The choreography is prepared, your technique is strong, and you have been rehearsing in preparation for your upcoming performance/competition. Go through this checklist and make sure you are applying the following ways to improve your dance routine(s).
Dance Routine Checklist
Perform! Have a backstory, and use your movement to convey a story.
Let your energy flow all the waythrough your fingers and toes. Don’t let your energy stop at your wrists or ankles.
Connect your transitions. Keep the “in-between” moments fluid and purposeful, as you transition from one important sequence to another.
Stretch, and elongate your lines to their fullest. Relax the shoulders, and don’t let yourself get tense!
Let your timing and musicality be second nature. Play your music on repeat until you know it by heart.
Keep the eyes up! Recognize when you have opportunities to connect with the audience, and use them to enhance your performance.
Strengthen your arms. Let them have as much purpose as your feet!
Confidently execute the movement. Know your weak sections and adjust/rehearse until they are no longer weak.
Perfect your turn preparation, execution, and landing.
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.
Dancing is both an incredible art and a very physically demanding sport. Competitive dancers work hard during their classes to perfect their routines and often dedicate much of their free time outside of classes to their fitness regimes. This level of commitment may be harder to maintain in the off-season, especially without the strict scheduling that regular dance classes provide.
Keeping dancer fitness levels up during the off season is essential for dancers who want to be able to pick right up where they left off when they return to their lessons in the fall. Creating a healthy and challenging exercise program during the off-season is a surefire way to maintain the strength, balance and flexibility you worked so hard to build in your classes.
The Importance of Cross Training
One of the most beneficial things any athlete can do for himself or herself is take part in a cross training program. While practicing moves and routines that are specific to dance are great for muscle memory, it can leave some areas of the body under worked. According to The Dance Journal, the point of cross training is to add to a fitness level without causing overexertion. It can create a more rounded, total body fitness that helps to prevent injuries.
There are many ways to cross train, with each offering its own benefit to your fitness regime. Aerobic exercises like running or spinning can improve endurance and lung capacity. Weight training can help you pinpoint specific muscle groups that you want to target, like creating more dynamic leg muscles or strengthening your core.
Whatever your goals for the off season are, it’s important to take your cross training slowly and to make sure you’re doing exercises correctly. Trying to do too much to too soon can lead to easily preventable injuries. Be sure to also take rest days and to mix up your workout routines. Doing the same exercises every day will cause you to eventually reach a plateau where you stop making progress and just increase your risks of getting hurt instead.
Attend Other Fitness Classes
If you prefer the structure of having classes to go to each week, consider joining a gym that offers fitness programs. Classes that focus on strength and flexibility, like yoga or pilates, are great for building the muscles and increasing the range of motion that you need for dancing, according to Marie Claire. Having a schedule can help keep you accountable during the offseason so you’re less likely to skip workouts.
The summer season can be a good time to experiment with different workout programs. Find something that you enjoy and that gives you the results you’re looking for. Attend classes that are fun and make you excited to be there.
Talk to Your Dance Teacher
Planning a dancer fitness program by yourself can be a tough task, especially when most of your dance technique experience comes from the classroom and not the gym. Ask your teacher for specific exercises or workouts to be doing during the off-season, so you have some professional guidance on how to keep your form up. Depending on your studio’s summer plans, you may even be able to get into the classroom a few times over the summer for some dedicated work.
Taking Care of Your Body
Exercise is important to dancer fitness but it isn’t the only element. Be sure you’re still taking care of your overall health, like eating healthy, balanced meals and drinking plenty of water. Remember that your body needs calories for energy. Try to avoid doing heavy workouts if you haven’t had a substantial meal yet, and stay hydrated during hot summer days.
Sleep is also critical for staying in shape. Your body makes repairs and rejuvenates itself when you’re getting some shut-eye. Make sure you don’t skimp on the rest so you can feel and perform at your best.
If you have any concerns about your summer dancer fitness plans, be sure to talk to your instructors or a doctor. Focus on your safety so that you’re ready to come back to dancing again in the fall.
Dancers work hard to train their bodies for their craft. It’s a physically demanding sport that requires extensive practice, dedicated training and muscle memory formation. While these athletes take every precaution they can to stay safe, no physical activity comes without the potential for injury. Read more to find out how to come back to the studio safely after a dance injury.
Recognize When You’re Hurt
A problem for athletes of any discipline is the “walk it off mentality” that tells the injured they need to ignore their pain and just keep going. While tenacity is an admirable trait for dancers to have, ignoring the warnings that your body is sending you can lead to bigger problems.
Too many times dancers will try to push through an initial dance injury because they don’t want to miss out on any practice time. But, then they increase damage to where it becomes physically impossible to continue. They end up making injuries worse and spend more time sitting out than if they had just taken the break they needed in the first place.
It’s hard to say no to something you love, but dancers who want to have a long career in the art need to know when they’ve had enough. When an ankle rolls the wrong way and becomes painful to put pressure on or you feel a sharp pull in your back while you’re twisting, you need to take a step back and examine what’s going on with your body. An injured dancer should remove herself from activity as soon as she notices the pain.
While it’s normal to feel sore when you’re pushing yourself through a rigorous workout, there are a few signs that the discomfort you’re feeling is a sign of significant injury. The International Fitness and Physique Association has listed several signs that athletes should look out for when they’re assessing a potential injury:
Sudden pains in muscles or any kind of pain in the joints.
A sore area that is tender to the touch.
Decreased range of motion.
Greater weakness on one side of the body than the other.
Numbness or tingling.
If you start to experience any of these sensations while you’re dancing, you should take a moment to stop and regroup before trying to continue with your practice.
Properly Treating a Dance Injury
While you may be able to treat some minor damages with rest, ice, or over-the-counter medications, some injuries will need professional help in order to heal properly. If the pain is unbearable or doesn’t subside after a day or two then you’ll need to check in with a doctor.
If you feel a pop in your knee and are then unable to bend it, for example, you’ll want to head straight to the emergency room to ensure your didn’t tear a ligament. However, mild swelling and full control of the joint may just need a day of rest and some ibuprofen.
It’s important to respond to an injury in a correct and timely manner to ensure it will heal correctly. Knowing when to apply cold or heat to an injury is vital, and don’t avoid going to the doctor because you’re afraid of being told something you don’t want to hear.
Follow whatever instructions your medical team provides to you and don’t try to take any shortcuts on your road to recovery. If your physician tells you to wait three weeks before dancing again but you feel better after two, you should check in and get an official clearance before heading back to class.
If you have a serious dance injury that will take a long time to heal or you need a referral for a specialist, try to find a doctor who focuses on treating athletes, preferably one who knows about dance. It’s important to work with medical providers who understand your goals and the kind of stress you’ll be putting on your body when you’re fit enough to dance again.
Making Your Return to Dance
You’ll need to be patient with your recovery. Rushing back too soon or jumping right back in to your former activity level could just lead to a reinjury and more total down time. Once you’re cleared to go back to dancing you need to start off small and build your way back up.
Podiatry Today reported that athletes should begin with active rest – that is, resuming some level of moderate, low-impact activity before resuming their normal routine. Just because you have an ankle injury doesn’t mean you can’t still do upper body weight training, for example.
Your return to dance should be a slow build up. Start with simple moves and endurance exercises that restore your muscles before trying complicated steps. If anything feels wrong you should take a break for a few minutes and reassess. There’s nothing wrong with only completing half of your first class back if you think you’ve had enough for one day.
Don’t just examine how your former dance injury feels, either. If your overall activity level decreased while you were resting your injury, there’s a strong chance that other muscles groups lost some of their strength as well.
It’s common for athletes to pull different muscles when they start activity again because they didn’t recognize how much their downtime impacted their body. Pay attention to your whole body and be aware of anything that doesn’t feel right.
Dancing safely is all about listening to your body and training properly. Be sure your following safe workout habits and taking time off when you need to so you can give yourself a long and successful dance career.