Ballroom Dance > the quantal shift - good to great and fast?

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by elisedance, Jan 1, 2009.

  1. dancepro

    dancepro Member

    I have taught for a few years now and have encountered both approaches to learning. If we talk about children, then we are talking about students that are focused on dancing and not a job. This has happened to me twice in the time I have taught.
    First example were two sisters. They came with the same background (of cause they are individuals), the same culture and the same parents. They came to my partner and I with their partners to learn to dance. One sister is right-brained and the other sister is left-brained. The right brained girl got things very fast, she couldn't remember the rules and the sayings but she could dance her jobs. The other sister could recite all the rules and sayings, and tell you exactly where and when each should be used. Today the right-brained girl (lady) is a very successful professional competitor.
    The other example is two boys. Again they grew up in the same family, had the same culture, so the same background. Again one brother is right-brained and the other is left-brained. I would actually go so far as to say that the left-brained boy (man) is a genius and the right-brained boy (by his own account) in not very intelligent. The exact same thing happened! My partner and I worked with the two boys every week, they each had one lesson with their partners. I would say the same amount of input and the same amount of practice. However the left-brained boy (man) has a high education and a high level job today. The right-brained boy (man) is a very successful professional competitor with many great results on his resume.

    I do believe that the two left-brained (kids) would be better teachers then the right-brained (kids) as they are able to drill in the information and exercises into their students. The two right-brained (kids) are both what I would call unconscious competent and therefore are not really aware what they did to become as good as they are.

    I my time as a dancers, I have seen many not so intelligent dancers make it to the very top. Thinking and analyzing too much was one of my big problems, something my main teacher kept reminding me to snap out of. It would frustrate me to bits to see a dancer beat me, that I thought was less intelligent then I. My teacher would just ask me why and how I thought she was able to beat me. I always would come up with the same answer; she was not thinking, she was just doing.

    An other thing that my teacher would constantly remind me was that dancing competitions was about getting results, not about feeling good. He would say, that if you wanted to feel good, you should just practice or do shows. He would always make me aware that the judges didn't care what I felt, they were only looking at what I was doing. He would ask "did a judge come up and ask you how you felt" and of cause my answer was "no". He would then get back to his point. He would say, "The judges don't care what you feel (they can't judge that), they only care what you look like (that they can see and compare)".

    I think elisedance were looking for insights to why some dancers improve very rapidly and why some dancers take a long to improve. What I got from her first post was that she want to hear if there was any short-cuts that other DF's knew of. I read it as she wanted to hear if any one had moved up the rank fast or knew of anybody that had moved up the ranks very fast. She wanted to find out what and how they had done it.

    Well, I better stop now. I am sorry to ramble on like this.

  2. liz

    liz New Member

    Dancepro, I really love your quote. It reminds me of something that I read along the way that said that you can't trust how something feels. If you have not done this move correctly you have nothing to compare it too.
    I have been dancing for around 3 years. I started training with a great pro about 9 months in. I had to trust what I was being told. I had to travel to train. In do this it made me very disiplined in my drills. I did move up very quickly. I have always been able to dance, but was not trained. I could just watch and repeat the moves... In reading all these post, I guess I am right-brained. I just do and don't think of why and How.
    I do have moments when I start to question, why do we do this, do I turn this much, where exactly is this hand,est... Over and over I have been told I am think to much.
    I have a saying that I use sometimes" My mind understand, but my feet aren't listening" this thread has made me realize that my is the problem. In those moments I am trying to think out the steps and over riding what my body will do on its on..Not to say that you can stop practicing... Muscle memory makes it where you don't have to think out each step..
  3. waltzguy

    waltzguy Active Member

    Thank you for your posts. I am intrigued by them, and want to learn more.

    I am a very left-brained person, as I'm technical and analytical in my day job. I'm also a lead in dance, and have to learn the mechanical, kinetic, and "how" aspects of leading a set of routines. Floorcraft plays a factor too, as men have to learn to see eminent danger and come up with a Plan B.

    I feel I'm slow at learning. Teachers have to sometimes repeat things to get things into my thick skull.

    Also, I only go to lessons once a week (typically), with solo practice before and after the lesson. Unfortunately, I don't practice on non-lesson days.

    What things do I have to start being more right-brained? I feel that my lessons are very technical, and the teacher breaks stuff down into analyzable pieces. This makes me stay on my left-brain! The example of swinging on a rocking bench works if you know how to rock already, IMHO. What if you didn't know how to rock a bench yet?

    Thus, I tend to agree with elisedance that perhaps follows learn faster because they can be more aware and receptive to a lead coming. But to produce the lead requires some up-front left-brain work.

    Perhaps I'm being too redundant with thoughts already mentioned. I don't mean to repeat someone else's point like it's mine.
  4. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    I was actually thinking of Denis Tremblay; did Adele dance Standard professionally with David Griffin as well? Or perhaps I shouldn't be limiting my comparisons to professional Standard.

    I think that knowing the "whys" might be more important to teaching than to competing. I think it might be even less important to lady pro-am students, where interpreting the lead properly should be sufficient to get the details of the actions correct, even without knowing what those details are. It might become more important if you wanted to advance beyond the capabilities of your partner or your coach.

    If this is the case I am thinking of, I don't think it's fair to conclude that the other girl could not have become a successful professional competitor had she wanted to. However, she was significantly older, so she would not have been able to make as good a career of it, plus she had a Harvard degree that could be put to good use outside of dancing.

    Intelligence is not all about taking tests and getting grades. For example, my younger brother thought he was not so intelligent for a long time, but we both eventually realized that he was actually very intelligent; he just didn't happen to have focused on academics as much as I did or gotten a degree from MIT or Harvard.

    Speaking of focus, I might venture a guess that in your cases, the ones who eventually ended up in dance might have done so as much because of a more athletic or physical focus as because of any differences in intellectual outlook.

    With respect to some of the other peoples' posts, I think speaking of "right brained" or "left brained" may be misleading. Remember that the right brain controls the left side of the body, and the left brain controls the right side of the body. I certainly hope that everyone uses both sides of the body to dance!

    It's an interesting question whether there's a difference between leads and follows in this respect. Arguably leading uses the right side of the body more, since that's where the lady is. I'm not sure how following would fit in here.
  5. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    I love reading dancepro's post as well.

    Based on what you outlined, it sounds like there is sort of a way of doing things in your lessons that has become common, and maybe you need some new challenges to the way you think. That said, there is always a need for a consistent logical approach that moves you in a positive direction. On the other hand, I think it is healthy to break away from the norm sometimes. Here are a few random ideas that might help you do that:
    1. Get an interesting video, and ask your teacher to watch a part you like, and hopefully they will work on it with you.
    2. Take a coaching lesson from someone new
    3. Ask to work on something that outside of what you normally work on just for fun (ex. do some Latin if you always do standard).
    4. If you are a follower, ask if he will show you how to lead a couple of the steps (or visa versa for the follower)
    5. Dance with your eyes closed for a few minutes
    6. Dance a Foxtrot to Rumba music (or other combinations)
    7. Dance with one hand behind the back

    Don't get too carried away, but I think it is quite healthy to be challenged to think in new ways, both for you and your teacher.
  6. elisedance

    elisedance New Member

    I hope this does not mean that a left brained person can not be a successful dance competitor ;) Is it not possible for one to connect with the right side too - if the intent is strong?

    We all have to learn this sooner or later - but I think you only really get it after a number of competitions and post-comp discussions with (good) judges.

    And you are right on. I want to find out about the full spectrum of approaches to dancesport teaching - for I hvae seen people that seem to be on a fast-track and other, seemingly equally talented (to my naive eye anyway) ones fall behind. Frankly I would rather be with the first group ;)

    And please do NOT apologize - you just go right on 'rambling' :) It really does not matter how many agree not but, as for any novel thinking, that they listen and decide for themselves....
  7. elisedance

    elisedance New Member

    You have to go a bit higher than the motor centres to understand the full meaning of the right/left brain concept WJD :eek: It refers to valid neurobiological principles - the left hemisphere contains the speech centres while the right the spatial ones. While the idea that logic/mathematics/science are left brain while art/creativity are right is grossly oversimplified it still has a kernel of truth. This is the concept that is referred to by the terminology and not the relatively mundane sensory/motor input/output regions. As far as I am concerned, and surely as far as this discussion uses it, I think this is a reasonable approximation. For really we do not care which side they are on but on what faculties we are using to achieve the task.

    To my mind (and experience) that is an example of very left-brained 'reductio ad absurdum' ;). As far as sensory/motor functions themselves are concerned the brain is very good at sharing that information unless you have cut the giant nerve tracts (corpus callosum) that is. Fortunately, most of us have these intact...
  8. elisedance

    elisedance New Member

    DM: Just to be clear, by 'you' you mean me and not dancepro :)

    I have actually done 1-4 and 6-7 :) While dancing with my eyes closed is my most preferred way (I will do the entire routine and an entire social evening if allowed) - its a habit we are trying to break :rolleyes: Still I appreciate the input maybe there are some more creative ideas I could explore...
  9. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    I also enjoy dancepro's perspective & comments.

    I would add to DM's list the objective of acquiring an understanding of how the conscious and subconscious aspects of the mind work together to facilitate tasks and learning. IME, it is the key to a tremendous amount of learning & power. The conscious mind is what people are aware of when they are thinking and analyzing, but it is perhaps just 10% of one's mental power. It's the subconscious that is the place of genius and rapid insights and growth and shifts.

    For my own part, this has been a year of very rapid change, going from bronze to open. And for me, acknowledging, working with and trusting the murky realm of the subconscious has been very beneficial for me.
  10. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    Sure, there's a valid speech/spatial dichotomy between the left and right hemispheres. In casual discussion, though, there's a tendency to misuse the terms. For example, people will try to use them to make a distinction between "analytical" or even "intelligent", on the one hand, as opposed to "intuitive" or even "illogical" on the other. That's a distinction between use of the prefrontal cortex and the rest of the brain, not a left/right distinction.

    Nah. It's an example of a very right brained reductio ad absurdum, by a very spatially oriented guy who gets annoyed when "left" and "right" are used in place of "front" and "middle".
  11. lemonade

    lemonade New Member

    Samina, did you do this in latin or standard...or all? Very happy for you!
  12. dancepro

    dancepro Member

    I totally agree!!! That is exately what my teacher used to say!!!!!

    Sounds to me like, you are on a great path.

  13. dancepro

    dancepro Member

    And why not?????

    What does you Waltz smell like????

    Just giving you some food for thought!!:)

  14. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    Standard. I didn't do silver til end of January and actually won an Open scholarship in July, but went full open at OSB.

    Right now I'm with Latin about where I was at the beginning of '08 with Standard...dancing Silver but not "competitive" in the field at all.
  15. dancepro

    dancepro Member

  16. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    I really buy your perspective, dancepro. At the beginning of the year I purposely chose to stop my logical-analysis learning approach and just dive into a feeling approach. Periodically I think "I should learn these things more academically" but my intuition wastes no time in throwing cold water on the idea everytime. *grin*
  17. katandmouse

    katandmouse New Member

    This I love!!!

    I do not believe in letting any dance student to their devices and expect them to come up with what is right. That would be like taking a bunch of nuts and bolts, shaking them up in a tin can and expecting them to come together to form a car. ;-)

    I actually do very much agree with you. Feelings can be deceptive, and letting your feelings be your guide is not what I'm advocating with the right brain approach, but somehow that's what everyone thinks. Why is that? Is it the way I present it? Or is it because people what people know or think the right side of the brain to be?

    I advocate the right brain approach for dancers because:

    1) It helps you process information with creativity and with less focus on rules and regulations. Dancing is an art. It should be individualistic. There should not be rules about where exactly to place each foot or when exactly the hips should rotate, etc. The left brain will try to make sense of it all by making up rules, definitions, and prescribed ways of doing things. That's taking dance out of the realm of artistry and into a science.

    2) The right brain allows you to see the big picture first, not the details. When we dance there are many pieces that must work in unison, simultaneously, yet each one doing something different. The shoulders may be rotating while the knee is moving forward, for example. Left brain thinkers often break these into separate pieces because that's how they approach learning it. They have a difficult time blending the pieces, and sometimes they never do, or take decades trying to. A right brain thinker sees all the pieces as one activity. Their approach is to put all the pieces together at once.

    3) And of course, the right brain is more creative, intuitive, expressive - the icing on the cake in the making of a great dancer.

    What I recommend is to give your brain a rest. No doubt you have enough information already. You know intellectually what you should be doing. So give that a rest. Now let your body try to assimilate it. Really let it. Be an observer. Keep your brain on the sidelines as you watch. You can send little messages from time to time, like a teacher would to a student, but really try to just let your body go through trial and error, over and over. Let it put the big picture together. Remember, you're just an observer on the sidelines. Perhaps to help put you on the right side, ask yourself what color your dancing is.

    Glenn Weiss told me he watched a tennis coach teach children to play tennis. He put them on the court with rackets and told them nothing other than that their goal was to hit the ball over the net into the court. Then he set up the machine to toss them balls. The kids swung and swung and swung. Eventually one would land in the court. The body then unconsciously made a note of what it did to accomplish that. Over time, the kids had it figured out - with no instruction. Of course, later they refined their technique with guidance from the coach, but the majority of the learning, they did themselves just by trial and error.

    That's what you need to do. You have one goal - dance. Your teacher will guide you along the way to be sure you don't go off course. So, don't worry. Have fun.
  18. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl Active Member

    I don't see why it has to be one or the other. Why not cultivate both capacities of your brain and get the advantages of both?

    For example, sometimes when I'm working on smooth/standard posture, I work on activating certain muscles, stretching in certain ways, and rotating my rib cage in certain ways. And sometimes I picutre myself as a tulip on a curved stem.

    I will say I tend to use the analytical side more in practice and drills and the inutitive side more when I'm actually dancing. I love that feeling of the body doing its thing and the mind neutrally observing. It feels like time slows down and there's all the time in the world to do what I need to do and to make corrections mid-course.
  19. katandmouse

    katandmouse New Member

    I do find myself using my left, analytical brain to some degree as I'm learning and listening, but I reframe it to right-brain before I practice. At least I try to because I find I get better results that way.

    Recently during a lesson with a visiting coach who happens to lecture a lot, I found myself in my left brain in the middle of an amalgamation. I caught myself and switched over to the right. IMMEDIATELY, he exclaimed, "THAT'S IT!" I told him I made my brain the passenger instead of the driver. My body knew what to do. I just had to give it permission.

    And that is the right-brain shift.
  20. Warren J. Dew

    Warren J. Dew Well-Known Member

    You certainly can, and that is probably what most couples do. That is what dancepro earlier referred to as the "slow" or "average" way.

    The argument, though, is that the conscious analytical understanding of how all the details fit together into the greater whole - the stuff that requires the front of the brain - is unnecessary to actually dancing properly. You can the higher brain functions off - or just let them watch, as you describe - while allowing the hindbrain and the motor cortex on both the left and right sides do their job. You'll dance just fine; you just won't have a full conscious understanding of what you're doing.

    The argument continues that it is quicker - perhaps much quicker - for the coach to teach the "muscle memory" in the hindbrain how to dance if he or she doesn't also have to spend time teaching your forebrain how to consciously understand everything about how it all fits together. Your consciousness only gets involved in practicing the elements and doing the drills your coach tells you to do, without worrying about how it all fits together.

    My only caveat is that, while I believe it can work in some circumstances, it requires a good coach who knows what he or she is doing, and a partner who will facilitate your not making mistakes, and not interfere by making mistakes himself. Most people don't have those ideal conditions, which is why they use the "average" approach, which takes longer.

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