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Belly Dance
Rhythms DVD



on Fire CD

Learning and Your Brain:
and Right Hemispheres

Your brain’s anatomy and physiology determine how you learn certain tasks. Generally, the left hemisphere of your brain processes factual learning in a logical and sequential fashion. Your right hemisphere processes art, perceptual interpretation, and emotional experience. Technical skills are best handled by the left hemisphere, while artistic pursuits are a right-brain function.

Music and dance students frequently advance their understanding and skills of their art through repetitive training and analysis of structure, pattern, and form. This essentially transfers right-brain activity across the corpus callosum (a thick network of neuronal tissue connecting the hemispheres of the brain) to the left hemisphere so that the artistic expression becomes more precise and refined. This process takes many months to years, and is not without frustration.

Many dance students experience the joy of finally “getting” a move or pattern, only to lose it when they begin actually thinking about what they are doing. Analysis frequently results in failure. Why is that?

The frustration arises because of something called mutual inhibition in the right- and left-brain activities. Because the left and right hemispheres are different, they often do not agree: There is conflict. Witness the common response of “freezing” during an emergency situation. The left brain logically wants to act on the emergency; the right brain wants to simply react—in this case, evade the problem. The left brain tries to shut down the right. There is mutual inhibition on both sides: Nothing happens.

It is only when left and right hemispheres are in accordance that there is serenity and a clear, functioning mind.

While you are learning to play finger cymbals (zills) using your right hemisphere, avoid left-brain activities such as counting, diagramming, and analyzing what you are doing. Such efforts may result in an inhibition response—

undesirable for this method of learning. Just listen and feel your hands produce the sounds you want. Don’t worry about how it happens.

Left Brain

Right Brain

Vertical columns of neuronal connections

Horizontal axial

Dominant neurotransmitters are dopamine and acetylcholine (fine motor control/dexterity, speech)

Dominant neurotransmitter is norepinephrine (arousal to novel stimuli—visio-spacial perception)

Language: syntax, semantics

Phonology, intonation, context, meaning

Literal meaning

Metaphor, symbolism

Functionality, practicality

Humor, esthetics

Sequential, linear

Spherical, holistic

Reduces to parts

Sees patterns, wholes

Classification, order

Visualization, imagination

Abstractions, analysis, mathematics

Depth perception, face recognition, emotional processing

Interpretive, justifying, explanatory

Responsive, reactive (does not know why), has more dislikes

Believes it is separate, an individual

Feels a sense of unity with a higher power—unable to express why

Is purposeful, directed

Enjoys just existing

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In short, scientific and logical analysis reside in the left brain. Artistic expression resides in the right brain, and for our purposes in learning zills, must remain there for the rhythms to become a natural part of your dancing experience. You may decide later that you’d like to refine your playing through left-brain learning (analysis of the patterns); it will probably be much easier then.

I’m trying to understand how I’m doing this…oh no, I lost it!

It’s amazing!
I’m playing without thinking about it!

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