Barring any major scheduling issues, special needs, and/or coaching for a solo performance, there should be no reason for private lessons. If your child is doing what is required of them during class time, private lessons would not be necessary. If your child is distracted or not putting in the necessary effort during class, private lessons would be equally as pointless as class time.
My advice for parents wanting to schedule private lessons for choreography retention or general technical improvement is always to put that time and money towards additional weekly classes. I have seen time and time again that the number of weekly classes taken is by far the most impactful factor on a young dancer’s skill, technique, confidence and retention.
In the meantime, here are some pointers to better remember choreography:
1. Take the Steering Wheel and Walk Through It By Yourself (no music, no classmates, no help)
Do this immediately after you learn new choreography or at least before you go to bed that night.
When you think through a sequence of movements (or any thought for that matter), you trigger synapses in your brain. Once those synapses are triggered, they are more likely to repeat themselves. In other words, when you walk through a combination by yourself for the first time, you are laying down the tracks – each time you repeat that walking through in your head, your combination will ride more easily along the tracks. After a couple walk-throughs, you won’t even need to think about it anymore.
Walking Through It can include imagining yourself dancing the movements, marking through it with your body, or even writing it down. Anything that puts you at the steering wheel where you are leading, and not following, the combination.
2. Teach It to Someone Else
Ask a sibling, friend or parent to volunteer to ‘learn’ your choreography. When you teach a sequence of movements to someone else it can have much the same effect as ‘walking through it’ (above). Unlike simply ‘showing’ your dance to mom or dad, explaining to them how to do it will solidify it in your head. It also will make any questions on the ‘teacher’s’ part very clear.
3. Know Your Terminology
Knowing your ballet terminology makes it much easier for you to talk or sing yourself through combinations. Movement is like a language so ‘fluency’ in that terminology of movement certainly helps. If there is a step that you’re unfamiliar with or you can’t easily recall its name, give it a name in your mind that works for you.
4. Sing It
Sing your counts or the name of the step as you dance it or walk through it. Sometimes we know ‘what’ to do, but we don’t remember ‘how’ it was executed (the phrasing, the dynamic, etc). Signing along as you walk through a combination really helps – just make sure you sing it the same way every time!
5. Cluster Your Steps into Longer ‘Sentences’ Once You’ve Established Muscle Memory
IE -Instead of remembering all 16 steps in a 16 count phrase, cluster the movements into digestible sentences. For example, if you are dancing a petit allegro: glissade, assemble, soubrasaut, port de bras, brisse, brisse, pas de bourree, once the movement is in your muscle memory, you can simply recall the ‘gatsby petit allegro sequence’. (Yes, that is from junior company Gatsby petit allegro).
Here are a few articles on retaining choreography that may help:
“Making It Stick” Dance Spirit magazine http://www.dancespirit.com/your-body/mind/making-stick/
“Strategies for Remembering Choreography” DanceAdvantage.net http://www.danceadvantage.net/remembering-choreography/
“Making It Stick” Dance Teacher magazine http://www.dance-teacher.com/2013/05/making-it-stick/