Watching children performing ballroom dance on Dancing with the Stars has inspired me. I was impressed by their ability to go completely into every gyration needed to perform the stylized movement.
The clarity of the children’s movements required an ability to explore the extreme range of each movement of the hips, the rib cage, the head, legs, and arms. That detail combined with putting it all together with a partner was stunning.
How is it that children can go directly to this kind of exploration and for adults it is a longer process? Studies on the brain show that children build brain maps early on and that the brain has a process of discarding old information to build new maps.
Even more important is the processes that children have built since birth. Their job is to explore the full range of every movement possible, every sound, every color, every facial expression, every smell. It is only later that they begin to discriminate and select the ones that they need to survive in their family and their culture.
Children have the “corner” on the exploration market when they choose to use it like the dancers on Dancing with the Stars. They explore the full range of every little movement. They go there and program it into their brain. That is what children do.
How are adults different? I am an extreme case to find out why it takes me so long to learn dancing. For most adults, there is the awkward stage of doing something unfamiliar, no brain map. Then if the fun is great enough and the encouragement of friend or spouse is enough, they go for the fun. Or if the social benefit of meeting the opposite sex is important, they go through the learning process.
Some women have an easier time because they built the maps in childhood dance classes. This is not the case for women like some of the female Dancing with the Stars contestants who have chosen sports or careers with less movement. These women like most men have to start from ground zero to build the brain maps for dancing.
In inquiring about men, I have heard from dancing instructors that lawyers and engineers take to dancing more readily than others. My guess is that they go directly to build the brain map with their sense of detail and determination. It is a “can do” attitude but one that is related to building detailed maps.
For me, I have to go through a layer of emotion before I get to the movement. I wade through how I feel about myself doing the movement and how I have reacted in the past. Then I send it all to a holding pond before I agree to commit it to memory.
Consequently, every time I begin to dance, it is like I am beginning new. I have forgotten everything and have to try the step to renew my experience of the step. Then when the feeling kicks in, I have entered the “holding pond” brain map.