Learning Choreography

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Decided to go with a descriptive title for once.  I was my usual 15 minutes early for my lesson last night.  I may have explained this before but we don’t have a lot of major traffic issues but there are times when it can be dicey so I tend to leave a lot earlier than I need to.  It helps with the stress level to be honest because if I was sitting in traffic cursing the day I was born and watching the clock as the minutes tick away I’d show up frazzled to my lesson.  Having a lot of time to spare just makes it easier for me to sit in the slowdowns and go “I’ve got this”.  Its a coping mechanism but it works for me.

Anyway, Kid T is working with Tex on his upcoming routine for Showstoppers and he’s really not getting parts of it.  Now, he’s really a smart guy but I’ve noticed that he does struggle a lot with the various routines.  Oh, I’m not perfect there either but I do tend to pick things up and once they are locked in, they tend to stay with me.  If I don’t do something for several months, it is rusty but I can usually pull it out of the memory banks.

According to a couple of things I’ve read, there are three primary learning styles:

  1. Auditory – need to have the moves broken down and explained.
  2. Visual – can learn by watching a demo and imitating it.
  3. Kinesthetic – learn by doing and feeling.

Its not a clear picture because I have some of all three but I know visual is my weakest.  I’ve tried following things from a video but there is something about going from a 2-d screen to a 3-d world that messes me up.  I use visual a lot in group classes though because I can watch the instructor and then just try to mimic their footwork.  It doesn’t work real well for me with arms and turns because, again, I really struggle sometimes to figure out the right direction.  I’ve done enough outside turns when I was supposed to do an inside turn.  And don’t even get me started on hand switches and things like that because I get really lost just watching.

There are times when Kid T is helping me remember a step and she’ll just dance a couple of patterns in a row to try and spark my memory but that really doesn’t work well.  For some reason, when I’m watching, I just can’t retain that much.  I lose the first things she shows me and then I can’t replicate the move.  I have told her that she loses me when she does that.

The auditory part is better for the finer parts of the steps.  There are times when I need details.  Like we are going to take how many quicks in a row?  Knowing if I have to step back or forward or to the side on the first step sometimes sets things up perfectly because then the next steps just flow naturally.  It would probably help if I actually knew the names of the steps but I really don’t.  I still confuse the two main cortes in Tango and since both come up in my closed routine, that’s a spot I can still stumble over.

For me, it is mostly about doing and feeling it and then it becomes muscle memory and it just gets locked in somehow.  I know move B follows move A because it just “feels” right and my body is telling me that’s how it is supposed to go.  Most of the time, I couldn’t tell you what move A or move B actually is but I know how to do them.  I do try to write down each pattern at least once but I have to make up my own description of several of the steps.  There’s a lot of “swively things” and other such descriptions.  But then I can just rely on visualizing the whole routine.

Last night we hit three of the open routines – Tango, Rumba and Fox Trot.  In the Rumba, she tells me to start with my left foot but I knew that wasn’t correct because I knew we started facing each other and then we moved away from each other so I was actually stepping first with my right foot.  (There’s a fake later that fixes things)  But knowing I was right and convincing Kid T that I was right were two different things.  So I started doing it wrong.  The good news is that we got to the second step and she realized I was correct and we started over and it all went good after that.

The one problem with my learning style is that if I don’t have the footwork down and I “learn” something that isn’t correct than that can get locked into my system and when she finally notices that I’m doing something wrong, it is harder to correct because I have to untrain myself.

The Fox Trot was interesting because we haven’t touched that for about two months and we only did it the one time with the coach.  She did have to go to the video on that and I pretended to watch but without my glasses the scene was too much of a blur.  I did remember certain parts and the rest came back relatively quickly once we started doing it.  We didn’t get all the way through it but we did shake the rust off.  The tango was the newest so that was the easiest.

I guess if I come back to it, I do have to use all three.  I need the visual to start with.  I need to see what you want me to do which establishes the foundation because I can start off imitating what I’ve seen you do.  The auditory then helps with the details because when you watch something, you can’t watch everything and, in dance, everything moves.  So if you watch feet, you miss rotation and so on.  The auditory fills in the gaps.  But it doesn’t really get locked in until I’ve done it multiple times and figured out how it feels.  Not sure where visualization fits into the picture but that’s how I can remember things because I can just run through them in my head.  It would be interesting to know why watching a video doesn’t have the same impact but it really doesn’t.

Well bottom line is that the three open routines came back pretty quickly.  Still need more work to lock them in but I feel better about both the Fox Trot and Rumba.  I did try to stand a little taller in the Rumba and Kid T even noticed that.  Couldn’t manage it in Fox Trot because I was thinking too hard about the routine so my natural inclination to get small took over.

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