Dancing is as much of a mental workout as it is a physical workout, especially when it comes to memorizing choreography. Even what seems to be the simplest series of moves can be deceiving. The good news is that learning how to memorize dance choreography is a skill you can improve.
Believe it or not, there are a few ways you can prepare for learning new choreography even if you have no idea what song you will be dancing to.
Master your basic terminology.
No matter what style of dance you are doing, there are basic steps that make the foundation of that style. Even if you already know the basic moves, learning the terminology for those steps will speed up the learning process. After all, “Demi plie in first,” is a lot easier to remember than, “That one move where you’re bending with your legs turned out at the hips while keeping your knees bent over your toes and your heels touching.”
Master the basic moves.
While you’re working on the terminology, you might as well work on mastering the moves itself. The less time you spend learning something new to you, the more time you have to focus on choreography.
Stay fed, hydrated, and energized.
Let’s face it. Whether you’re in school or the studio, focusing is hard with an empty stomach. Exerting yourself with little to no energy isn’t doing you any favors either!
Practice with your full range of motion as much as possible.
When you constantly mark your moves, you are making yourself work harder by forcing yourself to learn the dance twice. As you’re learning, your muscle memory begins to retain the choreography as if that is how it should be done. If all you do is mark your moves during class all you’ve done is taught yourself how to mark the dance. Now, you’re having to learn how to do the dance full out when you could have done that while you were learning choreography.
Listen to every correction as if it’s your own.
Instructors don’t like to correct people just for fun. They want to see you shine! It’s worth your time to listen to corrections by the instructor even if it’s not specifically for you. Listening to the corrections will give you insight on how to memorize dance choreography correctly. Plus, you might catch onto some tips and tricks that will help you improve your dance skills beyond this piece.
If counting music doesn’t work, try listening to the music and the lyrics.
Sometimes there is a part of a song that has weird counts. You might find it easier to listen to the sounds instead of counting the beat. There are also times when moves are choreographed to lyrics or specific sounds in the song instead of the beat.
Listen to the music a few times.
Don’t think about the dance yet. Just listen to the music a few times. You might hear a subtle beat you never noticed before, or you might find that the lyrics have a deeper meaning than you originally thought. Choreographers use every element of a song to put together choreography. Song and dance go hand in hand, and one isn’t meant to outshine the other. Your instructor paired that song with those set of moves for a reason. Knowing your music is just as much of learning a new dance as learning the moves itself!
Practice, practice, practice!
It goes without saying that practice makes perfect! I find it especially helpful to review the dance a few more times on my own after class to make sure the choreography sticks.
Record Your Practice Sessions
When you’re dancing in front of a mirror you’re usually focused on dancing rather than catching mistakes. Recording your practice sessions will help you see what the audience sees when you perform, and you might find that there are a few details you missed.
Remember that learning how to memorize dance choreography takes time.
Some people seem like they can pick up choreography in seconds. It might be a natural talent to some, but hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work. You will get better the more you practice. Don’t bring yourself down. You will be able to memorize the choreography!