Autonomic Dance Response

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Saw a great post this morning on “The Girl with the Tree Tattoo”.  I thought about linking to it but her blog is relatively new to my reading list so it seemed a bit premature.  There is a link under the Ballroom Village so you should go there.  Her post was about lightbulb moments and something in there must have stuck with me because when I was walking the dogs and had time to think about my lessons last night, something bubbled to the surface and really smacked me upside the head.  I warn you it is a moment of self-reflection and my “A-HA” moment may not seem like a big deal to you but it has lit up some things inside me.

It was actually during group class.  3 of 3 was leading us in the Shuffle which is the dance routine we are doing at Showcase.  She is bound and determined to bring some country dancing to our little corner of the universe which has been sadly lacking since OwnerGuy really hates country music.  Country to me is like most musical genres – I like some of it and hate some of it.  But the dancing is fun.  It is more relaxed than traditional smooth and doesn’t require a lot of the hip motion that rhythm does.  After all, as 3 of 3 says, these are drunk cowboy dances so you can’t expect them to look like a formal Waltz or a Rumba.

There is a step that is very much like a swing basic – or actually more like a polka move where we start in promenade and I triple a bit around her and then triple a second time to rotate back to the original position.  Then we talk two walking steps.  Shuffle is basically triple step, triple step, walk, walk in case that wasn’t clear.  Well 3 of 3 throws an inside turn into this which you set up on the second triple by raising your arm and then instigate on the walk walk part.  I do sometimes get the whole inside/outside mixed up and did the first time we did it so I just told myself to focus on doing an inside turn.

In a group class, we typically rotate partners, so at some point in the class, I’m dancing with the Statue and we finish and she asks me to do that step with her again but slowly because she felt something different.  (Good different, by the way).  Turns out that as I was raising my arm, I was moving my hand slightly so I was outside hers basically connecting my palm to the outside edge of her hand.  That’s what she told me and later I saw her showing it to her original partner.

I honestly didn’t think much more about it until walking the dogs this morning.  Then, I was trying to remember if I was ever told to do that move in that particular dance because it is a step that 3 of 3 and I have done but I can’t remember her ever saying that.  We’ve talked a lot about connections in other dances and we’ve brought up this connection in other places.  There is a bachata turn where I do something similar with the connection but not with this particular step.

Why is that important?  Because I wasn’t consciously aware that I was doing it until she pointed it out to me!! I don’t know if I was doing it when I first started but I suspect not because it would be difficult to lead an outside turn with my hand in that position.  So what seems to have happened is that my brain identified a problem “lead inside turn” and some unconscious part of my brain did a google search of my dance knowledge base and came up with the solution which was then implemented without me being aware that it was happening.  And, what I did was different enough from the others that a trained dance instructor could FEEL the difference.  And it was a good thing.  It was an actual LEAD of a step.

At the Famous Franchise, they have a poster showing the four different stages of learning.  I don’t remember what the actually wording is but the top level is something like “Natural Use” which I’ve gotten to with my routines but that was because we’ve practiced them over and over so they’ve become ingrained and I don’t have to think about them.  This is slightly different because I’m taking a concept (connection) and just using it in a situation where it hasn’t been stressed before so it is not like I memorized how to do this step and just spit it back.  I was able to link my current situation to some other dance and apply the right solution without even knowing I was doing it.

Just to close out the night, my first lesson was with Z and we working on the Swing and some changes that OwnerGuy made.  I swear we’ve had four people look at this routine and they all tinker with a bit.  I didn’t feel that good about it at the time but on the walk, I did a deeper dive into my own head (“Search your feelings”) and I realized it wasn’t half as bad as I thought.  At the end of the day, I actually did improve the spin that has been a major pain in my backside ever since the first coach dreamed it up.  I remember feeling a sense of accomplishment getting through it and I needed to get back to that.  Yes, it wasn’t easy but what I did last night was an improvement over what I had.  That means I can conquer this routine even if swing isn’t my strongest dance.

My last lesson was with the Body Double and we focused on the QuickStep and the changes the coach made.  Without someone watching me, it went much better.  She and I both agreed, we need to do a later lesson some Friday night when we have a better chance of having the floor to ourselves.  Its a little hard to get into the flow of the dance when people are just randomly moving into your path at all the wrong times.  I suppose it is unavoidable since we use almost all of the floor at the studio by the time the routine is over so unless someone stays in a corner, we are going to have to avoid them.  I’ve told her that we’ll need to plant people on the floor at Showcase because I won’t be used to doing the routine without some obstacles.

After the QuickStep, she wanted to do Argentine Tango and really invade my personal space since that is how Argentine Tango is danced.  I discussed this in a earlier post and it was funny because she made the same connection last night and I think we agreed it would be better to reverse the order of the dances and work on the Tango first.  I won’t lie, it is a little freaky for me to have someone totally within my personal space bubble but I see where that really drives the feel of the dance which is what I want so it just has to be done.  I have old eyes and can’t see well up close and I’m not wearing my reading glasses to dance so she’s a little blurry up that close but I can find her eyes to look at her while we are doing this.  I’m thinking I should be primarily focused on her but I may ask that next time.

The countdown to Showcase continues.  I suspect Z is going to start having me do rounds shortly.  I think we just have to polish up the new parts of some of the open routines but I expect that to happen the first week in April.  Rounds are a great prep since you just dance one style after the other without time to stop and whine about what went wrong.  But it is work because you just dance – there is little stopping to teach or illustrate.  But I know that positive show performances are built during practice so nothing to do but suck it up and do it.


    1. I really liked your open letter to your self-doubt. I tried a little of that myself driving to my last lesson. I did enjoy telling my self-doubt to f-off.

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