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October 20, 2008

Mind vs instinct

(Renaming the post to something I feel are even more appropriate. 22/10/08)

During a recent practica, it suddenly occurred to me that, while practicing, I really need to be careful that I don’t over-emphasise the “intellectual” side while practicing techniques at the expense of shutting out my body’s natural instincts.

What do I mean by this?

Take the Tango walk as an example. From personal experience, thinking too much about having to maintain an upright posture (be it in the style of Hsueh-tze Lee or Javier Rodriguez which by the way have much in common when you examine the techniques closely) can lead to unnecessary tensions in the chest, lower back, hips, etc., all of which can make walking uncomfortable and look artificial. In addition, thinking too much about foot placements and leg extension can impede our own natural instinct to regain and maintain balance at the end of each step. When there is a loss of balance, the mind may easily rationalise the situation as “more … is needed” which in turn can lead to even greater muscular tension, and the start of a vicious cycle.

Instead, and not de-emphasising the need to remember the “correct technique” learnt in workshops, I feel that, from time to time, it is equally necessary to practice without boundaries. Just let your body/instinct/intuition (whatever label one likes to use) take over, without any fears of losing control.

In fact, if I was to sum up what I’d written above in a nut shell, it is simply to “practice and dance without losing your identity” (in the midst of learning/copying from great teachers we have taken classes from)!?

Update, 22/10/08.

Two approaches that can be tried are:

  1. Use rhythmic music that has a steady beat but not enough time to let your mind wander and start thinking halfway through the exercise, e.g. medium-paced D’Arienzo.
  2. Keep the practice objective simple, but lots of repetitions. E.g. when practicing forward ochos, concentrate on moment of the turn instead of worrying about the landing of the pivoting foot, torsion of body, how to retract the free leg, etc.
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