Everyone has their own frameworks. The ways of the thinking they’ve learned throughout their life. Every action or object people interact with can fall into a framework. For instance, squirrels (otherwise known as Sciuridae if you're a scientist) fit into the taxonic framework, Rodent. Rodents fit into the bigger taxonic framework, Mammal. The human action of typing, on the other hand, could be said to fit into the bigger framework, Hand Motions, which could be said to fit into the even bigger framework, Motions Made Below the Elbow. Typing could also be said to fit into the framework, Modes of Communication, and both typing and squirrels could fit into basically any framework you could care to dream up.
Okay, but what am I trying to get at? In essence, I’m trying to demonstrate how the brain organizes the almost infinite amount of information we put into it. In order to understand things, our brain puts them into frameworks of thought. Some of these are taught to us; others we find out on our own. In order to become a fully-fledged framework, our brain needs to have enough relevant information to build a framework around. For instance, it took me a little while to understand the framework of Neuroscience. (The general idea behind Neuro is that “our brain controls everything we do,” but you have to have some knowledge of the functions of the different parts of the brain in order to grasp what that really means.)
It’s the same way with dance (and everything else we do). Once we have the framework (sometimes called, “the language”) of dance, then it becomes much easier to learn new types of dance. So, in a very real way, novice dancers are actually learning two things at once: how to dance the steps they’re working on, and how to learn how to dance the steps they’re working on. In this way (and in many others) dance is a language. Almost anyone who has learned more than two languages will tell you that their second was their hardest. After a while, a language learner realizes there’s a difference between the word and the idea of the word. Words themselves are usually different between languages, and often have different collections of ideas attached to them, but the ideas themselves remain the same. In other words, words are just labels; it’s the ideas that are really being discussed.
In my Playwriting class this past week, we discussed Love Person, a play written bilingually in English and American Sign Language. In one of the lines of the play, one of the hearing characters signs to her girlfriend, “I loved signing with you. It was like speaking in pure thoughts.” In many ways, dance is like signing, and it could be said that dancing is to signing what music is to speaking. (I realize that sentence probably doesn’t make any sense; let me explain.)
I’ve written elsewhere on this blog about how non-lyric music seems to bypass the areas of our brain devoted to language processing and seems to directly speak to our emotional processing. (This makes sense because non-lyric music isn’t a language per-say; it’s just a collection of cool-sounding sounds that have an effect on us.) In much the same way, dancing is intentional movement that would bypass the language processing circuitry in deaf people. (It’s worth noting that deaf people perceive sign language as language; their language processing circuitry lights up whenever they’re signing or watching someone sign.) So, in this way, dancing could be considered a deaf person’s music. (It’s worth noting that stylized ways of signing could also be considered a deaf person’s music. Before you go on with the rest of your day, you should check out this super cool YouTube video of a woman signing Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself.’) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoVDZJqTmRo&nohtml5=False
So, what's the framework behind dance? Well, I wish I could answer that question. One thing I've learned so far in Neuro Dance is that I don't understand dancing. I haven't yet learned how to learn how to dance. Numerous times, most of my classmates have easily been able to follow our instructor's motions and precise foot placements, but my brain hasn't yet figured out exactly where to look or what to do with what I'm looking at. It's really as though they're speaking a language I'm only slightly familiar with, and they're speaking it a little too quickly for me to understand. So, to partially answer the question: like most things, it takes time and practice and with those come understanding.