by Debra Danese
After teaching my students new choreography, I end the class or rehearsal by saying, “Don’t forget to review before we meet again.” However, in the next class I often need to reteach the movement rather than reviewing and adding on. To the students’ explanation that they don’t have time to practice because of school and other activities, I respond, “Practice in your mind,” because we all have time for that. To help them learn to do this effectively, I incorporate creative visualization into class time, a process that is often referred to by sports psychologists as “mental rehearsal.”
At the end of my teen classes, I take 10 minutes for this activity. Dancers put on clothing that will keep them warm and comfortable. I dim the lights, have the students lie on the floor with their eyes closed, and lead them through a guided meditation. The more senses they incorporate, the more they will benefit from this mental exercise.
I tell them to picture themselves doing the choreography. What do they see? Perhaps they are wearing their favorite leotard. What do they hear? Besides the music, they might hear their feet against the floor. Maybe they hear you (the teacher) counting aloud. Can they smell anything? Rosin on their shoes?
Then I stop talking and the dancers continue with their visualizations on their own for about five minutes.
The dancers stand up, and we run through the choreography. This reinforces the visualization with muscle memory. Because their muscles have cooled down, they do not have to dance full out.
I ask the dancers to rehearse mentally during the week. They can do it in bed before they go to sleep, when they brush their teeth or do their hair, or on their way to school. The idea is to get them into the habit. By combining mental and physical practice, your students will see improvement in their retention of choreography.
Debra Danese, RDE, is the director of Kdance Productions. She teaches and choreographs across the United States and abroad.