When it comes to memorizing choreography, the same basic principles used to memorize anything come into play. Not only can your dance instructors guide their students in this process, but you can also communicate it to dancers who are ready to memorize their own choreography. In Part 1, we discussed the first four steps to memorization:
- Just Watch.
- Learn in Groupings.
- Slowly Walk Through the Choreography.
- Follow a Specific Repetition Schedule.
Now we’ll look at the final three steps.
Step 5: Develop Your Own Cues
As natural as it seems to connect certain steps in your choreography to points on your dance studio floor or a prompt from your coach or even the music you’re playing as you practice, remember that those are all external cues. And they won’t always be there. Instead, you need to form personal cues unique to your own mind and body. For instance, you can shift your weight at the end of a phrase to signal to yourself that the next grouping is about to begin. If you have a certain step you know you tend to forget, you can remind yourself that it comes after a certain movement of your hand, allowing that hand movement to trigger your memory of an easily-forgotten step. Transitions are important not only for the smoothness of your dance, but also for your memory. However, in order to allow transitions to trigger your memory, you need to consciously assign them that dual task.
Step 6: Continue To Rehearse Mentally
As you continue to work on your new choreography, physical rehearsal (or repetition) probably goes without saying. However, you still need to mentally rehearse. The more you repeat the choreography both physically and mentally, you’ll reduce the amount of time between thinking of doing each step and actually completing it. When you remove the obstacle of time and added effort, your dancing will gain greater fluidity. The more you repeat each step mentally, you’ll also help solidify its long-term retention. Mental repetition is especially effective when you’re in a relaxed state of mind — particularly right before you fall asleep.
Step 7: Remember, Memorization Will Get Easier
Whenever you’re doing something difficult, it’s helpful to remind yourself that by doing it, you’re making it easier for yourself the next time. Memorization is a skill after all; the more you practice any skill, the more proficient you’ll become. Not only will you be able to stop reading through this list to remind yourself of the steps to memorization, but you’ll be able to master even complex choreography more easily and quickly.
The more you challenge yourself, and the more success you have using techniques like these, the easier it will be for you to learn new, multiple or complex choreography quicker. As an added bonus, once your dancers have mastered this memorization process, they’ll be able to apply it to other areas of life, including their studies, music, and more!