Muscle Memory in Dance: Leave the Brain at the Door

November 12, 2014 by
Filed Under: Blog, Dancing Tips


Dancing can be frustrating for people when they are not getting the moves. There are so many elements to remember…place your hand here, don’t drop your arm, remember your foot work….ah! How do you keep up?! I always tell my students at Bella Ballroom (our Dance Studio in Orange County) to leave the brain at the door. What I mean by that is, when you try to think too hard, you aren’t letting your body gain muscle memory. You are over thinking, and therefore, not relaxing into the movements. We don’t think about breathing, because if we did, it would probably make it irregular. We naturally just let our oxygen flow do its thing. When dancing, there is an element of this as well. If we start thinking too hard we make mistakes. But when we stop thinking and allow our bodies and muscle memory to do it’s work we actually do better. It is hard to just stop thinking, so I’m going to give you some tricks to help you with this:

1. Focus on one thing at a time

muscle memory in danceYour instructor may tell you several things to work on. Choose one to focus on at a time. Just focus on your foot work, or your arm placement, or just executing the move correctly. After you get a focus down, you won’t have to think about it in order to get it right. Once you master one, focus on another. You will eventually not have to think about any of it and just move. That is the goal.

2. Close Your Eyes

When you lose one of your senses, the others tend to be heightened. Once you can’t see where you are going, you have to focus on touch and on your body. This is often a way to help you focus on muscle memory rather than on what things should look like. You want to be able to ‘feel’ the move and know when you are doing it correctly or incorrectly based on your body.

3. Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself

Some people get frustrated when they struggle to get a move right. Becoming a good dancer doesn’t happen over night. It takes time to get everything down. Strive for the best, but if it doesn’t happen right away, try not to be too hard on yourself. Be patient with yourself and know that it will come with time. And you will be so proud of the work you have done.

4. Ditch the Bad Mood

Coming in with a bad mood makes it incredibly difficult to dance. I know that you can’t always help whether or not you are having a bad day, but try to leave your troubles behind you and make this your happy place. This will become a way of reducing stress rather than adding to it. It is a form exercise and releasing adrenaline. So let dance do it’s job and make you feel better! You will only get better if you are able to focus on what you are trying to pursue in the studio.

5. Have Fun!

The source of many people’s inability to get better is because they aren’t relaxed and take everything very seriously. If you can lose your inhibitions and have fun, you will surprised at how well you do. Just relax and know that dancing will only be fun if you let it be.

Hope these tips help you to learn better and enjoy the process. Remember, don’t think too hard, leave your brain at the door, and you will not only do better, but you will also have so much more fun! Happy dancing 🙂

– Bella Ballroom Dance Studio Instructor, Tayler