Swing Discussion Boards > ECS for newbies: Single-or triple-step?

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by RoyHarper, Apr 25, 2011.


Single or triple?

  1. Single

    9 vote(s)
  2. Triple

    12 vote(s)
  1. RoyHarper

    RoyHarper Member

    Different swing dancers have different philosophies when it comes to teaching east coast swing to beginners. Some like to start with single-step swing, arguing that it's easier for novices to learn. Others like to plunge right away into triple-step swing. Which approach do you prefer?

    Personally, I prefer to start with triple-step swing. First of all, I'm not convinced that single-step swing really is easier for most people. I've found that a lot of folks have a hard time sustaining the lateral weight shifts for two beats, and that this throws off their timing. I'm not saying that the triple-steps would be easy for them, as I understand that they would probably struggle with those too. Rather, my point is that I don't think that single-stepping is necessarily easier.

    Second, I think it's easier to go from triple-step to single-step, rather than vice versa. At least, that was my experience when I started learning.

    And third, I think that when you start by learning single-step, you miss out on what makes swing music distinctive. Single-stepping doesn't capture the distinctive swing within the music, and triple-stepping is designed to do just that.

    Thoughts? Cordial disagreements? I do understand that other people may have had vastly different experiences.
  2. Ray Sison

    Ray Sison New Member

    RoyHarper, I learned triple-step first, then Lindy and single-step. West Coast Swing much later than that. Was that better? Not sure, but that was the path chosen for me by the Fates...
  3. Dancelf

    Dancelf Member

    Single - not a close decision.

    Triple steps require thinking, the step has bad failure modes, and it's too easy to lose a weight change.

    My experience - look at the beginners on their last dance of the night, after they've been on their own for a bit. Those who just learned triple steps are staring down at their feet. Those who learned single are looking at each other, and having a blast - they are the ones that feel like they are dancing.

    And they are right.
  4. rbazsz

    rbazsz New Member

    I agree with RoyHarper for all the reasons he listed.

    Triple step is much easier to do. It's just too easy to get off the beat with single step.

    In another thread I advocated that beginners be taught line dance first. One of the basics of decent line dance is the triple step.

    By the time I did ECS I had plenty of experience in line dance so the learning curve was no problem for me. By then triple stepping was already second nature.

    So, in my opinion ECS shouldn't be taught to anyone that can't do triple steps. Trying to get these people to do single step ECS will not go good without knowing how to triple step. It's like putting the cart before the horse.
  5. Spitfire

    Spitfire Well-Known Member

    If I remember correctly, I believe that I learned both triple and single at the same time. Both were fairly easy to learn. I feel that triple step is smoother and single step I find is best only for very specific rhythm's and rather ackward outside those; in fact, I don't even like single time now though it was good for me in the very beginning when I was first starting out.
  6. nucat78

    nucat78 Active Member

    We call single-step the jitterbug and dance it to faster tempo swing music. If I were teaching ECS, I'd start them off at a much slower tempo, maybe even close to WCS. And if one can single-step ECS, one can easily 4-count hustle as a bonus.

    But I don't teach, so...
  7. RoyHarper

    RoyHarper Member

    nucat78 raised a good point. I've met a lot of beginners who started out with single-step ECS, and who were never taught that it's best reserved for the faster dances.

    I agree with his approach -- teach triple-step ECS using some reasonably slow music, then explain that single-step ECS can be preferable for faster tunes.

    I try to avoid the term "jitterbug," BTW, since people can't seem to agree on what it means. :)
  8. Martel

    Martel New Member

    I have to agree with Dancelf. When teaching people who have never danced with their feet before (just moving their upper body), then Single Time ECS tends to be a lot easier to learn. A beginner can get out there and sort of do a lot of basic moves right after learning them because the footwork is simpler.

    It is not necessarily a good thing in the long term but if your trying to get people to come back after a drop in class before a dance or an introductory lesson then you need to give them something that they can at least sort of do in one class. They need a feeling of accomplishment.

    There are jokes in the Lindy world about people who only do bad ST ECS but if not for that, those people would probably get discouraged and not partner dance at all. An they can always take more lessons later if they get more serious about it.
  9. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Exactly. This is also the point I've been trying to make in the other thread about people who say they want to dance, but don't, or can't learn much formal dance technique. Clearly, for a person who has never learned any kind of dance footwork, single time will be easier because it has fewer, and slower, steps. Also, single time better communicates the general movement concept of going to one side, then the other, then back break, etc. It gives people the larger picture of the direction in which to move on certain musical counts. The triple step is really just further detail to add in, once the overall idea is grasped.
  10. Terpsichorean Clod

    Terpsichorean Clod Well-Known Member

  11. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    amazingly, the swedes triple step everything regardless of tempo - but they get away with it by minimizing knee lift & toe pointing, while folks in the US would probably resort to BAL, single stepping, or going for a drink.

    it's my take that most people like to be able to think "this is the right way" because it minimizes ambiguity, but the reality usually is: "this way works, but so might another way." if you explain it as:

    "some will feel more comfortable doing a single step, while others may feel more comfortable adding the syncopation of a triple step."

    explaining this way also allows for those who might prefer the major weight shift on one & *two* three & *four*, rock step (tap-step, tap-step, rock step) vs. on *one* & two & *three* & four, rock step. (step-tap, step-tap, rock step).

    purists might point out that triple steps (vs. tap steps) on the part of the leader make weight shifts more clear and that's certainly a valid point. if a follow *needs* the triples to help them follow well, then do it.
  12. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    They were both designed for different reasons.. The slower style of music fits triple rhythms speed and faster music, single time .

    If a student is learning for social purposes , then both need to be taught within a very short period of time . The basic foundation material is essentially no different, so all we are really doing is adding/ detracting the number of times one changes weight.

    And by the way, theres also Double time , thats " tapping "on the "2nd " beat of each bar ( an integral part of Latin Hustle, a swing based dance ) .
  13. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Thats a " Jive " influence,and high knee lifts tipify that style, and is really a different musical and style interpretation; The exposure to American style dances in general, never really caught on in the rest of the World.. yes, there are " pockets " that do dance and teach it, but its very sparse .

    If one changes "speed " exponentially, and style, then the "form " usually changes .

    The American style dance we loosely call " Swing " , has its antecedents established from a social perspective long before any of the current forms existed. So, theres a "heritage" to be observed if calling it Swing.. ( ya wouldnt or shouldnt , call Tango and T/Arg by the same name! ) .

    Roots of established partnership dances are very entwined, but , many have " originals ", that are still being danced, hence the reason we need to be more specific, just like ECS and WCS, Balboa and Lindy .

    I do want to make it clear, that I really dont care which style one chooses, but lets give it its appropriate established name .
  14. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    a little bit off-topic

    Yes and no ?! I think the name is more or less subsidiary. A new style is born, if an adequate number people find something special, something that represents the feeling of the time, that distinguishes the dancer from the way the parents or elder brothers use to dance, something that conveys a new feeling and attitude.

    So ECS, British Jive, French Be-Bop, leRoc, or whatever you may find in that drawer could provide a swing feeling for all that well-behaved dance school customers from NY up to Europe.

    All the same with WCS, the only difference is (sorry, only as far as I know) that it started "en la pista" in the clubs.

    Lindy still was the tree, the source, the sourdough. But "!" what is called Lindy today is a historical style (in Europe anyway, not the developing sour dough back then).

    Yet I do ! English/international BR tango is an offshoot, and somehow conserves a lot of how Tango actually was danced in Europe in the 20th. And todays Tango argentino isn´t the argentine tango of BsAs in the 20th, too. All those tango choreos in the TV shows demonstrate, that the choreographers think outside their (BR) box and incorporate figures from different tango styles.
  15. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    I think you will get a strong argument if you post that on the T/Arg. forum .

    The whole point of the post was to delineate, and I DID pay respect to all the sub genres.. but.. ya cant just call everything Swing.. there is a distinction (among profs ) .
  16. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    "Until you've lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was, or what freedom really is." (Margaret Mitchell)
  17. Flat Shoes

    Flat Shoes New Member

    Triple stepping is a bit awkward when "standing" in one place, and often causes the characteristic little jump(*) seen in many beginners. But single stepping is not good for moving across the floor. Here triple steps let you shuffle along much more smoothly.

    Lindy and ECS has no particular styling of the basic steps (unlike WCS and Boogie Woogie). The primary function is supporting the body. So when dancing, do whatever feels right, single, triple or some other footwork for fun or fancy.

    I'm not sure what is easier for a pure beginner. But since triple steps are important to the dance, I think it should be learned as early as possible.

    (*) On the "and" between three and four. Try standing in place, doing triples, vs. moving around doing triples. It's much easier to avoid the little "jump" when moving around. Also the triple step allows much more movement than single step.
  18. RoyHarper

    RoyHarper Member

    As of this writing, the poll shows that opinions are almost evenly split. I think it goes to show that reasonable people can disagree on this matter.

    It's not hard to see why people would say that single-stepping is easier for novices than triple-stepping would be. As I said in the OP though, I'm not convinced that this truly is the case. Here's another reason why I say that.

    Single-stepping should simply be a matter of shifting one's weight. Simple, right? However, I've observed that many newbies don't do that. Instead of simply shifting their weight, they introduce all sorts of extraneous footwork -- sliding one foot toward the other, for example, or perhaps sliding it back by a few inches. This tends to mess up one's timing and produce bad dancing habits.

    To be fair, I also know some fairly experienced swing dancers who also slide their free feet to the left or right when shifting their weight during a six-count basic. I don't think it's very elegant, but they basically manage to make it work. I don't think that these extraneous motions really help in any way, and for beginners, I think they can seriously mess up their timing -- not to mention complicate their footwork when performing turns or passes.
  19. RoyHarper

    RoyHarper Member

    I was discussing this matter with some other folks recently. We disagreed about whether one should start with single-stepping or triple-stepping; however, we all agreed that if you do start with single-step, then it's important to at least show people what triple-step swing looks like and what it's used for.

    IME though, many instructors don't do that. They teach newbies a few single-step moves without any introduction to "proper" triple-stepping.

    I remember going to a singles dance last year. Virtually nobody there knew any dance mechanics, which was kinda frustrating. I did try to dance with one gal who seemed to have some experience, though. When she saw that I was doing triple-step ECS, she said, "Oh, it looks like you're trying to do jitterbug. Here, let me show you how that's done" and then tried to teach me the single-step basic. I had to explain, as gently as I could, that I had been dancing swing for a few years now and that she was simply using a simplified version of the more standard ECS basic -- one that's also valid, but usually reserved for faster music. (I wanted to say that it's typically used by beginners too, but I didn't want to accidentally offend her.)
  20. Ron AKA

    Ron AKA New Member

    We are beginners, and were taught the triple step first in jive. We still have not tried a single step, but I can see why one would do it in faster temp music -- 175+ bpm.

    My thoughts are that in a perfect world one would start with rumba to get the Latin hip movement and weight transfer down. Rumba is slow and lets you get it together. ChaChaCha would be a good dance to try next to get the triple step down. Each triple is separated by a rock step, and the tempo of a CCC is not that fast. Next hardest is the triple two step. Tempo is similar to CCC but has the same count as jive, back to back triples separated by a single walk step.

    Then one should jump into the jive or ECS, but at first with a slower tempo. I find The Wanderer by Dion (120 bpm), Smack Dab in the Middle - Mills Brothers (128), and I Love a Rainy Night - Eddie Rabbit (136), to be good early practice songs, and still go back to them when trying something new.

    So, I think one should learn a triple step first because it is used in so many dances, but learn it slow and then speed up. Harder than jive triple is polka, because it is all back to back triples. Leave that to the end is my thinking.

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