Monday, May 23, 2016

Help! I'm having trouble picking up choreography!

Spring recitals and shows are upon us which means many students are going to be on stage soon in pretty costumes and pink tights. They will be expected to perform for their family and friends and strangers under hot lights and on a surface that is unfamiliar. They will also not have any mirrors to look at - so no peeking at other dancers when they forget what they are doing.


The first thing to remember about learning choreography is that it takes practice. Not just the actual piece you are learning but also practice in general. Every class you take has choreography and attending consistently helps train the brain and body to pick things up quickly. We often do similar sequences of steps so that can help too.

One thing I like to do is to reverse combinations, whether for my students or for myself. In this way, I really get my brain and body attuned to what a step is: where do I go with pas de chat, which positions am I really in on glissade, what exactly is temps de fleche?

Breaking a step down into its components like that in order to reverse them singes the image on my brain and helps me stamp it with a bit more permanence than if I simply did it in sequence.

Remember that there is a difference between the reversal of a step and the opposite of a step.

--Example: Reversing a glissade jete over means doing glissade jete under and the foot will land in sur le coup de pied devant (in front of the ankle and in fondu, naturally).

--Example: Doing the opposite of a entrechat quatre would mean doing royalle.

Another thing to challenge yourself with is to go first in a group across the floor. Now, don't go if you have no idea what you are doing! The teacher and other students won't appreciate that. However, if you usually go in the second group - or the third or fourth - step up and go with the first group. Volunteer if you are not placed in the group so the teacher sees you want to try.

By going with the first group, you force yourself to pick up the choreography more quickly because you will have that much less time in which to prepare for it.

As a teacher, I sometimes don't allow much "marking" time during a combination for this very reason. I want students to push themselves to pick up the steps. Sometimes dancers ask so many questions that they prevent themselves from trying things. For brand new dancers or for brand new vocabulary, yes, I will take more time but students who require everything to be "spoon fed" to them do their brains a disservice. They are not challenging themselves to figure it out. And that challenge often sears the step into their heads.

Hope this helps! Happy dancing~

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