AND. The Secret of Improvisation

There are spaces in the music for changes to happen. Theses spaces come between verses and choruses, between lines and phrases, and even the spaces between measures and notes. We’re going to experiment with measures and notes. 

Most belly dance music has 4 beats to the measure, which is why we count 1, 2, 3, 4. This is known as 4/4 time. 

 Many popular dance rhythms are also 4/4.  That means one iteration (repetition) of the rhythm (for example, dum dum tekkatek, dum tekkatek), takes one measure of music. 

If you boil it down to four beats, you get DUM TEK DUM TEK. 1234.

There are spaces between those 4 beats. Much of the interesting stuff is in those spaces. The beats will be in capital letters and the extra in lower case. DUM dum, TEKkatek DUM tekkaTEK. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. And 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 AND. I mean, you can break the notes down into ever faster/smaller bits, but we’re not going to go there. We’re just interested in the ANDs, especially 3 and 4, and 4 and 1

These are useful places to prepare for, and make, changes. 

When I improvise, I don’t plan. I pause. I slow down. I make space for the next thing. I prepare. On the AND. 

I slow down around 3 and, change by 4 and, so I am there at the 1. 

Does this make sense? 

Step, 2, 3, (slowing down/sustaining), 4 (prep completed)  AND 1—new step. 

It’s hard to explain, but easy to see. 

This is a little video I made recently. If you watch what I do, you’ll see that little place of preparation and shift around and 4 and. 

Over and over again. It’s a big part of how I dance. 

I made a drill for this a while back—the UnDrill. Here’s that little video.

I invite you to experiment with this—finding spaces to change. Yours might be every 2 or 4 measures, or however many measures—it’s the transitions we want to explore. That moment of pause, of collection, as we create and opening to shift from one thing to the next. 

With love, 


For the exercise, you might like some straight up rhythmic music.

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