I’ve mentioned before that one of the most challenging things about being a leader on the dance floor is remembering your repertoire. Unless you have a photographic memory, you probably don’t remember everything you’ve learned as you add more and more new steps. Advanced dancers tend to retire some of their moves to make room in their brain space for newer steps as they tire of the old ones.
But what if you’re fairly new and you want to remember all of your moves, all of which are still new, and you still manage to forget most of them when you hit the dance floor. Here are some of the tricks I use:
Link a few steps together at a time. This trick works particularly well with dances like Swing, Country/Western, and Salsa. Start with a move that starts in a basic hand position and ends in different hold. Say you go from a double hand hold to a crossed hand hold. Link that to another step that starts in a crossed hand hold and ends in something else. Keep going until you have a group of 3 or 4 or 5 steps that flow. Your muscle memory will retain the whole routine for the same amount of bandwidth it takes to remember one step.
Turn favorite steps into basics. This is a trick I learned in a private lesson with Ryan Francois about 15 years ago. I brought up my problem of blanking on my repertoire. He told me to pick 5 steps besides the basics that I really like and use them all the time. They become so familiar you do them without thinking, like the basics, and they give you enough of a dance that you can relax in the dance and not feel pressured to come up with something new. When you’re relaxed, it’s easier to think of what you’ve forgotten and add on to your signature steps. After that lesson, I started noticing that many of my favorite partners did that instinctively and I tended to associate certain steps with people who lead them all the time.
Ask your partner in a pinch. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, it’s easier to remember steps when you’re relaxed. If you’re dancing with someone who knows the names of steps, was in a class with you, or with whom you regularly dance, you can ask her for ideas. Followers usually can think of things to do because they don’t have to.
Watch other dancers for inspiration. Once you’ve relaxed your mind by settling into your signature routine, glance around the dance floor. Usually you don’t so much forget how to do a move so much as it’s very existence. When you see someone else do something you’ve forgotten, it jogs your memory. Sometimes your memory is jogged by something you don’t even know because it reminds you of something you do know.
Take notes! This doesn’t help that much on the dance floor, although writing does help to make things stick, but it does enable you to make old things new again when you haven’t used a step for a while and want to change up what you’re leading.
Try these ideas out and see if they help. Send me your feedback as you try them on the social floor.
By LaurieAnn Lepoff
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