Sunday, 13 September 2009

Brain space

I cannot talk and follow at the same time.

This isn't a post about whether it's good manners or a good idea to talk while you're dancing for any reason. That depends on the context, the couple, whatever just happened, and all sorts of things.

I personally just can't do both at once.

Interestingly, though, I used to be able to do it. In my first six months of tango I could follow and say something at the same time. I felt it was distracting and just came out of nervousness, so I stopped talking, and consequently stopped dancing with people who wanted to converse. But I could do it. The nervousness thing can still happen just as I'm starting, but hardly ever, and as I tune in, it becomes impossible to continue.

Now I can't do it even if I want to, at least, not for more than a few seconds. My subjective impression is that, in the same way that my body decided to use these muscles instead of those muscles for turning the hips, so that I could do ochos without travelling backwards unless I meant to, my brain apparently decided to commandeer the language circuits for processing the music. It didn't make me an especially musical follower, but it did seem to be necessary for me.

I can make vaguely-meaningful noises and say single words; what I can't do is mentally compose a sentence. If I managed it, I feel it would come out as total scribble. Word Salad, or the dreamlike sentences that go through your mind just before you fall asleep; Thursday the canoodle wig tick, neat frumenty splitbean, whither?

When something absolutely requires me to speak, what happens is that I more or less stop, paralysed. Most of the time, anything that requires me to talk will have caused us to stop briefly anyway, or at least have to reset our embrace a bit, which covers the paralysis. But on the very rare occasions when the man I'm dancing with says something I feel I must respond to while we're dancing - I have to stop while I'm constructing a reply. I can then say the sentence while we go on dancing, in the same way that I can touch-type a sentence I've already composed in my mind while listening to someone who's asking me a different question (not all of my colleagues think that's normal, but anyway I can do it). But I can't construct a new one.

I have no idea whether this applies to anyone else, although I know it doesn't apply to everyone. I wonder if being fully fluent in more than one language makes a difference.

17 comments:

ModernTanguera said...

You know, I can have whole conversations with my brother where we talk over each other and can still understand what the other is saying. I have also been trained in simultaneous interpretation (where you interpret as you go, so that you are simultaneously listening to one language and speaking in the other). But I STILL can't talk and dance at the same time.

I'm like you—as soon as I start dancing, my speech trails off. And when I start talking, I stop dancing. Even if I don't stop moving, I have effectively stopped following at all. I think those parts of my brain just refuse to function at the same time!

ghost said...

I can do both and know a lot of chatty women who can do both.

I tend to think of it as the equivalent of witty repartee while sword-fighting - what can I say, I like Dumas' novels.

However I don't really like switching back and forth between the two. Either the language is pure motion / emotion or it's a hybrid with English. For the same reasons I get grumpy if I have to switch from dancing to defensive dancing. It's a different mindset.

Still waiting for someone who can read lips to notice the various things I mutter when certain things happen, though understanding their meaning is a whole different matter...

ghost said...

PS Can you sing while you dance?

Limerick Tango said...

I'm convinced that dancing uses a different chunk of my brain than talking. I can feel my thoughts move from one side to the other when a verbal reply is needed.

I can manage "oops" and "meep!" (like beeker)

londontango said...

I can talk, dance and chew gum all at the same time. I am a Gemini and am good at multi-tasking. However, I do not like to talk while dancing and will not. I find it incredible how many men think it is acceptable to inquire about you and your personal life while dancing. Even when not. It is pretty intrusive. If you want to have a chat, sit on the sidelines and do it.

Captain Jep said...

Dont worry! You havent failed as a woman if you cant multitask :)

Yes I can talk and dance at the same time. But there's dancing and there's dancing. Yes I can dance by the numbers but Id prefer to really put heart and soul into it ..

Tangocommuter said...

This might be close to what I was wondering about when I wrote 'Sin pensamiento' a few weeks ago: what mental processes are involved in dance? It seems that any kind of verbal activity, speaking or thinking, just doesn't fit. I can lead and talk; I know because I've answered the occasional question. But why do it? It puts the dance on autopilot; I lose the pleasure both of dancing and of talking! & couples who talk are all over the place when it comes to floorcraft. No, no, please, no! That's not what the dance floor is for!

But singing along to any lyrics you may know is different. It might be undesirable, but it's different.

msHedgehog said...

@ghost: I am sure I'd be able to sing the words of the song actually playing, if I knew them. That's completely different from forming a sentence of my own. And I know lots of men who sing while they are dancing - those who are also musicians do it a lot (I like it).

Thinking about it again, I probably can dance in a way that allows me to talk, but I think I'd have to make that decision up front and be mentally prepared, it doesn't work for the way I habitually dance. As you say it does feel quite different. Like Arlene - I don't really like it. The way I usually dance it is like ModernTanguera said.

Bits of sentences or ideas running through my mind can happen, I haven't usually got the level of mental concentration that would suppress them entirely, but they're not up to the level of talking.

But I think some people can really treat it as two simultaneous languages, the way ModernTanguera described for interpreting. Arlene for one. My way is definitely not the only way, and it's probably not the most efficient.

ghost said...

"Thinking about it again, I probably can dance in a way that allows me to talk, but I think I'd have to make that decision up front and be mentally prepared, it doesn't work for the way I habitually dance. As you say it does feel quite different."

Yup I think that's what it comes down to. If I'm dancing in the language of energy, then I can't use words. If I'm dancing with the mindset of being able to speak then I can - I suspect coming from a Ceroc / Nuevo background has a lot to do with this - there are a number of women who will stick their tongues out at me mid-dance for example.

Or it may genuinely be that the person is tired and just wants to dance gently and chat, but doesn't really want to be seated; thinking about it, there's a lot of variations.

I do however disagree with
"& couples who talk are all over the place when it comes to floorcraft."

My own personal feelings are that it's something reserved for between friends and you shouldn't be talking loudly enough to annoy the other dancers.

Andreas said...

Repeat after me: "No talking on the dance floor! No talking on the #*%$$§g dance floor!" ;-)
Seriously, it diminishes concentration on what you should be doing, and it annoys the hell out of me when I hear people talk next to me when I am dancing. Strangely enough, sitting talkers don't bother me unless they are shouting, but a dancing couple in front or behind me chattering away is almost as bad as getting bumped into.
The pauses between tracks are for talking, but to me, once you dance you should just dance.
I am not too fascist about it generally, and a one-sentence exchange during a dance, reacting to something happening on or off the floor, is no problem usually, it can even enhance connection with an unfamiliar partner in a way. Even I am not always a killjoy...
Now singing along is another matter, as you are engaging with the music on another level somewhat parallel to the movement. Still, I am not too keen on women doing that usually.

msHedgehog said...

I don't mind at all if the man sings a little bit. Or even a lot, in some cases.

David Bailey said...

Like Ghost, I can talk and dance simultaneously. Possibly this is because of our shared MJ experience. I don't _think_ that it kills my dancing, but I could be fooling myself.

I don't generally talk at a normal milonga, I agree that it's distracting. But if my partner talks to me, I'll certainly respond. Sometimes it's nice to talk - I'm certainly not dogmatic about it.

I've also noticed that people talk much more when dancing at open-air events for some reason.

Game Cat said...

NO talking during dancing please. Unless it is spontaneous and exceptional. Maybe I just can't multitask (some would sneer) or maybe, just maybe, I'm doing my darndest to express the music for the lady in my arms to enjoy....and she's going to spoil it all by talking about her last trip to the dentist when Vargas is pouring his heart out.

But to Ms H's speculation of repurposing neural language circuitry for musical interpretation....I have a good friend and dance partner who is bilingual and has no problem (when suitably provoked) to maintain a running commentary about people she wants boleo on the floor (bless her). ;-)

ghost said...

"No talking on the dance floor! No talking on the #*%$$§g dance floor!" ;-)
;P lol

The analogy that springs to mind is of vals and milonga. They're both perfectly valid expressions of tango. They can be very enjoyable and danced with great skill. Some people like them, some don't. I think the same applies to talking and dancing. If people don't want to talk and dance that's perfectly reasonable. But clearly it can be enjoyable for some people.


To be honest, I'd be surprised if anyone can else actually hear that I'm talking. Even in open embrace, provided you deepen your voice rather than projecting or whispering it won't carry any distance, especially over music. And as for close embrace...

I agree with Gamecat and Arlene, random strangers chatting to me about their shopping etc is not what I want from tango and I get very evasive about personal questions. I came to dance, not discuss whether I had a rubbish week. And let's face it, if I did have a Rubbish week, I came to dance to focus on happier things.

What really annoys me is people who stop, come out of embrace, stand still and have a conversation! It's a progressive dance! Grrr.

David Bailey said...

BorderTangoMan pointed this scene out:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJhlD6q71YA

- "Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for conversation, but maybe you could just SHUT UP for a minute"

Heee... :)

Jo A said...

David Bailey said "Like Ghost, I can talk and dance simultaneously. Possibly this is because of our shared MJ experience. I don't _think_ that it kills my dancing, but I could be fooling myself."

You could be! Apparently the people that multitask the most are the least suited to it! "Multitaskers bad at multitasking" http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8219212.stm

ghost said...

From the comments section
"Another potential conclusion from this research is that the tests they chose did not successfully measure the ability of participants to multitask.
Darren, Guildford, UK"


:P

Leading is multi-tasking. That's why so many guys ignore the music and pretty much everyone around them when they're learning new moves in a class.

Lead, listen to the music, navigate, floorcraft, deepen the connection etc

And if you're going to learn to do all those things at once you may as well learnt to talk as well ;o)

The only way you can do this without multi-tasking is to get tot he point where it becomes one thing ie you just dance, much in the same way I just drive, whereas when I was a learner I had to multi-task.