The &-kick-ball change footwork syncopation is a simple method to add energy to your triple steps.
A normal triple rhythm has weight changes on the downbeat, the & count, and the upbeat:
In this footwork syncopation, the first step happens before the downbeat in order to create time for a kicking (non-weighted) action on the downbeat:
By adding an extra action—a kick on the downbeat—while keeping the same number of weight transfers, this footwork syncopation allows you to add movement anywhere you would normally dance a triple step (with the possible exception of spins; see the Mary Ann Nuñez rule).
The Drill: Without a partner or music, practice the &-kick-ball change rhythm. Start with your weight on your left for leaders and your right for followers; this is your step immediately before the anchor. Take a step and immediately kicking your newly free foot to the side. That’s &-kick. Bring your kicking foot back underneath you to recover, and perform a ball change. You should transfer your weight once during the &-kick portion; during the ball change portion, your weight should end up at the same place that it started. In total, you have performed three weight transfers; you should be ending on your right for leaders/left for followers.
Reset and practice that movement again, with the same starting foot, until each piece flows smoothly. When you can do all of the movements comfortably, put on a slow song with a clear beat and attempt the syncopation to music. Since this is an odd rhythm, take a single step during the two beats after you perform this syncopation in order to reset yourself for the next repetition. With the music, your focus should be to get the timing of the movement down. The first weight transfer needs to occur before the downbeat so you can kick on the downbeat, and you need to recover quickly enough to perform the last part of the ball change on the upbeat. There are no pauses in this movement: you are hitting the & before the downbeat, the downbeat, the & between the beats, and the upbeat!
Once you can comfortable fit the syncopation to the music’s timing, try dancing push breaks to music and put this syncopation in on your anchor. Remember that there is no break between stepping your 4 and the & step; the & follow immediately!
Finally, repeat this whole sequence with your weight starting on your other foot (leader’s right, follower’s left) in order to practice the other triple. When you dance your push breaks, the syncopation will begin on the & count before 3, and you should be back to normal in time for your anchor.
Bonus Variations: There are lots of options for where you put your feet during this syncopation. Experiment to find what feels comfortable for you. You might kick to the front or back rather than the side, or you might touch the foot to the ground instead of kicking. You might do a small brush rather than a kick. You may do an &-cross for your ball change rather than stepping side by side. You may turn the first step into a hook or cross in order to push your kick out. Feel free to experiment and make this movement your own!