How To Prepare For A Dance Performance, Class Showing Or Exam

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All that hard work! Now it is finally time to get on stage and show the audience or examiner what you have been up to in the classroom.

Performances, class showings and exams can be nerve-wracking, particularly for small children. However, they bring together everything they have learned and can help build confidence and stage skills. Plus it is an opportunity to have a new experience with their friends.

Here is what a dancer needs to be confident when the curtain lifts:

Plenty of practice

In the leadup to a performance, class showing or exam, it is essential to attend as many classes as possible. As the saying goes ‘proper preparation improves performance’ (and builds confidence). Going over the dance movements or routines repeatedly will improve technique and also create ‘muscle memory’, which allows your body to remember the next move on autopilot, allowing you to confidently focus on performing for the audience .

Attending every class and rehearsal is particularly important for a group performance, class showing or an exam. Teamwork is a big part of dance and having someone missing during the final rehearsals or classes can affect everyone, especially the group patterns and formations. This is also when all the final polishing and positioning is tweaked, so missing this important time can affect everyone’s confidence and performance.

A clean costume and shoes, in good condition

Pulling a costume out of storage or from a dance bag the night before a show or presentation, can be a recipe for disaster. There may be a stain, small tear or stitching coming undone or the elastic could have stretched to the point of no return.

Dirty marks, busted zips, rips and holes spell drama on performance day. Make sure your costume is clean, repaired and ready at least a week before going onstage or into a presentation or exam. And don’t forget to try it on to make sure it fits.

Plus check your shoes are prepared and clean as well. New shoes purchased in a hurry are not a good idea and can be disastrous for the performer, if they haven’t worn them before. They should also be prepared, worn in a little and ready at least a week or two, beforehand.

Hair and makeup essentials

Every dancer needs a kit with plenty of spares for a performance, class showings or exams. Include the following:

  • Hair nets
  • Hair pins
  • Hair spray
  • Eyeshadow 
  • Blush
  • Lipstick & Lip gloss
  • Tissues

Older students may also require

  • Foundation 
  • Mascara
  • Eye liner
  • Lip liner
  • Eyebrow pencil
  • Face powder
  • Hair gel (if the choreographer requires it)
  • Makeup remover
  • Cotton pads
Emergency kit

Unfortunately, things have a habit of going wrong on the day of the performance. Plan ahead so you will have all the following:

  • Needle and thread
  • Safety pins
  • Spare shoe ribbons (for pointe shoes)
  • Spare shoes (you never know)
  • Spare tights (in case you get a ladder in yours before you go onstage)
  • Shoe polish (if needed)
  • Band-aids
  • Headache tablets
  • Nail scissors
  • Lambswool (for wrapping sore toes)
  • Leave jewellery & valuables at home
Food and entertainment

Exams, class showings and performances can mean long sessions or days. Dancers should come prepared with healthy snacks including fruit, yoghurt, sandwiches and muesli bars as there is often nowhere to buy lunch nearby. Fill two water bottles so there is extra if needed. Avoid sugary foods which can give a rush of energy but leave dancers feeling tired right before they are due onstage and oily food that could leave stains, on costumes.

A book, magazine or a deck of cards can pass the time between appearances on stage and prevent younger children from getting too restless. An iPad or other device will need headphones to prevent the sound from carrying to the stage.

Packing list

A few days before the performance, write a list of the things you will need. Include your costume, accessories, shoes and props, plus your makeup and hair kit, emergency kit, food and entertainment. You may also need to bring your own music. Tick everything off before you get in the car and double check nothing has been left in the garage or on the kitchen counter.

On the day

Plan to leave early so you are not rushing or panicking about arriving on time. Make sure you know where the venue is so you don’t get lost.

Label everything – the dressing room will be a flurry of activity and it is easy for things to become lost or end up in the wrong bag. Encourage children not to lend or borrow where possible as this leads to even more confusion.

Remember to smile!

Performances, class showings and exams are meant to be the highlight of learning to dance but they can sometimes be overwhelming. The most important thing is to smile and try to have fun. It is ok to feel nervous beforehand but this will melt away as soon as you get on stage if you are well-prepared.

Ready to give dance a try?

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