How to Get Better at Retaining Choreography

It’s hard enough to remember certain patterns in ballroom dances, but when you start putting choreography together, things can get even more complicated.  Because many different dance pieces can have varying levels of difficulty, everyone can have trouble picking up steps at some point.  The good news is that there are some techniques you can use to improve your ability to retain choreography.  So if you’re having some trouble remembering certain sections of your dance, or if you can’t do the steps without your instructor, these eight tips might help you!


Revisit your Learning Style

The first step to getting better at a skill is figuring out how you learn best.  In a previous post, we discussed seven different learning styles and how to determine what’s best for you.  To review, the learning styles are auditory, visual, verbal, physical, logical, social, and solitary.  If you’re having a hard time remembering steps, take some time to figure out which learning style is most effective for you and apply it when learning choreography.  For instance, if you are a visual learner, make sure you can clearly see the steps when your instructor does them.  Once you figure out the learning techniques that work best for you, it’s possible that you’ll see improvement in your retention.


Observe First

It’s pretty common to want to dance along with your instructor as they are showing you the steps, but sometimes it’s best to just stand back and watch their movements closely if you are having trouble picking up the steps.  There is a possibility that you could miss something if you are also moving along with the instructor (especially if there are turns or spins in the choreography).  After you’ve carefully observed enough times, you can then try doing the moves yourself.  By observing multiple times, you may catch some details that you might have missed before.


Look in the Mirror

Many dancers don’t spend enough time watching themselves when they dance.  They are often focused on the instructor or other dancers in their class.  Besides the choreography and steps, your body should be the main thing to focus on during rehearsals.  Of course you will need to watch your instructor to learn choreography, but you shouldn’t get too accustomed to them being in front of you.  When you spend all your time focusing on the instructor or another dancer, you might find that you have trouble recalling the steps when they go away.  This is because you’re mimicking their movements as they do them and aren’t actively remembering the steps.  As you are learning, watch yourself in the mirror and pay attention to how you are moving.  When you recognize how the movement feels in your own body, you will get more acquainted with the steps and you’ll have an easier time remembering them.


…But Don’t Become Dependent on the Mirror

Watching yourself in the mirror is important, but don’t watch yourself too much.  If you become dependent on the mirror, things can become difficult when you try to perform without it.  This is especially true in group dances; dancers will often figure out spacing by looking through the mirror, but once the mirror is gone they might have a harder time with spacing.  At first, you may not even notice that you are mirror-dependent, but you can try dancing away from the mirror from time to time to see if you can do well without it.  


Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Obviously, you will need to practice a lot if you want to get better at any skill.  Muscle memory happens when you repeat a certain task to the point where your body can do the action without conscious effort.  The only way to achieve muscle memory is through lots of repetition, so you must practice often.  Your instructor will likely go over a step multiple times, so you should use those moments to fully go through the steps.  If you aren’t retaining in class, it’s also important that you practice as much as possible while you are at home.


Take Videos

Recording videos of yourself or your instructor dancing can greatly help when you are trying to recall steps after your lesson has ended.  If you record and watch yourself you can see exactly how you are moving and fix any spots that are giving you trouble.  If you record your instructor, you also might be able to catch small details in their movement that you didn’t see before.


Allow Yourself to Make Mistakes

Even if you mess up while dancing in class, follow through and continue your movement.  It’s not good to get into the habit of stopping every time you make a mistake.  Even if you forget or miss a step while going through choreography, continue with the movement and come back to the section that you forgot at a later time.


Ask Questions

If all else fails and you have tried all of the previous tips, just ask for help.  If there is something you do just not understand, ask your teacher or another peer and they just might be able to help you out!


Happy Dancing! ^_^