How to Learn a New Dance

Everyone learns differently, and you’ll learn each dance best for actually dancing if you stick it in as many corners of your brain as you can. The ideas I’ve listed take advantage of the myriad ways our brains can learn.

Pay attention to the methods that turn on light bulbs for your understanding of the dance. Pay attention to the methods that help you remember the next time you try it. Both are important components of how you learn. Each dance you learn teaches you more about how you learn to dance.

Some different strategies. Use what works for you!

  • Listen to the music enough that you can readily identify it when you hear different versions of it.
  • Learn the music well enough that you can readily hum along and usually hum the melody on your own.
  • Listen to the music and imagine yourself doing the steps.
  • Listen to the music and imagine watching others perform the dance.
  • Watch videos of people performing the dance. What do you like about their performance? What can you do better?
  • Print a copy of the sheet music for the dance. Write the steps on the sheet music so that the steps are matched to the melody. Add the repetitions underneath like multiple verses of lyrics.
  • Print the sheet music and follow it while you listen to a recording.
  • Look up the original description of the dance in it’s source. Write your own redaction of the steps, noting any difference from modern SCA practice.
  • Imagine how the dance would have been performed in period. Use your knowledge of architecture, decor, clothing, and culture of the time to make it as real as you can.
  • Try walking through the dance imagining the music and the other dancers. Count out their steps and point at where they’re moving when you aren’t.
  • Learn the dance notation for the dance, or make up your own.
  • Write out the steps in your own words. Mark patterns, steps, and repetition with symbols or colors.
  • Make up lyrics that tell you the dance steps and goes with the melody. Sing it to yourself while you’re dancing.
  • Count out the beats while you walk through the steps. Point out where other dancers are moving when you aren’t. Can you make it through the whole thing?
  • Write a prose description of how to do the dance, including style and anything else you know about the dance. What steps does it share with other dances you know? What other dances does it remind you of?
  • Switch it up! If you normally dance the Lady’s part, try the Lord’s, or vice versa.
  • Teach someone else to do the dance with you! Nothing will challenge your knowledge more than teaching someone else.

This list is in no way complete. What methods and tricks do you use to learn a dance? Let me know in the comments below!

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