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Ballroom Dance

J M (Mike) Nelson
Phone: 612-810-0157

Dancing With Your Brain

It would seem easy to describe how to step when dancing. To wit; step normally. Unfortunately for both student and teacher, it is more complicated that that. When we walk, we seem only to need to focus on where we are going and the quality of the terrain; even the terrain is hardly a distraction unless our peripheral vision catches some impediment. We simply go where we want with little notice of how we step. We easily back out of closets, sometimes with arms full of clothes, we step sideways to avoid collision or to search shelves, we change direction at our discretion, we cooperate with others in moving large pieces of furniture around the house, and we even navigate stairways, all with little awareness of our feet.

In contrast, on the dance floor, when we allow the music and cadence to determine when to step, our brain suddenly seems to forget how to step, and we end up doing things with our feet that we would never do off the dance floor. We step diagonally; normally we would direct our head and torso appropriately and step forward, backward, or to the side. We start bouncing and bobbing; normally we would step smoothly. We clunk our feet like they were mallets; normally we would step heel to toe when stepping forward, toe to heel when stepping backward, or inside edge to full foot when stepping sideways. This "brain lapse" is expensive; we pay up to $100 per hour to have a dance teacher explain the previous sentence when "step normally" should be sufficient.

Cognizance of when to step seems to block out the ease of moving normally in whatever direction we wish. However, with effort, we can extract this minor aspect of our walk and leave our brain otherwise intact. When we do that, we easily move around the dance floor as though we were simply walking, yet allowing the music and cadence to determine when we step. Our dance becomes natural rather than affected, and we concentrate on "waist-up" aspects of dance rather than focusing most of our attention on our feet.

Until you can dance "waist-up" rather than "waist-down," you will not be the comfortable and enjoyable leader/follower to which you likely aspire. Concentrate on separating the "when" from the "how" of your step, step normally, and soon you will be flowing around the dance floor as smoothly and effortlessly as you walk. Your partner will appreciate it.

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