The Learning Process

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Kind of going to ramble around a general theme about learning styles, teaching styles and ballroom dancing.  Learning to dance can be a frustrating experience.  It can also be a very rewarding experience.  And then it goes back to being frustrating.  And then something good happens and you are happy.  Then, you forget something and it goes back to being frustrating.  And the wheel just keeps turning.

I suspect I’m kind of a difficult student.  Nobody has told me this but I kind of get that feeling from time to time.  There are a couple of reasons:

  1. First, I don’t like making quick decisions, I prefer having time to weigh all the options.  Secondly, I sometimes have trouble forming the right words in my head to speak.  With the written word, I do good.  With the spoken word, not so much.  And a teacher needs feedback so when I get the inevitable “how did that feel” or some other questions designed to elicit my understanding of a particular point, it probably doesn’t help that I tend to respond with a blank stare while I try to catch up and figure out what the answer is.  It also makes it harder to articulate the particular problem I’m having and I’ve discovered that “it just didn’t feel right” isn’t really enough for a teacher to go on.  (Shocking, I know)
  2. Secondly, I tend towards perfectionism at times.  Which is all in my mind and based on how something felt.  If something didn’t feel Awesome, then it wasn’t perfect and hence can’t be good.  A lot of progress in dancing is baby steps.  You practice something eleventy seven times and you get incremental progress so it certainly feels better but it can take a long time to get there.  I want the instant gratification.  I mean you just showed me that step so, naturally, I should be able to do it and I tried and it wasn’t perfect.  WHY WASN’T IT PERFECT.  Then, the teacher asks why I didn’t think it was perfect and you go back to step 1.  Or, they actually have something to say and it is be careful what you wish for because…
  3. I’m just a tad sensitive to criticism.  A tad, oh please, you’re like that plant that shrivels up into a little ball if someone touches it.  Well, maybe that’s a better description.  Criticism can be soul crushing especially if it is delivered in a blunt or unfeeling way.  So you’ve got that double whammy about wanting to get better but not wanting people to crush your spirit by telling you your dancing sucks.  OK, nobody ever says that but sometimes it is way too easy for me to take it that way.
  4. So combine points 2 and 3 and there are far too many times that I just won’t go through with a move.  I’ll start something and it won’t feel right and I’ll stop.  This happened a couple of times last night.  Both times OwnerGuy told me I had it and I just had to keep going but I argued with him.  I mean if it wasn’t feeling right, then it wasn’t right and then he’d have to criticize me and I couldn’t take it so the safest thing is to just stop.  Because, in my mind, that’s the right thing to do.

So let me give you an example of something that went right last night.  It was in group class and Z was teaching.  There were only three of us in the group and I was dancing with the other lady but there was rotation so I did have to do a couple of turns with Z.  Well, the step was a FoxTrot kind of an open box and it required me to keep my frame and have my body pointed in a certain way.  The second time we did it, she just applied some pressure to my left hand to keep my frame where it needed to be.  But it was perfect.  Instead of calling me out in the class or making a joke about it, she just silently corrected a problem giving me the direction I needed in the gentlest possible way.  If that had been her normal mode of dealing with me, we might still be dancing today.

I went back over the Viennese Waltz and Waltz with OwnerGuy and JoNY.  There was one part that was frustrating.  Where we loop the thing, we do this change of places so that she’s on my right side.  I step back to get out of her way and let go so she can spin.  At some point, I have to pick her up again and then start with the advanced left turn.  Clearly there is some trick to this so that the body that is basically stationary (me) and connect with the body that is moving (JoNY) without disrupting the momentum to keep the dance flowing.  Well we tried it a few times and I was getting frustrated with the step and OwnerGuy hit me with the whole line about practicing.  And I gave him a response I’ve used before which is that if you practice something eleventy seven time incorrectly, you just lock in the incorrect method.  In other words, FIX THE PROBLEM.  (Oh, but do it nicely so you don’t crush me).

We finished up with Waltz to work on a few things which wasn’t awful.  I could tell that I was a little in my head because I started struggling with timing by which I mean I couldn’t hear it.  Anyway, let’s just say that last night was not as good as last week.  But, to try to take my own advice, this is a process that takes time.  He is attempting to introduce methods of leading that will advance my dancing but it isn’t going to happen overnight.

So that’s where we are as of today.  One more lesson on Thursday and then another break.



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