Tips On Picking Up Choreography Quickly

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Picking up choreography quickly – it can be really stressful when you feel like others are getting things more quickly than you.  Read below for some great tips and suggestions from our Dance Teacher Panel.

Dear YDD,

 I  have been dancing for 11 years.  My teachers compliment me on my technique and I feel like I can really hold my own with my friends in class. The problem is, I can’t pick up choreography as quickly as my teammates.  It is so stressful.  What can I do to get better at this?  Do you have any tricks or tips that might help?

picking up choreography

In The Classroom…


Here are some tips I have given students:
If possible stand towards the front of the class. This way you can see your teacher and not have any distraction in front of you. Sometimes the teacher will show a combination or step first. Watch them do it – don’t try to do the movement along with them. Just watch and take it in. When doing the choreography in groups, mark it when it’s not your turn. If it’s not physically possible to do this, you can do it mentally. This is always a good idea. When class is over, write down the choreography. This is another way of reinforcing what you just learned and this way when you practice you will know you have the correct choreography.  Most importantly know you are doing the best you can and give it your all! Your teachers are seeing the hard work you are doing and that’s important! Enjoy and keep dancing!


Your answer is Moto Memory or Muscle Memory.  Your memory in choreographed dance depends on your neuromuscular systems to do their work.  Muscle Memory is also dependent on repetition and imagery connections.  A huge thing that helped me when I was a younger dancer in Drill-Team was a technique we named “calling it”.  Try to label each part of the choreography that you are struggling with.  Name the sections something that can provide you with an image in your head so there is a cognitive connection to the actual movement.  As you are dancing you “call it” in your head to help you remember the phrases that come next.


In conjunction with this tip I would highly advise you to get on Youtube.com and look up videos of choreography being taught.  As the choreographer is teaching you can apply this technique for practice at home outside of the dance classroom.  Remember, your brain also has to be in training too.   If you have access to a tablet, smartphone, iphone, ipad, etc. you can also download brain training apps that specify areas such a memory.  This may also help you on your road to improving your memorization skills.  Also remember that a healthy diet, enough sleep and water are also beneficial for a brain to work at maximum capacity as well.


Stress is no fun!  So sorry to hear that you’re feeling this way in class.  First off…. please take a minute to pat yourself on the back!  If your teachers are complimenting you on your technique, that’s a wonderful thing.  You are no doubt a dedicated dancer 🙂


I still take class whenever I can and my trick is to focus in on the teacher/choreographer and try to tune out the other dancers.  If I get myself worked up about who’s picking up faster and who’s got the choreo first, then I just get distracted and then I lose it!  Another thing to do is this….  if you’re having trouble picking up, try to work on the basic movement and shape of the choreography.  If the arms are giving you stress, then try just doing the feet first and add the arms after.   Also, take as many workshop classes as you can with as many new teachers as you can.  Just like anything else, picking up choreography can be PRACTICED and the more you do it, the better you’ll get.  Stay positive and keep calm…  in the end, we all can do the steps…some of us just take a bit longer getting there.  Sending you wishes for an awesome dance season!


At Conventions…


Picking up choreography was actually a struggle for me too as a child/teen! It would frustrate me so much, especially at conventions when the classes were packed and everyone around me seemed to catch on so quickly. I found that the more conventions I went to though, the better I got at picking up different styles and assimilating steps together. Exposure to different teachers is great too because each teacher has a different approach to teaching. Some teach slow and step by step, while others simply show the combination and expect you to have it by seeing it once. In your studio, you are probably only exposed to one, two, or three teachers and you get used to their style quickly. It begins to feel comfortable in your body. This is AWESOME because you can perfect it and look great doing it, but you need to be thrown off every once in a while! This is why conventions are so essential to building your dance career. You HAVE to be challenged and feel awkward to start getting better, not just at picking up choreography, but at acquiring new skills also! Search for conventions or master classes and go to them! If your studio doesn’t provide enough information, check websites like this one or friend other studios and teachers on Facebook! They are always advertising master classes and for outside students to join for the day!


Meet the teachers…

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  1. Great tips! I can’t wait to share these with my dancer.

  2. This could not have come at a more perfect time. The beginning of the year is always stressful for my dancer when they are learning new choreography. She came home last night saying she was the worst one in the group. 🙁 Hoping these tips will help a bit.

  3. I am not a dancer but I wish to choreograph a contemporary piece with my friend, just to try to create something beautiful. Any tips on how to prepare without taking years of dance lessons?

    1. No big tips, but just remember the dance moves you have done before so you can relate when you choreograph your dance yourself. Also dance with your heart, try dancing improv and if you like it go with it if not change it up. Make sure you pick a type of dance (modern, jazz, contemporary, ballet etc.) mixed dances never turn out well.

  4. These are all really, really great tips. I work with many little ones and find that having a teen helper sit with them, help them concentrate and give them one on one attention can really help there. Great advice here for older girls for sure. Keep up the good work!

  5. Wow thank you so much this really did help!

  6. Monica Chavez says:

    I like your tip to stand towards the front of the class so that you have a good view of the teacher. My friend has really been wanting to learn how to dance better. It would be really helpful if she took a class and positioned herself at the front.

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