As many of you know, I love science, specifically biology. A branch of that interest is in cognitive science, or how the brain works. I find that reading about cognition helps me understand how to be not only a better dancer, but also a better human.
I recently started reading The Body Has a Mind of Its Own: How Body Maps in Your Brain Help You Do (Almost) Everything Better by Sandra Blakeslee and Matthew Blakeslee. There’s SO much good stuff in this book about how the brain perceives the body and the immediate world around it, and much of it can apply to learning dance. The authors also explain how visualizing body movements can help you execute the actual body movements better than if you had never visualized that movement before.
One of the most striking findings presented in the book is this (my notes in brackets):
Pascual-Leone [a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School] found that the level of performance after five days of motor imagery [visualizing the movement] was equivalent to three days of physical practice. But when he added one day of physical practice to five days of motor imagery, his subjects were as good as those who practiced only physically for five full days. This means motor imagery can give you a distinct advantage in your training. You can be better with less rather than more physical practice.
I’ve totally found this to be true in my own practice of dance. I urge you to try it too.