Effective choreography memorization…how do you learn best?
Once you start to firm up your brilliant choreographic ideas, how the heck do you remember them? You may think that remembering your own choreography should be pretty straightforward… after all, you created it, right?
My experience could not be further from that idea. I can spend hours in the studio creating what I consider amazing choreography but if I don’t notate it the way that works best for me it may all be for nothing!
Everyone learns and commits things to memory a little differently. There are four basic learning styles, and most of us fit into a combination of them:
It is important for you as a choreographer and a dancer to understand HOW you learn best so that you can maximize your learning potential in any situation. I’ve found a great combination of techniques that helps me remember my choreographies quickly and effectively and using these ideas, you can too!
This is SEEING the movements and combinations. Before the days of the smartphone (yes, I started dancing before smartphones existed…), this was not an easy option. But now that we all walk around with a video camera/small computer in our pockets, I have found my smartphone to be indispensable in the choreography creation process. I create a combination that I like, set up my little phone camera, hit record and voila! I have my ideas notated for the future.
While I use this all the time to record a recently-completed piece of choreography, I have found I cannot learn a choreography from simply watching a video over and over. Written notes are crucial for me. But more on that in a bit.
This is LISTENING to your music and knowing it fully. I often tell my students when I am teaching them a new choreography to put the music in their car on repeat. Knowing the music like the back of your hand will allow you to learn and remember your choreography (or anyone else’s) much more easily. Since the music cues our movement, knowing what auditory idea comes next tells your brain and your body what to do.
Another fun way to use this idea is to create a video or audio track of you speaking your movement combinations over the music. I’m sure we’ve all had this experience: Your dance teacher drills a choreography over and over while speaking the movements rhythmically with the music. And from that day forward you will hear his or her voice every single time you dance the piece. Right? Slightly annoying? Maybe. But also highly effective.
This is NOTATING your choreography in a way that makes sense to you. This one is crucial for my ability to learn a dance. I have a three-column method that I’ve been using for years. Column one is the time stamp and number of counts for that line of choreography. Column two is the main foot and hip movements and column three is dedicated to arms or prop details if there is one. Without this step I personally cannot commit any choreography – mine or otherwise – to memory. Every single choreography I have ever created or learned in my entire dance career has a set of written notes and this is what I refer back to when I have questions.
This is actually DANCING your choreography. For most dancers this is a huge component to their ability to learn and memorize a piece, though there are dancers that can practice effectively while visualizing themselves dancing in their head as well. (That would fall into category #1 – Visualization) There are many ways to physically experience a choreography, from marking through just the footwork, to outright fully dancing the composition. Try dancing your piece with music and without! Dancing a choreography without the music is a great test of your knowledge!
Now that you know bit more about the different learning styles, what do you feel are your top two methods for remembering your choreographies?