No matter how long you’ve been dancing for, you’ll understand how many moves and routines need to be learnt for one performance. Sometimes, dancers even have to learn multiple dance routines at the same time!
Learning and memorising new things isn’t easy at the best of times, and with ballet being an art that combines both the mind and the body, it can be even more difficult. That’s why we’ve put together some top tips for learning new choreography quickly and efficiently.
1) Watch closely
As tempting as it may be to start moving your legs and arms to mirror your teacher, it’s best to stick to simply watching at first. This way you can absorb it before you try it. Devoting all your attention to watching and taking in a new routine will help it to come more naturally to you when you do go about trying it.
Seeing the dance moves and routine as a whole will form a far clearer picture in your mind than half-focusing on your teacher and half playing with your feet will. By taking your time to watch and take it in, it’s easier to develop your knowledge and your memory of the routine, and help you to piece it all together from move to move.
2) Split it up
Once you’ve watched the routine thoroughly, it’s time to try it out! However, an entire routine can seem quite daunting – and not to mention, hard to remember. If you’re a teacher or learning a new routine on your own, you should split into different sections and learnt individually at first.
When it comes to revision, dividing your notes into topics or sections is a common method, so why should there be a difference when it comes to the art of dance? Most choreography is easily dividable into distinct phases or groups of steps, and learning each section one-by-one is a lot easier to digest.
Plus, by splitting it into different sections, you will increase the familiarity with each section and ultimately, the routine as a whole. You will develop far more of an understanding of the dance and the story it’s telling, meaning you can deliver more emotion in the final performance.
3) Focus on trouble spots
Every dancer will have parts of the routine they don’t like or that they struggle with, and as painful as it can be, these are the parts that need the most focus and practice. In the beginning, anyway. It’s worthwhile spending time focusing on the more complex elements of the routine because, with practice, the complicated parts will be simplified. Once you’ve simplified it down, it’ll be easier when it comes to putting it all together. You just wait…
4) Take it slowly
No matter what time constraint you have to learn this new choreography, don’t rush it. It won’t do you any good. The best way to learn new things is to take it slowly. Like we’ve already said, split the dance routine into sections and learn it piece by piece. Whilst you might feel like this is wasting time, taking your time with the learning process from the beginning will help you to ultimately learn it, and perfect it, a lot quicker. Slowing it all down will help to break up the more complex elements, and reduce the stress or anxiety that is common around performances or competitions.
5) Repetition repetition
As with any form of revision or memorising, repetition helps. It helps to get things into your head, working quickly and working long term. So, when you learn a new piece of choreography in a lesson, repeat it when you can.
The best way to practice dance with repetition is to take breaks in between. The shorter the break, the more likely you are to remember it. But as time goes on and you start to learn the routine more and more, the longer your breaks should be. By slowly increasing the spacing of time in between, it will sink further and further into your mind!
Try and fit in as much practice as possible, whenever you can. Sat in front of the television? Why not get up and practice that move during the ad breaks?
6) Repeat it in your mind
The magic of repetition doesn’t only work when it comes to physically practicing choreography, it works mentally too. Not only does it work well for memorising new routines, but repeating moves in your head requires a lot less physical space. You could be at work, on the train or even in bed and be thinking about that dance routine, perfecting it in your mind.
Thinking through it helps you to understand the routine and figure it all out too, making it easier for you to perform. If there’s an element you find particularly tricky, let your mind work it out.
7) Make it your own
When you’re learning and practicing, you’re likely to have external cues to go by. Whilst this is helpful to the learning process, there’s no point in relying on these external cues. The sound of your teacher’s voice, the X in the corners of the dancehall or the little crackle on the tape when it’s time for you to turn won’t necessarily be there when it comes to the real performance or competition.
By all means, use these external cues to get to grips with new choreography – it would be impossible not to. However, start to create your own personal cues as time and practice goes on. That way, all you are relying on is yourself – someone that is most definitely going to be there at your performance!
Do you have any other top tips for memorising dance routines? Let us know!