I was teaching a lesson the other day when my student popped a question to me. He said, “ How do you remember dance steps? Do you know the best way to remember dance steps or moves? I’m looking for tips on how to remember dance steps. I have a dance partner and I practice with her a lot. We do really well. We remember dance steps during practice, but then when I find myself out social dancing, all the practice seems to vanish. It is like I can only remember a small number of steps. Do you have any tips on how to remember dance moves? What’s the best way to remember dance moves?”
As a dance instructor, over the last few years, I began to notice this kind of trend concerning how to remember dance moves, especially after finishing the class.
If you are one of these individuals who are experiencing this issue, understand this is such a common problem among dancers. It happened to me when I was learning how to dance. Try not to feel bad if you’re experiencing it, we’ve all gone through it at one point or another.
A BAD Dancer is like bad breath. So, the questions is…
What’s the best way to remember dance steps? What are some tactics to easily remember dance moves? How much do you think about moves and variations while you are dancing? Are you always thinking about the next move you want to do? Do I just rely on muscle memory alone to be a good dancer? What is the best way to memorize Salsa steps? What are some tactics to easily remember dance moves?
These are just a few of the questions I have been asked over the years and I would like to address them in this article.
But, first I would like to share the following statements about how to remember dance steps:
The simple truth about how to remember dance steps
We know in life the thing that always is constant is change. Therefore, by default, the thing that always is constant about that change is learning and adapting. And the result of this learning and adapting is developing a skill. Plain and simple!
The first thing to understand about not being able to remember dance moves, or forgetting patterns that you just learned a week ago, is that this is just the symptom. The actual problem or challenge that most dancers are having is they stop developing the skills to remember what has been learned (with an emphasis on developing the skill).
The development of the skill is the ‘unseen’ part of the problem. Once you realize this, the ’seen’ part of the problem is the lack of understanding what’s required to execute the steps, their mechanics, and their leading clues, pretty much how everything connects. As you can see, by now, this is why it is becoming hard to remember dance steps in general. Let us address some of the common suggestions you hear regarding tactics to easily remember dance moves.
How to remember dance steps and the common suggestions
We all want to be able to remember dance steps. Especially after paying money for taking a class to help you become a better dancer. It is common to hear the following things like:
Stop thinking about patterns or moves. Focus on handholds instead.
Stop thinking about patterns or moves and focus on handholds instead? Is this a bad thing to do? I think it is a valid suggestion because if you think about a handhold, it can be a memory trigger for something that follows.
A cross handhold can trigger a combo that is hidden in the back of your mind or just some moves that you know from that specific hand hold position.
Focus on “moves” instead of “patterns,” “sequences,” or “combos.”
This one can be really bad because, sadly, the terms “moves” and “patterns” are loosely used to represent the same thing. Therefore it might not make sense to you at all. Some dance schools and instructors refer to the term “moves” as smaller bits of information (steps).
Therefore, “patterns” are referred to as more complex information (groups of steps). “Sequences” are used as a whole group of patterns. We don’t even want to know what “combos” stand for. Go figure, right?
The idea is to focus on ONE thing only. This concept of moves will help you practice one small step at a time and not overwhelm yourself with complex sequences, patterns, or combos.
Find your home base
I have a question for you… How many individual moves, patterns, sequences, or combos do you know? Do you know 10, maybe 50, or more like 100? If I asked you to write them down, can you do it? Can you explain them?
The only reason I am asking you this question is because in order to remember dance steps you need a baseline to begin with. Here’s a simple example of this: Did you know you can do seven different Right Turns? It’s one Right Turn Step with seven different ways to lead it. How cool is that?!
If you want to remember dance steps-moves, your essential steps are the building blocks of dancing, like Lego blocks (( Click this link if you want to learn them )). Once you know them, and most importantly you understand how the steps work, then, and only then, you can expand your vocabulary of dancing.
Understanding this, and being honest, is going to be your best friend. So, be honest with yourself about how many things you understand and acknowledge the difficulty of learning something new. It is not impossible but really possible.
Are you truly trying to reach the goal of learning how to remember dance steps? If so, your training will include practice, I mean a lot of practice, and commitment of your time to do it. Commit time to practice.
Allocate three to five minutes for five days consecutively to practice one single step to begin with. You will be pleasantly surprised to learn how many times you can do that step in that length of time. Key phrase here: remember dance steps.
Practice not just for the sake of practice, but be intentional in your practice. Know what your feet are doing. Feel how your body moves in relation to the step and what your hand is doing as they are leading the step… Intentional practice. This is your home base.
This will keep your mind sharp and you will begin to learn how to flex this new muscle memory.
This action alone will reinforce that information to help you move it from short term memory to long term memory. Bingo! This is the ultimate habit to have when it comes to remembering dance steps.
I want to share with you one of my favorite quotes:
“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.”
― F. M. Alexander
Now, I am going to share with you some of the things I have given to my students when they fought with this dilemma of trying to remember dance moves or to remember dance steps or dance patterns.
Remember the basics
Understand and know the building blocks of dancing. I touched upon this a moment ago. Make this your best friend because everything you know, or will know, is based on those building blocks, one way or another.
The Basic Step, the Right Turn, the Left Turn, and the CBL (Cross Body Lead) just to mention some of them, are not only important while you are dancing, but also to understand how the mechanics of each individual step work in relation to you, the lead, and the follower.
Minimize the urge to focus on fluidity because the fluidity of motion is always going to be a personal touch, coming from your body’s expression to help create a very unique story
Avoid Relying Too Much on Others
When you are trying to remember dance moves, it is only natural that as a student, you would depend heavily on your teacher, or even other students, when learning or performing any step. Is this really bad for you? Not necessarily, but you have to be careful with this mentality because when you do this you are ‘leeching‘ the movement sequence from someone else without actually retaining much of it in your own brain.
The danger of this is that when that person is no longer in the class, or they make a mistake, you will be unable to perform accurately. So, when you’re attempting the step after it has been given, try to keep your focus off of those around you. Look ahead and change your focus onto figuring out the step with your own brainpower.
Use markers (Helps To Remember Dance Moves)
This is something that has been around for a long time. Some may say, “For most good dancers who have been dancing more than five years, it is all muscle memory. “ Others might say, “If you are intermediate level, you shouldn’t be thinking about the next move. It will impact your dancing in a negative way if you keep thinking about the next move, in addition to taking your brainpower away from other things.”
The simple reality of this matter is that when you are facing the challenge of how to remember dance steps, are learning a new step, or are creating a new step from scratch. The concept of the “markers” will come in handy to help you segment the step in conjunction with the music. This may also help you on the road to improving your memorization skills.
Let’s say, for example, LA style uses the counts of 1,2,3 – 5,6,7. Do you know what your feet are doing on the count of 1 and the count of 5 when you are doing a Basic Step? Do you know that every forward motion and backward motion happens on the 1 and 5 counts? Do you know on which count the CBL starts or which motion takes place on the 5 count?
Exactly! The counts of 1 and 5 are the “markers” for every position of any step. This simple yet powerful tip will paint the road to picking up any never-done-before steps.
Do not let lack of confidence or “overthinking” undermine the relatively natural process that your mind and body go through as you learn and practice any given step. Just saying!
See it before you do it
One of the most common and detrimental mistakes we often make is our tendency to equate our performance with how much we are learning.
For example, say you’re at the gym, attempting to work out with 10-pound weights. Even a few reps are exhausting, and so eventually you swap them for 5-pound weights. Suddenly, the workout is easier. You can do more reps. You feel instantly stronger. The problem, of course, is that while the lighter weights make you feel better about your performance, the heavier ones were providing a better workout.
The same thing happens with learning and remembering – when it’s easy, you feel like you are learning more. In reality, you actually learn more when you are struggling. It is only natural to struggle in the beginning of wrapping the concept around your mind, but very fulfilling once you do.
Learning is many things – challenging, eye-opening, exhilarating, motivating, and tiresome. It should never be a “cakewalk.” To be able to remember dance moves is exhilarating, fun, and motivating as well. So, start with easy things and move to more complex steps to help you become better at them, and also allow yourself to flex your muscle memory.
The Potential of Learning and Understanding.
As a side note, strive to develop the skills to make connections, because the more you do, the better you will become. If you want to remember dance moves or learn any new step, use the narrative of the steps involved to help it stick in your memory.
If you really want the new material to stick, make connections and “markers” that relate the step to what happens after. Was it when the Hard Left Turn or when the Surprise Turn took place? Define those moments as “markers” or connections to help you with learning.
This is why understanding your Essential Steps is so important to you because it is the path to help you to remember dance moves.
Once you understand that there isn’t anything new under the sun, then it’s just a matter of seeing the step before you do it. Allow your brain, with the use of your memory and “markers,” to remember where and when they are placed on the step. Once this process is done, a fluid motion will emerge if you don’t fight it too much, even if you might seem worried about the fluidity of the step.
I have often been told that it is easier said than done. I agree with that statement, BUT it is also true that the biggest limitation to doing something is the one we place on ourselves.
The thing is, once you want to memorize dance steps, pause and see the steps in your mind, placing the ”markers” however you see fit to help you organize them in your mind. The understanding and knowing of the building blocks will give you the confidence and clear outcome you desire.
Remember, there is a simple truth we tend to forget and that is that there are no two people alike in this world. We are all unique with all different skill sets. I learned this movie quote some time ago: “Never give up. Never surrender.“
So, focus on moves, patterns, combos, or sequences. Practice intentionally. Do even-spaced step repetition, if you like. Don’t try to do too many steps at once.
Pick just ONE to do, because if you overwhelm your brain, you might forget everything. I hope this shines a light for you on the best ways to remember dance moves and some of the best tactics to easily remember dance moves. These are the things I use personally to help me remember dance moves.
Again, a BAD DANCER is like bad breath. Keep your dancing fresh.
PS. I have found this article that might help you a little more on this topic of remembering thing easily.