Holism versus Reductionism
In the last post I spoke about how you can use reductionism to be a better dance. The key was to look at each aspect of your dance ability separately and then improve each in turn. You improve each part of your dance so that your dance automatically becomes better.
This will work for everyone. However, it doesn’t mean it will work every time.
One of the defining features of social dance is how it brings a diversity of things together. It is because you need to bring body control, musicality, memory, leading/following and social awareness together at the same time that dance is one of the best ways to exercise your brain - http://socialdance.stanford.edu/syllabi/smarter.htm.
This integration into a single entity that is more than just its parts is called holism.
If you have mastered all the aspects of dance, but still feel that something is not right, then it is likely that you need to use a holistic approach.
How to use holism in dance
Reductionism often relies first on your logical brain to work out what needs to be improved and then how to improve it. Paradoxically though, the goal is to improve things like your musicality and leading so that you no longer need to think about it. It should be like walking or speaking or reaching into your pocket. You think about the goal and your body just does it. Think about how much more effort is needed when you choose your words carefully or when you walk in a particular way. It’s a little like watching yourself talk or walk. You give some instructions on the specifics (words or foot placement), but your body still does its own thing.
That’s what you want to do when you try to use holism in dance. Let your body take care of the specifics while you just set the standard for the style.
For example, you might be in time, you might have the right foot placement for each figure and you might have the right posture. But people say that you lack ‘flow’.
Now really: what is ‘flow’?
It’s not something that you can really work on with reductionism. It’s an issue with how you dance as an individual – maybe you’re a stepwise person who like to take things one step at a time and this carries over to each aspect of your dance and your dance as a whole. In such a case you now just need to think about flow. Get the notion into your mind so that your whole brain knows that’s what you want. And you will start to dance with flow.
You can of course use this for any type of characteristic that you might like to imbue your dance with. If you have read much about the inner game in general or how the brain divides work up, then you will be familiar with how this method works. Another technique used by some people is to think of an animal that possesses the qualities that you want to display. Another way of consciously sending a message to those unconscious parts of your brain that are responsible for the other aspects of your dance.
The basic idea is to think about what your want your dance to be more like and focus on that goal or notion as you do dance - then let your well trained body follow that lead.
When to use Holism or Reductionism
You might have picked up on it, but the basic rule that is good to follow is:
Use reductionism is that you have a suite of capabilities that you can call on holistically to have the dance style that you want
This of course is about holism within you – there is also holism between you and your partner and sometimes holism among everyone on the dance floor, but those are other stories.