Set the Scene
How well did you do on the quiz?
Were the questions harder to answer than you initially thought they would be?
Was it difficult to answer the questions that discussed images from the beginning of the video?
If you answered "yes" to either of these questions, that's okay! What if I told you that you could have easily made a much higher score if I had set you up for success using one simple technique?
Eliminate Distractions by Cueing Your Dancers' Selective Attention
As a choreographer it is your job to tell your dancers, before teaching them new material, what details are important to pay attention to. Dancersneed guidance in determining what is important and what is not. This increases the chance that details quickly make it into your dancers' short-term memory. Here are some simple ways you can select a dancer's attention:
Tell your dancers to focus on your upper body versus your lower body when you're demonstrating.
Encourage dancers to pay attention to where your focus is throughout the phrase material.
Explain which arm positions (first, second, fifth, etc.) are in the material you are about to teach them, and encourage them to look for these positions when you teach the phrase.
Tell your dancers what they don't need to focus on (ex. "the number of steps I'm taking to walk in a circle is not important in this phrase.")
So how does this relate to teaching dancers a piece of choreography?
Do you think you would have scored higher on the quiz if I had prompted you before you watched the video by telling you to:
"Pay attention to Cyndi's mother at the beginning of the video. Remember how many friends Cyndi has and what they're wearing. And lastly, focus on the items that are in Cyndi's room."
The answer to this question? Yes. This is because of something we all possess called Selective Attention which means that we can only select a few items to focus on at one time in our environment. Otherwise, our sensory input would be overwhelmed by trying to focus on everything we see.
We can take advantage of a learner's selective attention by guiding them before we give them sensory input. In order to do this we need to cue the learners to select two or three important details to focus on.