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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Body Quotient?

Guest Zarafa

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I was in class last night, struggling to do a 5 minute combination of sissone, jete battu and brises when I suddenly realised that my mind had the combination perfectly, but my body really didn't!


It wasn't that I didn't "know"the exercise, I could have talked you through it - it's just that I couldn't dance it. I realised that my BQ was lower than my IQ!


Has there been any studies on this? Am I being crazy in thinking that you can have physical intelligence as well as mental intelligence?


Further - do you think there is a limit on your BQ? or do you think it is a matter of training? Edward De Bono used to claim that you could train monkeys to pass IQ test, but some psychologists believe that people have a genetical set range of IQ probability, which is then affected by nurture.


Do you think bodies are the same? That some bodies could train forever but would not be as "intelligent" as others? Is part of the gifted body this innate BQ, as well as physical gifts of good turnout etc?

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Yes to your thoughts on BQ, however do keep in mind that, especailly with an adult, the brain will understand something well before the body is able to comprehend it. Training and practice will take care of a lot of this, but how much is an unknown, as everyone is different in terms of their physical ability.

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A large part of the training of your body is the training of your nervous system. Which involves mostly your brain. The only difference is your "mind" is conscious and your "motor control" is a lot less conscious.


I agree, give it time. You may not be used to working your brain this way, but over time it gets easier.

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In dealing with an unfamiliar combination, putting the steps together is a lot like pulling index cards out of a file manually. If you're not that familiar with the "file" (i.e., the kinesthetic memory), then pulling the cards (i.e. actually performing the steps), becomes a more laborious process. Once you have more experience with working the "file", then you should be able to pull stuff right out, and go to work on it! There's no hurrying the process, it will just develop on its own, don't worry!:)

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Guest fastfeets

I'm having fun with that, too. Sadly, all combinations are ones I could once do without hesitation, and now I stumble through so much. :)


I'm waiting for my body to remember this stuff, but I'm just not being very patient about it. *stomping feet and acting petulant*



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Originally posted by Zarafa

I was in class last night, struggling to do a 5 minute combination of sissone, jete battu and brises when I suddenly realised that my mind had the combination perfectly, but my body really didn't!  


Ahhh, not THAT's a familiar situation. If anyone out there is an expert on the topic of muscle memory, I'd love to know more about it... In particular, does 'BQ' track with IQ as you might expect? I can vouch otherwise.


Despite having been top of the academic class etc. (brag brag brag), I have a really special inability to get my body to do what I'm telling it to - quite comic at times. My favourite 'golden moment' was the time I was trying to turn out my ankle to prevent it sickling, and saw to my horror that I was turning out my wrist instead. HUH????



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Guest Jeujeucda

:) Hee hee, I do the exact same thing sometimes! It must be the way our brains are wired to our bodies. Sometimes when I'm trying to focus on turning out better, especially my left leg, I'd catch my wrist turning out too!


Now if only my leg would turn out (and stay there while I'm busy moving the rest of my body) as well as my wrist is, I'd be a happy camper.


:cool: Jeujeucda

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The correct term to use instead of muscle memory would be motor memory. Muscles don't have brains ;) OK deep breath.....

When learning a motor skill, such as an enchainement, the student makes an attempt at a goal (remembering all the steps or hitting that double pirouette for example), and based on the results, makes a conscious effort to make an adjustment in order to achieve the goal successfully. The brain sends that message

(the adjustment) via the central nervous system to the muscles.

As the brain receives more and more feedback via results, it stores that information for later use (the next ballet class).


Now some people may beleive this and others won't,but the way people actually learn physical skills is by doing, or by trial and error, not by

instruction. Ok so this might spark off a debate about what's the point in having a ballet teacher.


and I Would argue "it's fairly simple to show a student a technique, and it's fairly simple for the student to mimic that technique during a lesson. But what the ballet teacher needs to do is to help make that technique change permanent". So always listen and absorb as much from your teacher as you possibly can and ask for more :)


Also, practicing over and over again the same way (the traditional method of developing "muscle

memory") actually can impair the motor memory process by fatiguing muscles and the central nervous system and interfering with the brain's ability to send the correct message to the muscles.

If you practice tired, fatigued steps over and over, that's what you'll imprint. So be warned.



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When thinking about these issues, I try to focus on motor skills we've all learned, and we all remember struggling with for a while.


Driving a car is a great example. Remember the first time you drove, how fast things seemed to come at you? Remember feeling like you were going to hit something on your right, even though it was 5-10 feet away? For those who learned stick shift, remember how long it took you to get the clutch just right, so you didn't stall the car?


Now, once you got all the basic technique down, remember how much more you had to learn about driving in traffic? How to second-guess the other drivers and avoid accidents. How to pass and be passed. How to merge. Hot to make left turns.


These skills improve over years; that is why 25-year-old drivers are so much safer than 16-year-old drivers. The teenagers don't realize there is so much beyond the technical skills, and that is why they sometimes take such terrible risks, seemingly unthinkingly.


By now you can drive a car, you can deal with traffic. You might even be able to apply makeup, carry on a conversation, change the radio, etc. while driving (with varying degrees of safety). Your skills have improved to the point that they are second nature.


Ballet is the same way. You gotta learn the technique. You gotta learn the other things. Eventually it becomes second nature. But it all takes time and practice.


Just remember: if you can learn to drive, you can learn to dance.

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Well, I must make a caveat here, hope it doesn't discourage you. Driving a car doesn't require extreme range of motion or extreme strength. Ballet does require those things. Some other forms of dance do NOT.

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In the education community, there has been quite a lot of research into styles of learning. That body of research identifies learning styles as audio, visual and kinesthetic. Kinesthetic is what others may refer to as motor memory. Depending on what your dominant learning style is, a student will acutally learn better by hearing it described, seeing a demonstration or acutally doing it themselves.


What is fascinating to me (a Board of Education member in my community and a mother of 2 children - one a dominant visual learner and the other a dominant kinesthetic learner), is how differently people learn. Some poeple have dominant styles and others have combined styles. As an aside, the kinesthetic learner in an academic school environment can have the most difficult learning experiences - yet dance can be one of the most compatable learning environments.


You might want to analyze the style of teaching that your teacher has (often their own personal learning style) and how you respond to it. For example - if you happen to be a viusal leaner and your teacher (a kinesthetic learner/teacher style) does not demonstrate repetitively, it might be easier for you to learn the combination if the teacher demonstrates it more, etc.


Styles of learning and teaching are a fascination for me. If you have more questions, I'll try to aswer them or direct you to some of the books on the topic.

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Citibob - that's a useful analogy, but I had a couple of questions about it. I completely agree that repetition of an action is key in training the body, and with sufficient repetitions we can reduce the level of consciousness required to complete that action. However, I find that as I train my body, it takes less repetitions to learn new steps than it previously did.


For instance, I recently starting taking modern classes, and I am capable of repeating movements that I have never done before on the first go - where as one year ago, I would have been completely incapable of doing so. It is as if in training my body, not only have I made it capable of certain actions through the repetition of those actions, I have made my body capable of actions it has never done before - I have made it more adaptable or intelligent.


Secondly, I found upon returning to ballet that, unlike driving a car or riding a bike, I had forgotten how to do it! It wasn't just the loss of strength or flexibilty - it was the muscle memory. Yet it is more than twice as long since I was on a bicycle, and I more than capable of rigding one! Why can we forget ballet steps more easily than something as kinesthetically difficult as driving a car or riding a bike?


Dancindaughter - your suggestion was very interesting, and in fact the exercise that caused me to start this thread had only been said by the teacher (who is too elderly to demonstrate). I realised that I am quite a visual learner, and need teachers who can demonstrate. In fact, I can often do an (undemonstrated) exercise once the first line has done it - if I can see it, I can complete it! Thanks for the thought provoking comment. What intrigues me is that I am a very verbal person - I had never realised before how visually dependent my learning is.

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I know nothing about the theory, but just an observations from my own experiences: I have forgotten a lot about how to drive a car while not having done any driving for about three or four years. I still can drive some, but not at all as well as I did when I drove daily!


I suppose you forget more about ballet, though, because ballet is more complex and so there is much more to forget. :) But I am also certain that in spite of what you might feel you haven't forgotten everything, and even now are learning faster than you would as a total beginner. :)

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Originally posted by citibob

Just remember: if you can learn to drive, you can learn to dance.


And vice versa! I always had terrible trouble with the hand-eye coordination thing, and failed my first driving test miserably. One of my motives for taking up dance was a desire to overcome this infuriating lack of 'physical aptitude'. On taking to the steering wheel again after a year or two of class, it was a different experience - I passed my second driving test without a hitch.


Maybe we could advertise the benefits of this type of dance 'therapy' to other frustrated drivers -


"Klutz with the clutch? Get stuck in second position, at the Dorothy Perkins School of Dance".



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