I'm here right now to talk about picking up choreography. Do you have trouble with this?
Votes are public.
If so, read on.
I once met a girl at a SDI named Sarah. Okay, she was the best on the spot choreo-learner I've ever seen. It was crazy! She could see a whole combination once and remember it perfectly, do it in all directions, backwards and forwards, and everything. While I was very impressed and inspired by her, it also depressed me a little, since I most definitely do not have the choreo-learner brain.
At the same SDI, I met another girl. Neither of us were very good at remembering choreo. The teacher had us talk about the ways we remembered combinations, and it was really interesting to see the responses. But the most interesting thing was that this girl, me, AND Sarah, all remembered choreography in a similar way. All three of us made sentences of the choreography and memorize those, then recite them in our heads. For instance, "Tombé pas de boureé 5th chassé plié pirouette en de hors, balancé balancé piqué...."or even just "bum-bum-bum-bum, forward, down, turn, back-and-a back-and-a bam."
The first step to picking up choreography faster is to identify the way you remember things.
Here were some answers from the other dancers at the SDI:
- Muscle memory
- Associating moves with sounds in the music
- Associating moves with their counts
- Chunking (remembering things in sections)
- And many other ways
Step two, develop your personal method of remembering.
As time has passed (really, only just a few months), I have noticed that as I have been pushed in more difficult classes and with learning more intricate choreography, that my way of remembering things has shifted. Now, I am more of a chunker as well. I separate choreography into sections of words and muscle memory for easier remembering. The trouble comes at the transitions! The momentary moment of panic when you can't remember which section comes next! I am now working on that. Don't be afraid if you notice your dance-thinking changes. That can actually be a very good sign. Work on developing your personal remembering process!
Step three, evaluate what causes you to trip up.
Sometimes during a combination, I will complete the steps and then get to the next section, and have a total and complete blank out. If anyone else has this problem, here are my tips:
- While you are learning the choreography, immediately recognize which steps do not make sense to your brain. (An example... in one combination, we were to do coupé renversé, pas de boureé en tournant, balancé en avant, then tombé en arriere and do a developpé devant! The transition from the balancé into the next steps was really getting me, and I could tell right away that it would be a problem. Thankfully I knew what to do...
- Once you recognize the problem areas, spend as much time as you can on them. Mark those areas at least three times total. Tell your brain that after the balancé comes the developpé. Really drill it in! If you are more of a visual learner, visualize yourself doing it.
- During the combination, do NOT stop thinking. Stay mentally active! It is very tempting to relax and let the music and your memory carry you along, but when you get to that problem spot again, chances are you will blank if you are not prepared for it.
I have noticed that some teachers' combinations just make more sense to me than others'. However, all the teachers I have had stay consistent in their personal styles. After a bit of time with that teacher, you should be able to pick up their choreo better.
Picking up choreography for a performance
If you are not a natural choreo-learner, do not be discouraged if the first rehearsal does not go well. The teachers know your capabilities, and most likely understand that you are a fine dancer even though it takes you a bit to internalize the steps. Don't stress about the teacher (or the others) think. This will just distract you from learning the steps! Trust me on that. The less you stress, the more brain space you have to learn.
After rehearsal, or during a break, take out your device, or most preferably, your dance notebook. Shorthand what you learned—for chunkers, make sure you separate everything by section. When you get home or have a bit of free time to relax, then you can go back in and write down everything in detail. Never ever assume that the choreography you learned will just stick in your head. You could also take a video and review that. Go over it as often as possible until you know it like the back of your hand. That's the ultimate secret to confidence and personality on stage. You know your steps so well that you can focus wholly on performing.
I hope these tips helped you! What's your choreo-learning method? Have any tips or tricks you've discovered?