Ever step onstage and suddenly forget what you’re supposed to do? Whether you are memorizing your own solo choreography or performing in a company, these tips will increase your choreography recall, and ensure that you’re always prepared to perform your best.
Practice the choreography without music or with different music
Count through the whole choreography without the music. While you want to move with and cue off the music, you can increase your recall of each movement sequence by forcing yourself to memorize the movements on their own. I have performed to music that has been distorted, played too slow, too fast, or only through one channel. In those moments, I am grateful that I can count out the piece. Practicing the choreography to different music is also very challenging, and it’s helpful to think of the choreography even with different sounds.
Rehearse in your mind
Studies of the brain have shown that imagining something activates the same areas of the brain as actually doing it. Practicing the choreography in your mind can allow you to think of not just what you’re doing, but how you’re doing it. Imagine doing it perfectly – stretching a little farther, holding the balance a little longer – and your body will be better able to do it in reality.
Another technique is to play your music and listen passively, while you drive or do the dishes, for example. As you learn the choreography, your brain will picture it automatically as you listen. You don’t have to focus, just let your mind process in the background. Memorize the music by heart, and you’ll never miss a beat.
Sometimes a cord gets bumped, a CD skips, or the sound guy will forget to turn the music up after pushing play. Fast forward the song to a random spot and see how quickly you can pick up where you are. This is an excellent technique because it trains your brain to remember the point of the choreography based on the music. Use a program like Amazing Slow Downer to change the tempo or pitch of the music for some extra challenge, and to be ready for any musical mishaps.
Writing something down increases your recollection ability, and it also provides a reference for later. Even if you are provided with notes, taking your own will often be more helpful.
Video is the most amazing learning tool. You may watch yourself in the mirror but your brain can only process so much information at once. Watch a recording and you’ll notice many details you can improve. If you’re working in a group, record the choreographer and emulate his or her method. Rcord the whole group to help remember line changes and formations. And most of all, record yourself practing multiple times. You’ll see improvement, and you will subconsiously absorb the choreography even more as you watch.
Perfect Practice makes perfect
There are advantages to marking choreography (hitting major points without dancing full out). Your brain will make connections and you can work on memorizing the framework and transitions of the piece. But once you get more adept, you want to dominate your rehearsal time with Perfect Practice. Do everything as you would on stage. Smile, extend, make eye contact with imaginary people. Practicing in costume is also imperative, because it will change the way everything feels.
Don’t practice until you get it right . . . Practice until you can’t get it wrong.
The biggest key is to practice, practice, practice; until you hate your music, until the choreography bores you, until it feels frustratingly easy. You don’t just know it, you don’t have to think about it. When you are performing, you can’t think about your choreography. You have to think about poise, projection, expression, and all of the mishaps that can happen in a live performance. Try these techniques and let me know in the comments what works for you! How do you memorize chorography? What kinds of mishaps have occured during your performances, and how did you learn and adapt to deal with those situations in the future?