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Remembering Combinations

Guest white_swan

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Guest white_swan

Hi, was just wondering of some of you peopls also find it somtimes dificult to remeber combinations and if you've got any tips on helping to remeber combinations more easily.



Edited by white_swan
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white swan, my teacher frequently compliments on remembering combinations, but I still feel I have trouble with it. :huh:


It has helped me tremendously to have clear concepts for steps and movements; if you don't have one already I suggest you get a ballet technique reference book - I like Gretchen Ward Warren's "Classical Ballet Technique", which is well worth the rather high price. I check each new step we do from there, and sometimes review the old ones.


After every class I try and write down one of the combinations we did - I used to do all, but that really takes too much time, and now I have a teacher who keeps the same combinations for about 4 weeks - and I also feel that practice has taught me to remember them better.

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Guest white_swan

Thanks for the tip. I do ahev the book aswell that you have mentioned, guess me and books are'nt very good friends...lol, but I do make use of the few books I got to practice at home aswell.



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Are you having trouble remembering the combo during class? I always really watch my teacher the first time, and don't even attempt to do it along with her. If your teacher is the type who really demonstrates, you can learn a lot by watching. One of my teachers gives the HARDEST petit allegro you can imagine, and can't demonstate. He breaks it down into smaller sections so you learn one part at a time. Try thinking about the combinations in smaller parts.

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Guest white_swan

Yep, it is usually during class, but it might be because there is not much time to repeat it allot in class, which is understandable because there alot of different things to do. Usually remeber things better when I can repeat it alot.



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Guest DancingBoi

I have difficulty remembering class combinations as well but then again I am still new to dance. I have found that, obviously, I ususally tend to forget the steps that I'm not familiar with. I have noticed improvements and I do tend to catch on quickly and the teacher LOVES to answer questions so I am never shy about having her repeat the combination, and I have also noticed that even the most advanced students benefit from seeing the combo again.

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As Jaana suggests, writing out a combination after class helps fix it in your mind. Also, if I can't quite get a particular combination straight and circumstances permit, I'll ask one of the more competent dancers to go over it with me after class.

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One of the most important elements of remembering combinations is confidence. There is hardly ever a day that goes by that I don't see a center combination and start to hear the demons telling me, "Arghhh, I don't get it." The voice of reason always reminds me, "I got it yesterday, and I'll get it again today." Seriously, these doubts can last your whole life. The simple act of reminding yourself you had these doubts the day before and they were meritless will work wonders.


Also, in every combination is a 'snag' point. Be alert as to what it is that you think will trip you up. Focus especially hard on that so it doesn't take you by surprise when it's time to execute the combination.


No matter what others' focus is like on a particular day, take the class as if it's a private class. Don't depend on anyone but yourself. Force yourself to concentrate ever harder each day on being responsible for your own memorization.


Always try to remember the very beginning of the combination. Remember that part about the 'snag' point? The down side of that is that sometimes you'll get so involved in that part of the combination, you'll forget how it began. The very beginning is equally important.


Make sure you know your terms. I can't tell you how many students take for years and never actually learn the names of steps and combinations. You need to do this, particularly if your teacher is more verbal than visual. Also, you can recite the steps to yourself as you make a pattern in your mind.


When you mark, use your arms full out. You will constantly hear students ask "What are the arms?" Many times it's the same students who are doing this for years. The arms are logical. They are not accidental. Where they are at any given point is dictated by what comes exactly next in the combination.


Good luck. Ballet is difficult. It's a long process. The more you learn, the more there is to learn. That's one of its appeals -- you never stop learning.

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Very good advice there...


Like Lampwick, I have a teacher who doesn't always show things -- right now, she's dealing with an old injury, and besides, sometimes she wants to make us do the visualizing.


When she shows things, it's BEAUTIFUL --and it helps a LOT. If you have to do it with just the names of steps, or if she shows it with her hands, though, it really helps to be able to VISUALIZE it.


I can't stress this enough -- sometimes when it's a particularly fast class, it's REALLY important to be able to get very quiet and picture the whole thing, in particular the direction and hte weight changes -- if you get those, you can perfect the rest, and if you don't have those, you're sunk.


If she's particular about hte arms, BY ALL MEANS, try to get them right -- only today, sally gave a standard combination with reversed arms -- so hard to do, but so worth it.... in particular, it made me improve my pelvic placement after failli on my weak leg. I was letting my hip fall back on that side, and the arm change made me feel it and get it under. And THAT's major.....

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my teacher always makes us weaker ones (ie those without the experience and/or ability to remember steps) follow behind her while she demonstrates the steps. in fact, nowadays she doesn't even need to call on us as we're already there the minute she starts. :huh:

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In addition to fixing the one combination in my mind, I feel that the practice of writing the combinations down has helped me to learn new ones faster in class. Somehow the process of trying to remember and reconstructing the combinations after class helps me to figure out the sort of basic structures in combinations - I can't explain it, but having done this for some time, I find it easier to break the new combinations given in class to smaller parts and basic sequences that are easier to remember.

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If you want to get right down to basics: You couldn't possibly have a worse memory than I did for the first year and a half - I spent it feeling very sorry for anyone else who was standing behind me trying to follow - but now I can usually commit combinations to memory fairly quickly by classifying them in terms of very obvious patterns like:


front, side, back side ("cross" - this seems to be most common)

front, front, back, back

front, back, front, back (this often has a turn in the middle)


similarly when facing the bar, and in center:


right, right, left, left

right, left, right, left


and for the moves:


same x 4

same, same, different (in waltz time)

same, same, same, different

same, different, same, different




Clearly some of these patterns are embedded within others (e.g. our current jeté goes front, front, front, piqué front-side-back, back, back, back, piqué back-side-front, repeat, turn, repeat all), and great complexity is possible but it's, as others have been saying, not random - in fact it's just like higher algebra once you work it out.


If a teacher gives a combination that deviates from a normal pattern, for example, front, front, side, end, then I mark it in my mind as unsymmetrical and pay more attention to it. My current teachers practically never give unsymmetrical combinations but I am still rather easily lost when taking odd classes with teachers who do, and also when odd stretches and arabesques are added to the ends of combinations seemingly ad libitem. And obviously it helps when you get accustomed to the order of things at the barre and you know without thinking about it what the basic step you're practicing is and how to distinguish it from the others.


I have used Sandra Noll Hammond's Ballet Basics as my reference book for the last year and it is pretty good; before that had a little postcard-bound Penguin book that had good full-body pictures but only for a few steps. I'll look for the Warren book next time I go abroad. But even after getting reference help I still went through some confused times like when it seemed every one of my four teachers was teaching a different pas de bourrée and I couldn't find a common thread to them.

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Diana180's technique of looking for the pattern in each combination helps me, too. A lot of it also comes with experience. I find that I have to spend less effort learning combinations now than I used to, to the point where I usually don't have to mark at all unless it's a particularly complicated combination. Also, it really is best if the first time the teacher says the combination, you just watch/listen because if you're trying to move around, you might miss details (especially if there are pirouettes or other turns involved). Then mark it the second time. But beware of those teachers who only say/do it once!

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great wealth of information you guys.

I was wondering what "marking" meant though.

I have heard the term elswhere...I too have memory problems for long combinations...Out of desesparation, my teacher recommended me to eat more fish...as he thought it would help my memory :D

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