Have you been struggling to remember the moves in dance class? Are your auditions coming up?
Here are some tips to help you memorize choreography like a pro. No more freezing or falling behind!
5 Tips to Memorize Choreography
Chunking is a memorization technique where you learn something in separate sections, then group the sections together at the end.
We use chunking to remember things like phone numbers, addresses, and even song lyrics.
For example, 678-999-8212 is much easier to memorize than 6789998212.
In your dance class or audition, the teacher will probably teach the routine sections already.
But you can chunk the moves into lengths that work for you, whether this means going 1 8-count combo at a time, or separating the piece into 2 halves.
Chunking is a great tool to help you memorize choreography, but sometimes, you can get stuck between those chunks.
It doesn't matter how well you know each chunk – you have to make sure you're connecting them together seamlessly.
2. Connect the chunks
There's a trick to connect those chunks that we talked about in this video:
Basically, always practice a few moves / counts before a chunk, and even after the chunk.
Although dance choreography is usually taught to 8-counts, the dance is performed to the sounds in music – which don't go by cleanly cut counts.
So don't start and stop your movements according to their chunks.
Blend by transitioning the moves in between them. Because the whole thing is really 1 dance! *cue Drake*
3. Use contexts in the song
As we mentioned in Tip #2, you dance to music.
The choreographer made the routine to music.
MUSIC.So, a good way to learn and memorize choreography is to follow... the music!
Let's say a song / piece goes through the flow of...slow, melodic intro → UPBEAT, POWERFUL CHORUS → iNtRiCaTe beat kill-off to end
You probably won't start finger-tutting in the first section or forget that you're supposed to do heavier movements in the middle.
But you should also listen to simply understand the arc of the song, and how that dictates the routine.
4. Make up your own "personal cues"
In our "What is an 8-count” video, we talked about how dancers use counts to map out their choreography.
Counts are a good skeleton to base your memorization off of, but the numbers don't actually provide a ton of information.
They keep track of the rhythm and quantitatively measure where you are in the piece, but they don't tell you how to dance.
So let's get more descriptive than the counts.
Use sounds or actions that you come up with yourself that will actually help you memorize the moves and how you should be executing them.
Here are 4 examples of personal cues that you can use:
1. Naming the moves
Count this out loud:
"1 and 2 and a 3 and 4"
Now, say this out loud:
"Right left push, turn around, look dip."
The latter gives you the same information as the first 8-count (tempo, when the movements take place) and it ALSO hints at the moves themselves!
I personally find this trick most helpful for footwork.
As I'm learning, I'll memorize choreography as:
"Kick ball change, and left and right. Right left right left right, out, together."
Unlike naming the moves, snapping is more for your body to remember the moves.
I've seen people (Dezi Del Rosario does this a lot) use snaps to mark the points in the moves.
This really forces your body to get to that point while dancing, because you've conditioned it to snap in a certain position.
Breathing is similar to snapping in that it'll train your body to memorize choreography – use it to remember to slow down or dial back the energy.
You know those pieces where there's a crazy fast combo, then you go into a chill groove???
That sudden drop in energy would look clumsy and out of place, if you didn't breathe through it.
Choreographers might even count that part of the choreography using breaths.
Use cues in your own breathing to memorize choreography parts that are more relaxed.
4. Using obscure sound effects
David Lee loves using whatever sound to mark his movements.
No matter how silly they sound 😂
When you use these personal cues, whether it's naming the moves, snapping, breathing, or making up sounds...
You’re building your own version of the piece that makes sense to you.
When you do this, the dance routine feels more natural and easy to remember.
5. Drill the moves into your muscle memory
This is a simple tip, but so important that I MUST mention it!!!!
If you do something over and over again, then your body will start to do it on autopilot.
So drill a section of choreography 50 times if you need to. Heck, do it 100 times!
This way, even when you have a brain fart, your body can simply take over.
...And into your visual memory
Yes, doing the dance over and over will help your body memorize it.
But it can also be just as effective to watch it over and over, too.
Take a recording of the choreographer or teacher, or of yourself doing the piece, and let your eyes and mind absorb it.
Use all the tips we talked about in this article as you're watching the piece (not just while learning it).
For example, observe how the movements follow the music (Tip #3) or use counts, snaps, breaths, or noises that make sense for you (Tip #4).
Learning to memorize choreography will naturally get easier and easier with experience.
But if you want a quicker and more fool-proof way to remember choreography, put these 5 tips to practice!
Try them out in your next STEEZY Studio class. Sign up here to start for free.