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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Retaining Choreography and Dance Steps


danceprincess

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I'm in my 3rd year of ballet and I've just been invited into the preprofessional company at the ballet school that I train at. Joining this company has presented new performance opportunities for me to perform repertoire pieces and bigger roles in the ballet productions. My only dilemma is I seem to pick up on steps quite slowly. Once I have the steps I can perform and execute them well but my issue is retaining the steps and remembering them to practice them on my own. Does anyone have any advice or tips on how to retain and remember choreography in such a short amount of time?

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Are you by any chance an engineer, or accountant????

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I find that I need many more repetitions to fix sequences of steps into my memory then the teens need. This seems to be common with adult dancers - the problem is that if you don't remember the steps, you can't practise them on your own so that you can remember them!

 

Some suggestions for ways of getting those needed repetitions in your own time:

Write down sequences of steps when you have a break during rehearsals, or straight afterwards.

Look for patterns in the steps, or repeated sequences.

Record somebody doing the steps using your phone (with their permission of course).

Get a recording of the music being used. Listen to the music and even if you can't dance full out, run through the steps in your head.

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Wembley gives you a really useful list. I find that repetition and remembering patterns are the best ways. You'll find most choreography has patterns of steps, but also patterns on the floor in the space. Can you think about the choreographic sequences in the three dimensional spaces of the stage?

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Thankyou wembley and redbookish and clara. Dance princess i am in adult beginner class 1x wk. Moving very fast through the syllabus. I was sick and missed one class, and therfore I absorbed alot in the next class. (Now I wished I'd jotted down the sequence.) I believe it was glissade/ pas de beurre /pas de chat for next wk. along with the new pirouettes. I'm lucky not to have any worries about an audience. Maybe the choreographer might allow you with permission to take a snapshot of their teaching notes? I would love an email from my teacher even. Like a quick paragraph on the meat of the lesson, for home practice.

Edited by Lavande
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Danceprincess, I agree with wembley's list!

 

I would just like to emphasize that, if you can, video rehearsal, so that you have a reference point. I needed to do that when asked to take on a role once, and I was afraid people would think less of me for it, but I am so glad I asked! The choreographer thought it was great that I was taking the initiative, and my video ended up being useful for others who couldn't remember the choreography later on.

 

Also, I have no science to support this, but I'm pretty sure that, at least for some people, learning ballet goes something like this: For the first few years or 2,000-ish hours, a dancer is learning steps and names for steps and learning how to watch dance. I think for at least some people, this is the necessary first step, and that learning to see patterns and phrases comes second. Just as children seem to pick up random bits of vocabulary first, and later start to string together sentences. I think the next couple thousand hours worth of doing and watching dance lets them get comfortable with sentence-length dance phrases. After that comes the ability to pick up choreography more easily/quickly.

 

If you've only been dancing for three years, you just may not have hit that tipping point yet where it's so much easier for you to see whole paragraphs' worth of dance (i.e. performance choreography). Hang in there!

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I find that I need many more repetitions to fix sequences of steps into my memory then the teens need. This seems to be common with adult dancers - the problem is that if you don't remember the steps, you can't practise them on your own so that you can remember them!

 

Some suggestions for ways of getting those needed repetitions in your own time:

Write down sequences of steps when you have a break during rehearsals, or straight afterwards.

Look for patterns in the steps, or repeated sequences.

Record somebody doing the steps using your phone (with their permission of course).

Get a recording of the music being used. Listen to the music and even if you can't dance full out, run through the steps in your head.

 

Thank you! I've been able to get permission to record the steps from the teacher and that helps it's just when we get in class and I try to execute the movements I tend to draw a blank. I'm finding what helps me is much repetition in class with all the dancers or when the teacher breaks down the steps during the cleaning process but that's not done often until usually days before it's time to perform.

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Danceprincess, I agree with wembley's list!

 

I would just like to emphasize that, if you can, video rehearsal, so that you have a reference point. I needed to do that when asked to take on a role once, and I was afraid people would think less of me for it, but I am so glad I asked! The choreographer thought it was great that I was taking the initiative, and my video ended up being useful for others who couldn't remember the choreography later on.

 

Also, I have no science to support this, but I'm pretty sure that, at least for some people, learning ballet goes something like this: For the first few years or 2,000-ish hours, a dancer is learning steps and names for steps and learning how to watch dance. I think for at least some people, this is the necessary first step, and that learning to see patterns and phrases comes second. Just as children seem to pick up random bits of vocabulary first, and later start to string together sentences. I think the next couple thousand hours worth of doing and watching dance lets them get comfortable with sentence-length dance phrases. After that comes the ability to pick up choreography more easily/quickly.

 

If you've only been dancing for three years, you just may not have hit that tipping point yet where it's so much easier for you to see whole paragraphs' worth of dance (i.e. performance choreography). Hang in there!

 

 

This is very encouraging. I guess I'm being too hard on myself and what you said makes perfect sense.

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Another thought to consider is what type of learner are you? Visual learner, auditory learner, kin esthetic learner etc etc?

 

Some people can stand there and watch a combination then execute it (visual learner), others need to physically DO the steps before they will retain it (kin esthetic), still others will benefit by listening (auditory) to what the sequence is as it is given - find what works for you.

 

I discovered I am actually an auditory learner one day when I was struggling with a new teachers combinations. She performed the steps as she counted the phrases, but I just couldn't get it! When I clicked and said the steps to myself as she demonstrated, I could pick it up immediately. So as she counted "1-2&3-4", I said to myself, "tendu, plie and stretch, close" etc....

 

Watching, doing and listening will all help you pick up the sequences, but you will probably find you have a dominant style of learning.

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Thanks Miss Persistent. I think I'm a visual and kin esthetic learner. I need to see AND do. I've always been this way even outside of dance. When in school I needed the teacher to walk through the material visually and I would have to do the exercises myself (with the teacher) in order to fully comprehend the material. Today one of the dancers actually walked through the choreography with me and allowed me to do it with her while she was demonstrating and I found that to be really helpful.

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Danceprincess, I agree with wembley's list!

 

I would just like to emphasize that, if you can, video rehearsal, so that you have a reference point. I needed to do that when asked to take on a role once, and I was afraid people would think less of me for it, but I am so glad I asked! The choreographer thought it was great that I was taking the initiative, and my video ended up being useful for others who couldn't remember the choreography later on.

 

Also, I have no science to support this, but I'm pretty sure that, at least for some people, learning ballet goes something like this: For the first few years or 2,000-ish hours, a dancer is learning steps and names for steps and learning how to watch dance. I think for at least some people, this is the necessary first step, and that learning to see patterns and phrases comes second. Just as children seem to pick up random bits of vocabulary first, and later start to string together sentences. I think the next couple thousand hours worth of doing and watching dance lets them get comfortable with sentence-length dance phrases. After that comes the ability to pick up choreography more easily/quickly.

 

If you've only been dancing for three years, you just may not have hit that tipping point yet where it's so much easier for you to see whole paragraphs' worth of dance (i.e. performance choreography). Hang in there!

 

This REALLY resonates with me. I often cannot see the larger structures and get bogged down on the detail in any particular step, with the result that I often have utterly forgotten where we started when the exercise is through being explained. As I get better, this phenomenon is confined to the newer stuff, of course, and I can see what it must be like because the older stuff simply can be explained in large "chunks" of information.

 

Yesterday we learned a step/combo that, a propos to this thread I CANNOT remember the name of. There was a chasse in there to start, a jump that involved a bit of a turn and a sweep out to second, and it ended with an assemble. I needed EVERYTHING from preparatory, to the way it starts to move backwards, to the way the arms start to go, and then the sweep, jump and land. Head, arms, torso, knees, EVERYTHING.

 

I presume that ultimately this will also be "in memory" because the more experienced students in the class simply knew this step as a whole "thing" and could execute it with the general idea of it already evident, even if it needed correction and refinement. But I had to take it down so small that it'll take me a very long time before any part of it simply "comes out." But once it does, anything vaguely built on it will come faster.

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Also, a good teacher will know what it "feels" like not to know what comes next. I think there are plenty of terrific dancers who want to teach, but not all terrific dancers can put themselves back into the mind of someone who does NOT have the general physical vocabulary or the inclination to the movement patterned in. I know when the teacher will present a new step, she will explain it, demonstrate it, and then immediately go to the parts that she knows won't come out naturally for those who don't already know it. I would have thought that all dance has a general movement to it that comes naturally, and that may be true, but ballet has such a specific aesthetic and vocabulary to it that almost all of it has to be patterned in, and I've learned to accept the fact that I will look awkward doing it until it's in there, at which point it starts to gain a sense of fluidity and natural movement.

 

Darn ballet. When done well, it's so refined that incredibly specific movements look like they come out like you were born doing it.

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