Nobel Prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman tells us that the brain can be conceived of as being two systems. System 1 is the part of the brain that makes the quick and easy decisions that we make every second of every day, whilst system 2 becomes engaged when there is deep thinking to be done.
As you can probably guess, dancing is more of a system 1 task, which is to say that most of the time it’s easy to do (unless your trying to remember last nights choreography from class). The ease with which we retrieve from our memory a dance move that we want to do is called cognitive ease. For example, when Gangnam Style comes on, your brain doesn't have to work very hard to retrieve memories of Psy doing the horsey dance, and these simple moves (which you've probably repeated often in your own bedroom) are easily recalled and then performed.
This process could also explain why people avoid dancing. If dancing becomes more about the context in which the dance is performed – who is watching me and what are they thinking, am I too exposed – then the decision to dance becomes more complex and induces those uncomfortable feelings that we all try and avoid.
If you have a friend who never dances, chances are they are experiencing some of these emotions. It may even be that they just don’t know or enjoy the music, and that the process of deciding how to dance to the unfamiliar music is too hard. This is what’s known as cognitive strain, and it’s what happens when you engage your system 2 and start deep thought, and it makes you frown and produces negative emotions.
For an easy example of System 2 thought, try multiplying 24 by 32. The answer, like an unfamiliar dance move, will take time to come by, if at all. It’s hard.
In contrast, System 1 is more likely to tackle 2 x 2, a familiar math sum, and it’s availability to be recalled is similar to how you quickly and easily you remember ‘Gangnam Style’.
The key to remembering your dance moves then, is to dance early and often. The more you do it, the more you become used to it. Soon it will consume you and all the various dance moves and techniques you learn will become embedded neural patterns in your brain.
Do it enough and those patterns will be with you forever.