One of the most common frustrations dance students have, is not being able to remember what they learned in their lesson. They go out dancing and want to put their newly learned skills on the dance floor but can only remember two of the five or more things they’ve been working on. This is very frustrating because they have put a lot of time, effort, and money into learning the skill of dance and want to be able to go out and enjoy it as much as they would like. In this post, we’re going to go over several tips to improve your memory so that this doesn’t continue to happen to you! Keep in mind, that like anything you learn, you must put time into improving your memory. There is no magic trick or fairy dust that I can sprinkle on you. So, if you are ready to get started, continue reading below!
In this post, I will be covering the following practice techniques:
1. State of Mind
State of mind
Many dancers take their lessons in the evening when they get off work and it can be challenging to get out of “work” mode. To get the most out of your lesson and to set yourself up for success, you must be in the right state of mind. Before you walk through the studio doors, take a deep breath, and let go of any stress you may be holding onto from the day. Science proves that if you are stressed, angry, or feeling any negative emotion, you will not be able to concentrate and learn effectively. Once you get into a good state of mind, it will be easier to focus. Literally, tell yourself “FOCUS” and it will help you concentrate better when learning a new skill. Not to get all scientific on you, but we have two modes for learning – focus and diffuse modes. During your lesson, you are focusing (focus mode) intently to learn a specific pattern and/or technique for 45 minutes. During that time, you will feel like you have the movement down because you are focused on that and only that movement. The problem is, when you come to your next lesson, you can’t remember a thing! Only utilizing the “focus” mode is not enough to make the new skill stick. In other words, only practicing dance during your lesson and then forgetting about it the rest of the week is not enough to store that new skill in your long-term memory. You must use other tools to strengthen this skill and lock it in for good! This brings me to the next topic…
The power of visualization is incredible. I tell many of my students that doing visualization exercises counts as practice! By doing this technique, it helps to lock in the shills you’re trying to learn and gets you one step closer to storing the new information in your long-term memory. While it’s beneficial to practice this technique at any time, the best time is at night before bed on the same day you learned the new material. Let’s say you just had your dance lesson today and focused on applying Cuban Motion to two new patterns in the Rumba. During the lesson, everything made sense and you were feeling great about your progress, but the longer you wait to practice this again, the fuzzier it becomes in your mind. To help lock this in, use the power of visualization. Tonight, when you are laying in bed, close your eyes and visualize yourself dancing these patterns to music with correct Cuban Motion. Transferring new information from what’s called your working memory to your long-term memory happens while we sleep, so doing this visualization exercise will strengthen the new concept in your mind, making it easier to store in long-term memory while you sleep! But this doesn’t only happen overnight 😛
Spacing is another great tool we need to use to strengthen our memory when learning something new. Spacing is distributed practice where you practice new material more frequently throughout the week rather than cramming once per week for a long period of time. We all know practice is key when it comes to learning, but many don’t know how to practice properly to retain what they are learning. Using the spacing method takes less of your time and is more effective with retention. Try setting aside about 10 minutes 2 to 3 days a week to practice your new dance step and you will be amazed at how much better you are when you take your next lesson. That’s only 20 to 30 minutes a week – less than a full dance lesson!
To learn more about spacing and the benefits, check out this article from UC San Diego: https://psychology.ucsd.edu/undergraduate-program/undergraduate-resources/academic-writing-resources/effective-studying/spaced-practice.html#:~:text=This%20is%20known%20as%20spaced,information%20and%20retain%20it%20longer.
Self-quizzing is a fantastic way to test your ability to recall new dance patterns and techniques. Instead of watching the video, your instructor recorded, try remembering it on your own first, then use the video to check and see how you did. Watching a video will give you the illusion that you know the pattern and technique, but actually doing it or trying to retrieve the information on your own first will help you learn it and remember it. You can all do a self-quiz during your lesson – instead of your instructor reviewing and showing you what you learned previously, you can show your instructor what you remember from the previous lesson and then let them help you if you missed something. Each time you do this, it will get easier and easier to recall and at some point, it will become natural, and you won’t need to think about it.
Another great way to lock in something you are learning is to teach it to someone else. When you explain something to someone in a way they will understand, it helps you to have a deeper understanding of the material and it will stick better in your mind. Not sure who to teach? Try teaching your teacher! Re-explain something back to them and demonstrate it while you talk, and you will notice this new pattern or technique will make more sense to you in the process.
There are other techniques that can be used to improve your memory, but these five tips are a great start! Always remember, practice makes permanent, and repetition is key! Happy dancing and thanks for reading 😊