Objective tests to determine dancing ability

Bruce Hamilton

Message 18986 · 23 Oct 1999 03:18:08 · Fixed-width font · Whole thread

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Xxxxxxxxxx@xxx.xxx said:
>...It gets very tiring for us always to be partnered with the
>beginners, or those easily lost in a reel, when, rather than keeping
>an eye out, you are shepherding them through. The enjoyment of the
>evening wears thin...

to which "Richard L Walker" <xxxxxxxx@xxxxxx.xxx> said:
>... Ron Wallace addressed this very issue at a workshop once. He
>asked (essentially), "Why are you shepherding anyone through a
>dance?" His advice was to let everyone make their own mistakes and
>ultimately assume responsibility for their own dancing...

and Norah Link <xxxxx@xxx.xx> added:
>Sage advice, indeed. Especially when "shepherding" involves being
>out of place yourself. Doesn't set the best example to your partner...

I like Ron's goal: teaching dancers to take responsibility for their
own dancing. I dislike the method (as it's described here): ceasing
to help. That works, but it has casualties and side effects: solo
dancing, people who think correctness more important than sociability,
people staying home, people afraid to make mistakes, etc. I'm also
having a hard time imagining myself being unhelpful in a friendly way.
On the other hand, I fully agree with Norah's comment.

I don't have The Answer, but what I've done in the last few years is
to teach "dealing with mistakes" as a skill in its own right. In
basic class I teach dealing with your own mistakes; people learn to
see them as part of the fabric, to think ahead to the next figure
rather than back to the mistake, and they learn to craft smooth
recoveries on the fly. As a side effect, it doesn't occur to them
that someone else making a mistake is in any way "bad."

In upper-level classes I teach dealing with others' mistakes. I've
been less successful here, partly because I've started this more
recently, and partly because the dancers have to unlearn habits. But
where it has worked the dancers are friendly, they don't grab or push,
they don't talk (a challenge for teachers!), they don't get out of
place themselves, they (usually) don't get annoyed by the mistake, and
they still provide good support.

While teaching that mistakes are part of the fabric, I haven't found
that people care less about getting it right, only that they are more
forgiving when it goes wrong. That fits my own experience with a ski
instructor whose first lesson was "lie down in the snow. Now, when
(not if) this happens to you, here's how to get up..." I still tried
desperately to stay on my feet.

This seems a happy medium between asking a set to devote most of its
energy to the least experienced dancers, and leaving those dancers to
work it out for themselves.

Bruce Hamilton Hewlett-Packard Laboratories MS-4AD
Phone 650-857-2818 PO Box 10150, Palo Alto, CA 94303-0889
Fax 650-852-8092 xxxxx_xxxxxxxx@xxx.xx.xxx

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