Memory techniques that help teachers help students remember
Being able to remember ballet terminology and syllabus is no small feat (pardon the pun). French ballet terms need to be learnt together with the intricacies of the syllabus exercises, tempo and style. This can be understandably overwhelming for student and teacher alike.
However, there’s a practical solution to this challenge: memory techniques. These techniques can help both students and dance teachers tackle the task of memorising ballet terminology and syllabus exercises effectively and with confidence, be it in Vaganova, RAD, Cecchetti or any other style.
The French terminology, with its poetic and precise expressions, carries a rich history that adds to the elegance of ballet. Yet it also introduces an element of complexity that can overwhelm young dancers.
But here’s the good news: simple and effective memory techniques can truly help students conquer the challenge of ballet terminology with confidence and grace.
In this blog we will explore the use of memory techniques by teachers to help students master ballet terminology and also assist them with the movements themselves. Memory techniques can also make it easier to learn the precise counts and sequences for each exercise in each grade – I intend to make this the topic of a later advanced blog.
Remembering ballet terminology
Let’s explore helping students to memorise ballet terms with an example using 5 common ballet steps.
The technique used here is similar to memory techniques used for remembering any new word. In this video covering learning new words and their definitions, we attached a visual image that represented the definition to an image representing the sound of the word.
For dance terminology, this changes slightly. We will create a story that encompasses the movement and a key correction and represents the sounds of the word – and then attach that story to the movement.
For ease of explanation, I will assume that the reader is a ballet teacher and knows the below steps but wants to help young students initially remember ballet terminology.
Note the images made here are to assist a student with learning to recognise the step when hearing them said, not read. So the images chosen ‘sound’ a bit like what they would hear. If one was learning these steps for a written exam the images chosen would need to assist in spelling the step.
In each instance you tell the student the points to note in the move and also mention that the name is in these corrections.
Please bend your knees and to get an A grade keep your knees over your toes.
Really use your foot along the floor as you extend your foot out…like you are wiping off a ton of dog doo (poo)
Rond de Jambe:
Imagine you’re drawing a big round circle on the floor around a pond with your extended leg. You want to make sure you keep the circle even and not cut into the pond, otherwise a alligator may chomp your leg (said with the correct accent chomp sounds a bit like Jambe)
Your supporting leg and all the way up through your spine should be as straight as an arrow, this is the best.
Glide across an iced-over pond, don’t land hard or the ice may crack. (Even though the word ice sounds different to the correct pronunciation the explanation and the similarity in the sound will help students learn the term.)
Test and engage students
In later classes when you are testing students on terminology, show the move and then ask if they remember what they should think of. Then ask them what the step is called.
You can make up your own images to match your own common corrections for a set of students. With a bit of practice, it can be quite fun to play with coming up with images that help describe what students should be thinking of, that also reminds them of the name of the movement. Student participation in idea generation is also engaging and entertaining.
This technique assists the student to remember both your physical corrections and the names of the steps.
For an example of using a similar technique to remember Taekwondo terminology see this video.
Mastering ballet terminology is a critical step for dancers, but it needn’t be too hard. Associating mental images with the terminology of movement can make learning faster and more enjoyable.
So why not give it a go – memory techniques can be the best dance partner for your students.