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5 Secrets to Remembering Dance Choreography

Hey, how’s your dance choreography coming along? Not good? Well, you’re not alone – remembering choreo (read: Choreography) is as “easy” for many as memorizing historical dates for an exam. Being taught by the world’s most boring teacher.

Shelve the stuffy endless drilling; you need a way to increase the stickiness of your choreo, to make it as interesting and memorable as, well, as a really good dance. Once again, the pros have lots to teach us – here’s 5 memory hacks they use to nail down even the toughest choreo in half the time.

1. Start with the blocking.

Choreographers use blocking to help them remember what they’ve created, so why not do it yourself? Once you’ve figured out where on the floor you need to be at different parts of the music, you can start fleshing it out.

2. Layer it like a cake.

A plain cake may not be the most appetizing, but we need it before we can make that triple-chocolate fudge cake that our kids and spouse rave about. Once your blocking’s worked out, add the next level of detail – let’s say it’s where your feet are placed. Next, add the bigger body movements, and finish with the finer details.

This layering method lets your brain focus on fewer details, so you won’t get overwhelmed and can learn faster. And you’ll feel you really earned that delicious piece of triple-chocolate fudge cake you devour afterwards.

3. Label your sections.

Memory experts suggest connecting new information with something you know – the stickier the better. What kinds of things are sticky, you ask? Those that are funny, visual, use alliteration, rhyming or another kind of pattern, and/or use simple language (unless ‘sinuous’ comes easier to you than ‘the twisty step’).

For example, if break down some choreo I just worked on, there’s a ‘leg sweep’, followed by a ‘front-side-back’ and ‘right shuffle’, finishing with a ‘push around the pole’. It may sound like gibberish to others, but it will make sense to you.

4. Label the accents.

Strong emphasis in the music serves as a beacon you can organize the choreography around, especially since you probably have a really cool move at that point. For example, if you know the beat drops on the third 8-count, you have an idea how much choreo you have before that front flip into a split. Nicely done, by the way.

5. Trust your feelings, Luke.

In case you missed the Star Wars reference, that means let your motor memory carry you through the patterns. Pros know that memorizing movements only take them so far… Eventually they need to connect to the music and trust that their body knows what to do.

This is especially true for cerebral dancers, who are so used to relying on their mind they paralyze their dance with second-guessing. If you’re this kind of dancer, try tricking your brain into shutting down for awhile – dancing when you’re tired for example, or doing the choreography twice as fast as you need to. Just don’t hurt yourself.

Getting tired huh? Hm.. Might need to change your diet to keep your energy up. We’ll explore that more next time.

About the Author

Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.

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