Preparing for Recital

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Believe it or not, the time is fast approaching for teachers to begin thinking about what they’d like their classes to do in their year-end performance. Don’t believe me? Just ask any director of any school anywhere and they’re probably going to tell you that “the sooner the better” is their sacred motto.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea; I’m not usually one of those teachers who turns everything in a month before the deadline and has everything categorized in her email inbox. No, no, no. That is not me. Well, at least not until this year.

Here are some tips that have helped me stay on top of this year’s recital season:

1. Make a Spreadsheet

This is a screenshot of my recital season spreadsheet:

Spreadsheet for Recital

Along the lefthand side, you have each day that you teach. Allow for as many rows as you have classes on that day (e.g., on Mondays, I teach three classes, so there are three rows for that day). I also put the age in the spreadsheet because sometimes we need a reminder of how old the kids are that we are choosing costumes for. You may find a good costume but then say, “Oh, no, this is for a three year-old. She’ll look too old in this costume.” Or, you could just put the level or class name/number.

Sometimes I pick the costume based on the music, so I have a column to remind myself what song I’ll be using. Then, once I’ve chosen, I have a column for the name of the costume, and then a separate column to designate company, style number, and page number in the catalog. I do all of my costume shopping online, but those things are listed with each costume . . . most of the time.

Last year, I had some difficulty with some of the parents in regard to the colors of tights. To avoid any confusion, always write down the color of shoes and tights that you prefer for each costume. Writing it down on a form and then just turning it in to the office can sometimes create this “I don’t know, just ask the office” impression to the parents, so make a note of it for yourself so you can answer questions when they arise. You can also create a column for hairstyles or optional hairpieces. This is also something that parents ask about, so be sure to make a note for yourself.

Note: if you’re only a part-time teacher with one to three classes a week, this one doesn’t really pertain to you. Hopefully, you can do just as well by writing everything down on a Post-it and sticking it in your teaching binder.

2. Choose Simple Music

For young ones especially, you want a nice, calm, simple song with as few instruments as possible. Young minds can’t handle loud, strong, multi-instrument tracks, so make it easier on them and on you by choosing a song that they can follow and count along with. Piano music works best. I’ve even gone to some of my ballet class albums and chosen songs from there. It may not be the most exciting thing for you, but it will help them shine and be much more capable on the day they need to perform.

3. Let’s Not Get Too Flashy

I may get some differing opinions here, but here are my two cents on the sequins, glitter, feathers, and hats: let’s just not. Given, pretty much every catalog has about 400 glittery costumes and only five without any embellishments. I’m not trying to say that you should choose something that’s dull, forgettable, and plain. That wouldn’t allow them to feel pretty, and feeling pretty is part of being a beautiful ballerina.

What I am saying is that there are plenty of ways to get around the flashiness. There are costumes that don’t have as many sequins, or ones that have glitter only on certain areas. Let’s not distract from the fact that these lovely young dancers have worked hard this year and they want you to see them, not just their pretty dresses. As long as we keep that in mind, I think we can all do better at making good choices in the area of costumes. (Also see #10 in “10 Ways to Make the Most of Recital Night”)

4. Choreograph Early

If you’re trying to handle more than a dozen classes each week like me, recital choreography can seem like the hardest task you have to face. Just remember that this is only part of what they need to learn. Class time is still important, and we should strive to get through as much of the curriculum as we can each year.

That being said, we need to allow for recital preparation; just don’t give away whole classes to it because you didn’t prepare ahead of time. I’ve made it my goal to have all my recital choreography done by the end of winter break this year. That way, I can teach them as soon as I feel it’s time and not work on more than 16 counts or so for each class. The longer they know it, the better they’ll know it. Plan ahead and give them the best recital experience you can provide.

Recital season is a big deal. For parents, students, teachers, office staff, directors, and the school as a whole, it’s the biggest buzz of the year. A little extra time and planning on the teacher’s part can take away so much of the stress of that season. Invest that time. It will be worth it.

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