I’ve shown this video in a previous blog, but It so perfectly illustrates my point that just have to show it again:
Rhythm and Dance are our Birthright
I believe that human beings are born with an innate sense of rhythm. I believe that as we grow up and face various traumas, we respond by shutting down whatever natural responses that feel
threatening to our young minds at the time. It could be sexuality, or even the ability to breathe with natural ease. For a great many people it’s a graceful natural response to music.
What Causes White Man’s Clapping Syndrome?
Imagine for instance that the twins in the video were boys and that their parents implanted in
them the belief that moving to music was a sissy thing to do. Those boys would likely grow up to be my target market, afflicted through life with White Man’s Clapping Syndrome..
They might remember what it was that made them think dancing was just not allowed, or it might not be obvious because what makes sense at the age of two might not register on an adult brain.
But they are nevertheless left with an emotional reaction that feels like a threat to their very survival Why else would a man who loves a woman who loves to dance refuse to even try to learn to be a partner for her?
My previous experience in counseling comes in handy here, not because I analyze the psychological issues of my students, which I don’t, but because I recognize the power of decisions we make at a young age and how difficult it is to break free.
I have incredible respect for the courage of people who are willing to take on such a challenge. I
guide them through it with understanding patience, compassion, and humor.
The Power of Music
The great neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote about using music to bring people out of comas. It had to be the right music, though, music that they loved. When faced with the wrong music, the coma looked like a better choice.
Everyone who lacks rhythm requires a unique approach to finding it again. This one problem is the most challenging for me to solve. Rhythm comes from the right brain and our educational system only teaches us to use the left. When I teach it I have to use my right brain as well. People ask me how I do it and the answer is I have no idea. I make it up as I go, praying that my instincts will guide me to the right way to work with each student. It’s the scariest and most enriching part of what I do.
Dancing without music
I know a couple who copied the dance routines of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They danced around the room with graceful skill, completely ignoring the music. It looked like a movie with the sound track out of sync. Most teachers don’t even try to teach this, and many competitive ballroom dancers believe that dance is it’s own art form that has nothing to do with music.
I, of course, disagree. To me, dance that is disconnected from music is more of a sport than a dance. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: my definition of dance is making a musical instrument out of your body and jamming with the band.
My biggest success story comes from the time when Lindy Hop inexplicably was all the rage among teenagers. I worked with a kid whose friends were all advanced lindy hoppers. He fell in love with the dance even though he could not even feel the basic beat. Lindy is a jazz dance that uses all the nuances of the music.
He not only learned how to feel the music, but he fell n love with the dance and went on to become one of the best dancers in the community. He was cute and athletic and all the cute girls lined up to dance with him. This also made him totally insufferable for a while but I figured he earned the right.
New at Steps On Toes
What’s new in my business is that I now begin every first lesson with an explorer session. That’s a coaching session in which I find out what they want to accomplish, what their dance history
is, what worked and what didn’t, and what their goals REALLY are. They may come in thinking they just want to learn to dance, but their bottom line might be confidence, intimacy, social skills, or connecting to a community. When they achieve their goals it can have major impact on all parts of their lives.
People who learn to bring back their sense of rhythm often see the most profound shifts because they bring the right brain into balance. This also happens when left brained people learn
the skill of following, which also a right brain skill.
The human brain connects to music and we want to move to it. You see it in kids all the time. Dance is the embodiment of joy and it’s my job to give back to people their birthright: to respond to music with effortless grace and unabashed joy.
By LaurieAnn Lepoff
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