«I just don’t get it»

The girl was pretty much wringing her hands by that point. She joined the jazz class only last week, by means of spontaneously dropping by and entering the semi-basement studio through a window to attend class. The first lesson was difficult. Nevertheless, she decided to stay. I think she might’ve regretted it a bit.

Yesterday, Y. gave us a walking exercise – a series of steps and turns across the studio – so complex that even the people who’ve been in that class forever were taken aback. After seeing our baleful eyes and long faces, she took pity on us and made us do the first half only: two semi-sideways steps, a tiny series of chaînés, a pas-de-bourrée and a turn. The sequence of movements was fairly easy to comprehend and remember for those who’ve been to class for longest and doable for those who had joined a month or two ago. For the new girl…

I remember hating the walking exercises because I could never get anyhting right. For a start, it took me forever to learn the jazz pas-de-bourrée, which differs from the ballet version in that you do half of it in plié and shift your weight around more. You can watch a video here, though we definitely don’t finish with such an enormous lunge – that would make subsequent turning difficult. By now, I could do them in my sleep. In my first lesson, I barely managed to understand what I was supposed to do after several minutes of explanation and practicing. I had to practice the steps at home to be able to do them without having to stop for a minute to decide which leg goes where.

The new girl didn’t get the benefit of a detailed explanation. I think Y. is anticipating more new people for the start of the new course in two weeks. I bet she’s going to walk everyone through the basics again then. But for now, the teenager’s despair was almost palpable. And that was before we started on the choreography.

Through it all, however, she did one thing much better than I ever had: she kept asking questions. «Could you explain this part again? Could you show me how to do that? Could you please do that slower? I’m sorry, I just don’t get it.» And that, my friends, is something we should probably all do more often. I do ask questions when I’m catastrophically confused, but sometimes, I just go along with it and improvise and then have my Eureka moment three weeks later when someone else asks the question I should’ve asked from the start – or the teacher just sees me doing it wrong.

One reason for this is a fear of holding up the whole class. But if you think about it, the class in question is composed of beginners, so you can count on at least one other person not understanding the move you’re having trouble with. Everyone else might as well listen to the explanation and practice the steps as well – you never know which sneaky mistakes you might be making. Because if someone’s thinking «What a stupid question, why can’t the n00bs just get it already?», they should either move on to a more advanced class or familiarise themselves with the Dunning-Kruger effect, as described and explained on Wikipedia, in more detail on Rational Wiki and, in podcast form, here, by one of the researchers who named it.

Because if you think you’re doing everything perfectly, why are you in a class in the first place?

5 thoughts on “«I just don’t get it»

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