General Dance Discussion > Threading patterns together

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by ticolora, Nov 10, 2016.

  1. ticolora

    ticolora Member

    One of the problems I (and I naively assume every other beginner leader) faces is remembering patterns I know.

    Suppose I have 15 patterns that I can execute well, once I choose one. However I find it difficult to think of a next pattern to do "on the spot". I believe some refer to this problem as a "dancer's block".

    So, here I ask if you people have a method to quickly access patterns you know. I understand it comes with practice, but I'm hopeful there is a secret shortcut method as well.

    Ideally, this method would also account for choosing appropriate pattern that also fits hand hold, position, and floor space. But at this point, just thinking of a "next" pattern would be a good start. I think if I know what I want to do next (or soon), then it is easy to figure out bridge patterns to get to the necessary configuration (hand hold, position, floor space).

    *Just* to demonstrate a possible solution, I could assign each figure a number, and memorize that list, so all I have to do then is to think of a number in a 1-15 range. Instead of numbers, perhaps I can use colors, or some other well known sufficiently large set (alphabet, states, santa reindeer names, republican candidates).
  2. FancyFeet

    FancyFeet Well-Known Member

    How is this a different question than the discussion that is going on here ?

    There's also some info in the following:

    I'm not trying to be rude, I just honestly don't understand how the question is different. As you've been active in all of these threads, I'm feeling like you are searching for an answer that you're not getting... or that you are simply not liking the answers you are getting (that it takes practice, there is no shortcut, etc.). Either way, I'm at a loss on how to help, so if you can clarify what you are looking for, you may get more useful answers.
    danceronice likes this.
  3. ticolora

    ticolora Member

    @FancyFeet: the quality of my questions reflects low quality of my understanding of the subject.

    Here is how I see a progression of a dancer (I'll speak for myself):
    1. Learn to hold the rhythm, and keep footwork (QQS SS).
    2. Learn patterns in isolation.
    3. Learn to thread patterns together.
    4. Learn to choose patterns to fit the music.
    5. Bend the rhythm and patterns.

    My question about "how to improvise a routine" is about level 4 - picking the _right_ pattern based on music and other factors (hand hold, floor space, and position).
    This present question is about level 3 - being able to quickly think of _any_ figure. Right now I draw a complete blank and do 5 basics in a raw until I muster enough focus to think of something else to do.

    As a gate-criteria, I'd say you graduate from level 3 if you can randomly execute a sequence of figures without doing basic steps (except as a bridge). Level 4, is a continuation of that, but level 4 substitutes _random_ selection, with _more intelligent_ selection process.

    So. This question is a about a _technique_ for easily choosing a random figure. Again, just for demonstration purposes, here are some possible techniques:
    1. Write all the moves on a whiteboard (if I am in a studio)
    2. Write all the moves on my sleeve
    3. Write all the moves on a T-shirt (upside down, in neon letters so they are visible in darkness).
    4. Write an app that will announce random moves in an ear-piece or google glass (don't judge me, some of us nerdier than others).
    5. Task lady with calling out moves.
    6. Task instructor with calling out moves.

    Obviously, not all of these work in every situation.

    Each question of mine is very specific, but all three are around level 3-4 of my progression scale.
  4. atk

    atk Active Member

    The questions do seem very similar, but I suspect that's because they are, and because there is overlap between them. I like your (@ticolora) breakdown of the learning stages and i think it helps to illustrated the nuances between the questions.

    While you state that your question is about level 3, I it has strong roots in level 2, and the answer is (un?)surprisingly the same: practice.

    Assuming you know all your patterns cold, choose two patterns and practice leading one right after another. Do this in your mind, or with a practice partner, or in class. Many classes teach more complex concepts by stringing together many patterns.

    Then try doing it while social dancing. Accept that you will need a bunch of basics to give you time to think in between, just like you needed them when you were first learning patterns. Accept that you will try several times before making it work, and you may need basics between the two patterns to figure it out, again, in the heat of the moment.

    Do this with whatever pairs of patterns you want. Try sets of three or more patterns when it starts working well with two.

    Eventually, you'll notice that there are really only a few ways that patterns start or end. foot positions, body positions, hand positions, etc. You'll notice that connecting patterns together often means cutting off an ending or a beginning or both, and ending/starting"in the middle".

    Eventually, you will have practiced enough that this becomes second nature.
  5. ticolora

    ticolora Member

    Yeah, study and practice is often a solution. I was just hoping there is technique to make the process more efficient.
    To draw a parallel, you can learn a foreign language by repeating a new word until you memorize it, or you can use michel thomas's technique (coming up with associations to remember words, e.g. "bald" in German is "soon", so you remember "I will be bald soon"). You still need to practice, but it cuts time significantly, and improves retention (based on my experience).

    I want a similar technique for quickly enumerating my patterns, so it takes less mental efforts to pick a new (*random*) pattern.
  6. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    Rather than assign a random value (numbers or colors) that you then have to interpret, I would suggest just having a mental picture of what you want to do next. I don't think, "I'll do crossover breaks next," I picture the pattern in my mind. To me, that's the most direct way of my brain telling my body what I want to do.

    Again, simple is best. You don't have a lot of time when you're out on the floor to get from one step to the next, so make it as streamlined a process as possible. But you have to find what works for you. You may find that starting with sets of patterns, like a routine, is a good way to start, but then start substituting on the fly. For example, say in rumba you do a box with underarm turn, followed directly by an open break underarm turn, right into crossover breaks. Then, see if you can just swap out one of those patterns while you're dancing, or add just one more pattern to the end of it. Take baby steps.

    And bear in mind, there is no shame in doing basics between fancy patterns. And doing a whole song without basics is not a good goal.
  7. SwingingAlong

    SwingingAlong Well-Known Member

    If your dance moves can follow in any order (unlike standard, which has set precedes and follows) how about:
    write out your 15 moves, on individual cards (15 cards)
    Divide into 3 groups of 5
    Memorize and practice the 3 groups to use that week.
    This way you are memorizing a BLOCK of moves. Then, if you have a good memory, you only need to initiate the first move of any of the 3 blocks, and then you have another few patterns to complete before you need to actively think again. You could do the blocks in any order.
    Next week, shuffle the cards, divide again, practice, memorize, and use. Repeat each week.
    IndyLady likes this.
  8. ticolora

    ticolora Member

    @twinkltoz, The problem I'm having is not with remembering the pattern ("how it goes"), but rather "what is the next pattern to do". For me, I need to *name* the pattern in my head, and then I can execute it. It's like I have all this patterns in my mind-bag, but I'm having problem finding them, but once I find it (*just the name*) - I can do it.

    However, I like your idea (although it doesn't answer the original question, nevertheless it is a valuable suggestion) - I am talking about coming up with a routine (3-5 moves), and use that in place of a basic, so if I can't think of what to do next - I'll just fall back to my "basic routine", until I think of something else to do. I hope to use this as a crutch, just to get over this phase I am in right now. Because once follower figures out the routine - fun ends.
  9. ticolora

    ticolora Member

    @SwingingAlong, I like your idea. So instead of working with patterns - I'd be working with amalgamations, and there are fewer of them to remember. It doesn't solve the original problem, but it reduces it. Also, it is not necessary to make each figure exclusive to each group. So instead of 3 groups of 5, I can do 5 groups of different combinations of those (with some duplications). All good ideas.
  10. rain_dog

    rain_dog Active Member

    This probably isn't going to help you, but in thinking about your question I realized that when I'm dancing the verbal centers in my brain shut down and I go into a mode of pure sound and movement. It's as if my inner dialogue that normally is going nonstop finally shuts up.

    One consequence of this is that there are quite a few steps that I like to do that I have no words for. I mean, I could explain them to you with words, but I haven't put a name to them, and am never thinking "Ok, what's next? How about XYZ?" I think of them in terms of movement, not their names, and I put them together by intuition.

    I don't know when I started dancing this way, because when I was a beginner I was constantly taking notes, writing stuff down and cataloguing sequences. But at some point I stopped thinking with words and started thinking with this other mode.

    (Another kind of funny consequence is that sometimes after a particularly good dance, I literally can't speak, as my language faculties need a few moments to come back online. I'll go to say something and nonsense comes out. Dance aphasia, I suppose you could call it.)
    nikkitta, RiseNFall and SwingingAlong like this.
  11. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    I'm the same way. That's why picturing it works better for me than naming it.
  12. ticolora

    ticolora Member

    @twnkltoz, I see what you mean and I can relate to that, however for now I need to choose a pattern first, and then execute it. I know, with practice, I can skip that extra step.
  13. ticolora

    ticolora Member

    One trick I found working for me, and might be helpful to others. I classified the patterns I know into 4 groups, based on the travel: left side pass (LSP), right side pass (RSP), right side stop (RSS) and front-front / no travel (F-F).

    In each group I've assigned and memorized a "default" pattern.

    Now, if I [about to] get stuck in basics, I only need to pick one of these four well known groups, and then either do a "default" figure from the group, or pick some other move. I think this top-level grouping makes the problem significantly simpler. Even if I keep just doing "default" figures from each of 4 categories, it looks significantly less monotonous than spell of basics.

    E.g. in Salsa:
    F-F: follow's right UAT
    RSS: shoulder catch
    RSP: right side pass
    LSP: cross body lead

    And most of these have few variations, and it is easy to pick a variation, once I have picked the figure.
    opendoor likes this.
  14. ticolora

    ticolora Member

    This is working so far pretty well for me, not sure if it will help me in long run, or will get me dependant on this.

    I put together a quick "web site", that randomly picks a move out of 20+ moves I want to practice:

    I run it my phone while practicing (alone or with a partner), when I don't know what to do next - I glance at the screen and execute whatever is on (plus necessary moves to get into the right position/handhold).

    Can't see this in a nightclub, I don't think. But hopefully this will improve my "come up with next thing to do" skill, and will reduce number of basics between the moves. Will see how's that going to work out.
    twnkltoz likes this.
  15. Janson

    Janson Active Member

    Crikey - this makes it sound all very complicated. Whatever you find works for you is great (as long as it works!). You do sound very logical, mathematical and like to follow a series of steps. I'd say don't think of it in terms of 'basics' and 'patterns'. Patterns work best when you're learning them as part of a routine, or for entertainment in a class. They can work socially if they're widely known and flow especially well.
    Beyond that - dance your basics, then add another figure. Once you're comfortable with the choice of those two, add a third then a fourth etc. When I dance salsa for example, I make no distinction in choosing what comes next between a basic, an underarm turn or a cross-body lead. For ballroom you'll have to have separate natural and reverse (and possibly corner) figures to choose from but the principle remains the same.
    raindance likes this.
  16. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    I think it can be good to be organized. To be able instinctively move from one pattern to the next requires practice, and repeating the same combinations over and over again can help. It also helps to find an experienced dancer who is already good in this area.
  17. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    I drew a big chart, kind of a mind map. Every pattern or step ended in possible subsequent steps. Really impressive network ;)
    The next thing was that I used to practice one or two sectors of my chart with my dance partner. Over the years all those possibilities entered my cerebellum then.

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