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Understanding our dance memory mechanism and how to approach it.

Updated: May 6

Understanding how your brain memorizes dance can be a game-changer in how quickly and effectively you learn choreography. This involves two main types of memory: declarative and procedural. Let’s break down how these work and how you can use them to your advantage as a dance student.


Declarative Memory: The "Process(How)" of Dance

Declarative memory is about the facts and events you can consciously recall. For dance, this means:


Remembering Choreography Steps: Think of declarative memory as your brain's script for a dance. It's the step-by-step list you might recite in your head.


Copying and Making details in the process: The details of the movements you create during this process determine the quality of your dance. Beginners find it difficult to convey a lot of information to their body at once, but if they apply it slowly one by one, they can make great progress. Try to consciously apply the details of your movements (use of space/change of speed/use of muscle contraction and relaxation, etc.).


How to Use It:


Break Down the Dance: Start by learning the choreography in sections. Name each move or sequence to make it easier to recall. Counting in dance makes this a little easier. Rather than trying to memorize a lot of choreography at once, it is effective to memorize it in 8-count increments. At first, try only what you can handle (a class that teaches short choreography, such as a rookie class, is suitable). This process requires conscious memorization.


Start with movements that are already accumulated in your body: Even when you encounter new choreography or movements, starting with similar movements that you already know helps you learn the movements quickly. This requires exposure to and practice of many diverse choreographies. The basic/advanced steps learn in the foundation course are a great way to condense the process.


Procedural Memory: The "Expression(What)" of Dance

Procedural memory is about knowing how to do things and is crucial for executing movements without consciously thinking about them.


Muscle Memory: This is when your body knows what to do without your brain having to detail every step. Over time, the dance steps become automatic.


How to Use It:


Practice, Practice, Practice: The key to building procedural memory is repetition. The more you practice, the more your body learns to perform the dance without having to think about it.


Start Slow: Practice the moves slowly at first to ensure accuracy. Speed can come later, once your body has learned the movements correctly.


Combining Both for Dance Classes

To improve your dance memorization, start with declarative memory to understand and remember the steps and the details behind the dance. Then, use practice to embed these steps in your procedural memory, making the dance feel natural and fluid.


Section by Section: Learn the dance in chunks, using your declarative memory to understand each part. Then drill each section repeatedly to build procedural memory.

Use of musical rhythm: It is important to focus on the rhythm of the music and create your own sequences as your body moves without much conscious focus. Additionally, you will be able to express music through your body.

Use Cues: Create verbal or visual cues for different sections of the dance. These can be mental notes that trigger what comes next, helping bridge the gap between declarative and procedural memory.


Remember, everyone’s brain works a bit differently, so experiment with these strategies to find what works best for you. With practice, you’ll find learning new choreographies becomes a smoother, more enjoyable process. Finding this process is the process of the foundation course, and I am looking foward you to grow a little faster through understanding dance.

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