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How to Memorize Salsa and Bachata Dance Patterns Faster (for Leaders)

Updated: 21 hours ago

a lady and a guy salsa dancing in Los Angeles

This audio was recorded by Danny Kalman, the Director of Movers and Shakers Salsa and Bachata Dance Academy. The following text is an unedited transcript of his audio.

Transcript of Audio:

I'm going to share with you some techniques that I have used over the years to help me learn to lead salsa and bachata dancing patterns more quickly that will also help you.

The first technique is visualization. So when you're learning a new pattern to lead, you do not need a partner to practice that pattern. In fact, there's science behind this. It's a study related to basketball free throws and sports psychology. Basically, the conclusion of the study is that visualization is equally as powerful for getting results in sports as actually physically practicing it. I recommend both. The nice thing about visualization is that it's efficient.

 You can do it while you're driving, while you're cooking, while you're going for a walk, whatever it may be. So focus on whatever pattern you've just learned recently and just go through it in your mind. I used to do this with choreography a lot for performances or competitions, but also with new patterns for social dancing. The metric I use to know when I've mastered it is when I can go through the entire pattern in my head about twice as quickly as it takes to execute it in real-time, I've mastered it.

For example, if a pattern takes 10 seconds to execute in real life, and I can go through that in my head with all the details in five seconds, I've mastered the pattern. So you want to keep visualizing it until it's that quick and that easy to get into your body so that it becomes automatic when you're dancing.

Of course, it's important to also practice this with real people because you want to make sure that you're doing the technique correctly, you want to make sure you have a good instructor, and they're actually helping you learn it correctly. Assuming all of that's true, then this visualization will accelerate your learning a lot.

When you do this, you are going to notice at times, you might get stuck mentally in the same spot again and again, like a little speed bump, like you're going through it, and then you go, Oh, what's next? All right, that little spot is what you need to focus on because that's what's going to trip you up while you're social dancing. So focus on that particular spot, 5 or 10 times, whatever it takes, so that you smoothly work through that also, and you automatically know what's next. And then you'll be very close to mastering the pattern.

 A nice concrete example of this working is a couple of years ago, when I did an intensive workshop at the Las Vegas Salsa Bachata Super Congress. Basically, some very famous dancers came in.

And those of us who went through the workshop, we studied with them for I think, six or eight hours during the Congress. and then we're expected to learn an entire two-minute choreography for a song and then put it on stage on Sunday.

So we started on, yeah, I think we got four hours with them on Thursday, four hours with them on Friday, and then on Sunday we performed it. That's a really fast turnaround. How is that even possible?

I went to my room and I visualized it again and again solo for maybe one and a half to two hours. And that was enough to get the entire choreography in my body and I used these techniques that I just talked about. Now granted, of course, since I have experience it's gonna be easier to learn the choreography faster, but the point is that the technique is the same and it will work for you also.

salsa classes in Los Angeles

The next technique is when you are going out social dancing. My recommendation is to focus on just two patterns in a night, two new patterns, and do those two patterns every single dance and you can do them more than once in every dance also. The goal is to get it into your muscle memory so that it happens automatically without you thinking and becomes part of your core patterns, your go-to patterns that you can do without thinking.

If you have some experience, you'll probably notice that there are some patterns that you do again and again and again without thinking. Maybe if you've learned 50 patterns in your life, there are probably 10 that you use again and again on the dance floor. Alright, so these are the ones that are automatic, deeply ingrained into your nervous system.

So you now need to create new neural pathways if you want to bring a new pattern into your repertoire. And to do that, it takes repetition. So go out and then in a night focus on a maximum of two patterns, even one is fine, a new pattern for you and lead it, lead it, lead it. Then you're gonna get it into your body so it becomes automatic.

I actually used to bring little videos, and recordings from class that would remind me of what the pattern is and the details. Because you know when you get out on the dance floor and your mind goes blank? So we want to supersede that by checking the video.

So I would go do my dances and then I would go to the corner and kind of quietly pull out my phone and look at it down at my waist, review the pattern, oh yeah now I remember, and then go do that during the dances. This I would call social dancing strategically and with purpose and with intention that's actually gonna help you grow more quickly as a dancer.

There were times when I did this so much that it started to take the fun out of dancing. So make sure that you find that balance and you still are just enjoying the dance. If you include this intention of improvement while you're social dancing, it's gonna make a big difference for you too.

Salsa Classes in Los Angeles

a fun photo of Movers and Shakers Salsa and Bachata Dance Academy students

If you are in Los Angeles, check out Movers and Shakers to learn salsa and bachata from the ground up in programs that are progressive, structured, and comprehensive.




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