Interleaved Learning

There's interesting article in the latest Time about "Interleaved Learning." Although the article is specifically about golf, it also mentions dancing. (I've found many parallels between my quests to learn golf and ballroom.) The basic idea:

"Studies show that interleaving works. Novice putters who mix practice distances perform better on follow-up tests. College baseball players who hit 15 fast- balls, then 15 curveballs, then 15 change- ups in batting practice don't improve as much as those who see these pitches in random order."

In dance, this would seem to say "mix things up" during practice. And not, as I am wont to do, spend an hour beating a single figure to pulp.

Interesting theory...


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I've never had a dance teacher or a skating coach spend an entire lesson on one thing. IME (which admittedly grows out of riding, where you have a thousand-pound animal with very definite ways of expressing boredom to keep you from grinding one thing too long) fixating on something too long causes a quality deterioration.


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That is interesting because I have heard two schools of thought on this. One is to pick one thing to work on in practice or lessons and just work on that... it may be spread across different dances but it is the thing to focus on during that practice/lessons session. The other is to spend small amounts of time on different subjects during a practice/lesson. I find that there is a balance. If I spend too much time on one thing and I am not "getting" it, it can lead to frustration. If I spread out too much and try to fix everything, that doesn't work either! It is a balance for me!


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Agreed! Some of my very best lessons have been those where we ran a new idea or piece of technique through all of my dances. It really helps in integrating the new material. OTOH, I need to "get" it to be able to do that; if something is coming slowly, I'm not going to be able to apply it everywhere right away.


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the times when we have spent an entire lesson on one thing has rarely been a good idea...occasionally it has, after the fact, been worth the the moment? no so much

Mr 4 styles

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Agreed! Some of my very best lessons have been those where we ran a new idea or piece of technique through all of my dances.
I consider the method of learning to either be horizontal ( as quoted above is an example)
or vertical.. where you work on everything in one small piece of choreo

somedays one way works better than others you just need to know where your brain is at that day if its a horizontal day and you try to learn vertically brain cramp!!


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In dance, this would seem to say "mix things up" during practice. And not, as I am wont to do, spend an hour beating a single figure to pulp.

Interesting theory...
This is necessary sometimes, I have found. When I started learning rumba walks, my body fought it very strongly. I had been walking heel-flat for about 18 years of my life, so telling me to walk ball-flat for whatever reason was very aberrant. I needed to beat it to pulp, to break all those years of muscle memory.

Nevertheless I understand the point of this thread.


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My dance teacher, after working on my weak step will always ask me to dance the routine from start to finish minus the weakness. But I always hit a hitch, sometimes a new trivial hitch in unexpected places. This gets me discouraged as I look bad in front of an admired woman dancer teacher. A new hitch surfaces at every attempt :rolleyes: .

This approach amounts to: to accomplish from A to Z, rehearse from A to Z.

In racehorse training there is a wellknown method called "interval training". Basically it is to break down the task into components then strengthen each component separately -- more so than to "take it again from the top" following every failure.

There could be a psychological angle at play -- trying to be faultless every time is daunting (though professional), whereas becoming better in bitesize stages a little at a time brings encouragement. When all segments have finally become strong then the whole routine looks after itself.

Might it be similar to the idea -- when climbing Mount Everest, look not at the summit which is too hard but at the next small step which isn't?

"Intense interval training has been shown to increase not only speed but cardiovascular fitness and the body's ability to burn fat, even after returning to workouts of lower intensity. In fact, interval training isn't necessarily synonymous with speed training -- speed is simply a by-product of training the body to use oxygen efficiently. "The idea of interval training is to take a race, break it into pieces, and reassemble the pieces," Derderian says.

There is little or no research comparing the performance of athletes who do ladders-style workouts versus athletes who do straight, uniform-distance intervals. But there are distinct psychological benefits to completing intervals with varied lengths. "You have a biochemistry going on in the muscles, but you also have a brain and a social aspect. People are training for reasons other than manipulating their biology," Derderian says.

Former Olympian Culpepper said that intervals of uniform distances were daunting, but ladders helped trick her mind into completing her workouts.

Similarly, ladders can make an impossible distance seem surmountable. A fatigued athlete might find he can't complete the final mile of a run, but he can tack a ladders workout of the same length on to the end of a session and break the distance into several shorter intervals."


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Most racehorse trainers do it as "jog on Monday, gallop slow half on Tuesday, gallop slow 3/4 on Wednesday, fast works on Thursday, gallop/jog Friday, race on Saturday" with variations in order, distance, and speeds based on the horse and when they're racing (more like every six weeks for most. My horse had a long, hard season racing once a month his last year.) The comparisons to dance are a bit limited, though, as that takes at most fifteen minutes and that's IT. And of course you're not teaching them the mechanics of the movement--horses know how to run, it's trying to get them fit enough to do it faster and/or farther. With dance, you have the big monkey wrench--the person doing it thinks about it. When a horse gets fed up with fixating on a single thing, he will let you know. Most people have trouble with the idea that you should sometimes let something go. I don't do it with dance (you will not find me spending twenty minutes on how to release the toe in Standard, and NP says he'd find that a little strange and counterproductive if I did) but I can get a little monomaniacal with skating--I get mad at an element I'm not getting and keep doing it past the point I'm accomplishing anything.

I don't think spending ten minutes on a particular element and then saying "do it in the routine" is the same as beating a figure to death. The act of incorporating the new technique or the fix is a change-up itself.


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Potential for an experiment here...
Of course, whatever the results are, they likely won't apply to everybody, so...

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