Jeannie Tucker Online

Remembering Your Dance Patterns... ©

By: Jeannie Tucker:

We've all been there...

You've just learned something and when you try to remember it you are faced with the reality that you weren't able to retain the material at all. Below are some tips to help with the process.


I have been a performer all my life both on stage as a dance performer and actor. I have had to remember complicated scripts and routines while also focusing on the performing and showmanship aspect. To access something newly learned from your short-term memory into long-term memory takes a lot of review and practice. Tony Buzan, a well known memory expert, says to ensure retention we should review material in the following sequence for optimum results. Review new material 1) ten minutes after the learning session, 2) twenty-four hours after the learning session, 3) one week after the learning session, 4) one month after the learning session, 5) six months after the learning session, and 6) as needed after that. I then believe that you should review your notes and subject matter, mental or physical, often to keep it fresh in your mind.

Buzan's schedule for reviewing material is based on studies, which show that new learning that is not reinforced (practiced) declines so that only about 10 percent will be retained after two days. When applying this to dance, I would suspect that we would probably have nothing left if we didn't practice within the first 24 hours.


A word that gives you a visual that helps you remember a task or skill is a mnemonic. According to Tony Buzan and other memory experts, people think in images. It is much easier to remember a picture of a tree than it is to remember the word tree. So it is easier to remember a dance patterned named "the tree," than it is to remember one named "closed underarm turn with a basket whip ending." Imagine, for example, that you just learned a pattern with multiple turns and it reminded you of a Dust Devil. Then call it the "Dust Devil".

If your instructor does not give patterns a name, or if she or he uses technical names change them for your own memory. Give every new pattern name that you can picture in your mind. Use names like the pretzel, tipsy turvy, train wreck, splish splash, u-turn or anything that jogs your memory and helps with recall. Any thing that you can see as a picture that relates to the move you are doing will help. The mnemonic is only used to spark your memory. A move named "swan dive " need not have you diving to the floor. It might be some very subtle motion of some kind that reminds you of a swan dive.


In adults, all new memory is attached to existing memory. The more memories and experiences we have to relate with the more new ones we can absorb. In this sense, the more we learn, the more we can learn.

In learning new dance material try to cluster similar things together. Learn three new endings to an old pattern. Discover five new ways to do a side-pass. Think of one body wrap and invent or borrow three similar moves to go with it. Every time you practice one, practice all the moves in the cluster.


As a dance competitor and choreographer, I link my patterns and movements to a particular song. When I work on a routine with my partner, we go over each small section of choreography a hundred times or more so that when we put it all together we are so linked to the song that when it plays our memories have been trained and they go to work. We work it all till it is what they call "second nature".

Working with a practice partner and creating mini routines can help with recall. Link together some old and new patterns and keep practicing it over time. If you create several different routines you will have separate linked groupings to go over and commit to muscle memory.


Most master level dance coaches have their own shorthand when it comes to writing down dance material. I myself request that my students bring a dance notebook to their lessons and record the material we go over. By reviewing or rewriting the information they help their minds record and remember the information and they also have a book that is very helpful as a dance reference.

A video notebook of lessons is also helpful. Not all teachers allow this but you can always go home and create your own video record of the material you learn.


There is no better way to learn a thing than to teach it to others. If you can't find a friend willing to let you teach them your new material, set up an imaginary situation. Pretend that you are teaching someone else. Verbalize and demonstrate every detail of the pattern. This act of teaching will help seat the material into your long-term memory. Furthermore, by teaching it, you will identify areas of uncertainty. You will find yourself returning to your instructor for clarification.

Teaching others is perhaps the most powerful of all the memory enhancement skills. Try to teach new material to someone else within the first twenty-four hours of learning it.


Patterns do not a dancer make. There is a lot more to being a good dancer. You need polished basics, good technique, your own individual style, good lead/follow skills and much more.

If you are going to learn dance elements and patterns though, you need to make sure you don't waist your time. Try to develop your own plan for "RECALL".

Permission to Reproduce Content......

For those of you interested in using the content on, you must first send an email for permission. If permission is granted, you must then provide a link back to this site.

Please Note, all printed documents must contain the following on each page in which material appears.

Reproduced by Permission © 2001-2010 ®

Copyright © 2001 JT Talent Productions. All rights reserved.
Questions and Comments
- Terms of Use