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memorizing combinations

Guest la florida

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Guest la florida

Hi, I just started taking ballet classes again after taking a long break (7-8 years) and things are progressing slowly (but surely) as expected. But I find that I always have trouble memorizing combinations both at the barre and in the center (because I'm trying to keep track of so many other things?) so my timing is often off. It helps when combinations are given with counts, but even so I still sometimes get lost. Any advice anyone can give me about how to improve would be really helpful. Thanks so much...

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Hi, La florida, and welcome to the Adult Students' Forum here at Ballet Talk for Dancers. :)


One of the first things that goes when you take an extended break from dancing is the ability to pick up new combinations rapidly. Since you're returning after such a long time off, you should be working at a technical level well below that at which you worked when you were dancing a lot. You may find that you need a lot of repetitious work, as things done en croix, or simply over and over again in order to start your "muscle memory" back up. Then, once you've started, the memories will come back gradually.

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I asked a similar question a couple of months ago. You might want to do some more research on this board here. I had (and still have) some problems memorising combinations but it is getting better as ballet is very repetitive. Some people recommended to write down center combinations (or the barre) after class, though I have never done that. If you dont get something at all, ask the teacher after class. Some combinations are not as difficult as they seem to be. Usually, I mess it up because I use the wrong foot, e.g. I close front instead of back. Well, and then of course all goes in the wrong direction.


I am taking several syllabus classes, that is wonderful as I dont have to think about combinations anymore as I know most of the syllabus. Unfortunately, this does not help me at all in my free classes.


Anyhow, you will improve with time :-)

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  • 4 years later...

I am also struggling with memorizing combinations. One teacher said that I should be less analytical and let the movements happen. Perhaps that is what muscle memory involves and why with time and repetition, combinations will come easier.

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I think that two things in particular are important in remembering combinations - closing cleanly with the correct foot front or back and anticipating the next move. The interesting thing is that if you don't close cleanly, you can't anticipate, because how can you tell which foot is front or back if you're standing in a sloppy position? It also sometimes helps to try and recite the names of the steps in your head as you dance the sequence through. For example, glissade jete, ballote, ballote, coupe chasse pas de bouree, temps de cuisse. Think where the difficulties lie. In this particular enchainement the hardest bits to remember would probably be the ballotes and the temps de cuisse, so anticipating the movement is important - knowing that as you close after the pas de bouree, you need to immediately lift up the back foot for the temps de cuisse. Practise the tricky bits separately if you can, so that the muscle plan begins to implant itself in your brain for automatic register. And don't be embarrassed to ask the teacher to show the step again a little slower. It doesn't take much time and it may make a big difference to you. Failing that ask a friend in class to show you again, or ask the teacher at the end of class, so that you can practise it properly. Seven years is a long time - be patient and I am sure it will come back to you.

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I don't have any suggestions, but just wanted to commiserate. I just came back 3 months ago after 15 years of not taking ballet. I did dance professionally (other types of dance) now and then over the years but I am having the same problem with memorizing combinations, which was something I was very good at in ballet before. I do not really have a problem with combinations that are in the center as much as those at the barre, and if I take a jazz or hip hop class I have NO problem picking up fast and remembering. It is weird.


I appreciate the response about taking classes slower/easier than where we left off before the absence. I wish I had known that before. 3 months ago I was in a more advanced class and after a month I dropped to a lower class because I just could not remember the combinations at all--it was so overwhelming. I'm in a slower class that is a little better but it is starting to pick up too, and I feel like my memory skills are not really improving that fast.

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Hey folks -- there's a load of tips and tricks buried in these pages... hold on and I will see what I can find; will add them by editing this post!


Here we go:


Remembering Combinations


Petite Allegro


Keeping Up




Learning and Retaining Combinations


Left Side Gets Confused




This is just the tip of the iceberg! Try some of the suggestions, and let us know what works for you, and what other questions you have!

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I had that issue and after two solid years of work I'm finally picking up again quickly. If my muscles can do the exercises, I can remember them. If my body isn't ready for that level, forget it. But I go to a class now where the teacher speaks no English, so I have to really listen to the steps as she says them in French - she does not demonstrate. That's done more for me than anything else, I think!

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I find I have that problem as well. I think because I am newer to ballet, it takes a while to get used to the name vs. someone who has been doing it since they were little. I get frusterated with myself because as a skater for the majority of my life, I could pick up step sequences in one go. But now in ballet, it takes a while to really get those combinations down.


I guess the more I do it, the easier it will become. Plus, there are some steps that have the same name in both ballet and skating, so when I hear those I get so confused lol. Must let go of skating terms haha!!


Oh well, I'm working on it and i think it is slowly getting better :D

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  • 1 month later...

Ms. Dorothy recommended watching and not trying to mark. Apparently you miss things if you are trying to watch and mark at the same time. Are you trying to mark?

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