Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Lindy Hop Is Like Salsa

is a horrible analogy in many ways. Generally speaking, analogies are a great tool, though.  Analogies offer a way to turn abstract ideas into something tangible. Analogies make something familiar out of something completely unfamiliar. Analogies help us understand complicated thoughts and help with many aspects of learning, including the recollection of knowledge.  Analogies can also make for a fun atmosphere.  Basically, analogies are da shit!  So let's be a bit anal about them. 
While analogies are neither always good or always bad, there are 6 main points to consider. 

1. Known Source

You want your students to connect something new with something they already know. Video games and math might have parallels, but both domains are not something the average Joe will have a clue about. If the students don't know the other half, there is no way they can derive anything - hence knowing the other part of the analogy is crucial! That is what makes an abstract idea tangible. This way, they'll get a better idea of what you're trying to describe.
You can use generally known domains, like food or sex, or if you have a group of people that are from a specific domain, even deep water fishing analogies can be good.

2. Correspondences

Once you've stated your analogy, it's important to point out the correlations. For example, using the math analogy from my the section Putting Technique Where It Belongs, when comparing a new Lindy technique to the use of negative numbers in math, you need to explain the correlation between the two, like so: In math we start with positive numbers, at some point when a bigger number gets subtracted from a smaller one, there arises the need for negative numbers.  Likewise, in Lindy Hop, we sometimes find that we need a new technique in order to do a new move.  We start out leading forwards and backwards, and that's all you need if you only ever want to go forward and backward.  But when you want to turn yourself or the follower, you'll need something new, so you add a core twist.

3. Aspects of Difference

Not only the parallels are important to point out, but also the differences. So if there are derivations that could easily be made from an analogy that are wrong, you need to point them out! Else you'll end up again with wrong conclusions.
If you use the title analogy, which I really don't recommend, one difference to point out would be the different use of hip movement.

4. Distance

Distance is the main reason, why the title analogy is bad in most cases. Usually the further away the analogy domain is from the original one, the better the analogy. This is due to the fact, that you have to make the correlations visible, and you won't have "false" correlations by accident, e.g. having a firm hand hold around your follower but a relaxed arm, compared to hanging from a pull-up bar.

5. Multiple Analogies

For getting more aspects of your point across, it will help to use multiple analogies. Dancing like a drunk wedding couple will get the point of happiness and enjoyment of simplicity across. Having a connection like a rubber-band will hopefully get the idea of energy transfer across. If you describe more complex matters (as many things in dancing are), finding one analogy that hits all aspects will be tricky. Serving multiple ones will be helpful. 
Additionally, you will have the chance of wiping out misunderstandings that might have arisen due to one analogy or strengthen one that was only partially understood.
And last but not least, you will catch students, that didn't know source one, but source two.

6. Deep Analogies

The better the analogy, the more parallels can be drawn. The rubber-band has for example additionally the continuous build of energy as parallel and others.   See A Dance Is Like A Conversation for an example. 

Share your favourite analogy in the comment section below!