You have probably noticed how kids seem to learn everything really fast. If you have seen the video further down in this blog post, then you are probably convinced that is carries over to dance too. So how good would it be if you could get this back? You had it once so maybe there is a way to get it back. Let me tell you more about how you might just be able to do this.
One way I find new ways of helping people learn dance better is by staying up to date with scientific findings and thinking about how they can be used to help with dance. Obviously not much of it has a focus, but some of it does. And recently I found something that did. I came across an article that summarised research into how much kids learn better.
Interestingly enough, it turns out that they don’t really.
The article summarised the following examples of where researchers found that adults actually learned better than kids:
Research conducted at York University didn’t really show that adults do it better. What it found that there was no clear advantage to being a kid. People who were immigrants to the US and had to learn English upon their arrival had been tested for their English skills. The average level was then correlated with how long people had been in the US learning English. The research found no advantage from being young, only from being in a new country for a long time. A five year old and a 40 year immigrating to the US from China would have similar language skills after 5 years.
Have you ever read the book Guitar Zero by Gary Marcus?
Gary, at the age of 38, decided to start learning guitar. Although his family laughed at him at first, he started to learn. At a band camp amongst teenagers he found that he was better at song structure – although had some pitch and motor skill issues.
- Keyboard practice
Researchers at Concordia University looked into the way people can learn to hit certain keys at a certain time – basically playing the keyboard without actual music. Older people performed better than younger people suggesting better coordination with age.
Further to the experiment above, people were asked learn to juggle. People 60 and above, showed some hesitation at first. But once they got over it, they were up to the same rate of learning as people in their 30s. And adults were doing better than kids. Suggesting that adults had better hand eye coordination.
So why the difference?
How is that we can still think the kids learn better (including dance) despite the research above?
The reason is that kids learn better despite the fact that they do not have a natural advantage. They learn this due to external factors and attitude.
- Learning time
Kids are often in school for most of the day. How can you not learn fast when you’re learning all the time?
- Frequent quizzing
Kids are frequently subjected to quizzes. This certainly makes someone pay attention and stimulates the brain to retain what has been learned. It’s especially good if you can be tested just as you’re about to forget. Most adults rely on self-testing, which often never happens.
- Over thinking
If you have read much of what I have written – previous posts and e-books – then you will know how much I talk about the role of getting the right mind set for learning. As adults we have very well developed reasoning and our prefrontal cortex (responsible for our ability to reason) is larger. After years of practice, it’s hard not to rely on this ability. It often serves us well. However, other parts of a brain (the motor cortex for example) are very good at controlling how you move. Kids do not have developed reasoning so they have no choice but to rely on those parts of the brain that are more suited.
This is related to the above. The more we worry, the more we try to think our way out of the problem, and the less likely we are to use the best part of our brains to learn.
So what to do to be a better dancer
We don’t always have time to learn (certainly not as much as kids do). However, putting the effort into practicing something each would help.
Focus on getting it right to – say remembering a routine, a collection of steps or moving in time to music. Make an effort to remember or do it right. Teachers can use this to their advantage too: try testing students every now and then in different ways to stimulate the brain into remembering.
- Inner Game
This is something that I have spoken about a lot. You can read more in the e-books, but in essence focus more on what outcome you want (how your dance should look or feel) as opposed to think a lot about how to specifically do it. That’s not to say you can’t use feedback with high specificity – as an adult that’s something you have over others – just don’t rely on that alone. Know how to use the right tool for each job.
The research also found that if people were told they were above average at something, then they felt that they could and did do better. Tell yourself you are – get hypnotised if you need it. Too many people lose confidence when they get older – and there is no need for it.
- Trim down
Research has also found that extra weight and a lack of fitness can reduce the size of parts of the brain that are used for learning. When people were encouraged to exercise just a little more, these parts of the brain got bigger. Dance will help with this so you have a bit of a virtuous cycle here. However, it might be a good to look at fitness as well for physicality and the better learning.
I hope the above helps. If you need more specific advice on how to use these ideas for your dance, then please leave a comment about it. I will repsond ASAP.