Thursday, September 6, 2012

How to Dance: The Mind

I think by far the most challenging part of dancing is deciding to go ahead, stand up and give it a go. It takes a huge amount of mental and emotional effort to take that first step onto the dance floor (Note: this can be substituted by huge amounts of alcohol). Back in the day I wasn’t remotely interested and quite comfortable being a wall flower. I’m not sure when somebody started planting the seeds for me to start enjoying dance.

In year 12 I wasn’t totally opposed to practicing to dance for the prom, although the prom itself never interested me. That would be back in 03. Then at Uni in Rocky I went out clubbing a couple of times with classmates. Once or twice real dancing was mentioned but I thought you had to go to those types of things with a partner and I never had a girl to take. I regretted that in 2010 when I found out the format of those dance classes.

In the meantime I watched a lot of anime, I like the way they move. Striking a pose with confidence and purpose looks stylish. To get your body to do exactly what you want it to is an impressive skill. Also Knights are cool. Back in the days of chivalry squires would be taught Boxing, Fencing, Jousting, Dancing, horse riding and a few other things to do with statecraft. All these skills required similar things, like good balance.

In 07 I was looking for something physical and social to do that wasn’t sailing. Found a fencing club and though that’s cool, so that’s what I used for my DofE award. At the Christmas break in 09 my fencing club folded, not enough people were there and nobody wanted to be the assistant coach, so if the coach was ill there three was no fencing.

One of the things I enjoyed about fencing was the finesse; another thing was “programmed response”. I don’t recall exactly what its called but the concept is that you train your body to react in certain ways to certain situations so that you don’t require conscious effort to direct your hands and feet. As you practice the nerves in your wrists or wherever remember what they are supposed to do. Just like you don’t normally concentrate to regulate your heartbeat or breathing, your subconscious looks after it for you.

Any rate for my next lot of PE I was ready to try dancing, the idea had had time to settle but I still wasn’t sure if I had the guts to give it a go. Following exactly the same reasoning for both I went to a Latin dance class and an Aikido dojo for a couple of weeks. I didn’t know what Latin dancing was so it was more exotic/interesting than ballroom. And also from Levi learning boxing I knew I didn’t really want to learn to hurt people. The philosophies of aikido are about looking after your opponent and minimizing the harm to them, rather than avoiding getting hurt yourself. Defiantly sounded like the good guys martial art + they got to use katanas a bit.

I found both these clubs would build on the foundations I got from fencing, the not falling over, efficiency of movement and such. They also both made me let other people into my personal space. I’m going to underestimate what a hurdle that is.

Aikido was easy to pick up and I could see myself getting rather good at it. But it didn’t seem all that applicable to the rest of my like. I may end up in a situation like Ip Man, but not likely. Also I struggled to have a go at the disabling/finishing moves. In my head I was “This person is a potential friend who I don’t want to hurt.” Plus “If this were an enemy, then why wouldn’t I use a palm strike to push the cartilage from their nose into their brain, rather than twisting their wrist into an uncomfortable position.” Also I could see in the first lesson that some of the people were into the spirituality or martial arts and while I have practiced my Kame-hame-ha I’m much more comfortable following the teachings of Jesus.

On the other hand I found dancing hilarious, it was just such a bizarre thing to do and not remotely serious, like learning to fence. Also I was really bad at it (I only learn well by making mistakes) and I was more likely to meet girls.

That sort of summarizes what it took to get me started and actually onto the dance floor. The next hurdle of the mind to overcome was what to do about my personal space. In this day and age I hardly have any physical contact with other humans, mostly just shaking hands and little kids that climb on everything and anybody. For example when you brush up against somebody in the street you are expected to apologize. Even now I rarely touch the skin of another person. For a while the government put the fear of pedophilia in me, as a part of my Blucard training (a license to play with children that aren’t yours) we get lectured on all the things that can go wrong and told (particularly the blokes) to never have any one-on-on time with a minor, least it be construed as inappropriate behavior. And once accused you will be guilty until proven innocent.

Dancing is the complete opposite, it’s impossible to do without some contact and generally the closer you are to your partner the easier the dance gets. For some of the dance move’s I’ve now learnt you need to share the same center of gravity, one person taking most of the weight of the other. It’s the sort of thing you have to build up towards. Different girls I’ve danced with are comfortable with different distances and sometimes you both acknowledge that you can’t do that bit unless you are really close but for the rest this is how far we are comfortable with. All of this communication is done non-verbally. Some of the couples dancing are practicing for the bridal waltz and they have none of these issues at all. To make it easier on myself I generally chat about the weekend or something whenever we don’t have to concentrate. Another good idea is to wear undies that are too small as opposed to briefs; I’ll leave it up to your imagination to see why this would make things less awkward. The more people dance the more confidently they hold their partner and the stabler their grip is. Also they respond to much smaller changes in pressure, just because you are the man doesn’t mean you are leading. Stable

Dancing with a new partner/ new dance/ new music will often reset all these settings for me and I need to start again building up my confidence and the stability of my personal space. Its defiantly still there, just smaller and with more rigidly defined edges.

The more at ease I am with my partner the less I worry about my mistakes and the more fun is had by all.

See also:
How to Dance: The Basics
How to Dance: The Mind
How to Dance: The Heart