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Almost all beginners do four things wrong...
First, they hop or bounce on the syncopated step, that is, on the quick, quick (if we think of the timing as quick, quick, slow, slow). Lilt, hopping, and bouncing are not good things in this dance. Hustle is a smooth dance, like west coast swing. Watching a beginner dance hustle is a little like watching a beginner at jumping rope - they put way too much energy into what they are doing.

Second, they dance with in a push-pull fashion where the arms go slack, followed by a pull. Beginner swing dancers often extend their arms until their arms are about to pop out of their shoulder sockets. This is not a good thing. Arms need to act like springs with gentle, controlled, and limited extension. Strength in leading is from precise timing and direction, not from force.

Third, beginners dance with random foot placement and without thinking about who is going where. Hustle can (and should) travel and many patterns are linear or slotted. In these patterns, the guy needs to lead the lady in the slot (or along the line of dance) while he gets to one side or the other. The dance should generally be danced in a slotted fashion (like west coast swing) or along a specific line or pattern as opposed to just "falling out" in an undetermined way.

Fourth, beginners often struggle with timing, usually getting ahead of the beat. I believe that everyone should count and count always. But don't count out loud, except when practicing.

Counting the hustle
Many old timers count the hustle 1, 2, & 3. However, most studios now use the counting system, &1, 2, 3. The dance is the same irrespective of which of these systems is used. In fact, if the dance is started on the first syncopated step, that is, on the "&" count, then the difference between the two systems effectively disappears. In my opinion, serious students of hustle should become comfortable with using both of these systems. Again, switching back and forth is really easy if you always start the dance on the "&" count. In this volume 1 video, we count out the first 14 "universal" patterns using both of these counting systems. This will enable you to understand the "sameness" of these systems and it will allow you to become comfortable with teachers and with partners who may count differently.

More detail: In hustle, four steps are taken to three beats of music. Two of the four steps use a full beat of music. The other two steps each use 1/2 beat of music. The steps that use a full beat of music can be called "slow" steps. The steps that use one-half beat of music can be called "quick" steps. Dancing the hustle consists of dancing alternating sets of two quick steps, two slow steps, two quick steps, two slow steps, etc. In fact the dance can be counted solely in terms of the quicks and the slows as quick, quick, slow, slow, or slow, slow, quick, quick, depending on whether you start by taking the slow steps first or whether you take the quick steps first. At present, two popular counting systems are used. It's important to note that the dance is danced the same in both cases. In other words, there is just one dance, but two main ways of counting it. Irrespective of the counting system used, the slows and the quicks occur in the same places with the same feet. For example, the Gentleman's left backward step is always taken on the first quick and his left forward step is always taken on the first slow. Likewise, his right backward step is always taken on the second quick and his right forward step is always taken on the second slow. In this way, all hustle dancers can dance with each other, their different counting systems being transparent, internal things.

The &,1,2,3 Counting System
This system is mostly used when the dance and its patterns are considered to start on the first quick. The first quick is counted as "&." The second quick is counted as "1." The first slow is counted as "2." The second slow is counted as "3."

The 1,2,&,3 Counting System
This is the counting system I normally use, although I can use both systems. In this system, the first slow is taken on the "1," the second slow is taken on the "2," the first quick is taken on the "&," and the second quick is taken on the "3."

Which system is better? Neither is...especially if you start the dance on the "&" count. At present, about equal numbers of the top competitors are using each of the two systems. After you get the hang of this dance, you should be able to work with either system. It helps to remember that the dance is, fundamentally, only one dance, and this becomes evident if you count in terms of quicks, and slows.

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