A few weeks ago I found an interesting video on Ted Talks. Benjamin Zander is a conductor, speaker, and leading interpreter of Beethoven and Mahler. In this talk he speaks about the love of his life, classical music. He explains how a student of piano progresses from novice to intermediate, and how it comes through in the music.
The video is just over 20 minutes long, so if you don't have time, the part i'm referring to is 1:00 until about 3:30 - if you can, the entire Ted Talk is worth the watch.
You can watch it from YouTube in the player above, or click >Here< to go to the original Ted Talk page.
Zander notes how the learning of a skill progresses. The novice puts an impulse, an emphasis or concentration if you will, on every key. They have to think about each note as a separate entity. As their skill increases, they don't have to think so much about each note - their fingers know where to go and the emphasis is on fewer notes. Finally they become so proficient that they place even emphasis on an entire phrase of notes - one impulse for an entire stretch of music. This is where the magic happens! The notes are smooth, beautifully running into one another with no hesitation.
This idea of impulses can be applied to dance as well. A beginner concentrates on each facet of each move, and you can see it in their bodies - the concentration as they move between each motion. There's nothing wrong of course, this is just the start and I'm sure we all looked a little jerky and robotic in the very beginning. However, when you look at a professional dancer - Carolena Nericcio, Rachel Brice, etc - you will see no impulse, no jerky hesitant movements. Their motions run gracefully together in a stream of dance.
You can see this easily when you watch videos of Fat Chance Belly Dance, and other extremely skilled troupes as well. Why do they seem so graceful? So in sync and smooth? Other troupes may do the exact same movements, but you cannot deny the certain 'je ne sais quoi' that FCBD possesses. Well, now you do know what - they have so few impulses. Their skill has grown so great that they are playing their instrument with only one impulse.
Let me give you another example. The Reverse Turn in ATS. It is a slow move, and there are 5 basic motions within the move. 1 - Floreos above the head. 2 - The right hand moves down and both hands floreo. Gaze cues the turn. 3 - Both hands do a floreo as the body turns. 4 - Hands floreo to each side of the body. 5 - Right hand moves up as hands floreo once more.
When I learned this move, I did each part as if it was a separate move. I was doing the move, yes, but robotically. Now that I've improved, most of the move has smoothed out. I'd honestly guess I have maybe 2 or 3 impulses on the move now - the first floreos flow easily together, the turn I still have to focus on, and then the last two floreos flow together. My dance teacher, on the other hand, has one impulse on the entire move. Each motion flows into the next without the need for concentration. We do the same move, but because her practice and skill has so minimized her impulses, she looks a hundred times more graceful than I.
Here is a video of Carolena dancing slow. Notice how she moves without any pause or hesitation. She is dancing on one impulse, as we should all aspire to. There is a Reverse Turn at 0:40. Enjoy the video :)