An article has gone around the internet with some funny, sarcastic tips on how to make dance recitals “suck less”. In my honest opinion, the whole recital experience can be painful, drawn out and excruciating, it’s true. But instead of focusing on the things that annoy us about recital night, I would challenge my readers to commit to making the overall experience of the evening a much pleasanter one. Isn’t that part of our job as teachers and studio owners, after all?
1. Use the Right Music
There are songs that teachers use on their students that make me want to pull my own hair out. The song choice is sometimes very bizarre, and it doesn’t always benefit the dancers. Music that is simple, easy to count and lovely to hear is best for the students as well as the listeners. However, the music chosen should not be to make a certain age group feel “entertained”, and we should not choose music just to please the audience. The students, their developmental needs and the appropriateness of the song with the movement should come first.
2. [Please] Make the Recital Shorter
This is always such a big one. Parents can get miserably bored after eight pre-ballet recital dances in a row. The structure of the show is up to the teachers and/or studio owners. You have a variety of classes, levels and dance styles. WE are the ones who need to make it interesting.
Sometimes this means that all of the pre-ballet students perform together in the first half of one of your shows. They could work together and do a “mini ballet” that follows a story. Another solution would just be to break up the styles of dance and age groups so that the variety keeps the audience attentive and interested. Then, of course, there’s the simple solution of splitting your classes up into two or even three shows so that you’re not trying to squeeze all of your classes into one, 3 1/2 – 4 hour show. That’s a little much.
3. Set Up a Good Solution for Parents of Young Children.
Perhaps there is an announcement made or a blurb on the program that, if your child becomes restless, to please leave between numbers. This way, the dancers are not distracted and the parents can enjoy the entirety of their child’s piece without having to stand or move their legs aside for a parent trying to escape with their fussing infant. This being said, remember children will be children; we must be willing to allow a little grace for the families of young ones.
4. Keep the Dressing Rooms Private
One year, early in my teaching career, I had a student who was very nervous to go on stage. She was a very sensitive little 4 year-old, and she expressed multiple times in class her uneasiness about getting on that stage. The dress rehearsal was very difficult. She froze and broke down in tears. My mistake, on the recital night, was allowing her mother to stay with her. I thought that, perhaps her mother would help her muster up the courage she needed to perform. The child clung to her mother when her group was called and she never performed. She was in her costume, hair and makeup done, and she watched her very first recital from the wings. I felt awful.
I learned from that story that keeping parents out of the dressing rooms once the children are changed and settled is a must for good performances. The less involvement they have, the more responsibility the children assume, and the less likely they will be to chicken out at the last moment. There are great adults in place watching the children backstage and the process should be streamlined so that the students always have someone helping them and telling them where to go.
5. No Pictures or Recording During Shows
This should be a no-brainer, but it’s not. Back in the days of video camera recording, it was understood that there was a professional team creating video of the performance and that the parents could order their copy from them. People (generally) followed this rule. Now, we all have smart phones. Smart phones take pictures and video very easily, BUT the illuminated screens are a huge distraction to the people around you. Let’s be courteous and just not pull them out at all.
6. Have a Dress Rehearsal
Another one that I consider to be a no-brainer. Especially for the young ones, a dress rehearsal is a huge help. They understand little to nothing about being on a stage. The ones who are just learning how to communicate with others are not going to perform well on their first try out on the stage. If you want them to have a good experience and perform to the best of their ability, you need to give them a dress rehearsal, if at all possible. Full costume, lights, music, and so on.
7. Keep the Families AND Teachers Well-Informed
A few studios I’ve worked at have shown me that there is EITHER really good communication with teachers and NOT parents or the other way around. Rarely is there both. Communication needs to be prioritized in the planning of a recital. There are just too many details that can cause problems. Also, think about the teachers who are in their first year teaching, or the families who are doing their first recital with your school. They haven’t been through the process your way. Thorough explanation (both verbally and in writing) of the procedures should be number one in the months leading up to the show. There will still be those parents who call on the day of the dress rehearsal and have questions. Be ready.
8. Have Shorter Intermissions
Usually, 15-20 minutes is a pretty safe amount of time. Anything beyond that can cause the show to drag on even later into the evening. Remember, with people using the restroom, picking up students from the dressing rooms and getting back to their seats, what may be announced as a 20-minute intermission can turn into more like 30 minutes. Keep it as short as humanly possible.
9. Make it a Social Experience
This one is more directed at parents than teachers. When I was growing up, I loved the idea of the recital being a social event. The most important people in my life were going to come and watch my school’s recital and then head out for ice cream afterward. The culture that existed in my dance school was so tight-knit, it was just expected that everyone would be gathering together to celebrate afterward. It’s a way to include the younger siblings (who sit through the whole thing), celebrate the students’ victory and bond as a community.
10. Protect Your Students by Choosing Modest Costumes
This particular subject is very near and dear to my heart since my little girl is three years old and performing in her very first ballet recital tonight. Sweet little faces need very little makeup. Lipstick and blush is plenty. Costumes need to be modest, and that’s all there is to it. There is already enough exploitation of little girls in this world. Let’s not add to it by baring their midriffs and caking makeup and artificial lashes on our sweet little 4 year-olds. This is just a personal preference of mine, and I will do all in my power to protect their innocence and modesty as long as I’m their teacher.
Merde to all the dancers performing in recitals these next few weeks! May we all be strong, devoted supporters of the students in our classes throughout this recital season.
- No-Stress Performance Prep
- Choreographic Advice for Teachers
- Six Choreographic Guidelines for Threes
- Quality in Performing