The recital program is a staple of the annual recital experience. An usher hands you a program, you settle into your seat, the house lights go down and it’s time for another great show. The recital program isn’t just a way for the audience to keep track of the show order and who performs in each dance, it’s also a lifelong keepsake for families and a perfect messaging and marketing platform for dance studios. Here are some tips on how to have a successful and profitable recital program this year!
DO: Sell Program Ads Having a recital program without selling program ads is a missed revenue opportunity! Every penny counts when it comes to owning a dance studio, and recital program ads are an easy way to increase your recital income, pay the studio’s summer rent, or even use it to take a vacation this summer (imagine that)!
DON’T: Send the Program to print without proofing Be sure to check over every piece of the recital program before sending it to the printer. Check over the spelling of dancer names, the show order, and make sure that no one is missing. While proofing the program yourself is important, don’t let your eyes be the only ones to catch mistakes. Have a few staff members or parents help you proof the program. They will be sure to catch errors that you’ve missed – it’s understandable, we’ve looked at the same pages so many times, a fresh set of eyes are needed!
DO: Shop around for printing prices Just like you shouldn’t buy the first car you see; you shouldn’t say yes to the first printing quote you receive. It’s important to shop around for the best printing prices. You’d be surprised how much printing costs can vary. Get quotes from local print shops and online national printing chains. When comparing quotes, make sure you are comparing apples to apples; print costs will fluctuate based on page count, paper size, color vs. black and white, paper weight and quality, and binding. Don’t forget to factor in turn-around time, tax, and shipping costs into any quote you receive.
DON’T: Concentrate on Selling Full-Page Ads Only Program ads are typically priced by ad size. Instinctively, full-page ads cost the most, while smaller ads cost less. An easy trap to get caught in is to focus your energy on selling as many full-page ads as possible. At first glance, that strategy seems to make sense: sell as many of the most expensive product as you can. However, it’s important to think of each page of your program as a piece of real estate. The printing cost is the same no matter what is printed on the page. If you sell full-page ads for $100, half-page ads for $60, and quarter-page ads for $40, you would make $160 on a page with four quarter-page ads, while making just $100 with a full-page ad. That’s 60% more–with the same printing cost! By all means, sell full-page ads to whoever will buy them, but smaller and more affordable ads will be easier to sell and will get you higher revenue in the long run.
DO: Advertise Your Program Ad Sales Utilize the same creativity and energy you would put into advertising your dance classes into advertising your program ad sales. Although you are selling a product to an existing client, rather than a new one, the same marketing tactics still work. Make sure everyone knows that program ad sales are going on. Send out emails, post on social media, and have posters up around the studio. Make sure the ad deadline is super clear. Parents will naturally wait until the last minute to purchase their program ads, so don’t worry if the sales are slow to start. Pro tip! Have copies of last year’s program around the studio for parents to browse for quality samples, message examples, and design inspiration. If this is your first recital program, feel free to make your own “sample ads” to give people an idea of what to expect and some ideas on how to make their own ad special.
Follow these tips for a successful recital program that will be a lifelong keepsake for your dance families as well as a profitable recital revenue driver for your studio!
Growing up in the studio family business, Joe Naftal is the marketing director for Dance Connection in Islip, New York, and the CEO of the Penny Prima® brand. Joe has taught seminars, classes, and workshops for dance teachers and studio owners from around the world, has been on the seminar faculty of the Energize Conference, the Dance Teacher Summit, the UDMA Dance Teacher Expos, and has been a contributor for DanceStudioOwner.com and Dance Teacher Magazine. He is the author of Standby in the Wings, which has been sold across North America, the UK, and Australia, and is the creator of Check In Pointe and RecitalProgramAds.com. As an advocate for arts education, Joe serves on the Board of Directors for Robin Becker Dance and CM Performing Arts Center. Aside from his work at the studio, Joe is a lighting designer and production manager for classical and contemporary theatre, modern dance, ballet, and opera. He holds a BFA in Lighting Design from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
It’s that time of year again: time for studios to showcase their students’ talent and put on a big show! And like any big event, there are bound to be a few (sometimes unwelcome) surprises. So it’s best to be prepared and in good spirits! Prepare your dancers for whatever situation might come up during a dance recital with the following tips.
1. Costume Issues
Whether it’s something relatively minor like a run in someone’s tights, or something more perilous like a broken strap, be prepared with a performance survival kit. You’ll want to have extra tights, shoelaces, bra straps and double-sided tape, a multipurpose tool to tighten taps, and any other items you need for potential repairs.
Hopefully you’ll be able to check the status of everyone’s costume during dress rehearsal, but it’s best to prepare your dancers in case a problem arises during their performance. For minor problems, coach them to keep performing – it will be more distracting if they try to fix the problem mid-dance. If you are truly concerned about how well a costume will hold up, have them wear a nude leotard as a base layer.
iSport’s Ballet section included a list of potential costume malfunctions that might come up, with some great solutions and tips to keep dancers dancing.
2. Stage Fright
Sometimes, dancers can get nervous – especially your youngest students! Make sure that everyone has had a chance to rehearse in the performance space. If you can simulate the performance experience by letting fellow dancers/staff act as an audience, even better. That way, you can encourage your dancers by reminding them that they CAN do their recital piece in front of a crowd – they already have!
Hand-in-hand with pre-show butterflies are those moments on stage where a dancer might draw a blank and forget the next step. Many of us have experienced this firsthand, and know how upsetting it can be!
Dance Advantage recommends reminding dancers that they have practiced the routine, and know them so well that muscle memory will kick in once they relax! Encourage them by reminding them that they have prepared for this day, and if they focus on the dance and enjoy the moment, they will be fine! If they do happen to miss a step, coach them to jump right back into the dance, and shake off the mistake – learning to recover from a misstep is an important part of being a performer.
4. Makeup Mishaps
Makeup is just as important as the rest of the costume! And applying dance recital makeup is tricky, no matter how many years a performer has been dancing.
For younger performers, it’s best to let a parent volunteer apply the makeup AND be ready to clean up a smudge or other problem that comes up. If they need help, you can refer those parents to our guide on applying dance makeup to younger dancers.
For older performers, who might do their own makeup or may need to quickly make an adjustment in-between pieces, emphasize that the dance is key. Their dance recital survival kit should equip them with the critical Q-tip or baby wipe to adjust a smudge. But if they have long lashes that are threatening to block vision or throw them off, lose them and make sure the piece takes precedence!
We found a few great ideas at Dance Spirit for some “recital rescues” like addressing stained quick change clothes, or fast makeup solutions.
5. Music Woes
Music malfunctions can catch even the most experienced performers off guard. For older performers who may be able to more easily recover from a music glitch, encourage them to continue to perform if a sound issue arises. For younger dancers, instruct them to pay attention to their teacher, who hopefully is stationed nearby and can guide them in the event of a technical problem in the performance hall.
6. Unfamiliar Environment
As we mentioned above, it’s critical that performers be given a chance to rehearse in the performance space. Letting dancers acclimate to the stage, lighting, sound, etc. can go a long way towards alleviating related issues.
There are other environment-related considerations, however. Especially for younger or less-experienced performers, the dance recital day can be overwhelming due to the sheer number people, level of noise and change in environment. Experienced studio owner Misty Lown has some great tips on managing your backstage area in a way that creates a positive environment conducive to the success of your dancers.
It’s biggest day of the year for your families. If your students are like mine, they are raring to go! And it’s easy to see why when you consider all of the hard work they have put in over the past year preparing for recitals:
30+ weeks of lessons
2-3 minutes of choreography for each dance
Costume measurements, fittings, exchanges and alterations
Group photos, recital tickets and t-shirts, flower orders and more!
In fact, for every minute of a dance that appears on stage, an average of 100 HOURS of preparation has already been put in before one sequin ever hits the stage. But before you sign off on your dance recital prep, I want you to put ONE MORE HOUR to make sure your recital day is GREAT.
Keep reading for 8 last-minute dance recital prep tips that will ensure you have the best recital day yet!
Schedule a production meeting with your staff
Communication is key to a successful show. Getting your staff together for a final round of show notes, last minute lineup changes and planning for prop transitions will help to avoid surprises during the show. This is also a great time to thank them for all of their hard work to remind them of the positive impact they will have on so many children on show day.
Assign specific staff duties
Make sure your team knows where every staff member should be and what they should be doing during pre-show, backstage, finale, dancer pick up and post-show clean up. Post these assignments backstage and provide printouts for each teacher.
Create signage to dressing and audience areas
Nothing makes parents more anxious on show day than not knowing where to go or feeling like they might arrive late. Help parents get their dancers to the appropriate pre-show gathering place by providing signage and friendly staff/crew members to personally guide the way.
Prepare info-boards for each staff member
Equip your team for success by giving them a clipboard for each show containing all all pertinent show information. Be sure to include all costume information for each class as new parents are likely ask ANY staff member for help, not just their own teacher.
Identify quick changes or back-to-back numbers
Notify back stage crew of any tight spots in show flow that may require changes backstage. Prepare the emcee ahead of time to plan on engaging the audience a little longer between numbers in the event you have back-to-back numbers for any dancers.
Build a backstage entertainment kit
Keep little ones busy while waiting for their turn including non-messy snacks, coloring books, movies and games. Parents will be more confident leaving their little ones in dressing rooms with your staff if they know they will be entertained while waiting for their turn to dance.
Coordinate a backstage show for the little ones
Giving the older students an opportunity to run dances before they hit the stage can double as entertainment for little ones waiting to dance. We call it the “backstage recital”!
Equip your staff to be able to figure things out
We have a saying at recital that says everything is “figure-out-able”. This means that my team has to ability to solve problems in all situations. Lost shoes? We can borrow from someone else? Costume left at home? We can put that dance later to give Dad time to run home? Communicate now that everything is “figure-out-able” if you work together.
Are you looking for some more recital tips and ideas? Check out these other articles and resources from Misty:
Literally speaking, producing a recital is the act of looking back and showing what you have learned or accomplished over the course of a school year. It’s all about making great memories that can be enjoyed for years to come. The whole recital experience is full of memory-capture elements such as the recital program book, the celebratory trophy, the annual t-shirt and the commemorative DVD and group photos.
In fact, if you really think about it, most of what we promote at recital celebrates what has already been DONE. Today I hope to convince you that we should be spending as much, if not more time, promoting what IS TO COME at our spring shows.
Don’t miss promotional opportunities at your recital this year.
Keep reading for 5 ways you can serve your audience by promoting what’s coming up at your studio at recital 2017.
The captive audience
Marketers know the best audiences are captive audiences. As a dance studio owner you have better than a captive audience. You have a captive and INTERESTED audience. Consider the other places that companies try to market to captive audiences: taxi cab screens, bus ads, airplane commercials and posters in waiting rooms. Even the backs of bathroom doors in restaurants have become the target of ad placement! Take advantage of the fact that you have a captive AND interested audience by promoting things they might be interested in at your show.
The recital program book
The recital program book has a long shelf life. Not only is it read by many of the attendees for much of the show (i.e. pretty much anytime the dancer they came to see is not on stage), but it is likely to stay on the kitchen table for weeks to come. Placing promotions for summer and fall classes throughout your program book is a great way to get parents and grandparents thinking of the next thing their dancers can sign up for. Be sure to include an easy link to sign up and don’t be surprised if you actually receive a registration at intermission.
The pre-show video
I was recently teaching for a convention that had a high energy announcement video playing on a loop before the showcase began. One of the prompts in the video was a reminder to sign up for nationals as well as an announcement of the next season’s event dates. The video gave us something to focus on while waiting for the show while informing us of how to take the next step with the convention. So guess what I did? I ordered a video and looked up their summer camp info. Their promotion definitely worked on me (and I was on staff!)
The on-stage announcement
Whether you do your own announcements or hire an emcee to play host at your recital, close the show by thanking the families for their participation. Enthusiasm for dance will be at an all time high immediately following the success of recital. Ride the momentum by inviting kids back to the studio in the week after recital for auditions, placements, parent-teacher conferences or registration for fall classes. And, yes, do it right from the stage as a small part of your closing comments.
The follow up thank you
Immediately after recital parents should get an email (or better yet a text) with a short, but heartfelt appreciation for their hard work and dedication. Include a link to sign up for next year’s classes or to audition for teams for upcoming season. Make it easy by writing the thank you a week ahead of time and them scheduling the delivery for an hour after the show. Don’t worry if you are not tech-savvy. There are several email or text service providers that can do this for you. All you have to do is write a few sentences from the heart and provide a link.
Promoting at recital doesn’t have to feel sales-y. Promoting what you provide for kids and informing them how they can take them next steps at a time when they are most interested in learning more is SERVICE.
Are you looking for some more recital tips and ideas? Check out these other articles and resources from Misty:
I remember it so clearly…during one of my early years of studio ownership, I was sitting at the kitchen table with my head in my hands, completely paralyzed and overwhelmed. We had just crossed into the month of April and there were SO MANY things that I still needed to do in order to get ready for our May shows.
The longer I sat there thinking about my growing list, the more I became convinced I could NEVER get it all done. That’s when my husband stepped in and did what all great husbands do when they see their wives unravelling right before their very eyes: he sent me to bed and said we would talk about in the morning. Smart man.
Morning came and with it returned my ability to see past the loose ends and make a studio owner dance recital checklist list to get things in order before the real show. And, I’ve been building and refining the list ever since.
Keep reading for 30 things you can do now to have a seamless recital experience four weeks from now.
Planning as it relates to students and families:
Schedule a photo day for groups (and individuals if necessary).
Begin rehearsals for any specialty dances such as Daddy Daughter, Opening Number, Finale or any dance involving new, or large, props.
Make a last call for rehearsal CDs or practice videos.
Make a last call for ads and corrections to the recital program book.
Place an additional order for tights, shoes and undergarments for those who outgrow or lose theirs before the show.
Distribute information regarding how families can order or receive recital videos.
Host a “Costume Construction” and “Hair and Makeup Day” where you provide assistance with alterations and where older company members can teach younger dancers how to do their hair and makeup.
Announce “In-Studio Dress Rehearsals” where students will do a full run through in costume, hair and makeup right in the studio during the last week of classes. This allows all costume questions to be addressed before heading into “Stage Dress Rehearsals” and saves valuable time on stage.
Distribute all pertinent information regarding “Stage Dress Rehearsals” including rehearsal times, costume items needed, makeup and arrival and pick up instructions.
Coordinate any extra rehearsals for classes that may behind on choreography at this point or classes that may be combined due to low enrollment.
Planning as it relates to staff and teachers:
Finalize the show order and copy edit the recital program book one more time so that the files can be sent to the printer.
Order recital t-shirts for all those who pre-ordered, plus a 20% overage for interest that will surely come up at the show.
Have a planning meeting with teachers to coordinate backstage roles and responsibilities for staff and crew.
Have a meeting to set expectations and provide training for ushers, parent volunteers and child care helpers.
Plan activities to keep kids entertained backstage such as coloring supplies, games, movies.
Establish a clear system for dancer drop off and pick up.
Make name badges for staff and order recital crew t-shirts. Communicate dress code expectations for staff regarding rehearsals and recitals.
Make signage for venue. A “Dancers: This Way –>” sign will give first time families a sense of belonging and direction as soon as they get to the theater.
Make reservations for sub sandwiches or other meal options to be delivered to the theater on heavy rehearsal nights or show days for your staff.
Assemble an emergency kit for the theater including first aid supplies and extra safety pins, bobby pins, hair spray and makeup. We also include shout wipes, a sewing machine and a steamer.
Planning as it relates to vendors, community partners and venue:
Email tech sheets to the theater including headcounts, entrance and exit information, costume descriptions, music files and lighting requirements for each number.
Finalize any music licensing or insurance certificates needed for rehearsals and recitals with the appropriate agencies.
Arrange for a local flower company to sell flowers at the show.
Arrange for delivery of recital t-shirts and program books directly to the venue.
Order any other recital swag you may be interested in selling or providing, such as recital bears, bracelets, trophies, awards or “Step and Repeat” banners for the lobby.
Get a report from TutuTix regarding your ticket sales and make a decision about what you want to do with unsold tickets. We donate a percentage of our unsold tickets to students at the Boys and Girls Club and Big Brothers, Big Sisters each year. Senior citizens also appreciate the opportunity to see a show.
Send invitations to important community leaders encouraging them to come see the big show and celebrate the accomplishments of the students.
Submit a press release to your local media outlets and community calendars.
Hire a photographer to take shots during rehearsal or recital that can be used at a later date for publicity or marketing for your studio.
Write thank yous and put together care baskets now for your those who will be helping you to put on an amazing show for kids and community.
Do you have other ideas? Please send your ideas to MistyLown@gmail.com. I would love to hear what you do at your studio! Blessings for a GREAT show!
Download a printable version of the Studio Owner Dance Recital Checklist here:
Of the many hats studio owners wear, one of the most important ones is that of a marketer for our business. In fact, if you think of all of the ways you have marketed your studio over the past year you will probably be surprised to find out just how much time is spent promoting your studio to the next generation of dancers. When I reflected on my studio’s marketing initiatives over the course of this school year I came up with a long list including: printed brochures, postcards, Facebook ads, free trial classes, free dance days, community performances, camps, workshops, master classes, birthday parties, field trips, print ads in the local parenting magazine and various community partnerships.
But if you are only marketing to the public you are missing one of the most powerful marketing tools of all: re-selling to your existing client. Various studies report that it costs anywhere between five to seven times more to attract a new client than to re-sell an existing client. And there is no greater opportunity to re-sell the value of being a part of your studio to your families than the upcoming annual studio dance recital.
Make the most of your annual studio dance recital by adding these 5 Easy WOWs to make a great day-of experience for both dancers and attendees:
Tell your story
The recital is a great opportunity to tell your story either in a welcome letter at the beginning of your recital program book or laced throughout the show announcements. For example, if one of your core values is being family-friendly, take time to highlight some of the ways a studio becomes like family. Ideas include having seniors share what it meant to them to grow up at the studio or including quotes from parents and students in your program book. If academic achievement is one of your core values, take time to highlight how your the discipline of dance is helping your students to achieve in the classroom.
Go full service
There are a lot of details that go into planning recital including rehearsal times, picture information, show details, costume instructions and hair/makeup directions. While it’s important to have all information on a master document, it’s even better to deliver JUST the necessary information so that parents, especially first time parents, don’t have to wade through hundreds of lines of information just to find the few details that apply to them. Whether you present this info digitally or a hand out, parents will appreciate this concierge approach.
Greet them at the door
Nothing says “We’re happy you are here!” like actually having someone at the front door of rehearsal and recital actually greeting families in person. At rehearsals we have a rotating team of teachers greeting students at the door and showing them where to go. At recital, our teachers move from the greeter position to the backstage and dressing posts and I take the lead on greeting families. Every year I hear from families, especially new ones, how nice it is that the studio owner is accessible. Recital is likely the only time of year you will see every parent in one weekend so this is your chance to get personal and thank them for being part of your program.
Double down on details
Over the nineteen years I’ve had my studio I have found that more parents arrive at our rehearsals and shows each year with less preparation. We do our best to combat this trend on the front side with great information, but still we will have parents show up to rehearsal without the proper tights and costumes that need attention. We’ve turned this trend into an opportunity to serve families and provide some WOW with our “Emergency Table.” The emergency table is a place where we can solve most of the common problems of rehearsal and recital. We have a sewing machine, a steamer, extra tights, shoes and makeup. If it’s broken or they haven’t bought it yet, we can fix it. Our Emergency Table has saved a lot of tears over the years.
Adopt the phrase: “Everything is figure-out-able”
Even with the best of planning you are going to run into issues once the curtain goes up, so have your team adopt the mentality that “everything is figure-out-able!” Did a child forget their shoes? No problem, we can borrow a pair from another student. Missing headpiece? No worries, we can come up with a solution. Did something major happen backstage? No need to stop the show if you can calmly switch the order of a couple of dances. Issues and challenges that happen backstage should never become the audience’s worry. Just remember, “everything is figure-out-able”!
So give these a try! Make the most of a marketing opportunity that you already have and create an even better recital day for your dance families.
Are you looking for some more recital tips and ideas? Check out these other articles and resources from Misty:
As studio owners, we know the power that the recital has on your brand. At the end of each year, this is your culminating event that will ultimately affect registrations for the upcoming seasons. The planning process should be taken very seriously, and you should get started early!
Pre-planning, organization, preparedness, and professionalism are essential elements in creating a strong, cohesive positive performance experience for students, parents, and instructors. If people love your recital, then they will love your brand! In fact, if the recital is an enjoyable experience, your clientele will eagerly anticipate the arrival of the event each year.
Looking for more ideas to take your recital and your studio to the next level? Check out these additional resources:
Recital and performance season is here! Looking for an inexpensive (and easy) dance recital organization tip? 🙂
When I was dancing, I always kept all of my belongings in a laundry basket which helped in transporting items to and fro. I encourage all of my students and backstage volunteers to follow suit- when everything is labeled and organized, this makes sorting and organization super easy!
Some things to label:
Shoes (by costume or by piece as needed)
Each individual prop or accessory for costumes (if dancers have every single piece labeled, there’s a great chance they won’t forget anything at home…)
Only two weeks left to go before the recital – can you believe it? Your dancers are probably starting to feel some nerves, not to mention the stress you’re likely feeling as you run over in your head the zillion things you have to do before showtime.
Before you drive yourself crazy running around, take a breather and look at this checklist of the things you need to do over the next two weeks.
Host a Makeup Rehearsal
Whether it’s this week or next (before the dress rehearsal) make sure you hold a makeup and hair rehearsal for your dancers, and their parents if they want to join. A beauty rehearsal is a great way for novice dancers and the parents of younger students to practice how the makeup will be applied and how their hair will be styled. This way, you save the time going over the hair and makeup at the dress rehearsal, and there’s (hopefully) few or no questions before the actual recital.
It’s not just the newbies that need a beauty rehearsal, though. According to Dance Informa, even the most experienced dancers should attend a makeup and hair rehearsal before the recital, since this helps the dancers make sure that their hair and makeup styles are uniform and coordinated with the rest of the dancers in the group.
Have Recital Programs Submitted to the Printer
Recital programs are pretty much an expectation for dance recitals, as they help inform parents and patrons about the order of dances and the general timeline for the evening. At two weeks out, you MUST have your finalized program designs submitted to your printer to make sure:
You have a timely delivery of the final product
Any emergency issues can be resolved
Collect Pre-Orders of DVDs and Other Items for Dance Recitals
If you have the resources and manpower, it can be profitable to have a table at the recital selling performance DVDs, photos and other collectible items. However, collecting pre-orders a couple weeks before the event helps maximize profits and make sure every parent or dancer who wants the extras gets them. Send out emails and social media posts reminding parents to pre-order DVDs and other souvenirs and set a deadline for orders at least a week before the recital. You can use physical forms for orders, but online forms make things easy for both you and the parents.
Give Parents Detailed Drop-off/Pick-up Instructions
Dance Exec noted that it’s important that parents have detailed logistical information for the recital ahead of time. It’s a good idea to hold a pre-dress rehearsal meeting in addition to sending a detailed letter – over email is most convenient for the parents – that describes the drop-off and pick-up process, along with any reminders about ticket and DVD sales, costumes and other important dates and times, in addition to thorough directions to the venue if the recital is not held at your studio.
Need a letter or dance recital information sheet template? We’ve made an example sheet you can download and customize in Microsoft Word for your studio’s needs below:
Have “Day Of” Plans Finalized and Supplies Prepared
Two weeks before the recital – and in the week leading up to it – reach out to your volunteers to confirm that they will be helping out. Make sure you have enough volunteers to cover all duties. If not, you have time to recruit some last-minute helpers.
For some backstage organization ideas, check out this quick video:
Along the lines of volunteers, have all of your signs and backstage planning items printed/laminated/explained/etc. If you plan to have clear signs backstage that point to “Stage,” “Lobby,” “restrooms,” or particular areas of the backstage, have them done and checked off your list.
Michelle Spezio, director of Spezio’s Dance Dynamics in Buffalo, New York, shared a great tip with Dance Studio Life. She puts together boxes of frequently forgotten and emergency items like bobby pins, lip stick, hairspray, sewing kits, nail polish remover, tape, scissors and safety pins, and then places these boxes on either side of the stage and in dressing rooms. You should still remind dancers and their parents to bring their own back-up kits, but these boxes are much-appreciated insurance.
On stage during a recital, audiences see the result of months of hard work. They watch in awe as your students dance gracefully and perfectly hit their choreography – hopefully. But what they don’t see is all the choreographed backstage management going on behind the scenes.
As any dance teacher knows, managing your dancers backstage can be rather stressful. With nervous kids – and teachers – costume mishaps and other various issues, keeping kids in line and focused can be a real headache.
Follow these tips for better backstage management at your studio’s next recital.
1. Practice Quick Costume Changes Ahead of Time
With your dancers performing multiple routines for one recital, they’ll need to be pros at quickly changing in and out of their costumes, along with any makeup or hair alterations. In reality, though, this isn’t always the case. To help them become better at changing quickly, have them practice switching costumes at the studio.
“Our students have 90 seconds between classes to change their shoes and be ready for the next class,” said Brandon Rios, artistic director of Old Dominion Performance Arts Studio in Virginia, in an interview with Dance Studio Life. “If they can get in the habit of changing quickly at the studio, they will be able to do it come performance day.”
So grab a stopwatch and time your dancers in the weeks leading up to the recital – the extra effort is worth it to save you and your dancers stress come performance time.
2. Repeat After Me: Stay in Your Designated Area!
Young kids have trouble staying put in general – add pre-performance anxiety to the mix, and you’ve got yourself some antsy dancers. Your students might also want to wander off to the audience area to chat with friends, or sneak down to the vending machine for a snack. Big no-nos. It’s important that your dancers stay put backstage. As Dance Advantage noted, you have a lot to manage and keep track of during the performance, and students wandering off means that they might miss their entrances or interrupt someone else’s, along with being a safety issue. So, pre-performance, drill into your students’ heads: stay in place!
3. Assemble a Super Team
There’s way to much going backstage for only you to be in charge, so you need to assemble a super team. Gather volunteers or other teachers and assign specific roles to them for the most seamless operation.
Carol Zee, artistic director of The Gabriella Foundation, told dance Studio Life that she assigns the following jobs: stage manager, on-deck supervisor, quick-change supervisor, stage left headset, stage right headset and dressing room monitors.
Looking for more tips on creating a great day-of recital experience? Check out these articles from guest blogger Misty Lown:
Your dancers could be able to perform their choreography perfectly in their sleep, but without volunteers, a recital just won’t be a success. There are so many moving parts involved with putting on a dance recital, from selling tickets to managing dancers backstage. The dancers, of course, are the stars of the show, but the event volunteers are the vital gears that turn to make the recital a true showstopper.
However, the combination of recruiting, organizing and handling volunteers during recital season is no easy matter. Maybe you have a hard time finding people interested in helping out, or conversely, maybe you have too many people lending a hand and don’t know how to effectively manage them all. And how do you make sure you make the experience enjoyable enough for volunteers that they’ll be eager to help out next year? Read on for some tips that will help you have success with recital volunteers this spring and beyond.
Who Makes the Best Event Volunteers?
Your first instinct might be to ask parents to work as volunteers at the recital. However, this approach can ultimately make the volunteer recruitment process more difficult for you. Parents already spend a large amount of money and time sending their students to your studio, noted studio owner Kathy Blake for DanceTeacher magazine, so it’s important to shift your idea of how parents can lend a hand.
The magazine suggested that you instead ask parents to be “parent helpers,” instead of traditional volunteers. Ask parents to help out with duties that involve helping get the kids ready for the show, since the fact that they get to watch their own children dance from the best seats in the house can be a big incentive for volunteering their time. Great jobs for parents include escorting the dancers to and from the stage or helping out with makeup and costumes.
For the rest of the volunteers that you’ll need, check in with community service organizers at local schools and community groups. Alumni of your dance studio also make great volunteers, since they already know the ins and outs of putting on a recital and are usually eager to return to the studio and see some friendly faces.
For all types of volunteers, the best recruitment approach is to spread the word that you need volunteers through multiple channels. Create an online form that parents and other individuals can fill out that includes what tasks they would be interested in doing, what hours they would be available and their contact information. Link to this form on your studio’s website, and send it to parents, alumni and other people who you think may be interested via email.
Also, be sure to take advantage of social media to spread the word that you are looking for volunteers for the upcoming recital. Create posts about how you’re looking for volunteers and encourage your followers to share them, recommended VolunteerSpot. And, as the recital approaches, make sure you send out reminders via email or even mobile to volunteers about their commitments.
Emphasize the Benefits
Recital season is incredibly stressful, but don’t forget that parents, friends and alumni are all dealing with their own busy lives. To successfully recruit – and retain – volunteers, it’s important to keep a positive, upbeat attitude. It makes the experience better for everyone! Begging for volunteers or saying negative statements like volunteering “isn’t really that bad” or that “it’s hard to get help” sends out bad vibes and may turn off some individuals from helping out, noted PTO Today.
Instead, make sure you emphasize the benefits of volunteering to help with the recital, like the fact that parents can have a larger role in the action and can watch their kids and that you’re all working together to help the hard-working dancers shine in the spotlight.
Recognize Your Event Volunteers
In addition to highlighting the positive aspects of volunteering, providing perks for helping out goes a long way. Blake suggested that studio owners give volunteers a small gift like a 10 percent discount off purchases in the dance shop or a free ticket to the recital. You could also offer discounts on photos or flowers, or gift cards to local restaurants, cafes or day spas. During the recital, make sure you have snacks, water and coffee available for volunteers and check in with them throughout the event.
And above all, make sure you thank them. Your event volunteers are doing you a huge favor by helping run your recital, so make sure you acknowledge that you appreciate their time and effort. After your dancers are done performing, you could call up the volunteers onto the stage to thank them, or consider sending out handwritten thank you cards as soon as possible after the event.
Taking the time to thank volunteers reinforces strong relationships and makes them feel more inclined to help out again at next year’s recital and other studio events.
As a studio owner, I have three lists running in my brain at all times. I’m always asking myself the following three questions:
What needs to be done today?
What needs to be done in the next 2-6 months?
What can I make for dinner without going to the store?
(Not kidding on that last one. Anyone whose business is open almost exclusively nights and weekends is sure to have some challenges in the getting-dinner-on-the-table department!)
But, back to practical things. It’s the second week of March, so while our bodies are busy distributing recital costumes and getting ready for competition, our minds are on RECITAL. And, a great show from the audience perspective is dependent on having an awesome act backstage.
Are you gearing up for recital? Keep reading for 5 Backstage Management Tools to make your backstage flow smoothly this year for all ages!
Entertainment reigns supreme for little ones.
At our recital, we run different types of activities to keep little kids entertained backstage. First are the quiet hands-on activities such as drawing, reading and making crafts. When the attention for crafting wanes, we watch a bit of a movie. Nothing lasts more than 20 minutes, so we rotate activities often.
Manage quick changes for really little ones by using “shape cards.”
It was a real “a-ha” moment for me as a teacher when I realized that the reason our little kids couldn’t keep track of their things backstage was because they couldn’t read yet. Now we line up their shoes, accessories and costume changes on easy to identify “shape cards.” Three- and four-year-olds may not be able to read name labels, but they won’t forget their items are on the card shaped like a sunshine! Other shapes include rainbows, stars, clouds, animals and more. Get creative. Kids love picking out their “shape cards!”
Have a backstage “show.”
Our younger dancers wait for their turn in the show in a large room just off the true backstage area. We take advantage of the generous space by having older girls practice their dances in front of the little ones backstage before they hit the big stage. This serves two purposes: First of all, you don’t want the first time that your older students run their choreography that day to be on the stage. The backstage “show” takes care of this. Second, the little kids don’t ever really get a sense of how amazing it is to be in your studio’s production if they only see the stage for a few minutes during the entire show. Sharing dances helps the little ones see a mini-version of recital and increases their understanding of the bigger picture.
Have a code word, hand signal or rhythm clap for getting attention.
All of our students know that when they hear the iconic “clap, clap, clap clap clap,” it’s time to listen. The students repeat the clap pattern in a call-and-response fashion followed by silence. If your waiting area is too close to the stage for rhythm claps, consider having a hand signal for silence. We use the “quiet fox,” which is a hand signal where the third and fourth finger touch the thumb and the pinky and pointer go up for the fox’s ears. If a teacher puts up her fox, it’s a race to see how quickly the kids can put up their foxes as well. The “quiet fox” was intended for little ones, but I think the older ones get more of a kick out of it than the little ones do.
Keep performers moving “stations and checkpoints.”
Another go-to that we use backstage with all age groups is “stations and checkpoints.” Students stay in their dressing room until called by the stage manager. From that point they go to a costume checking station where everyone is checked for accessories, correct shoes, clean tights and tidy hairstyles. If anything needs attention it is taken care of before hitting the true backstage area. Next, they are “in the hole,” which is the area just outside the backstage followed by “on deck,” which is true backstage or side stage. And then, it’s time to dance on stage! The whole process is both very orderly and anticipation-building for the dancers.
Do you have a great tool for backstage management? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
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.
You know just how much work is required before, during and after a seasonal recital. It’s certainly more than your two hands (and the hands of your instructors) can handle! If you’re thinking about asking for volunteers to help out at your next big performance, it’s a good idea – if you do it right! Use these ideas for dance recitals to choose the best people for the job, ensure everything goes smoothly and make it enjoyable for everyone.
The Best Helpers
Your first thought will be to ask parents to help, and while they will probably be happy to volunteer, Dance Studio Life suggested you only use parents as a last resort. The parents paid you to teach their children, so if possible, let them enjoy the performance in all its glory. Instead of parents, ask studio alumni to help. Former students can run the front-of-house and backstage operations while your instructors take care of the dancers. Offering to organize an alumni dance will often be all the incentive your alumni need!
You know best what you need extra help with on performance days, but don’t forget the little things. Use volunteers in the following roles:
Bringing classes to and from the stage
Depending on how many volunteers you have, some helpers may need to take on multiple roles. Make sure you have a list of assignments ready to go on the performance date. Assigning tasks is much easier than letting people choose and having a list will ensure everyone knows where to be.
If you do have parent volunteers, make sure they get a job near their children. Dance Advantage suggested having moms coordinate fun and quiet activities to play with kids backstage or adjust costumes and jewelry. This ensures they’ll get quality time with their little dancers and can watch the show from behind the scenes.
Communication Best Practices
It may take a few years to get your communication practices to flow smoothly, but in the meantime, communicate with your volunteers as much as possible. Dance Studio Life recommended you send out a detailed letter to each individual a few weeks before the show. Lay out the date and time of the recital, where they will be stationed, what their responsibilities will be and how they can contact you. Encourage volunteers to ask any questions beforehand. A few days before the show, reach out via phone or email to make sure everyone is still on board. This way you won’t be caught off guard if someone has a last-minute commitment.
Thanking Your Volunteers
If you want your volunteers to come back next season, ensure they have a good time and know how much you appreciate their help. There are a number of different method you can use, depending on your budget. If you have some money to spare, you can throw a pizza party for everyone or provide some desserts for after the show. Another fun idea from Non-Profit 2.0 is to give each helper a personalized thank you letter and a T-shirt from your studio. It’s a small token of your appreciation that will serve as a reminder of their experience and hopefully encourage them to stay involved. Finally, you can create a volunteer board in your studio with pictures from the show or post an photo album to social media with a public word of thanks.