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

The Pre-Dance Lesson: So, You Think You'll Learn Something?

We are a perplexing species, certainly not the intelligent beings we fancy ourselves to be. Week after week, month after month, year after year, we take pre-dance lessons, and we go away thinking we are one of the few who never remember anything. Think about it. Do you know anyone who purports to have retained much of anything from a pre-dance lesson, or any, hour-long dance lesson? We retain only those motor skills that we practice regularly following their introduction to short-term memory, and, if we don't practice, they never get into long-term memory, and we forget them. Everyone forgets them! We aren't that much different from each other.

Still, we attend lesson after lesson, retain little or nothing from them, and keep coming back for more. To what end? Perhaps simply for the joy of the moment, mimicking the teacher temporarily, but not retaining much of anything. When we think about it, the success of the commercial dance studio is essentially built on our forgetfulness and negligence -- forgetfulness in that we have no hope of retaining all to which we are exposed in the hour of instruction, and negligence in that we make no serious attempt to select a reasonable subset of the lesson and, further, to make deliberate efforts to replicate it until it can be retained.

The exception is the person who remembers even one figure over time; most recall almost nothing. Thus the need to teach it again and, perhaps explaining the lack of concern that teaching for little or no compensation in the pre-dance lesson might harm business. It won't. As long as we keep attempting to acquire more than our mental capabilities can retain, and as long as lessons are designed for such cognitive overload, the tradition of inefficiency and ineffectiveness will continue. Perhaps it is our naive belief that we are unique that enables such irrational behavior to continue, irrational, that is, on the part of the learner. The teachers long ago, it seems, discovered that if they provide a lot of material in the lesson, people won't retain much and will have to take more lessons. "Over-learning," it seems, is somewhat the opposite of overeating. Would that our digestive system worked more like our brain, and our brain worked more like or digestive system. Dance Home Page Dance Curriculum Dance Articles

Copyright (c) 2006, J. M. Nelson. All rights reserved. Reproduction of contents prohibited without prior permission from the author.