Monday, June 11, 2012

The Language Of Dance.

I have long held the belief that dance, in all of its many styles and forms, is at its core a language.

I'm sure this is not something that hasn't already been said or noted. But I think it is something that can easily be overlooked when one is facing the challenge of learning dance.

Whenever I find myself in conversations with students, especially new ones, about this topic, they usually are given pause and see their challenge in a new light.
A light that I usually hope changes "I feel so uncoordinated. I'm just going to have to accept that I won't be very good at it for a long time" into something more like "Okay...I can break this down into pieces, peel back layers and perhaps not be so hard on myself!"

I always ask the question, "Would you be this hard on yourself if you were learning Spanish or French for the first time?" The answer is always no.

We know to learn a spoken language we need to employ repetition, breaking down sentences and phrases into smaller parts, practicing rules so that they become second nature and correlating it all to things we already understand. All the elements of learning a dance style.

Let's just take a simple plie in 1st position;

image credit

(I'll break this down for real in a future post!).
Even if your first few tries are a bit off, eventually you will start to get it right after gentle corrections.

Breaking down into smaller parts.
Focus on where the pelvis is. Then, what are the knees doing? So on and so on.

Every dance form has them. Some are more steadfast than others. Example; knees never collapse towards the insteps of the feet in ballet.

Correlating to what we already understand.
Who hasn't tried walking with books on their head!

Pull it altogether enough times, tweaking and correcting as you go, suddenly you've got yourself a well executed demi-plie! Same steps to learning how to ask where the bathroom is in Japan!

I will admit that there are a couple of challenges exclusive to dance.

Music. Coordinating movements to music can present a challenge all its own. On the flip side though, music stimulates many areas of the brain simultaneously. This stimulation can increase retention of information learned, as well as cognitive understanding and uniting small and large motor skills.
Even for language acquisition, using songs and music can aide in learning.

Frequent changes in patterns. Most dance forms have a multitude of tempos, step sequences, flavors and emphasises. Just listen to the musical compositions that go with particular dance styles. Ballet, Jazz, Latin dances, Waltzes, etc...

 All that brain and body work boils down to a very important benefit; dance makes you smarter!

So if you are just starting out at learning dance or starting in a dance fitness program and you start to feel out of your element (it happens to seasoned dancers too!), I hope you remember some of the points above!

Thanks for reading!

Enjoy the dance that is life!

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