I am an avid class taker and my rehearsal attendance for my team is near perfect. However, I find that my pick up is rather lacking, it often takes me much longer to get a choreography down compared to other class takers/team member. What are some tips for improving pick up and learning routines at a quicker and cleaner pace? Thanks, Christian
That's great you are determined to improve not only your choreography pick-up speed but picking up choreography at a cleaner rate as well! I know how you feel about wanting to pick up choreographer at a faster pace, whenever I take classes at studios like Debbie Reynolds or mL, I always feel as though I struggle to keep up. The important thing to remind yourself is that everyone starts somewhere, and that our minds are so flexible and resilient, you can easily train yourself into having better and cleaner choreography pick-up.
Lucky for you, faster choreography pick-up was one of the first topics we actually wrote about, so be sure to check out tips from that article for extra insight! I don't want to be redundant, so here are a few extra ideas you should keep in mind that target the areas of faster learning, retention, and cleanliness:
In psychology, there is a method used to improve memory recall, called 'Chunking'. As the name suggests, chunking is means of splitting up what you need to remember into manageable, smaller portions, so that the memorization process becomes an easier and quicker process. Take memorizing phone numbers, for instance. It's much easier to split up phone numbers into 3 chunks for memorization purposes, right? Similarly, if you 'chunk' the choreography you're learning into smaller parts, you'll be able to pick-up choreography faster, because it becomes more a manageable process.
To effectively do so, as the choreographer is teaching the next move, try to (and I know this is difficult BUT it WILL get easier with practice!) keep an eye out for the new move, but quickly mark the previous few moves in that 'chunk'/designated section to review what you had learned leading up to the new move, then add the new move to the (metaphorical) chain. Once you've established a sequence with each 'chunk', practice the transition between each 'chunk' to solidify the routine in your head.
By all means, dance full-out! Unless you are absolutely winded from the choreography and need to mark the piece as a break, practicing by doing each move full-out all the time will help ingrain the choreography in your muscle memory faster. You will also become a cleaner dancer as long as you are aware of each detail as you're doing each move, because marking a piece too much can muddle up your body's muscle memory of the cleanliness details.
Choreographers typically already do this while teaching, but if there is a tough and fast combo that you're having trouble getting, it's always a great idea to start slowly, review move after move, and build up to tempo to drill the combo into your head. Since you're starting off at a slower pace, you can also review all the necessary details the choreographer has made note of as you go through the combo, to make sure you're not missing anything. As you work up your speed, continually think about those details and keep yourself in check to make sure you're not sacrificing details for speed. This should help with cleanliness.
When I'm trying to work up my retention speed in class, I never let my mind relax or rest before OR after class. It's obvious that for that hour or hour and a half, your mind is 100% focused on the sequence of choreography. But it's equally as important to prime your mind to be 'ON' even before the class takes place. Mental preparation is a big part of the battle, so if you mentally prime yourself to be prepared for learning choreography, your mind AND body will be that much more prepared to be on your A-game. (Sometimes, I even trick my mind into thinking the choreographer will teach very quickly regardless, so that I'll be prepared to pick up the choreography as quickly as I can.)
Your mind isn't done working after class either! On my drives home from workshops, I try to review the piece in my head without dancing it (of course, safety first, so do what you can). By doing so, you're trying to retain what you've just learned after the adrenaline rush of being in class leaves your body. It will be tough at first, but by successfully being able to review the piece AND all the details in your head, you're building up your ability to get the choreography down.
Hope these tips help you Christian - we're all in this together!What other tips do you think will help improve choreography pick-up and cleanliness? Help us help you by leaving a comment below to include any ones we may have missed! Trying your hardest to improve on choreography pick-up can be a daunting journey, and you may feel like you're falling behind. But don't let this hurdle get you down! Here are some ways to overcome feeling like the weakest link!