Mom taught me to do the cha-cha when I was little. Back then, it was socially awkward for people to dance alone, thus making me a very available and convenient dance partner for Mom because she loved to dance. Pa had made enough money in his career to afford a turntable and several records which provided Mom and me with the privilege of having music on demand, meaning we could dance repeatedly and whenever we liked, to an instrumental stereophonic soundtrack of Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White with the trumpet leading the way. (Click Here to hear how it sounded like).
Right, left, right, right.
Left, right, left, left.
Back, two, three four.
Front, two, three, four.
she would teach me the steps.
“Don’t start too soon. Wait for the first beat. Listen carefully to the music…Pay attention, it’s coming… One, two, three, go!” She taught me to hear the music, count the beat, feel the pulse, and groove along. She was neither a musician nor a professional dancer, so dancing was not complicated. She was not an educator, so there was no ambition to make me cleverer. She was mom and her purpose was simply to dance, have fun and have us entertain each other.
I used to think that everyone could feel the pulse the way I did and often got frustrated with friends who seemed clueless about what I was trying to communicate in my effort to teach them to dance. “Listen to the song! Start on the first beat. Can you hear the first beat?” I would ask.
“What first beat?” they would reply, then stare blankly at me in anticipation for a reply. It finally dawned on me that they were truly clueless.
In social dancing, people dance in pairs, and in order for 2 people to dance together, some form of synchronisation has to take place and this is governed by the tempo of the music. If a partner can’t feel the rhythm and needs someone to count the beat throughout the tune, then dancing becomes mechanical, which is still fun, but very much less fun.
It took me a long time to realise why I could feel the pulse and how I acquired my sense of timing. It was mom’s gift to me during my early years. Precious, but I was slow to acknowledge it. Thanks, Mom.
Math is about counting. Years, days, hours, minutes, seconds, rate, speed, frequencies and etc. These are all time-related units of measurement. Musicians and dancers count all the time, they ought to be good in math, yet many of them struggle with the subject. Conversely, mathematicians ought to be good musicians and dancers, but if you’ve seen them on the dance floor, uhmm… I should reserve my comments about that.
Understanding math in the form of beats or pulses, and being able to translate them into movement should be considered as legitimate as the ability to count sheep and writing the quantity as numerals on paper. Unfortunately, civilisation hasn’t reached there yet and math exams are still conducted with ink on paper, while dance is yet to be considered a core subject.
But that said, what’s stopping you from flouting conventions and enjoying math with your child in movement rather than by sitting still? Here’s my point, dance and consider it math lessons:
ONE, two, three, four.
TWO, two, three, four.
THREE, two, three, four.
FOUR, two three four.
4 bars of 4 beats makes 16 beats. Write it for your child to see:
4 x 4 = 16
Let’s do math while we do the cha-cha!