Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Practice makes Perfect?

Took a really interesting workshop this weekend with Tomas Howlin on how to practice. Seems like a no-brainer, right? You work on something with someone until you get it right. But what is right? How do you get there? How do you know it is working? And how do you not rip off the head of your practice partner when they give you less than constructive feedback?

Interesting indeed.....

Sorin and I had been finding that we needed more constructive and communication based practice times together. I love him, I really really do, and there were times when I just wanted to kill him because of what he was telling me, what I perceived he was telling me, or what he was not telling me. And I have no doubt that it went both ways. Our common theme was he would give me feedback or instructions that would drive me insane, I would not get what he was saying, he did not know how to phrase whatever the elusive thing was that he wanted me to do, and then a month or two later, someone would mention to me that I should do A, B and C in order to properly do Z, and I would get it. Then I would ask Sorin why he could not tell me what so-and-so said.

You see how this goes. Round and round and round until we have two very frustrated dancers.

Tomas cut through all of that by encouraging body awareness and perception. How do you react when someone asks you a probing question? How should you react? How do you communicate what you feel/do/want? How many ways are you communicating it? How can you communicate it in different ways so your partner gets it? How can you listen to what they are telling you without focusing on what you want to tell them?

Really interesting thoughts.

Things that got me thinking.

We practiced an exercise on the different ways to interpret and react to and interact with our partners. How to adapt and communicate on both sides of the embrace. There were some ah-ha! moments...

There was one moment when we were exploring the different ways the leader communicated to the follower that they want to move in or out of close embrace. Sorin and I practiced it a bit, then Tomas asked how the communication went. I mentioned that I knew when Sorin wanted to slide in or out as his right arm would change position is a specific way that communicated to me that he was going to change the embrace. Sorin immediately disagreed that he was doing that. Which, naturally, made every one laugh. But later we talked about it, and instead of my getting defensive for what I perceived as a dismissal of my response to his actions, I said "This is what I feel from you, you do this and I know what to expect." His reaction was along the lines of this is only the first step in what I do to change the embrace, it is not how I change the embrace. My response was, but it is the first step, so it is what I feel first, so to me, it is how you begin to change the embrace.

And an ah-ha moment was born.

He heard what I was saying as valid, even though he thought he was doing something else. I heard that he felt that what he did after this moment was what changed the embrace, even though I felt something else first.

Tomas gave us some communication homework for the next time we practice. And I am thinking that maybe we might be better able to communicate in practice together and not get so quickly upset with each other.

It's quite a concept.
I am thinking that there is hope for us, that there will not be an obituary that states "Unfortunate and untimely deaths due to miscommunications in practicing colgadas."


Sorin said...

"Unfortunate and untimely deaths due to miscommunication in practicing colgadas."


Danzarin said...

I wrote a long comment, and then thought maybe I should write it as a post on my blog. So I did and you can read it there. But your post inspired me a lot, and I actually understand very well at a personal level what the post is about. Enjoyed it. Thanks

Debbi said...

I thought you would get a kick out of that obit Sorin! ;-)

Danzarin - Thanks! I just went to your blog, but no post. I'll keep checking. I am pleased that you felt a connection with what I wrote. :-)

Debbi said...

Never mind, it just arrived. Am reading it now Danzarin. :-)

Heather said...

Debbi, you might want to come to a string quartet rehearsal sometime. Not only can dancers learn about practicing from musicians (of course - that is what we do all day long!), but the methods of communication between four people trying to make art non-verbally are mysterious, take practice to establish, and can sometimes fall into bad patterns.

Mostly, we learn not to take ANYTHING personally, and to always give the other person the benefit of the doubt by trusting that the goal of everyone present is to make the music better. If that is everyone's goal, then it's just about compromising, and reacting constructively to comments. Much harder to say than to do!

Claudita said...

Great post and I think I really need this workshop. Last night I spent a lot of time sulking at my partner after this kind of non communication: Me: I really can't move when you have your arm so low around my waist. Him: Well, I didn't notice I was doing it - I'm not doing it on purpose. Me: I'm not saying that you are doing it on purpose - just that it makes it difficult for me to move. Him: but you are being so negative..well, ok now I really am.