General Dance Discussion > What are the dangers of learning patterns?

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by ticolora, Nov 4, 2016.

  1. ticolora

    ticolora Member

    When you take an entry level group lesson, they pretty much begin with giving you few patterns and a routine and lead you through executing it.

    My (private lesson) teacher, takes a diametrically opposite approach - she "evades" giving me patterns at all. She gives me backstory of the dance, dance character, general idea of the rhythm, and then tells me to dance to the music, doing whatever ("as long as you can lead it" she says). My feeling is that this approach is "better", and more efficient in a long run (which is not always a luxury in a 1-hr group lesson). I don't question that approach. My question is specifically about any potential drawbacks of learning patterns too soon, or learning too many of them.

    Let me rephrase: Can I hinder my progress or hurt my ability if I learn too many patterns?

    Just like everybody else (I assume), I like learning new patterns and perfecting them. I figured that 15 is a good number to shoot for (84 bars song, 30% spent in basic leaves 4 repeats per figure). So, I figured, I'll try 30 - pick 15 I like, and emphasize those. Does that sound reasonable? But now I am worried, that if I learn too many of them - that might hinder my progress or compromise my dancing. Is that a substantiated worry?

    InB4: I realize that it is better to know few patterns and execute them well, than to know many and execute them poorly. I also understand that _equally well_ executed routines of 5-patterns and 15-patterns will not significantly differ qualitatively (as defined by existential reasons of dance). So my desire to learn more patterns is not to make dance more impressive by including more figures in, but rather to improve my dance by having a larger repertoire, and (more importantly) I enjoy learning, perfecting and knowing patterns - even if I never use them.

    This is an open ended question pretty much, so don't hold back.
  2. Loki

    Loki Well-Known Member

    The key is to be able to lead.
    IndyLady likes this.
  3. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    From my point of view, the only real drawback of learning more patterns is that it's time that could be spent on more important things. You're not going to *hurt* yourself by learning more, but it won't actually improve your dancing. But if it makes you happy, great!

    I will say that while I've never stopped to count (doing so seems wildly unproductive), I'm pretty sure I've never danced 15 different patterns in a social dance before in my life. But then, in the ballroom world I live in, I would pretty much never dance to an 84 measure song that wasn't Viennese or maaaybe samba.
    j_alexandra and Dancing Irishman like this.
  4. Loki

    Loki Well-Known Member

    No 5-minute long salsas? Lol.
  5. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    I think there are the occasional excessively long salsas played, but I'm very much in the "oh, this is a salsa - time to go get water" camp. :p
  6. Dancing Irishman

    Dancing Irishman Well-Known Member

    I'm also a big fan of the "oh, this song is going really long - do you want to keep dancing to it?" maneuver. Makes sure you and your partner aren't both making yourselves miserable by continuing to dance to the same song; especially useful when live bands play at ECS / Lindy Hop events, because sometimes they want to feature every. dang. band. member. as a soloist in one song.
  7. Dancing Irishman

    Dancing Irishman Well-Known Member

    OP, think of learning patterns as a jumping off point for your dancing, but at the end of the day your dances will be composed of fundamental units smaller than patterns. Maybe it'd be more productive to focus on perfecting the fundamental actions of your chosen dance genre(s) rather than learning a set number of figures per dance.

    As a ballroom example, Shirley Ballas (multi-time world champion) is a big fan of the 7(+1) Rumba walks and 7 actions framework for teaching rumba. Basically, you use those 15 pieces in various orders, rhythms, dance holds, and dance positions to dance rumba, and that's how you arrive at all of the myriad "figures" in syllabus and open Latin rumba.

    Disclaimer: your teacher may or may not think this way, and may or may not warm up to entertaining this approach when you mention it's common in the ballroom world. Just FYI.

    FWIW, I probably have a stable of 5-6 figures that I use most frequently when dancing socially; other variations just pop out based on what I'm feeling in the connection (i.e. where my partner is and what that frees me up to do).
  8. FancyFeet

    FancyFeet Well-Known Member

    I think I'm confused by the question:
    Can I hinder my progress or hurt my ability if I learn too many patterns? My brain is going "um, no"... but I might be missing the intent or context.

    To be clear: my primary style is standard. I can dance every syllabus figure in all 5 dances and a good number of non-syllabus ones too... and can mix and match in various combinations (I can dance a substantial chunk of them in the opposite role as well). I have favourite combinations, as I suspect most dancers do - but the figures don't only get executed in those combinations. So "patterns" haven't hurt me at all, but I also don't consider knowing where to put my feet knowing a figure/pattern. For me to say I know it, that means foot placement, timing, body action, head position, swing, sway, lead, follow, weight transfer etc. And all that took years. And I'd never expect to use even half of that on a social floor in an evening.

    Most people learning to dance start with a few figures in a few dances, then progress to larger chunks of 3-5 figures that can be mixed and matched depending on the situation. It's the learning to mix and match that some find difficult... so don't always dance pattern A, then pattern B, then pattern C, then repeat. I think that's what OP's teacher who is against patterns wants to avoid.

    Try something more like: pattern A, pattern C, oh darn there's someone in the way - emergency bailout with figures X and Y, pick back up at second half of pattern B, pattern A, random figure from another dance just for kicks, pattern B. That's fun to follow, and no one will accuse you of being predictable, but is less taxing on the brain than having to make it up on the fly - and could be made up of not a huge amount of individual figures, assuming the patterns are fairly short.
    Dancing Irishman and Borazine like this.
  9. snapdancer

    snapdancer Well-Known Member

    What often happens that people think dance skills correspond to how many patterns they "know". It's not how many patterns you "know", rather it's how well you know the patterns you know.
  10. ticolora

    ticolora Member

    I wonder if learning patterns allows you to skip fundamentals about dancing in general, and a specific dance in particular. If you have to reinvent the figures, based on a basic understanding of the dance character, music, "culture", history - you are likely to have a better understanding of the dance in question (and dancing in general). Whereas if you just learn patterns, you miss on this understanding of the inner mechanics, which, allegedly, can limit your ability to execute learnt patterns, as well as invent or combine patterns.

    Think of it this way. You can learn common phrases in spanish, without understanding much of grammatic, such as: "One more beer please?", and "Which way is the library?".
    At the same time, starting learning with those common language might give you an idea of the feel of the language, to help you learn it, rather than starting with very abstract rules of grammar.
  11. SwayWithMe

    SwayWithMe Well-Known Member

    Patterns are the common language. Two beginners who are individually "reinventing" the dance are less likely to have a successful social dance than two beginners who both know a handful of patterns from the beginner group class.

    Technique is more important than the number of patterns one knows. Simply collecting new patterns is not going to improve one's dancing. Focussing on smaller elements (walk, heel turn, pivot, whatever) lets you apply technique to every pattern that makes use of that element. Given a clear lead, a follower can recognize elements to dance patterns or variations she may not have specifically learnt.

    Improvisational dance is an excellent tool as far as recognizing what movements actually fit the music. I don't think I'd be particularly thrilled if I accepted an invitation for a waltz and ended up being led in a completely improvised/reinvented dance; my expectation would be that it would be mostly *waltz* figures (but not that I be run through every pattern from every syllabus -- well-executed basics are dreamy!)
  12. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    OP, which dance style are you learning? Ballroom? Tango? Salsa?

    Patterns give you something to do, to which you can apply your technique. They often have a specific lesson, like how to do a specific turn or type of connection.

    The problem with learning too many is that you're learning new footwork and stuff instead of perfecting the patterns you already learned and perfecing your connection, musicality, etc.
    atk, raindance and SwayWithMe like this.
  13. Jeravae

    Jeravae New Member

    I'm wondering if your teacher isn't going to start teaching you patterns soon, and just wanted to you feel the music first. Maybe get the feeling of leading into your body before she starts giving your mind things to think about.
  14. FancyFeet

    FancyFeet Well-Known Member

    Or she thinks you're getting enough patterns in group classes and wants to work on you actually being able to execute them.
    SwayWithMe and twnkltoz like this.
  15. Partner Dancer

    Partner Dancer Well-Known Member

    Individuals learn in different ways, and have/develop personal preferences in
    how/what they dance. Whether (too many) patterns help or hurt depends on how
    you are wired.

    Some people can use/analyze the differences in patterns and build skills/
    instincts from them, while others are (and will be) frustrated by them. Some
    people strive to polish the patterns they do/know, while others are content to
    be sloppy doing them (while usually not recognizing the sloppiness).

    At various stages in one's dance progress, the abilities and preferences
    will also likely change.

    The usual experience for beginner dancers is the need to collect patterns
    as that seems to reflect progress best/easiest. The usual experience
    of highly capable dancers is that patterns are no big deal, and are easy to
    pick up.

    What is your goal and how much do you want to commit to dance, and
    to dancing well?
    IndyLady likes this.
  16. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    the relevance of the following will vary depending on the genre:

    will your partners be expecting to be led familiar (syllabus) patterns?

    learning/creating patterns is not sufficient; assuming you are a lead, it is also incumbent on you to learn how to *lead* the figure as unambiguously as possible.

    finally, knowing the pattern and knowing how to lead the pattern is still subsidiary to knowing when you can lead the pattern with a fair degree of confidence that your partner can follow the figure smoothly. this is more a concern if you are dancing socially and expect to dance with a fair number of partners you've never danced with before. in this case, you should probably be able to categorize your patterns by the degree of technical ability required by your partner. when dancing with an unknown partner, start with the patterns requiring the least amount of technical ability of your partner and slowly increase the difficulty until you reach the level of that partner, and then do not surpass that difficulty level.
    ticolora and LateToTheDance like this.

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