Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Scrambled brain

No, this isn't what I had for supper tonight -- but it is what I have inside my head right now after a three-hour dance lesson.

One of the things that I have been having a hard time getting down is the spin that is common in many of the step combinations in Georgian dance. Elene and I practice almost every day that we don't have lessons with our teacher, but I have not been able to get the steps nor timing down for the spin. I keep ending up on my heels three feet to the side instead of staying on my toes in one place. The spin goes smoothly and quickly and looks so beautiful....well, it's supposed to! My spin has been jerky, slow, and clumsy. Until today. My teacher broke down the step combination in a way that I finally understood, and then we practiced it over and over and over and over and over and over and then some more. There were several moments when I had to stop because of dizziness -- then I paid attention to spotting correctly so I could go on.

There are so many things to think about when doing a spin. Spotting is one of the most important -- it's how dancers can spin and spin without getting dizzy. The head has to go from one shoulder to the other as quickly as possible to look for the front wall before the body finishes making its revolution. That's not too hard. It just takes a little getting used to the fast motion (this is where my brain gets scrambled). The weight transfer from one foot to the other is what kept tripping me up (almost literally sometimes). The toe that gets spun on is not the toe that has the weight on it to begin with -- that's what I kept missing. If spinning to the right, the right toe begins pointed out to the side with the weight on the left, but the weight shifts to the right as the body rotates directly over the right toe and the left steps to the other side of the right toe as close to it as possible, then moves around again to where it started. When the body has rotated fully, the weight remains on the right toe with the left pointed out to the side, ready to receive the weight for the left-hand spin. And back and forth and back and forth, right then left, right then left. Then add the arm motions -- thankfully they follow the motion of the spin -- out to the sides to start, then wrapping around the front and back to follow the flow of the rotation. The tricky part is to keep the hands in the proper position -- "Georgian hands" -- graceful and fluid.

Try keeping track of all of that in the matter of a fraction of a second. It was not easy while I had to think about each piece. The first (many) times I tried this, I got my head looking the correct direction to start and the right toe out to the side, but then I'd get lost. My brain couldn't keep up with what was supposed to happen next. But now I can do the motion without having to think about it (tacit knowledge -- one of the things that I loved studying in my graduate work. If you don't know what it is, read up on it -- fascinating stuff!) My muscles have learned what to do, the sequence of motions now feels fluid, and so my spin actually works -- I can stay on my toes (mostly) and end where I began (usually). After at least an hour of only spinning, I should hope I have it down! Not thinking about the process makes it easier to do (that's tacit knowledge).

Language has also been scrambled in my brain lately. I keep mixing up Georgian and Spanish when I try speaking Georgian. My brain knows that I am not speaking English, and it defaults to Spanish. I have actually put Spanish words into sentences that I try to say in Georgian. Mixing English and Spanish is called "Spanglish" -- so what is mixing Georgian and Spanish? Georgnish? or maybe Spangian? Whatever it's called, it's in my brain mashed up with English. Keeping the three straight is getting to be a bit difficult. I am still thinking in English, but when trying to decode the Georgian that I hear, my thinking moves to Spanish -- that's not helpful! So the words going in my ears are one language, and they don't match the ones in the "language files" in my head.....except for a few in the very small file labeled, "ქართული" ("Georgian," in Georgian). My synapses are not used to checking that file for information -- they keep trying to look up the necessary language information in the "Español" file. They are going to get themselves fired soon if they keep this up.

It would be really nice if learning to speak a language were as easy as learning to dance.

And now, scrambled brain and tired feet are telling my confused synapses that it is time to sleep....

1 comment:

  1. I've read some of your posts about dance in the past and wondered what the Georgian dance looks like. It sounds very difficult, but it was hard for me to imagine it. Today I decided to go online and check it out. Youtube had videos. Oh my goodness, Stef!!! You are learning this stuff??? I am completely amazed and impressed!!! You go girl!!!!