The Science Behind the Magic of Cuing

A lot of people who are new to cued dancing don’t really understand just how powerful a learning and teaching tool cuing really is. They think, “Why do I need that? I can remember a sequence.”

Remembering and executing a sequence of dance figures may seem easy, but years of scientific research says otherwise. Numerous studies, going back decades, show that this kind of process is very demanding of your most valuable and limited brain resource – cognition.

In fact, something very like this is used by psychologists all over the world when they want to induce high levels of cognitive load to see what effect this has on other tasks people have been asked to do. A common way of inducing high cognitive load is to ask a subject to do the following:

  • Memorize a short sequence of single-digit numbers (say, 4 or 5).
  • Taking each item in turn, perform some operation on it (say, increment it by one).
  • Say the modified sequence out loud, then repeat (so you have to keep track of where you are in the sequence).
  • When they really want to amp up the cognitive load, they ask the subject to do this in time to a metronome!

This is very like remembering a dance sequence, executing it step-by-step (keeping track of what’s already been executed), and doing it in time to the music. Dancing a memorized sequence is essentially executing a cognitive stress test!

Cuing eliminates all of this, allowing you to focus your scarce cerebral resources on what really matters – the beat and the feet (remembering the name of the cue is a trivial task for your brain – it comes pre-wired to associate words with things with little or no effort).

This is why cuing makes it possible for people who have tried and failed in more traditional ways to finally learn how to dance.

Of course, cuing isn’t just for beginners. Many people find dancing to be much more enjoyable and relaxing without the extra cognitive load of memorized sequences and/or extensive training in the arts of leading and following. And cuing gives you access to choreography that is actually designed to fit the music, without memorizing a thing.

But if you’re just starting out, all of that is in the future. For now, what’s important to know is that cuing can make learning to dance much easier and much more enjoyable.

“Yes you can!”

if I cue you through it…