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Learning Combinations at Auditions


swanprincess
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Hi everyone! This was mentioned on another thread, so i decided to start a new topic. At auditions, I struggle to learn combinations quickly (the long allegro sequence at the EYB Wolverhampton audition seemed really daunting!!) so was wondering if anyone had any tips? I'd like to just be able to learn sequences quickly, especially before I start 6th form auditions next year! I do syllsbus classes during the week, and a non-syllabus class on Sundays as part of a youth ballet :)

Thanks :) x

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I can completely relate to this! I had the problem at my first audition as a young teen and only last week at my teacher training class, yikes!

 

I would say there are two things that have helped me - 1) take every chance I can get to have to pick up a routine quickly, it does get easier - I go to a Zumba class once a week for variety's sake and even though the routines are quite simple, the instructor's rarely talk you through them and you pick it up as you go along 2) I focus on the footwork first - sometimes with arms and other isolations included, it can seem a lot more complicated than it is - focusing on the steps means I have a foundation and at least I'll be on time with the music, then I can add on the arms, head, etc, as I go.

 

I wish there was a quick fix for the slower learners among us - but good luck anyway and I hope more people have advice!

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Here are some tips for picking up dance sequences quickly. This is an important element as at an audition those who can do this certainly have an advantage. Since I was neither a syllabus dance teacher nor a syllabus dance student - every class - every day - and every dance sequence was different. It was a great memory builder.

 

 

There are a number of things you can do to improve your memory of the exercises.

 

As the teacher is showing them - do them with her - and at the same time say the words.

 

Create a sing-song of the words. Just like a small child sings an ABC song when learning the alphabet - it helps to remember.

 

Don't think of left/right - think of front/back. If you think of left/right -- then when it comes time to go to the other side you have to reverse all those left/rights to right/lefts. Much too confusing.

 

For instance, if you start out standing in fifth position, with your right foot in back and the first move is to the right - think of it as moving with your back foot rather than your right foot. Thus, when it comes time to do the same exercise to the other side you can still think of it as your back foot - you don't have to change any of the words in your mind/song.

 

When you try to remember which arm to use - again don't think left/right or right/left. Think of it as your front arm - or back arm - or same arm as foot - that way once again you won't have to change any of the words in your head when you go to the other side.

 

Every time the teacher shows the exercise - do it. If she shows it twice or even three times - do it with her and say the sing-song words in your head. That way your eyes will SEE and your ears will HEAR.

 

Learn to recognize the steps sequences that often come as a group: ballet sentences.

 

Think of the exercises as sentences rather than individual words. When children first learn to read they read one word at a time - but when we get to be good readers we read sentences.

 

There are some "sentences" in ballet like the oft done sequence of: temps levé, tombé, glissade, pas de bourrée. After that dance sentence it is only the final step which is different: sometimes a grand jeté at the end, or an assemblé, or or or .....

 

Think of the first part "temps levé, tombé, glissade," as a sentence and then you only have to remember what the finishing step is like a grand jeté, or an assemblé, or whatever.

 

Another ballet "sentence" is pique, failli, glissade....and then something on the end. If you learn to see pique, failli, glissade as a sentence - then you only have to remember how the sentence ends like in an assemblé, a pique arabesque, or whatever.

 

It's like reading "Once upon a time there was a beautiful castle." "Once upon a time" is a very familiar phrase so you don't pay too much attention to it. You only need to remember what comes next...."there was a beautiful castle/girl/garden" etc.

 

As for turns - just remember whether you turn toward or away from the back foot - that way you don't have to remember the left/right-right/left thing.

 

It's good practice when you get home to go over in your mind the exercises in the center. Don't do them because it is not good to practice by yourself - and you won't be warmed up any longer - just go over them in your mind. Walk through them.

 

If you have very long exercises - or a complete dance - learn to see/say the song in sections.

 

When learning a dance sequence do not orient it to objects in the room. In other words don't say: "The first time I do this I am moving toward the piano. The piano might be moved next time, or the teacher may ask you to face the back of the room. Learn to orient the dance to you own head. Thus using the clues of back/front are much better than left/right or right/left.

 

Don't follow someone else. If you do you are depending upon their memory - not yours. And, of necessity you will always be a count behind - and make their mistakes as well as your own. Take your courage in your hand and place yourself, if at all possible, in the front (doesn't have to be center-front) where you are forced to depend upon yourself.

 

I found that until I did this (and oh my! it was difficult!!) I really didn't progress. It took time - but eventually it expanded my memory and whatever mistakes I made were my own. It's worth the effort I assure you.

 

Hope this helps. And good luck!

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I wonder if the ability to pick up sequences quickly can be likened to a musical ear? My dd has inherited my musical ear and - fortunately for her - can pick up step sequences at lightning speed (she marks them with her feet and hands which looks quite funny while she's doing it but it seems to work). Her teacher says she has a "ballet computer" in her brain but as she also picks up languages and music quickly, could they all be related to a sort of "ear"?

 

My husband on the other hand has to practice ad infinitum to pick up a tune. He doesn't dance but were he to try, I can imagine he would find it exceptionally difficult to memorise a sequence and reproduce it with his body.

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Do ask your syllabus teacher to start setting free enchainements too. The more difficult they are the better practise at them you will get. Then see if you can reverse them (this can be done in your head at home, or marking with hands.) You could even get fellow students to try and put together sequences, its amazing how many variations a class can come up with.

 

Try to feel the rhythm of movements too, if you can understand how the teacher is putting together the sequence musically that will help you give more "flow" to the enchainements being set. Do learn to think for yourself rather than following others, afterall if you are relying too much on copying you are not going be able to apply all your technique correctly!

 

I often give my students random lists of words or numbers and get them to repeat them back to me as a very simplistic way of demonstrating that by and large when they turn around at the barre the sequence remains the same! I agree with Anjuli thats its better to remember "front" "back or "inside leg, outside leg" etc. Having a good awareness of weight placement helps.

 

When learning longer sequences in the centre I also used to watch for focal points- for example if count 8 was 5th position croise with right foot in front I made sure that I would reach that point come what may! And do take care on finishing positions, be definate even if they are wrong as they is nothing worse than a dancer performingly beautifully only to finish half heartedly and shuffle off!

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Wow, thankyou everyone, some really interesting ideas! I've got my first Grade 6 class this evening so it will be interesting to see how quickly I manage to learn the combinations (and wether I can actually remember what step to do next whilst actually dancing it!! ;) ) It is very tempting to just copy the other dancers (especially at auditions when i'm thinking 'eeek, you actually want me to remember then dance all that?!' lol) but I will try to break that habit! Anjuli, thankyou so much for that wonderfully detailed answer, i really appreciate that, there were quite a few points in there that I hadn't thought of. :)

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Training the memory is part of training to be a dancer. And, like the rest of the training, for most of us, it doesn't happen over night. It is a process which takes time.

 

If you are thinking "'eeek, you actually want me to remember then dance all that?!" - then two negative things are happening:

 

1. You are already negating a positive outcome

 

2. You are taking up brain space with the negative thought when you should be totally concentrating on watching/doing/saying the dance sequence you need to learn. You can't have a positive outcome if you start with a negative thought.

 

People learn in three major ways: seeing, hearing, doing. Use all three - do it with the teacher, watch (as you do it with her), say it with her. No time or room for any "eek" type of thoughts! :)

 

When you have a long dance sequence - or several - give each section a name in your head. Eventually you reach the point where you are able to think ahead - whlle doing "the turn section" you are already thinking about "the balance section."

 

I found that if I made a point of remembering how a section began and ended the steps between just fell into place.

 

One of the hardest things to remember is how something starts - so concentrate on that.

 

The beginnings and endings are key. This is true in general technique, too.

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I have just observed an open non syllabus class. When the teacher was giving the students a set of combinations, she would say it first then mark it out with the pupils. It brought a smile to my face when I saw almost all of the students marking the sequence using their hands and feet and sometimes their heads when imitating where a turn should be. Just like spannerandpony explained how her dd did it. The teacher at the end of the combination would always ask the students if they required her to go through it again.

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I have seen other young dancers mark step combinations with the hands and feet. I always practice with Christina when she recites a combination as does another woman I dance with. The others don't - and they make mistakes...

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Dd calls it "getting it into the feet" but obviously there are other body parts involved. I suppose it's not that different to me "playing" a melody with my fingers while I listen to music.

 

Looks funny but it works. :-)

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Yes, I agree, marking is so important - it activates the "muscle memory". Teachers should explain how it is done to pupils. I find it particularly helps on the "over" and "under" concepts if you use the hands and bring them forwards a little - the front hand really is above the other one then.

 

Edited for typo

Edited by Pas de Quatre
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I go to a 'Mum's Tap' class, and I have found that very often things don't actually get as far as the brain!

 

If I watch the teacher demonstrate, and copy her steps, they seem to go straight from my eyes to my feet, and miss out the bit in the middle... then when she turns round to watch us doing it my mind is a complete blank.

 

Just recently, I've cottoned on to this, and now try staring into space when we go through it a second time, and actively try to remember it without looking at her feet (or someone else's in front of me).

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I had one teacher with whom (taking Jane Goodall's advice) I had to avoid eye contact or any direct line of sight (long story - I'll tell you sometime) so I could only watch her through the mirror as she set all the barre work and centre dance combinations.

 

It proved to be quite a task because I had to reverse everything I saw her do in the mirror. In the end, unplanned as it was, proved to be excellent training.

 

As I mentioned above - the hardest thing to remember is how something begins - so make a point of rememberingg that.

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My DD seems able to pick up routines and combinations quickly and then is able to reverse them and will remember most of them for years. However ask her to remember anything other than dance moves and she is worse than hopeless!

 

This even extends to remembering to put ballet shoes in dance bags and that she might even need two of them!

 

I suppose her dance step memory has developed at the expense of all else! I do know that she sings the steps to herself and does the previously mentioned arm leg and head wafting( serious ballet terminology of course!)

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Ecarte, I find it hard to memorise the sequences, but once i've got an awkward one in my head, (annoyingly, usually after i've messed it up in the class/audition), i'll remember it for ages... ;) and don't worry, your dd isn't the only one- i am hideously forgetful with shoes, leotards etc- once tuned up to class, got my ballet shoes out of my bag to see that, although I had a left and right, one was Bloch and one Sansha, thus very different shades of pink!!! :P

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