The art of dance has been a part of human life since before the arrival of written language and modern history, when people used oral and performance methods to pass stories on from one generation to the next. Many historians believe that social, celebratory, and ritual dances were an essential factor in the development of early human civilizations and their ability to communicate over time.Throughout human history, dance and music have shared a close relationship with one another. Both art forms can be used to express emotion, evoke a certain mood, and are made up of many of the same devices: rhythm, tempo, duration, and dynamics. While different cultures make and use different music to dance to, all music has some semblance of beat. In modern day Hip-Hop, this concept of beat is embodied by the 8-count.
What is an 8-Count?
An 8-count is a rhythmic grouping of 8 beats that repeat. Most of the music you hear everyday - Western, Pop, Rock, Classical, etc. - is structured in repeating sets of 8 beats. In dance, a measure is usually “musically paired” with a second measure. These two measures equal a total of 8 counts, which is why dancers count in sets of 8. 8 counts keep track of the beat and tempo but break up the song into manageable sections. One set of 8 is like a sentence. After every 8 counts, another 8 count begins, then another, and another, like sentences that string into paragraphs, telling a story through the music. Dancers can find the beginning of an 8 count by identifying the downbeat, (the strongest accent of the measure).Dance teachers use the 8-count as a way to ground music for young dancers. 8-counts are also used to support a variety of exercises in class, including warm-ups, center, across the floor, and final dance combinations. Oftentimes, dance teachers will use numbers to count the movements, requiring you to dance these movements on their exact counts. The 8-count helps to make this synchronization easier, pairing moves with a naturally repeating beat within the music.
How 8-Counts are used in Dance
Even if you're not a dancer, you have might heard the phrase "5,6,7,8". This basically acts as a countdown, so that dancers can synchronize with music, and each other, and start at the same time - basically an equivalent to "3,2,1,go". In dance, an 8-count acts as a time/space framework in which movement is assigned to a specific timing. It is a way to build and remember phrases of dance. It is common to break up an 8-count into more segments, to accommodate smaller or quicker movements by adding "and" between two numbers. (ex: 1 and 2, 3 and 4...)
Practice Makes Perfect
If you have not had experience learning to count music the use of the 8-count can be confusing at first, but over time it becomes second nature. Like all things, learning to dance takes time and lots of practice. At the end of the day, anyone can learn to dance as long as they are dedicated and passionate, and learning to count music will help you to establish a deeper connection between your movement and music.