Archive | April 2013

Performance Preparedness – Knowing Your Choreography

dancers back stage



Your performance day has arrived…you are excited, nervous and happy all rolled into one. You are all practiced up…or are you? You have everything…or do you? Are you organized? Are you ready?
The first thing you need to think about is….. do you know your choreography? I have found that many dancers who take their classes only one or two days per week believe that this is the only time they need to be practicing their dances. They feel that class time is their practice time. I am sorry to let you know this, but you will never remember choreography if you don’t practice it on your days when you don’t have class. It is just the same way you have a Math class every day, to practice adding, subtracting or later on algebraic formulas, is the same way you should be practicing your choreography. The same way you have an English class every day to practice your grammar or writing, you should be going over difficult steps that you don’t quite understand.

Many older dancers rely on their teachers to remember steps, or where they stand in a formation or their follow up count. That is not the teacher’s responsibility. It is the teacher’ responsibility to do that if the dancer is 10 years old or younger. But once you are a seasoned, pre teen dancer it is your job to know where you go and what you need to do and when. This is all a part of your dance training. Remembering your position, choreography and formations.

Are you paying attention in class, or are you too social to comprehend properly what is going on while your teacher is giving instruction. If you are talking to another dancer while you are supposed to be taking class you are wasting your time. You are paying for class time or rehearsal time to learn something, not to talk to another dancer about what happened in school that day or what your plans are for the weekend.

Are you taking notes in a dance journal after class to remember what should be practiced at home? I am a firm believer of writing down choreography. I have kept notebooks of choreography from many years ago when I danced in Manhattan. I still have these notebooks many years later. There is a connection between actually physically dancing steps and writing them down that makes you remember them and be able to re-call them at a moment’s request. The ballet classes in our studio all have dance journals that were given to them by the studio…..they need to be filled with information that you can go back and refer to. If your school doesn’t supply you with a journal…get one. Don’t waste your time… it is too precious.

Am I asking a ton of questions in this post? I am…. because this is what I see many times from dancers who have their attention else where than where it should be in class. Your teacher can tell who is actually interested in dance and who is there just for a social gathering. Too many times a talented dancer is wasted because of lack of concentration in class. I will tell you that it will show up performance day.

Here is my main tip for performance preparedness for today ….Take these last few weeks before your performance and concentrate on what you need to know. If you have a question on choreography, now is the time to ask. If you are unsure where you belong on a certain part, ask now. The stage rehearsal is too late to be asking questions that should be answered in the dance room.


Performance Prepardness – Backstage Instant Remedies


dressing room


With all the excitement of your dance performance coming up, rehearsals, sewing costumes to be sure they fit correctly, collecting the proper makeup, and learning how to make that perfect ballet bun, there are other things that you should consider when packing for the theater. Today we will talk about some items to bring along to the theater and why you should consider bringing them…..

Backstage at a dance performance can be chaotic. Be sure you keep a list of all necessary items. In all the confusion, many dancers may have their parents rushing back home for forgotten items and then trying to make it back in time for the opening number. Here are some items that are often needed and most often forgotten.

Extra Tights
Always have an extra pair of tights with you in each color you will need for your numbers. Runs and snags in your in your tights are very visible from the audience.

Band aids
You’ll be glad you have glad to have a band aid if you get an unexpected blister. The best type to by is the clear variety, as colored ones will be visible through pink or suntan tights.

Ace Bandage
It is a good idea to pick up an ace bandage to take along with you in case of a rolled ankle or such. That extra support may get you through your next number.

Hangers and a Garment Rack
Be sure you have a hanger for every costume you have and hang them up as soon as you have a chance to avoid wrinkles. A rolling garment rack is a good thing to have for your performances if you are in more than one or two numbers. They are relatively inexpensive and portable. They will allow your costumes to hang neatly. You can easily organize your costumes in the order you will need them.

Safety Pins and Needle and Thread
Pack a small supply of safety pins in various sizes in case you need to do some last minute costume alterations or repairs. I myself feel more secure if a few stitches are used, if time permits, for more security. A sewing needle and thread is a good idea to take along with you. If your ballet slippers or pointe shoes some how break a strap or ribbon at the last minute you can quickly stitch them. You can not use a safety pin for shoes.

Baby Wipes
Baby wipes are great for quick clean-ups or make-up fixes. Wonderful for cleaning the bottoms of your feet after a Moderne or Acro number, where you dance barefoot.

Pain Reliever
Bring a pain reliever. The most familiar is either Tylenol or Advil, but if you use natural remedies, White Willow Bark capsules will do the trick quite nicely….. Unexpected muscle aches and headaches can spoil your performance.

Clear Nail Polish
Clear nail polish can save a run in tights from getting out of hand. Apply a small amount to the run or snag as soon as it appears. Better yet, bring extra pairs of tights.

Be sure to bring your make up kit. You will want to retouch make-up immediately before going on stage. See the post on “Stage Make Up, Collecting Your Items” posted on March 14, 2013

Don’t forget to bring your camera. Even if cameras are not allowed in the auditorium, you will want to capture those special backstage moments before and after the show. Be cautious of taking dressing room shots. Many pictures have been taken in dressing rooms where someone in the back ground was not aware you were taking pictures. It is best to avoid dressing room pictures and keep those backstage memories in the hallways. Avoid taking pictures from the wings, even without a flash, unnecessary people backstage, near the wings, during the performance, tend to be in the way of the backstage crew and the dancers exiting and entering the stage.

Packing these few, normally un-thought-of of items, can be a real life saver at your recital/revue/ concert. Take that extra time to buy them and pack them with your costumes or make up kit. They could be the difference between a great performance and a disaster……

Performance Preparedness – Back Stage Etiquette, Be A Professional



As the performance season approaches, I try to see other dance recitals/revues/concerts when I can and when it doesn’t interfere with my schedule. I often find myself saying, “ What a great show, how professional!” or I may say “Wow, now that was just a dance recital…get them on and get them off…what a mess.” I know that sounds terrible, and quite judgmental, but part of your dance education is learning how to be a professional.

Think of seeing a Broadway show, or a show at Radio City Music Hall. The dancers and performers are professionals,  this is their full time job, and they needed to learned professionalism somewhere,  before they got to that big stage. It should have begun in their local dance school all the years they were receiving their training.

Performing is a professional activity and it is important to behave in a professional manner when on stage or back stage. I have been through many dance recitals/revues/concerts in my days and as hard as dance teachers and choreographers try to teach their dancers correct back stage etiquette, the nervousness and excitement that the dancer students have that day, just seems to wash all that professionalism all away. Today I will try to teach you some backstage etiquette, to make your performance as professional as possible.

Never peek through a curtain to see how filled the house is or to look for your family before the show begins. Those curtains need to remain lifeless until the opening number and the curtain opens. When you are waiting in the wings to go onstage remember to stay near the curtain, if you can see the audience, they can see you! This is very unprofessional and anyone in the audience will then view the show as the same.

Every dancer wants to see their friends do their dance piece, and that is part of the excitement about dancing in a show. Those dancers who are in the wings just to watch their friends on stage are causing undue stress to those who are working back stage to keep the show flowing smoothly. Teachers, stage hands and mothers who are keeping the show moving at a fluid pace may find those extra dancers who are onlookers in the way and these dancers may cause a delay in the show. The extra un needed dancers in the wings are taking up the limited space back stage, where the next group of dancers are supposed to get ready to perform. Some groups that are preparing to go on stage may be large groups of eight, ten or more dancers and the space is limited. If you are not due to perform, stay away from back stage, and in your dressing room until you are called. You will be creating undue stress on those who are needed to be back stage if you are in the wings.

Be quiet whenever you are back stage, whether waiting to go on or leaving after performing. Talking can be heard by the audience. If you are wearing tap shoes, try to walk quietly on the balls for your feet when getting on and off stage and leaving the backstage area. If you need to go through a door, hold on to the door so it will open and close silently. As excited as you may be, do not talk until you are in the dressing rooms and far enough away from back stage. Be respectful to the next number that is performing next. You don’t want the audience to be distracted by any noise coming from backstage.

Sometimes dancers can get very impatient just waiting to be called to dance. They may decide to take a walk out of their dressing rooms. If you find that urge, fight it. You may be called for your number and not be able to be found. Many times “runners” the people who call you for your number may not know you. They may be just following a list of names and you can not be found. The curtain will not wait for you if you are not where you are supposed to be.

One of the most important things is listen and respect the backstage mothers working in the dressing rooms. They are there to make the performance run smoothly and to keep the dressing rooms organized. They are giving up their time and energy to help you have a wonderful experience.

Remember as your dance years go by, each and every performance will be come a memory. Keep your memories happy and stress free…..and always be professional……