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How to sharpen muscle memory and improve dancing

Ok, your game is up.

We see you hiding at the back of your dance class, and we know why.

You’re hoping no one will notice you lagging half a beat behind everyone else, as you try to wrap your head (and body) around the moves.

Don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone. After all, it can be quite challenging to master an entire routine.

But we can make it easier for you, by sharing some tips that will help you remember the moves.

Bear with us as we throw a cliche at you, but practice really does make perfect – a saying that’s overused for a reason, it’s true!

Improve your muscle memory

Repetition is the best way to create a blueprint of the dance you’re learning, which is then stored in your brain. This builds a bridge between thinking and doing – so you no longer need to think about the movement.

Neuroscientists call this muscle memory (or motor learning). If you’ve ever watched a professional dancer perform, you might notice their movement seems second nature – almost like taking a breath.

“You don’t think about what the body is doing anymore. When I go into the wings, I can’t remember what I’ve done. I don’t remember if my foot was pointed,” ballet dancer Angel Corella told the New York Times.

It’s the same with Latin dancing (or any form of dance). With enough practice, the steps become automatic.

How do you do this?

Some research suggests it’s better to practice daily in shorter sessions, rather than in one long block. Make sure you’ve mastered the technique first – the last thing you want is to commit a mistake to your muscle memory, which will retain it for some time. It’s best to practise straight after your lesson, when the steps are still fresh in your mind.

A word of warning – don’t keep practicing the same move if you haven’t nailed the technique. Make sure you ask your teacher or peers, if you’re unsure.

Once you’ve mastered each step, you can start “chunking” the individual movements into more complex blocks – by linking different elements together. This is vital because it reminds you to practise new steps in connection with other movements, which form an entire routine.

Other tips:

Youtube dancing – if you get home after class and forget a particular move, see if you can find an online tutorial and observe that step. Make sure it’s the same style as your class though, since there are many variations. You don’t want to memorise a different technique and be at odds with your class!

Music – ask your teacher what the music is called and get a copy – music resonates particularly well with our minds, so it can help to practise with the same Latin tunes at home.

Meditation – feeling relaxed can improve observation skills and boost memory. Practise deep breathing on a regular basis to reap the many benefits of mindfulness.

Take these tips on board, and soon you’ll be sashaying to the front of the class, eager to show everyone how it’s done.

After all, nobody puts Baby in the corner, not even you.

Both my wife and I are extremely happy learning ballroom dancing at Crows Nest Arthur Murray Studio. We have found the dancing instructors to be professional, knowledgeable, friendly and supportive. We are more than happy to continue enjoying our dancing experience and social activities with all the other students. We feel like part of a large joyous dancing family.John & Marilynread more
John Chung
John Chung
11:16 14 Feb 17
We were interested in learning Tango for our daughter's wedding last year, but here we are in our second year at AM, Crows Nest - dancing has now become our passion, due in large part, to the excellence of teaching and supportive atmosphere of this studio! The journey is long and I so envy the folks who have started years ago to achieve the beauty and grace of ballroom and the seduction of Latin dancing. We are determined to continue !!!read more
Ayshe Talay-Ongan
Ayshe Talay-Ongan
23:35 06 Feb 17
We started dancing in 2009 for our wedding - and had so much fun learning that we kept it up. They have incredible flexibility to do as much as you want, on your schedule, and consist of staff that appreciate busy working (and family!) lives --- while encouraging you to always improve yourselves! As a couple learning they have accommodated both our learning styles very more
Heidi Kuglin Justin Beck
Heidi Kuglin Justin Beck
08:48 04 Feb 17
I walked through the doors at Arthur Murray Crows Nest over 10 years ago having never danced a day in my life… I was looking for something fun to do outside of work and I’ve been there ever since!! There are local and overseas competitions, social nights and lots of glamorous events throughout the year to keep you busy. It’s fun, challenging, incredibly rewarding and you have an absolute blast along the way!!read more
Amy Hendry
Amy Hendry
02:29 31 Jan 17
I have loved dance all of my life but the Arthur Murray Crows Nest experience has taken my love and learning to another level. I have been dancing here for 14 years and will continue until my body gives up. My lessons are so much fun, challenging in a good way and a great form of exercise. Add to that the social side, great people, parties, outings, local and overseas competitions and you have the ultimate more
Janet Black
Janet Black
02:19 27 Jan 17