Counting Tendus

Have you ever learned a new word you’ve never heard before only to encounter it everywhere in the next couple of days? This is called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon and it’s a frequency illusion, a type of cognitive bias, meaning that the force causing it lies not with the mysterious workings of the universe but with your brain’s evolutionary background. Cognitive biases are absolutely fascinating and humans have more of them than STDs. I’m not kidding. I can talk about cognitive biases forever, but for now, let me direct you to this site and get back to tendus and the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

Several months ago – before my adductor trouble – my jazz teacher, Y., had one of her explanatory moments. She will sometimes spontaneously explain a concept from the world of dance to us at length during class. These digressions are usually very interesting and educational, even though you do end up standing around and listening instead of dancing.

During that particular class, I was having a bad jazz day. I occasionally get bored in jazz class. Once the boredom threshold is reached, I tend to get rather gloomy and see most things about the class in a negative light.

The concept Y. explained to us that day was simple enough: You can count tendus (and battements jetés) on the in or on the out. The accent is either in the tendu itself or back in the first position. Either you open on the one and close on the and, or vice-versa. No matter how you put it, the concept still remains simple: there are two ways of doing tendus to the same music.

In my bored-gloomy mood, I immediately decided this was not particualrly useful information. Like, whatever. It’s just tendus. I’ll never need to know this.

Needless to say, since that one explanation, the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon kicked in and I’ve been confronted with the concept everywhere. All the jazz and modern substitute teachers I’ve had since then have evoked it in some form. One of my ballet classmates kept asking Amy whether the accent was in or out during every barre exercise involving tendus. Both Amy and Birdie have mentioned it themselves in ballet.

Which just goes to show: listen to your teachers, for ’tis their job to know more than you do, you little smart-ass.

Truth be told, I should probably have been aware of this much earlier in my dance training. It just so happened that Y. never elaborated on the concept before, M. always had us do tendus and jetés accent out and I completely failed to figure it out on my own, probably because I never really count (a shameful admission and a great shortcoming, I know).

Have you ever dismissed something seemingly trivial out of hand only to be proven very wrong?

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