Question by User tiki_tiki_tiki
I’m currently writing down everything I know so I can get more ideas for creating a solo coreography, but there’s so many steps and there’s not really a name for them (at least not that I know of) so I end up writing a paragraph about every step and the document just gets longer and longer. In the beginning I could just write “basic” and “basic lateral” and “right turn” but how do you write down more advanced steps without having to explain it?
Or do you just film yourself doing the steps?
This is pretty bad practice for a couple of reasons in my opinion.
Firstly, if you do this, you end up learning a pattern and that’s it. Anyone can dance in a pattern, you just move your body in the way that is specified whilst taking cues, either visual or audible. Don’t get me wrong – they can be incredibly complex and difficult and I’m not knocking choreographed dance at all, but, if that’s how you start, you never learn salsa, you just learn how to move your body in a certain type of way. What I’m saying is this – learn how to salsa dance, then learn choreo. My go-to comparison is this – you see a lot of people doing wedding dances to ballroom music. That does not mean that they can ballroom dance. It simply means that they can dance in a certain way to a certain song.
Second reason here – if all you learn is the routines, you leave behind the technique. This one is a little abstract to think about, but you’re not dancing to learn that this step comes after that step and if I do this, then I must do that. That is, however, the thought process that starts with routines and learning them repeatedly. What you should be focussing on is the combinations of steps and the way your body moves during them. When that happens, you naturally feel what your body might do next after you do one step. Your weight distribution, body fluidity and movement is much more important than learning a chain of steps. In addition to this – you’re learning routines from an instructor. Those things work well – for them. That does not mean they’ll look good when you do them, necessarily. You need to get your own steps, not someone else’s.
Final thought here; choreography is all about doing things in an order perfectly, but much more, it’s about dancing to the music appropriately; hearing something happen and reacting as if you knew it was coming all along. In choreo, of course, you know it’s coming, but if you look like you know it’s coming, then it won’t look natural. You need to be able to do it without choreo before you can successfully do it inside, usually.
So yeah, holy long walk off a short pier for me to tell you that you should learn how to Salsa first without needing to write things, then start on working those things together.
If you’re social dancing, you shouldn’t be doing too much choreo, unless there’s a very specific way you want to dance to a very specific musical section of a song I feel like.
I used to be obsessed with memorizing moves and not forgetting them, but after a while you realize its not a big deal. As long as you’re dancing regularly, moves and combos will come and go. You won’t completely forget them and how to execute them, you’ll just maybe forget to use it for a few weeks or something. And then you’ll see someone use a variation of the move either at a social or watching youtube and be reminded of it. 99% of moves are just variations of the same handful of moves, just done with different setups, or handholds or performed with a crossbody or such anyways.
Only practice I do in this regard (thinking of moves) is when I’m theorycrafting new combos in my head while listening to salsa music real-time as practice. I might rewind a section of the music multiple times to think of all possible moves and combos I might consider doing for a specific musical phrase.
Normally people would say it’s bad practice but if it helps you do it. It’s just that if you lump it in written form, you end up thinking about it and sometimes thinking is not the best way to do when you’re in a contact activity, you have to let your drive or instinct come to play and that revolves around muscle memory
When you say solo choreo, what do you mean exactly? If you have trouble remembering moves, nothing wrong with writing patterns down to help you remember. I used to do that when I first started. I would focus on writing patterns down that I enjoyed doing and that I thought translated well to social dancing. However, they were only 1-2 8 counts kind of patterns and I would write a simple phrase (or a few key words) to help me remember them rather than a whole paragraph.
My advice – keep writing them down but only in bit sized descriptions (3-5 words) and before you go social dancing, focus on 3-4 of them to practice/use and just ad lib the rest.
I actually recommend breaking down patterns into specific moves and writing them on note cards. Then, while practicing, randomly shuffle your pile, draw maybe 5 moves, and limit yourself to those 5 during a whole song. Find ways to connect them, vary them, work on musicality with them, etc.
It’s a similar strategy to learning instruments where you develop fluency with certain patterns until you start learning how to make them your own, and then you build out your repertoire.
I did, way back when. Yes, it takes a lot of words because you need the language to write anything more succinctly. So you cannot avoid the verboseness. I made up my own shorthand and terms which makes it quicker as you amass the terminology, but it is still slow. Video is easier.
Can I read my old descriptions today? Nope. Utter gibberish at least without studying it quite a bit.
But it is useful as such as breaking things into parts to write them down will increase your understanding.