Have you ever gotten to the day of recital and been surprised by something you know you could have prevented, if only you had prepared ahead of time? Yep, me too. I’ve been in those shoes before and boy do they hurt! With time and experience though, I’ve learned better tactics for planning out my dance recital day.
I distinctly remember this one dance recital moment early in my career as a studio owner when we had mounted an ambitious opening number to “Be Our Guest,” complete with seven-year-old tap dancing waiters! The first show went off without a hitch and so I didn’t check to see if all of the classes were in place for the second show. There we were, mid-production, with a faculty member gesturing to the side of the stage to usher in the waiters …. and NO WAITERS! You should’ve seen our faces of shock! We finished the dance, found the waiters, and ran the number again. And you can bet that’s an oversight I never made again.
While surprises will pop up, the best thing you can do to set yourself up for success is to plan your work and then work your plan. The effort you spend upfront will save you from mishaps, when the last thing you need is to put out one more fire (or find a class of missing waiters!).
Here are my 6 Steps to a Satisfying Recital Day:
1. Find a quiet moment to yourself before the day begins
This should be completely non-recital related: maybe you decide to take an early-morning walk with your spouse, enjoy a cup of coffee on your patio, or read through an inspirational book. It doesn’t need to be more than 15 minutes, but find the time to breathe before the you head off to the races. Because we all know that once you get in your car for the day, it will be go, go, go until your head hits your pillow at the end of the day (and then, likely, your mind will keep going).
2. Arrive early to greet venue staff, employees, volunteers, and vendors
Schedule time before your dancers’ arrival to personally (yet briefly) check in with everyone who is helping to run the show. This is the perfect time to go through any last-minute notes or checkpoints to ensure the best organization. Offer up some encouragement too; it’s not just the dancers who get nervous for recital day! If you want to go the extra mile, bring them a care basket. Nothing warms the heart of a theater tech person like a basket of treats and some caffeine for long show days.
3. Be proactive: anticipate problems
Although you can’t predict everything, you can prepare for some problems. Stash a “recital supplies” bag in the wings or in the dressing room with extra tights, extra tickets, backup music, an emergency kit, a sewing kit, Sharpies … anything you can think of that might come in handy. We even station our Business Manager by the door to backstage with our recital supply kit to make sure that every child is checked over from head-to-toe before they hit the stage. We’ve averted many small crises of missing shoes and costume pieces, costumes on backwards and upside down hair pieces during this pre-show check.
4. Make plans in advance to protect your time
As the studio owner, you will likely be the first person a parent wants to see if they’re upset about something, however big or small. We all know emotions can run high at performance time! Designate a time on your calendar when you will be ready to answer phone calls or emails, and make sure you have an employee or a volunteer who can run interference and offer redirection for people who want to approach you. Even something as simple as putting an autoresponder on your email and a cheery message on your voicemail box explaining that you are at the theater and will be returning calls and checking email at 9am each day of recital week can be very helpful for keeping parent expectations for communication in line with what you are able to actually give.
5. Give gratitude where it is due
Your recital day satisfaction goes way up the moment you start saying “thank you”. Show your gratitude in whichever ways are most available to you: hand out small gifts to your employees, thank your teachers by name in your welcome speech, offer up compliments when you see great work happening, provide a meal for your employees, and tell your dance parents you appreciate their trust in your studio. Recital day is full of opportunities to be share the love-be generous with your praise!
6. Enjoy the little things
Take note of the special things you notice throughout the day. I once saw the spark of a new friendship, between a younger dancer and an older one, when the older dancer offered comfort to the younger one who was struck with stage fright. It made my whole day to have witnessed that moment they shared, but I never would have paid attention to it if I had run right past them. The exchange even made my closing comments for the show because it was such an example of what we are really doing through dance … not just making great dancers, but making great kids!
Recital time is the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work for us and our students, just in different ways! It’s a highly emotional time on top of the busy-ness, so take steps to help give yourself a sense of control as well as the freedom to enjoy the day. I’d love to hear if following these steps makes a difference in your recital planning, or if you have more steps to share! Comment below or share your thoughts with me on social media @mistylown. Here’s to a joyful and successful recital season!