Here are some tips on how to learn a dance routine quickly when you have to learn a new dance.
This is especially helpful if you need to go to an audition or remember something you have learned in class.
Learn to memorize choreography like a pro so that you will have no more freezing or falling behind the rest of the class.
How To Learn A Dance Routine
Here are some tips to help you to learn a dance routine as quickly as possible, especially if the steps in the routine are unfamiliar to your body or your dance vocabulary.
When the choreographer is going through the movements of the dance routine for the first time slowly, make sure you do the movements flat out. If you mark, the brain won’t remember what your muscles are doing. Try to put as much detail into your movements from the outset for better retention of the routine.
The idea is to use muscle memory. By doing the movements as they should be, your body will remember how each movement should feel, thus making it easier to remember the steps.
Try The Chunking Technique
Chunking is a memorization technique where you learn and memorize something in separate sections, then group the sections together at the end.
Most people use chunking methods to remember things like phone numbers, addresses, and even song lyrics.
If you look at this number 754987209573 for instance. Isn’t it easier to remember if you see it and memorize it like this 754-987-209-573?
In your dance class or audition, the teacher will probably teach the routine in sections already.
But you can chunk the routine into lengths that work for you, whether this means going 1 8-count combo at a time, or separating the piece into 2 halves.
Chunking is a great tool to help you memorize choreography, but sometimes, you can get stuck between those chunks.
It doesn’t matter how well you know each chunk, you also have to make sure you’re connecting them together seamlessly. Here’s how.
Connect The Chunks
There’s a trick to connect those chunks of dance choreography.
The way to do this is to practice the few movements just before and after a chunk. In this way, you know what leads into which chunk of the steps you are memorizing.
So while drilling, add the small part just before your chosen chunk followed by the step that follows your chosen chunk, so that you can tie it in later.
Although dance choreography is mostly taught 8 counts at a time, sometimes it helps to learn something according to sounds in the music, especially if the music is difficult to count. So you don’t need to go according to counts, you can overlap and blend the movements because after all, the end result will be just the one dance.
Use The Music To Help You
As I mentioned above, use certain sounds or beats in the music to associate a movement with. Because choreographers normally choreograph to the music, there are always things in the music that will help you to remember the choreography.
Really listen to the music, as certain nuances in the music will also help you to interpret the dance, and listening to the underlying currents can dramatically help you to improve your musicality.
Try to always understand the piece that you are dancing to, and in this way, you will also show more artistry in your dancing.
Name The Movements For Yourself
If there are strange steps in the choreography, what do the steps remind you of? For example, if you are hunching over and ball changing, you could call that an ‘old man step’ or if you are pushing down with your arms you could name that “push the stick into the ground’ or something similar so that your brain remembers what to do.
You could also try talking the steps through to yourself as you do them instead of counting for example ‘left, dip, look, hip dip.’
Unlike naming your movements, using sounds can help your body to remember what it is doing.
Try things like whoosh, snap, glide, and freeze for example.
Or imitating the music also helps as you can say rat a tat for example on a fast piece that you need to get a lot of movements into.
Using obscure sounds also helps. Don’t worry how silly they sound, because by doing these things you are building your own version of the dance that makes sense to you. The dance routine will thus feel more natural to you and it will be easier for you to remember.
Similar to sounds, breathing can help too.
For instance, if you go from a fast sequence into a slow one, you can breathe through it to make the energy look right. In parts of the choreography that are more relaxed, using your breathing while counting it out helps a lot and helps you to remember to breathe so you don’t run out of energy.
Learn The Names Of The Steps If Possible
It helps to know the names of each step, then you can learn the sequence of steps in your head by just repeating the name of the steps in the order that they come.
This is not always possible with new choreography, but it is normally very doable in ballet.
If there is no name for the step, try making up your own memorable one that makes sense for you.
Always video the dance sequence, as looking back at the video is an excellent way to recap and also teach yourself any steps you have forgotten.
Try to video the routine from the back as well as it is easier to copy and you won’t need to turn the steps around like you would if watching the video from the front.
Carry A Notebook
I find that writing notes helps me a lot. They don’t make any sense to anybody else excepting me, but this helps me to consolidate the steps in my mind. I also draw stick figures if I can’t write the step down in words.
Drill, Drill, and Drill Some More
Repetition by drilling the sections over and over again gets the movements into your muscle memory. Eventually, your body will start to do the sequence on autopilot.
So if you get a freeze in your brain, then your body can simply take over for you.
It also helps to watch a dance over and over too. Record the teacher or choreographer doing the movements and let your eyes and minds absorb it.
Here is a helpful video on how to learn a dance routine made by Steezy which is an app you can add to your phone.