How to Pick Up Choreography Like A Pro
Dance classes can be intimidating for many reasons when you first begin your training. Open dance classes are usually about an hour long, and when you factor in the warm-up and stretching portion, you are left with an even shorter class time. Choreographers and teachers want to get through as much as they can with the time given, which means sometimes choreography is thrown at you rather quickly.
Don’t worry, we have all been there! The teacher moves on when you are still struggling with a certain combination and your inner panic mode kicks in. We know this can be overwhelming, but learning at your own pace is a part of the process. As you become a more experienced dancer, soaking in choreography at a fast rate will become easier. Here are a few tips to help you along the way:
Try to keep your eyes off the teacher whenever possible.
This might seem backwards, but hear us out – If you are constantly watching the teacher, staring and trying to mimic every move, eventually when he or she is not dancing with you, you will feel lost. After learning the steps, try to use the mirror and look away from the teacher when possible. This applies to watching other dancers in the room as well. Make sure you are understanding what your body is doing and try not to rely on someone else to know what is coming next.
Be open to “switching it up.”
If you have had the same teacher for many years, or if you have always been a freestyle dancer, it may be difficult to adapt someone else’s choreography or style. In order to understand his or her choreography quickly, you will need to be able to let go of the way you are used to dancing. Have an open mind to trying new moves or dancing with a new demeanor.
Don’t get distracted by the challenging moments.
If you are encountering challenges during a routine, that is GREAT. Challenges are wonderful and they are what keeps your skills growing; however, if there is a move you can’t quite get, don’t let it keep you from learning the rest of the piece. While you are busy focusing on that one section, you are missing the rest of the choreography instruction as the class moves on. Wait to focus on this particular move during a water break or quick intermission. Getting stuck will only cause you to fall behind.
Connect movements to word cues in the song.
In dance classes, students usually identify as “count people” or “lyric people,” meaning they understand timing best when listening to the counts or words of the song. If you are a lyric person, you may benefit from associating certain word cues with the choreography. It may help you remember what’s coming next, helping to memorize the choreography sequence.
Stop and observe when needed.
Sometimes a step, movement, or combination is easier to demonstrate than explain. If the choreographer demonstrates something difficult, it may be a good idea to take a moment to stop moving and simply observe how the move is being executed. Your mind and body may be able to better understand the move if you are not trying to dance while learning. After observing once or twice, try it yourself. You may find that it makes more sense now!
Always go full out, unless instructed otherwise.
“Muscle memory” will kick in as your body gets used to doing the same choreography repeatedly. Avoid marking choreography unless your teacher specifically says to. The saying is true: practice makes perfect! Each time you dance the combination full out, your body will become more able to perform the choreography naturally.
Take a few classes per day.
The best way to train your mind and body to be able to learn choreography quicker is to actually have to learn choreography quicker! What we mean by this is: when you take a new class, you have to mentally “restart” your brain. That may mean you are switching from a hip hop class to a contemporary class, so you have to change your style. You’ll probably need to start a brand new combination. After your sequence of classes, try doing the routines from all of them. What do you remember from the day? Try this each week. Eventually, you will remember them all, no big deal!