Sunday, April 27, 2008

Left or Right Brain? Should I Care?

Most people spin better in one direction. One side of their body learns motions faster than the other. Stronger dancers invest untold hours working on their weaker side, both in spinning and other movements where body symmetry is helpful, expected or required. A styling move may require both sides to work perfectly together, but most people start with one side ahead of the other.

In this two-part series, we’ll explore some ideas and concepts for growing your weaker side, working toward additional mastery for both sides. The side effect is you’ll be a better dancer, without directly using your dance practice time.

Before doing that, let's confirm your dominant side by looking at this fascinating graphic. (Most of you probably looked at it already, because it does catch the eye, and using a female silhouette provides endless fascination for most guys.)

Which way do you see the dancer turning?

Most people will find that a silly question, because the answer is so obvious. Show this to a few people, though, and you’ll be amazed at what they say. It’s a great conversation starter!

Some people will note she’s turning clockwise, some counter-clockwise ('anti-clockwise' for our international friends). The interesting thing is the graphic never changes, but different people will see her differently. A few will say she never changes and others who see a change will swear that the graphic itself changes every so often. By design, the graphic plays to your strengths.

Your first impression answer to the “which direction” question provides an insight into the way your brain is wired; either right or left side dominant. If you return to this graphic a few minutes, hours or days from now, you’ll notice that your first impression of her spinning direction is consistent each time you look again.

The interesting thing is many people (not all) can see her spinning the other direction after staring at the dancer a while. I look at her standing foot as it meets the shadow foot for 10-30 seconds or so, with a soft focus, and can see her start turning the other direction. Others will notice her change direction while they are reading this text, without directly watching her. Initially it took me a few minutes to change her rotation, then once I knew it was possible, the time reduced. Now I can regularly change her direction within a few rotations.

While I find this concept fascinating, as dancers we want BOTH sides of our brains working together. Knowing your starting point is helpful. Most people spend their whole life as right or left handed, then when dancing work toward both sides being equal.

Stronger dancers work to improve the symmetry of their movements, and there’s plenty you can do off the dance floor to accelerate this process.

Please let me know which direction you see the dancer spinning first via the comments, and if you can get her to change directions easily.

Part 2 of this article outlines some ideas and exercises for improving your weaker side. I’ll have that article up ASAP.

For more details on the right/left brain dominance implied by this graphic, check out the original article from Perth Now. This article has appeared on multiple websites. My source is the PerthNow version from Australia
Love is staying awake all night with a sick child.
Or a very healthy adult.
--David Frost


  1. The first time I saw this graphic she only turned to one side (can't remember which). However, reading your article she keeps changing direction as I read, every three or four rotations.

  2. She started clockwise for me, and changed directions very often while I was reading. Sometime she only did a halfturn in one direction.

  3. She started cw for me too, first. Then I concentrated on her grounded foot, and was able to see her spin ccw.

    I think she's sexier spinning ccw :).

  4. For me, the nasty trap is that I can switch her from turning, to not turning at all (just kicking a leg back and forth toward the screen).

    When the legs start rotating in opposite directions (kicking leg turning right, standing leg turning left), that's when I have to stop....

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  6. The first time she started clockwise, than half a minute later she changed direction and when I look to the feet or beside the picture, I see her jumping from left to right to left and so on.

  7. Kinda reminds me of an post I read about on2 and on1 and ability to change between them -
    a similar thing, in that they're two different states. A drummer might be able to play them independently, but for most of us, we see or hear one or the other...

  8. She keeps turning clockwise for me and I'm ambidexterous. Looked at her awhile. I'll check back in a couple of days...

  9. I saw counterclockwise rotation. After a minute(?) it skipped to CW. After reading the article and going back to see if I could force a change in my preception of rotation, I found focusing on the raised foot allow me to reverse the spin. So, what does it all mean?

  10. I've done this before, and it has always been CCW - a left brainer, and I haven't been able to switch the direction at all. Frustrating.

    Tried it again yesterday, a little drunk - and behold.., now she was turning CW, and I couldn't make her change to CCW. Suddenly a left brainer.

    Today, sober again, I can make her turn any direction at will by looking at her shadow and concentrating. So.., what am I?

    Also.., almost everybody spins easier CCW, and have a general preference for turning CCW in ALL situations actually.

    I don't know if there's any correlation with being left- or righthanded, or a left or right brainer. Do you have any info on this?

  11. Hmm... I can *only* see her spinning clockwise (to her right).

    I've stared at different parts of the picture, squinted, turned my head sideways, but to no avail...

    Oh... and I usually spin to my left (anti-clockwise) as I find it much more comfortable (and as I get lazier with my dancing!) :)

  12. Oh. Not that it's particularly important... but after returning to check a couple of days later, now I can make her alternate directions. But clockwise is still dominant. I am tired now though. Intriguing... Thanks Don! :)

  13. She turns strongly clockwise for me. With a lot of effort and looking out of the corner of my eye I can get her to change direction for a moment only.

    I'm surprised, as this makes me a right-brainer - I'd have expected to be strongly left.

    I prefer to spin clockwise when I dance - but is this because I am in the Northern Hemisphere :-)

  14. I've done some additional research, and there is some controversy about it's value to always identify left/right dominance correctly.

    That said, most people are more dominate with one side of their body, even if this exercise gets it wrong for a small set of people.

    More in an upcoming article.

  15. When I first started reading she was spinning counterclockwise. Then I read more of the article and I looked up and she was spinning clockwise.

    Don, you know I'm a fan of your blog, but that's just spooky.

  16. I forgot to ask - if you first see her turning one way (say counterclockwise) but your body's balance in your own turning mechanism is best clockwise (turning to the outside), what does that mean?

  17. I think it means you are going to be a great spinner over time. (lol)

    I'm finishing two more articles as follow-ups and I expect them live over the next week.

  18. Initially I see her strongly turning clockwise, and could not get her to change, until I tried your trick, and can do it now with relative ease. So what does that mean?

  19. i see her spin clockwise. when i look away i see her spin counter-clockwise out of my perepheral vision and i can do that all day


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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero