Ten stupid things beginners do to mess up their contradance experience/Not Counting
9. Not Counting.
Almost everything in contradance is built around an eight-bar musical phrase (2 counts to the bar), and most figures take two, four, six or eight bars to carry out. Generally you will step once per count. If you are doing an eight-count figure, it's usually a good idea to transition from that figure to the next starting on count six. For example doing lines of four down the hall and back up could be mentally counted like “one-two-three-four-five-six-turn back, one-two-three-four-five-six-circle up”.
For some figures, especially those that either don't change your position or that leave at the point you started, it's good to apply the rule “better never than late.” That means that it's better to skip the figure entirely rather than doing it and finishing late, so you aren't able to start the following figure on time. Examples would include the balance in a balance-and-swing, or the gypsy in a gypsy-swing combination.
It can take a few progressions to figure out exactly what the count should be, but the music will usually help you remember when the eight-count phrases are done, and the caller can point out the places where the counting gets tricky.