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Teaching Stage Directions

Teaching Stage Directions: 3 Tips

When you’re preparing for recitals, you’ll probably start thinking about how your dancers will take their performances from the classroom to the big stage. An important part of transitioning dancers into a venue setting is teaching them stage directions like upstage, downstage and the like. This lesson can be tricky, especially if you’re working with young performers, but it’s important for students to learn if they plan to pursue dance in the future. Here are three tips you can use to make teaching stage directions easy and fun.

1. Explain the Terminology

The first step toward helping your students fully comprehend stage directions is to take a few minutes to go over the concept. The Scottish Ballet explained that modern stage directions are from the point of view of the dancer, which makes them easier to learn.

However, there are also the terms upstage and downstage, which may seem counterintuitive to some dancers. The origin of these directions comes from when stages were “raked,” or built on a tilt so the audience could see better. In those days, going upstage, or away from the audience, literally meant going up in elevation. Understanding where the terms came from may be beneficial for your students.

2. Use Directions in the Classroom

Another way to help your dancers get the hang of stage directions is to use them in the classroom. The Dance Exec recommended taping signs to your mirrors that detail stage left and right after you teach the lesson. Begin using the terms during classes and rehearsals so your dancers become accustomed to responding to the directions. You should be sure to use the terms when teaching recital choreography, as these performances will have to be moved out of the studio and onto a real stage.

3. Play Games to Check Knowledge

You can also use games to measure how effective a lesson has been at teaching stage directions. Take down any signs that you may have up, then call out a stage direction – downstage center, upstage right and so on. Have your students go to where they think the direction dictates. Dancers who go to the wrong zone are “out,” and you can continue playing until you have just a few students left. It’s a fun way to test your dancers’ knowledge between run-throughs and other activities.