Muscle Memory Through Dance, Music and Salsa

Written by Julie Taylor

salsapicThe  other day, a full 24 years after my original serious head and brain injury – and almost 3 years after the fender bender that seemed to bring so much of it back with a vengeance – I had the oddest experience: my muscles seemed to be guiding themselves rather than being told what to do by my brain.  Is thiswhat is called ‘muscle memory’?  Let me tell you what happened… (and if you have a similar experience, please email and tell me)

51OmZLChmnLLearn to Salsa Dance DVD – There’s nothing quite like going to an actual live class…  But to help you learn the steps (and it may well take you a little longer) and to practice, this DVD is great (soon we’ll have our own!)  ReBuildingYou depends on your support to grow – BUY HERE – the prices are exactly the same and you’ll be supporting your RBY at the same time. Click on the images or on the blue words to see more…

I was at one of my salsa dance classes – salsa rueda, or salsa-in-a-‘round’ or circle. I was dancing with a partner, one of 5 couples.  Plus there was one extra woman. The dance included the men moving round the circle and dancing a few steps with each woman.  The lone woman just kept on dancing the same steps alone – once out of every 5 or 6 turns – and soon had the next partner.  Rueda is my favourite kind of dance because the instructor ‘calls’ the moves and so there is some prior warning of each step.

Salsa is usually quite a fast dance.  In each couple there is a leader – usually the man – and a follower – lucky for me that I am not the leader because he has to remember the steps. I had already noticed that I can’t seem to remember salsa (among other things) well enough to practice alone these days – or to teach it to a newcomer.  Even social dancing, which is faster and less structured, is harder for me, especially now. I was never quite sure if it was choice or if I really couldn’t do this.  Brain injury seems to do that: many people I speak to are not quite sure whether certain symptoms are the result of their will or caused by their brain injury.  A kind of ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg’ in terms of symptoms and cause.   In any case, I knew from experience that I fared better when I was actually in the dance class, dancing with a ‘leader’ and surrounded by the music.

51pLSvrKxCL._SX385_Dance Lessons 101: The Ultimate Couples Dancing Instruction Video for Beginners(Shawn Trautman’s Dance Collection) – the best and simplest dance instruction DVD out there – perfect to have in a care-home.  ReBuildingYou depends on your support to grow –BUY HERE – the prices are exactly the same, Amazon is a completely safe and trustworthy website and you’ll be supporting RBY at the same time.  Thank you!  Click on the images or on the blue words to see more…

Well to get back to my story, on this occasion when it came to my turn to be alone, I just stood there.  I couldn’t move.  My instructor shouted at me to dance and so join up with the next partner.  Him.   But I just stood stock still.  I couldn’t will my arms and legs to move: I had no idea of what to do.  The realization hit: On my own I couldn’t do it. I needed my partner.  I was shocked – although I’m sure it must have happened in more hidden ways a dozen times.  A hundred times, probably.

I hadn’t realized how completely independent my muscles – my legs and arms – are sometimes.  (Or just how dependent I am at dance classes..).  Up until now.  This explained so much.  When I am dancing with the instructor, I do so much better.  I ‘feel’ like ‘I can do it’.  When I took jazzercise and aerobics, prior to 2006, I was much more comfortable when my instructor was an ex dance instructor and moved with the music.  Then it was much more subtle than now and I was never conscious enough of it to be able to put words to it, but dancing on the wrong beat, despite being ostensibly ‘in time’ with the music, was more difficult for me.  I enjoyed the classes with the ex dance intructor more…  (thank you Sherry!)  Now I can’t do it at all.  I simply cannot remember a string of movements and do them without music to help prompt my memory.  This is actually similar to the experience I have with singing in the choir – a sort of choral effect – much more pronounced since my second injury.

 

51OmZLChmnLLearn to Salsa Dance DVD – There’s nothing quite like going to an actual live class…  But to help you learn the steps (and it may well take you a little longer) and to practice, this DVD is great (soon we’ll have our own!)  ReBuildingYou depends on your support to grow – BUY HERE – the prices are exactly the same and you’ll be supporting your RBY at the same time.Click on the images or on the blue words to see more…

Of course this explained why I never practiced!  I knew there was a real explanation!   And there I was thinking it was just a choice!  I see now that this is probably my brain’s way of protecting my ego and letting me feel some control: “I don’t want to do it” rather than “I can’t”…  Very much like a teenager where it’s cool to have attitude but not so cool to be incompetent.

Now I know that I really can’t remember the steps without a partner and the music. With a partner and music my body just seems to ‘know’ what to do…  Which in a way is a sad realization – consciousness of another loss – but in a way it’s great!  Muscle memory – through music – is yet another strategy.  My ability hasn’t changed…  Just my awareness of it.

Another real example of the wonder of being part of a ‘normal’ able bodied group. Part of the class.  One of a couple.   A glancing taste of being whole and talented again.

51pLSvrKxCL._SX385_Dance Lessons 101: The Ultimate Couples Dancing Instruction Video for Beginners(Shawn Trautman’s Dance Collection) – the best and simplest dance instruction DVD out there – perfect to have in a care-home.  ReBuildingYou depends on your support to grow –BUY HERE – the prices are exactly the same, Amazon is a completely safe and trustworthy website and you’ll be supporting RBY at the same time.  Thank you!  Click on the images or on the blue words to see more…