Feeling discouraged: Is there something wrong with my visual memory?

#1
Whether I'm learning a new routine or just learning a new sequence of steps for a particular dance, I have trouble retaining what I just learnt. It's there for the duration of the lesson but a week later if I am dancing with someone and want to use that step, I am unable to perform it or I perform it poorly.

I see some of the other students don't have as much of a problem with this. They are able to retain it in their head and use it when necessary. There are also people who don't even take lessons and just go to dance socials and can learn new steps who are able to see the movements, break it down in their mind and duplicate it with their bodies.

I've had this problem since day one of dancing. Is it some sort of learning deficiency mentally?

I don't have any learning disabilities with other kinds of visual things. For instance, I play piano and guitar. I am able to quickly learn to play a piece of music by remembering where the notes are. And I can reproduce it weeks later.

But something about dance and the way it involves the entire body and being in sync with the rhythm, also the fact that there's another person involved and your steps have to be aligned with hers, it trips me up.

My slowness in this area is discouraging because it means I am unable to enjoy dancing socially with others as well as in lessons, the instructor has to keep reminding me of the steps. The only way I can memorize the steps if i I repeat it hundreds of times with my body so that it becomes muscle memory whereas the other students, it seems they can just retain it and see it in their minds.
 

FancyFeet

Well-Known Member
#2
Nope. We all learn differently. And a different rates. There's absolutely no sense in comparing your dance journey to anyone else's... feeling like your efforts or abilities are somehow lacking is just going to get in your way. And everyone struggles with something!

For example, video may be a useful reference, but it doesn't help me learn at all. I much prefer to write out my routines - figures, alignments, timing, notes to remember, etc. And watching someone else do a figure or sequence may give me a general sense of how something works, but until I feel it, I won't really get it. (Once I know how it's supposed to feel though, I can replicate that.) I used to take copious notes; as I got better, my notes got much shorter and less detailed, because there was much that I did automatically.

A trick that works for me: don't let a week go by without reviewing what you learned. Write it down (or other recording mechanism) immediately and revisit the next day, while it's still semi fresh. Then again a day or two later. This helps it stick :)
 

SwingingAlong

Well-Known Member
#4
I have been working with my DH for a few years now, since there is no dance teacher within a 4 hour drive.... for a start we were doing 20 minute lessons and 10 min reviews EVERY DAY using just 2 figures. UNTIL it was in his muscle memory. Then we added another step. And reviewed that, over and over. So on, for the winter season. Summer season we did nothing, and the following season he still remembered what we had drilled over and over, but not the last few weeks of the newer steps. he was amazed that he remembered anything - I said to him, don't think. Don't stress. Just wait until I put on the music and see what happens - and his body danced him around the room, without his brain knowing how it got moved.... it was, to me and excellent illustration of how different people learn. Now, he learns more quickly, and if we get an issue, I show him what I need him to do, we try it once or twice, and then the next time we dance most of the time it will be there. The thing is, it has taken us 9 years of winter dancing to get to this point - and endless patience on my part as his partner, to always be happy to repeat things over and over, to remind him when he forgets. It is far harder by yourself and in a group class.

Sounds like you already KNOW what you need, and that is getting it into muscle memory. You don't need to tell anyone the hours you spend - it is not just about the mental part, the muscles actually need time to figure out HOW to move and balance, as well as building the strength and suppleness. For lots of us, it doesn't just happen. I am getting to like, for example my rumba walks, it has taken me months of constant practice, nearly every day for up to an hour to finally get balanced and strong, to feel confident in how I am moving. And I'm not even dancing with a partner, and I don't have a routine yet - it has been about building strength in my feet for confidence in Latin shoes, which I hadn't ever done before. Take the time. Take the trouble, and know that others are right there with you doing the same in other parts of the world:cool:
 
#5
Sounds like you already KNOW what you need, and that is getting it into muscle memory.
Yep. It's the only way that works for me. I've tried visualizing it in my head and then doing it with my body and it just doesn't work for some reason. I get confused. The only way it works is through repetition until the muscles in my body remember. Then when the music starts playing, my body just reacts. If I have to think, I'm screwed already.
 

snapdancer

Well-Known Member
#6
I believe that too much dependence on vision in dancing can be counter productive. A couple of things I discovered in the course of dancing:
-- Often what we think we see is not really what is happening.
-- What we think we're doing, where all our body parts are, is not necessarily what we're really doing.
In dancing, we have to rely on internal awareness of what our body is doing, and also use the connection to sense what our partner is doing. Being overly visual can overwhelm the kinesthetic sensory channel.

If you are a highly visual person, be sure to practice in front of a mirror and then note the feeling of the position, including which part of the foot is connected to the floor. When practicing with a partner, focus on the feeling through the connection where your partner is.
 

newbie

Well-Known Member
#7
Whether I'm learning a new routine or just learning a new sequence of steps for a particular dance, I have trouble retaining what I just learnt. It's there for the duration of the lesson but a week later if I am dancing with someone and want to use that step, I am unable to perform it or I perform it poorly.
And? That's the way it goes.
Sometimes just after a class I want to show the sequence to a newcomer and in the middle of it I realize that it's already forgotten. Sometimes as a substitute-occasional-volunteer teacher when the pupils are filming the recap with their phones I forget the very sequence I just taught, and partner has to whisper the next step.
 
#8
Nope. We all learn differently. And a different rates. There's absolutely no sense in comparing your dance journey to anyone else's... feeling like your efforts or abilities are somehow lacking is just going to get in your way. And everyone struggles with something!

For example, video may be a useful reference, but it doesn't help me learn at all. I much prefer to write out my routines - figures, alignments, timing, notes to remember, etc. And watching someone else do a figure or sequence may give me a general sense of how something works, but until I feel it, I won't really get it. (Once I know how it's supposed to feel though, I can replicate that.) I used to take copious notes; as I got better, my notes got much shorter and less detailed, because there was much that I did automatically.

A trick that works for me: don't let a week go by without reviewing what you learned. Write it down (or other recording mechanism) immediately and revisit the next day, while it's still semi fresh. Then again a day or two later. This helps it stick :)
I am also obsessed with writing out my routines in order to really internalize them. Both notes and video are useful tools to guide practicing on my own; solo repetition is necessary for me to get patterns into muscle memory. Technique for me also has to be felt, initially with pro and then experienced in my practice and drills, where the notes help me remember what to focus on and to recall those seconds when I "got it." But completely agree that everyone learns differently.
 
#9
I'm gonna try "meditating" if you could call it that. Sit in a dark room with my headphones and listen to the music of my routine and try to visualize each step in my mind in as much detail as possible. It's really really hard.

I just don't have enough space in my apartment to be able to do the routines effectively so this is the next best thing.
 
#12
I've forgotten about half of the swing moves I've learned. After working on just my basic swingouts for a couple months, I've managed to forget the a couple variations of the move I used to know. It's good to work out how you best learn, but I would avoid getting trapped by how fast you "should" learn or how quickly others are (and they probably have their own issues they're agonizing over).
 
#13
People think I am a "natural" at remembering steps, but it actually involves a number of strategies, 1. repetition: I review steps in my mind as soon as I get home after a lesson, and often each night before I go to sleep, sometimes more often. Sometimes I use my hands to "mark" steps or I just visualize it or try to recall the feeling of it or particular leads, etc. I sometimes don't remember everything, but if i work at it, the missing parts come back. 2. Chunking: When you get more experience, each "chunk" of dance you need to remember will be bigger and then you just have to remember each chunk, instead of each step. . 3. Cues: I use imagery, words and counts to help me remember steps. They are very personal, but meaningful to me, 4, Context: When I am learning a new routine, I stand in the same spot in the room or use the same music. Later, I ask to change the music or stand in other places. Too many changes at once are overwhelming. 5. If I video a routine, I do watch the video right after the lesson, more often and then as needed to supplement remembering. Once something is in my body/muscle memory and it is automatic, it usually sticks and then I just have to dust it off to remember. The strategy that is not helpfui is to leave the lesson and then not think about things until 15 minutes before the next lesson. That is a recipe for frustration and even the most experienced dancer cannot recall steps that way. The other thing is that I have a limit to what I can absorb in a lesson and if I get past that critical point often everything goes out the window. So now I know when my "hard drive" is full and then we work on technique. Good luck!
 

SwingingAlong

Well-Known Member
#14
... The other thing is that I have a limit to what I can absorb in a lesson and if I get past that critical point often everything goes out the window. ...
hmm. ... all of the rest of this post but especially this. My eyes glaze over and its just nope. Hard drive full. for some reason it fills up much faster in Latin than Standard. I can go 2 hours in Standard no trouble, but 1/2 hour to an hour is more than enough for Latin. Maybe it is the difference in levels - I'm open/gold in Standard but only bronzeish in Latin. In Latin, I'm still working on getting foot pressure and cuban motion, let alone feeling happy with any figures! Standard, if I know the figures a routine is easy, it is only the figures that are unfamiliar that I need to think hard about. I was learning a new Tango routine that we'd roughed out the day before. Pro had pulled a muscle so I was dancing by myself - one of the spectators couldn't believe I could dance the routine with Pro calling the figure names as a prompt..... practice makes things easier over time. And I really DO get stuck if its a slight variation - my body wants to do what it already knows!
 

opendoor

Well-Known Member
#17
...tried visualizing it in my head and then doing it with my body and it just doesn't work... The only way it works is through repetition until the muscles in my body remember.
What you report is quite normal, Vronsky. Our brain is able to cope with every situation possible, but at the cost of speed. It would be wast of resources to fix connections too early in the frontal cortex.
Regarding this question I always tell the story of my cruciate ligament surgeries: I´ve learned a knotty figure some weeks befor the operations. And I was grumpy about the fact that I couldn't perform it well. I´ve spent much time in rehab, and it was hard to get on my knees again. But when I finally stood on the dance floor, I actually could do that figure. It takes time to relocate the visual memory from the cortex to the cerebellum. Guys who learn much faster fall back on learned modules. So my advice is: do not learn complex moves as a whole, but break them down into components the brain can recycle frequently in other cases. On the other hand it is difficult to give up patterns that already have been stored in the cerebellum and relearn them. Brain and body walk in the stone ages, not on the dance floor.
 
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