Contratiempo or 'counter time' is the beat that you find half way between two whole beats.
For example if we had a compás of 4 beats we would count it normally as..
1 2 3 4
If we included the contratiempo it would be...
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and
where 'and' is the contratiempo beat.
In flamenco, dancers and musicians often use the contratiempo to add colour and play with the melody of the rhythm.
In the first video below we start with a basic beat played with palmas, José joins the beat and then alternates between the whole beat and the contra.
In the second video José follows the same pattern but changes the steps he uses to make the sound of the contratiempo.
When you start practicing contratiempo, like always, start slowly. After a while you will naturally find yourself drifting over to the whole or main beat.
As much as you will be training your body you are also training your ear to listen to and feel the rhythm so you can stay where you want to be.
One exercise that you can do by yourself is to clap the whole beat with your palmas and then do a golpe, alternating between each foot on the off beat. You can then reverse this and use your feet to make the sound of the whole beat and your palmas for the contratiempo.
Working in contratiempo can feel strange at first but with practice it will soon become something that will make your work with flamenco rhythms a lot of fun.
In the third video, we take the speed of the palmas up and José plays with different steps to demonstrate how contratiempo can be used when doing footwork.