The Dancing Brain

     Dancing tango offers me an escape from the world of obligations, where I am often privy to a small community of people who share in a mutual interest. We all have different reasons for dancing, yet our paths converge at Sangha Space. Tango offers me the pleasure of feeling competent, while always challenging me to learn more, to be better. However, I recently had an experience where I did not feel competent at tango. Rather, I became overwhelmed by dancing, an otherwise, typically fun activity.

     We were taught a sequence of techniques and were asked to gradually build upon that sequence. Each subsequent technique not only taxed our memories, but they also increased in difficulty. These technique sequences of increasing difficulty may have been marked by a sudden change of direction, a change in embrace, stops, traps, sweeps, invitations to embellishments—anything that deviated from the typical clockwise or counter-clockwise molinete.

     That evening, I had arrived to tango burdened by an emotional state of sadness and stress. Though I tried and tried to become engaged in the lesson, I was only disheartened by my lack of progress; I had an incredibly difficult time remembering what I knew and could not focus. I was told that my moves were boring, that I was repetitive. Time allotted for us to practice seemed to become shorter and shorter. I became overwhelmed with the information and lost interest in the activity. I became frustrated with the dance and frustrated with myself.

     In his article, “The Dancing Brain,” Ivar Hagendoorn states, “Each person’s individual experience […] is the product not just of perceptual processes, but also of their interaction with memories, associations, and personal preferences.” It may be stated, then, that my emotional disposition had rendered the lesson more challenging. Trapped in my memories and thoughts of my current life circumstances, my perception of tango was skewed. Although Hagendoorn speaks of our dancing appreciation in respect to cerebral function (movement, sensory processing, learning & memory), there would appear to be some overlap with Limbic System function, as well (for example, emotions and attention are often associate with the amygdala, whereas learning and spatial orientation may be attributed to the hippocampus).

     Though I am in no way a neuroscientist of credible knowledge pertaining to brain functional specialization/localization, reading this article reminded me of how impressive our bodies and minds truly are, and how different areas of the brain may have some overlap to house various body functions.

Ivar Hagendoorn’s “The Dancing Brain,” can be found below:

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