Use Words and Sound

Learning choreography is not solely dependent on visual learning. 
Dual Coding Theory

This basically means that if you use both images and language to teach something, you greatly increase the chance of your dancers encoding what you've taught because they've processed it in two different ways.


Here's an example:

If you teach a combination that has a leap in the middle and demonstrate it while saying the word "leap," your dancers are more likely to remember it than if you demonstrate it without speaking. 

Ruth Day, a dancer turned cognitive scientist, focuses on understanding what strategies dancers use to learn choreography. According to Day, although dancers learn visually, they also support the images they see with a verbal aid. She separates these aids into categories:

  • Language

  • Counts (Numbers)

  • Sound

Dancers need this component in addition to watching movement in order to retain the choreography given to them.  What Day is describing here, in fewer words, is the Dual Coding Theory.

But it can get tricky! People are easily overstimulated if given too much verbal and visual information at the same time. When this happens, your dancers will shut down. 

For more on Ruth Day, visit her website here

For more information about the Dual  Coding Theory

How do I use this strategy without causing a breakdown?

Dual Coding While Teaching Choreography: 


  • Limit the phrases you use to one or two quick words and speak while you dance

  • Use classical dance terminology that matches your movement and synchronize the step with your words

  • In modern dance choreography, if classical terms do not apply to your movement, use short verbs that accurately describe your movement

Are you having trouble coming up with verbs? Luckily, Rudolph Van Laban already did! His work involves categorizing movement into "8 efforts" that are quick and easy to learn. Check out this video and website for more information!


  • Count out loud while you are dancing, being sure to keep a consistent meter.

  • Avoid counting every number of each phrase aloud. This can become overwhelming. 

  • Try vocalizing the counts that correspond to accents in your phrase or important movements


  • Use music while you teach. Sync your movement to the music and set musical cues for dancers to listen for.

  • Snap or clap your hands while you teach to give dancers a meter. 

  • Sing! You don't have to be a good singer to give your choreography theme music. This helps dancers understand the rhythm and feeling the movement should have.