Here are some tips for flattening the learning curve when learning a dance, improving your muscle memory and your long-term choreographic memory! Good luck:)
1.Learn/Know your music COLD – every note, every section, every flourish. Listen to it in your car, in the shower, on vacation, cooking dinner…..until you feel like you can play the instruments and sing the melody lines yourself!
2.Write out each section the song, dividing it into sections/segments. This teaches you to hear and understand the music and in turn, the choreography. And, becomes a visual aid to understanding choreography. Your write-up should include:
Melodic Phrases (whether melodic dominance or a taksim)
Rhythmic Phrases (whether a drum flourish or a brief druum solo)
Chorus/Refrains (repeated passages)
Taksims (single melody instrumentals, sans meter)
3.Learn to dance to each section/segment without the music. Dancing without musical cues creates muscle memory which is more lasting than relying on musical cues.
4.Practice on your own – not just in practice sessions with your fellow dancers, or in rehearsals. Dancing on your own forces you to remember without relying on others. It also creates what I call a “Choreographic Memory”. This means that the movements become a part of your mental and muscle memories so when you are asked to use the same movement(s) again in another dance, it’s available to you because your memory (mind and muscles) know it instinctively.
5.The Ten-Time Rule: Japanese martial artists have a rule of thumb which is to practice something at least ten times in a practice session. I started doing this 30 years ago and it really helped me!
6.Lastly, dance the dance for fun – connect to the music emotionally, not just through choreography! This helps connect to the dance in an emotional way and it promotes improvisational skills. :)