Monday, November 25, 2013

Faster Learning: Vary Your Location In Classes

Do you regularly move outside your comfort zone, trying to expand it over time? You should, because expanding your comfort zone and ignoring others while learning accelerates your growth.

Your mind thrives on variety and grows as you provide different stimulus. When you vary your location in classes you'll see different perspectives on the moves and be a stronger dancer in less time compared to those who only learn from one location.

If you take any dance class regularly or attend the same clubs, you'll notice this interesting thing about people: Most claim a certain location in the class or club as their own. After being there a few times, most find comfort setting up in the same relative floor space.

The regulars end up consistently dancing or exercising in the same location, in almost every class, unless someone new gets "our spot" before we arrive. They just don't know they have claimed our spot, but they'll learn.

Some people get downright indignant if you move into "their" normal location. You'd think they were paying rent or they owned the space, like the fabled parking spot with your name on it. You'll see some people showing up earlier than normal, just to lay claim to their comfort location.

In jazz or ballet classes, if you go "across the floor" (a series of spins/turning exercises, with two or three people starting every 8 or 16 counts), once the order for going across is established, it's an unwritten rule that the order stays that way for the rest of that class.

In other words, if I'm first in my line, I will be first for every new exercise specified by the instructor for that class. People who violate this unwritten rule are looked down on by others. Most people who go second, in the middle or last, do so class after class. They get comfortable with their relative order and stay there class after class.

In some classes I'm very uncomfortable in the front, but I make sure I go there occasionally as part of my "Dance like Nobody's Watching" concepts. I'm forced to focus on myself, my refinements, and ignore what others may be thinking.

Sometimes it's a major stretch for me, but over time, the results are worth it. Moving to a new location toughens you because you learn to ignore others, who may be more or less advanced. And if they really want to watch someone else (not likely), they can use the mirrors and see anybody they choose. Dancing in front of others is one of the dances goal anyway, so having it happen in class is actually a win when it happens.

This concept is also valid outside the classroom. Drive a slightly different way to class, work or the grocery store. Eat with your non-dominate hand sometime (bib optional), park in a different location, order something new off the menu, try no sugar in your tea and find ways to vary your own routine regularly. The more often you change up little habits, the more varied your stimulus, the faster you learn new things too.

There is plenty of mental comfort in keeping things routine, but it isn't the best way to learn and grow. If you attend a class regularly, avoid getting stuck in a rut and standing in the same location each class. Move around--you'll see that it changes your perspective. Get next to the instructor in some classes, and change sides in others. If you do this regularly, you'll improve faster, have more fun, and find new perspectives on some existing materials, making you a stronger dancer in less time.
The man who is too old to learn was probably always too old to learn.
-Caryl Haskins
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  1. This is great advice. It's amazing how much harder it is for me to learn the choreography the further back I move in the class, which is why I try to stay near the front. As a survival mechanism for picking up choreography quickly, I am an instant copier, so I have to be very careful about who I am standing near. Lately, I have tried to challenge myself to completely internalize the moves and not watch anyone else, but that often involves also standing near the edges where I don't have anyone in my direct line of sight.

  2. Ah... You're one of those visual learners. That is not my primary learning style but that is common.

    You make an excellent point about being influenced by those around you.

    There is a women in one of my classes that is always off time. Not one class or one exercise/combo, but every class.

    If I stand too close to her it distracts me because I see her doing the moves before/after they should start. She is so out of sync with the mucic at points it's amazing. By moving away from her I learn more with fewer distractions.

    I can ignore people who are in the ballpark and focus on the instructor. The people way out of sync catch my eye and I learn less.

    I also notice I pick up different things from different sides of the room, and I suspect that has to do with right/left brain processing.

  3. Wow, I just came back from my dance class; I haven't thought about this changing-position issue before....
    Usually there are only 4~6 fellow-students in my dance class. And It's easy to observe the instructor at a near distance. Sometimes I observe his muscle and move; sometimes I look myself into the mirror, and sometimes I compare both. The ultimate goal for me is to internalize the move without checking the instructor's move. But I usually succeed that process only after practicing several time At Home....I'll try several ways, and with luck I'll get the golden key. Really interesting...

  4. Thank you for the post! I began my professional dance training in my twenties and have been experimenting with ways to memorize choreography faster, an invaluable skill at auditions. My teachers have recommended this as a strategy and it is great to see it published for a larger audience. Keep up the great work!



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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero