Tips to Help You Remember Your Choreography
June 15th 2021
Memorizing choreography can be hard, and it can be even more so when you’re under the stress of executing perfect dance moves while learning new choreography, or if you need to perform it sooner than you feel ready. Constantly memorizing new choreography is a big challenge for all dancers, but there are several strategies you can use to make this process easier for yourself.
One whole dance is a large task, but it can easily be broken up into smaller, more manageable tasks. On average, humans can only hold around four items in our working memory. “Chunking” is the memorization tactic of breaking down a long string of information into smaller chunks to make it easier to memorize. That is why strings of digits that we have to remember (phone numbers, credit card number, ID) are often broken up into groups of 3 or 4 digits. Chunking can be used to help quickly memorize large amounts of information.
So how does this apply to dance? Instead of memorizing a string of dance moves, we want to break that up into smaller groups that are easier to remember. Find out where it works for you to chunk your choreography; chunks could be with each 8-count, sections of dance flow into each other easily, each line in the song, or where the dance phrase begins and ends. Each of these individual chunks should be easier to remember on its own, and once you have every chunk, start stringing them together to get your complete choreography together!
P.S. Chunking can also be used to help you prepare for your next exam! Find out more here: How the Chunking Technique Can Help Improve Your Memory (verywellmind.com)
Dance is not the only thing going on when you’re dancing. The music is playing, perhaps there is a singer, or words. You are breathing, and moving through space. All of these things can help you with remembering your choreography. Use these things to sync yourself to your choreography! Perhaps this particular section of the dance reflects the words of the song. You know that this section of choreography happens when the music swells. You can even sync the choreography to your breathing, knowing that you will perform this section on the inhale, and the next section on an exhale. You can even think of your dance in pictures that you need to hit, and the dance is the path to hitting those poses. Having these cues can also help you get back on track if you lose your place when dancing. By being in tune to the music, your breath, and the space of the dance floor, your dance will also be improved!
Here’s an easy practice strategy that you can use anytime and anywhere. Many of you probably already do this, running through the routine without fully committing to the dance for the sake of memorizing the routine. The act of marking through your routine can help you memorize your choreography when you aren’t able to dance full out, and it may even be frowned upon by some dance teachers, but did you know that marking can actually improve your dance performance? In a study where dancers are asked to memorize a dance routine, with one group practicing at performance speed and the other one by marking, dancers that practiced through marking were judged more highly. When you practice your routine fully, your brain has to focus on pulling off complex physical movements in addition to the choreography (remember, our brains can only keep track of around 4 items at a time). Marking allows your brain to focus on the dance sequence, and improves the overall fluidity of the performance! Best of all, you can mark through your dance anytime and anywhere. All you need to do is think.
No matter what above strategy you use, one thing remains constant: repetition. While all these strategies can help you remember your choreography faster, constant repetition is the most important part of memorizing your choreography. Whether you are marking through your dance, ironing out separate chunks, or dancing through your choreography, you must repeat it over and over again! With constant repetition, there will eventually be a point where your choreography becomes muscle memory, where remembering the choreography can take the back seat in your mind so that you can focus on other aspects of the dance to elevate your performance!