here’s no greater frustration than feeling lost in a dance class: Forgetting the movement, adrift in the dance combination, confused about what’s next in the choreography. All dancers have been there at one time or another, but you don’t want to look lost when the stakes are high, like during a dance audition or placement class. But absorbing dance choreography is a skill like any other in dance class; it takes practice.
So make a habit of these three skills during your dance classes and rehearsals, and eventually, you’ll learn and perform the given movements almost simultaneously:
1. Wrap your head around the big, broad strokes first. When you’re focusing first on a pattern, direction, facings, pathways and the number of repetitions, at the very least, you won’t look like you’re dancing on another planet.
From there, work inward, trying to pick up more detail each time you dance the choreography. Where are your eyes looking? Is that leg bent or stretched? What kind of quality is the choreographer demonstrating on that turn?
2. Learn choreography in chunks. You remember phone numbers more easily when the digits are grouped, and your brain holds on to choreography the same way. In fact, most teachers or choreographers will teach you movement phrases in chunks for this very reason. Problems typically occur when the chunk being taught is larger than what you can retain, or when the sequence is particularly lengthy.
In your mind, group the choreography into even smaller bits if you have to and look for landmarks in the sequence. These are the big or important movements that should still be there even if you flub everything else. These also act as signposts directing you to the next chunk of movement.
3. Talk to yourself. As you learn and practice the movements, say them to yourself (silently is probably less likely to draw sidelong glances from fellow dancers!). This small action, whether you are thinking the name of the step, singing its rhythm or voicing some mental image you’ve attached to the movement, helps to lock in the order of the material.