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How To...

How to Calm Recital Jitters

For many children, especially those about to experience their first dance recital, nerves and jitters on the big day can be difficult to overcome. Some nervousness is actually a good thing. Adrenaline pumping before taking a step onto the stage can keep a dancer’s energy up throughout the performance. However, being too nervous can make it difficult for dance students to cope. It is important to talk to dance students about what to expect, before they venture to the performance space, to help them adjust to their first stage experience.

All About Dance Recital Jitters

Trying on the Costume
Usually, about a month before the show, a dance student will receive their costume at the studio. Some studios may send the costumes home for the students to try on, but most will try them on with their class to make sure everything fits correctly and no alterations are needed. Once at home, the costume should stay on the hanger, in a garment bag, to keep everything together for the show. It is a good idea, though, to have the dancer put the costume on at home, in a comfortable environment, with the parent. This helps him or her to feel more at ease in the costume, especially hearing how great it looks from mom or dad.

Explain why dancers wear costumes and make-up on stage, and how much fun it will be to wear this very special outfit on their very special day. This is also a good chance to see if anything needs to be sewn or pinned for the performance, and what accessories are needed.

Makeup and Hair Preparation
Most studios will prescribe a certain “look” for the recital, which includes hairstyles and appropriate stage makeup for girls and some form of makeup for boys. Nervous students may find some comfort in doing a dry run of their hair and makeup before the dress rehearsal day.

Sometimes, studios will hold a picture day where a professional photographer comes in to take pictures of the students in their costumes. This is a good thing for first-time students to participate in, since they can see the rest of their classmates in the same costume, hair and makeup. This also allows one more chance for the students to be dressed up in a comfortable setting before the day of the show.

Talking Students through Nervous Times
Each student will probably receive a recital handbook or guide with details on rehearsal times, dress requirements, dressing room numbers, and much more. This is a lot of information to take in, but it is a good idea for a parent or guardian to review everything with a dancer who may be getting nervous a few weeks before the show.

Knowing where they need to be, and at what time, will soothe the students who are afraid of the unknown. If the studio doesn’t have a chance to have a rehearsal at the performance venue, it is a good idea to arrive early to make students familiar with the building, entrances and exits, dressing rooms, and where they can meet back up with you after they are done dancing.

No matter what, a small amount of nerves, anticipation and excitement are normal and necessary for dance students. For dance parents or guardians, teachers and studio owners, it is important to build up these rituals of rehearsal, dry runs, and preparation so that students can feel more at ease.

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About Terry

Terry Finch is a dance teacher and choreographer with an extensive training and teaching background that spans 26 years. Terry has held a variety of teaching positions, from assisting instructors at her dance studio, to teaching at summer performing arts camp, and leading college level master classes. She is currently in her fourth year as a dance teacher at a studio in central Pennsylvania.

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