Some people think the “show” is what happens onstage at the spring recital, but every dance studio owner knows that the REAL show happens backstage!
If you want to see a real symphony of choreography, watch the show from behind the curtains because that’s where the magic happens. Changing costumes, fixing makeup, getting kids lined up for dances, keeping little ones entertained until they perform, calming toddler fears, encouraging senior soloists, and finding lost shoes are all part of orchestrating a good show.
And, if that doesn’t impress you, let me tell you this: A 12 year old doing fouette turns has nothing on a pre-school teacher changing outfits and tap shoes on 15 4-year-olds. We may not be able to turn like the teenagers anymore, but nobody can turn around back stages issues faster than studio owners and dance teachers.
If you are ready to up your backstage performance this year, keep reading for 6 Tips for a Backstage Bravo!
- An Ounce of Prevention – Do you remember your grandma saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” Well, it turns out Grandma was right. Every bit of time you put in checking and re-checking the recital order for issues now will save you piles of problems later. Tired of looking at the recital lineup? Enlist the help of teachers or a family member to make sure that every student has adequate time to change and get lined up for their dances. If you end up with a handful of tight changes that can’t be avoided, use it as an opportunity to plan ahead.
- Entertaining Little Ones – Over the years we have tried everything for entertaining little ones backstage from coloring sheets to board games, from crafts to movies. In spite of all our creative efforts, we’ve discovered that the best entertainment is actually our show! No, we can’t take kids out to the show, but we can bring the show to the kids. While our little ones wait in a classroom type holding area, the older dancers stop in and perform their dance once before hitting the stage. Not only does this keep little ones entertained, it refreshes the memories of the older dancers right before they have to perform.
- Three Station System – While attending a cheerleading competition, I discovered a new way to line up numbers for performance time. The event organizers always had three routines lined up in the wings, referring to them as on “on deck”, “in the hole” and “performing next.” The event was so well run I changed my line up process immediately to reflect this flow. The new system allowed me to tighten the transitions between dances and spend less time running around looking for kids. It also helped keep kids entertained backstage longer by looking forward to moving through the stations on the way to the stage.
- Changing Little Ones – We don’t change costumes on kids under 5 years old (they wear the same costume for both tap and ballet, which parents and teachers love), but we do have to swap out shoes between routines. We used to line their shoes up by names backstage…until we realized most of them couldn’t read.☺ Now we have placemats with pictures of rainbows, puppies, and other cheery objects where their shoes sit waiting for action. Each child knows to find their placemat and swap shoes as soon as they finish their first dance.
- Check-In, Check-Out – There’s no question about it; recital is a busy place. Having said that, nothing is more disconcerting to parents than dropping their child off in a chaotic environment or not being able to find them after the show. Whether it’s lineup information or a dressing room location, directions to seating or post-show pick up instructions; keep parents happy by having a well-oiled check-in and check-out procedures. All of our teachers and volunteers wear bright red studio shirts and name badges to signal to parents that we are well staffed and under control. Instructions for check-in and check-out are covered during in-class dress rehearsals and on-stage dress rehearsals as well as in the newsletter, the recital program book and a post-show reminder announcement.
- Everything is “Figure-out-able” – Figure-out-able may not be a word, but it IS my recital motto. Our teachers are instructed that no matter the problem, we can figure out a solution. No shoes? No problem. Borrow a pair from another student. Forgotten headpiece? No worries. We don’t need to wear them anyway. Scared dancer? No stress. Just do a non-emergency page for a parent hug. Child misses a dance for some reason? Nothing to cry about, we will re-do the number.
Time spent planning combined with a positive attitude will help you earn a “Bravo!” on both sides of the curtain this year.
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The “Expert Advice from Misty Lown” series is brought to you by More Than Just Great Dancing™ and TutuTix.