Doing everything in time with the music.
This ought to be a given, so fundamental that it requires no reminder, but in fact it is surprisingly easy to forget.
The things that need to be in time with the music:
• • Once to yourself and start. You need to be listening to the music and “dancing in your head” so that you come in on the right beat.
• • Stepping, and especially big steps like capers and slows. Particularly in the case of “4 plain capers” there is a temptation to think, “And now it’s just 4 capers” and rush through them. Each individual caper needs to be in time with the music.
• Hands should not be just “down and up” or “round and round”, but “down and up” (or “round and round”) in time with the music”.
• • Sticks: the problem is often when there is a “package” of several clashes, and the dancer thinks and does, “tap tap tap” rather than listening to the music and doing each tap in time with the right beat of the music.
• • Figures are not just a movement in a general direction. Everyone should move together on the beat, and each bar of music (equivalent to one double step or two singles) should take you to a specific place.
So, basically, the things we need to do in time with the music are starting, stepping, sticking, and figures. All the other bits of the dance should be OK!
The secret is to listen to the music, rather than just hearing it in the background. The music sometimes changes speed, and there are subtle variations in the rhythm. Although teachers will often tell you to count “1 2 3 4” or “1 and 2 and” when learning a step,
the actual beats of the music are usually uneven: sort of ONEandTWOand.