II and separate groups for Youth. In charge of these groups are the teachers’ assistants: Matteo del Gaone, Evgeny Nikitin and Anton Besedin.

8. International Championships Preparation Quality Camp – Warsaw

Is organized by Lukasz & Aleksandra Tomczak from 13th to the 16th September in Warsaw, Poland. As the name suggests this camp is dedicated for those who are preparing to give their best at the International Championship that will take place on the 8th of October 2019.

The full list of teachers will be announced soon, but for now here are some of the names: Lyn Marriner, Massimo Giorgianni, Greg Smith and of course Lukasz & Aleksandra Tomczak. If you want to book your place, you can write to Lukasz on his Facebook or Instagram.

9. Mabo Training Camp – Italy

During 19-22 September you can participate at the Mabo training camp and receive valuable insights from some of the biggest legends of the industry.

What Dancesport Training Camps Should You Go To?

For future details, you can check the website or simply write to

10. Transylvanian Grand Prix

Transylvanian Grand Prix is one of the most important dancesport events in Romania. Top WDSF couples from around the come and fight for a place in the finals. The best thing about this event is the Transylvanian Training Camp which brings teachers such as William Pino, Pietro Braga, Barbara Ambroz, Giordano Vanone, Colin James and many others.

For now, there are not many details about the 2019 schedule, but we are excited to see what the Transylvanian Grand Prix has installed for us. In the meantime, you can read more about the 2017 event, as we were happy to participate at it.

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Maintaining The Core Principles & The Development Of Dancesport



Development of dancesport

In dancesport, as in any other sport, there are adjustments in the procedures and regulations that have the purpose of developing and keeping this sport evolving. There might be changes in the Federations, modifications in the ways adjudicators mark the dancers, different rules for costumes and routines or innovative ideas for the future of the sport.

Furthermore, as in any other form of art, in dancesport as well there are trends and currents that make an impact on the way dancers express themselves through their routines and movements. These trends come without doubt from the social environment. For example, in the ’60s, the ballroom and latin routines were more conservative let’s say. But so was society. Nowadays people express themselves more freely; the rhythm of life is much faster. And so is the rhythm in dancing.

Nevertheless, if we wish dancesport to maintain its identity, we should always keep in mind the core principles and the roots of this beautiful sport and art form. No matter if we are active competitive dancers, teachers, officials, adjudicators or dance enthusiasts.

Core principles

In a thought-provoking interview we had with Espen Salberg at the 2018 Blackpool Dance Festival, we tackled some important aspects like what he values at a dance couple or the evolution of dancesport.

Value of partnering

Dancesport is a style of dancing that is done in a holding position, thus the partnering skills are essential in order to create a harmonious dance.

Dancing together requires certain chemistry between the two dancers. As Espen said, dancing should be a conversation, a “question and answer situation”. This is obtained through a coherent choreography, leading & following ability and technique. You should see the dance actions being attuned and the bodyweight used in the right manner.

True leading

A very big topic of discussion in our world is the “lead & follow” subject. In dancesport, the man should be the leader and the woman should follow; the man gives the action and the woman has the reaction. Espen encourages men to actually be in charge of the situation and to command the right way.

Correct footwork

Espen confessed that he loves beauty. And what else are the ladies of ballroom & latin but a true depiction of beauty?

Nonetheless, it does not matter how superb the lady is with her hair, make-up, and dress. As long as her footwork is not impeccable, everything is for nothing. For Espen, beautiful leg actions are crucial in dancesport.

Joy of dancing

Let’s not forget that the reason we all dance is because it makes us feel good. This is the way we express ourselves. We love the music, the movement, the emotions, the show, our partners, the crowd and the other competitors.

As Espen puts it, dancers come in on the floor with sheer pleasure and they fill the room. In the end, we wouldn’t want to see a dancer that looks that he or she doesn’t want to be there.

The future of dancesport

Having in mind these values, we also need to think about where dancesport is going. What trends should we follow and which ones should we ignore? What’s for sure is that there should be a balance between slow & fast, traditional & innovative, artistic & athletic.  

“I hope in the reality of maintaining the character of the different dances packaged in a contemporary way – that is basically my desire, my wish.”
Espen Salberg


If you want to watch the whole interview and find out more about Espen Salberg’s vision and career, click here.

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