by Ben White from The Syncopation Foundation
Hi dancers! I've been teaching a weekly solo jazz routine over on our YouTube Channel, and folks have been asking for tips on memorizing routines. I've done my best to keep the tips as usable in both online classes and in person as I can. Comment if you think of anything I left out!
Photo by Sereina Elwert
1.) Shift Your Focus
Sometimes it seems like the easiest way to be successful is to dance along with the teacher and just copy what they do. Well, it may be easier, but it can actually slow down the learning!
As soon as you can start watching yourself in the mirror instead of the teacher. It might be a little bumpy at first, but you'll internalize the dance much faster when you have to be the one driving.
After that practice the routine while looking at your audience (or the wall with a picture of Frankie or Norma for some extra motivation!)
2.) Stop Dancing
A bit counterintuitive maybe, especially after that first tip, but sometimes it's important to just stop and watch.
It's easy to miss details when you're trying to dance along while they're pointing something out.
Plus, when you really focus in on watching the choreographer dance you’ll pick up all kinds of details they don’t have time to break down fo the class. Think of it as bonus material!
3.) Do it Wrong and Move Along
Sometimes you won’t be able to keep up with a class - but that’s actually ok! You can still get a lot out of it.
The trick is to give yourself permission to skip over the one or two moves that really get you stuck. Otherwise while you’re obsessing over that hard bit you might miss the next moves that you would have totally rocked, ad then there’s a snowball effect of getting behind the class.
You can always come back to the hard bit later - and chances are the choreographer will review that part anyway. So really it the parts you can, and fill in the gaps when you have a moment to breathe.
4.) Context Matters
Are you ever dancing through a routine and all of a sudden your mind goes blank? Me too!
One reason this can happen is that we tend to think of routines in chunks. This can be really useful for practice, but sometimes we end up with mental “speed bumps” in between phrases.
Whenever you can, try to start rehearsing a section 4-8 counts earlier than you instinctively want to. This can help build muscle memory, and as a bonus it helps the musicality of the routine sink in too!
5.) Practice Practicing
Take classes at your local dance school! There’s nothing quite like the real thing, with a teacher who can break things down and give individual feedback, and a community of like-minded learners to train with!
Dance along with online classes. There’s a really good chance that some of your favorite dancers in the work teach online sometimes. These might be live classes, or recordings, but either way there are thousands of hours of dance class on the internet if you look around. We’ve got some RIGHT HERE.
Dig into the original stuff! It’s pretty amazing to get to learn the dance right from the folks who made it up! Look up videos from dancers like Norma Miller, Frankie Manning, Josephine Baker, Al Minns, and so many more!
Hopefully some of these tips help you out as we dive back into the world of dance this year! Know someone else who’d appreciate the knowledge? Send them this way - sharing is caring!