Wow. We’re halfway through the 10-Day Dance Like You’re In Class With Mercedes Home Challenge. How has it been going for you so far? (If nothing else I hope the daily activities have inspired you to practice un poquito!)
Today I'll share why we need to practice slowly and give you an activity to help you do that, but first, some reflections:
I’ve been working with the same combination throughout the challenge, and I’ve found that with each new daily focus I end up also revisiting all of the prior days’ areas of focus. In other words, I go through each new activity and (without a conscious plan to do so) layer the skills addressed in the previous challenge activities. It actually seems to have become impossible for me not to be aware of them when in challenge mode, and I’m loving that. How about you?
Now let’s move on to today’s challenge.
As you know, Mercedes is big on doing things slowly.
As are so many other professionals.
I remember when I was first getting to know Ricardo, and he was telling me about the beginning of his professional career when he danced with Rocío Molina in María Pages’s Company. He was completely blown away with her dancing and how well she executed every single step they had to do. They would practice together, and he asked her how she did it all so well. By practicing everything really, really slowly, she told him.
I heard an interview on NPR's Fresh Air a couple of weeks ago with Patti Niemi, a percussionist with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. She was talking about playing a difficult piece on the xylophone. She said the most challenging thing about it was that it relied on muscle memory for accuracy. Getting it right, she said, required a lot of repetition and slow practice, “If you're practicing fast and making mistakes, you are putting muscle memory with mistakes in, so you have to practice very slowly.”
This made me think of flamenco dance. Both footwork and body movement. It’s not just that we can’t attend to all of the details when practicing too fast, but we can actually train our muscles to do it wrong on their own. Ay! (You can read or listen to that interview here.)
Practicing slowly helps us to:
- Develop correct muscle memory that will serve us when going faster later
- Notice our mistakes and fix them
- Look good!
Don't get me wrong, it's not that we only practice slowly, but it is a crucial step to correct execution, looking good, and getting ourselves up to speed.
Okay, ready for today’s activity? (Remember, if you don't have a lot of time, no problem. You can do this activity in just five minutes if that's all the time you have!)
An Activity for Slow Practice
- Choose a move, a combination or an exercise to work with. It can be the one you’ve been using or something new.
- Do it super slowly. (Really, really, slowly.)
- As you dance, notice your muscles. What muscles do you feel engaging?
- Do it again slowly. If you make a mistake, take note of what happened. For example, was your weight off?
- Do it one more time, looking at yourself in the mirror. Does anything look strange? What could you adjust to make it look better? Dance it again making that adjustment.
If you find yourself rushing, you can use a metronome to help you maintain a slow pace.
I'd really like to know how today's activity went for you and how the whole challenge has been going. How did it feel to dance your move so slowly? Did you find it helpful? Have you been doing any of the layering like I have? What has been your favorite activity so far? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.