Pattern Recognition and Memorization
How do you remember all those steps? And for so many different ballets? And in so many different styles?
The answer lies in math and music.
If you have ever taken Geometry in high school, you will remember proving a theorem, and then using the
proof of that theorem as a short cut to proving more complicated equations and graphs. In a similar way,
choreography, even class exercises, can be compartmentalized into chunks of information with a short
cut for the brain. Instead of remembering every – single – separate – step – in – succession, the dancer
can piece together a series of steps into a short phrase of movement. Very often in classical repertoire,
these shorter phrases are repeated several times, sometimes over and over on the same side, or perhaps
alternating from one side (or one leg) to the other side, using the other leg to start.
Let’s take a short example:
Chunk A = Glissade to the side + assemble over + 2 changement changing 5th position.
Let’s say the choreography/exercise starts to the right, then it is repeated to the left, and a third time on
the right again. This would be the first section of choreography consisting of Chunk A to the right, then
left, then right. Much easier to remember than:
Glissade to the right side + assemble over with the right leg + 2 changement changing 5th position, then
Glissade to the left side + assemble over with the left leg + 2 changement changing 5th position, then
Glissade to the right side + assemble over with the right leg+ 2 changement changing 5th position.
So in the same way that we remember short cuts of math equations to help us process more complicated
problems more efficiently, we can do a similar process with choreography.
In addition to math short cuts, if we then assign those math short cuts to counts, which then also
correspond to specific counts of music, we are then able to marry the steps to the music. So in essence,
the music itself tells the dancer what steps come next by the similar math construct of the substituted
When this becomes ingrained, a dancer can hear a specific phrase of music, and immediately, instinctively
start executing the physical movement associated with it. They may even have difficulty assigning a
ballet or remembering the name of the piece they are doing, but they know those are the steps that
correspond to that music!