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Ballet Talk for Dancers

First performance as adult?


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For those who enjoy performing - what are your memories of your first performances as an adult dancer?


I find myself staring at the Nutcracker rehearsal schedule and feeling panic, even though the show is two months off and I'm only in the party scene. Exciting, but also nerve-wracking.

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I did party scene eons ago and was fine with that, even while I nearly was strangled by an overlong flybar (caught my cape and started to lift me up by the neck as I was just going on stage!).


The last two recitals, however, were full of panic-attack situations for me - so much so that I won't do another one. At least, I won't do one at the place I was at. It's not that it was run badly - it wasn't, but I just didn't feel confident.

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Tarthulhu if you really trust your teacher go for it!


We did our own interpretation of Cinderella a couple of years ago and the adults took on the roles of the ladies of the court etc. Yes there are always the nerves and the butterflies but it was good fun too. I was asked to dance a solo role as well which I declined at the time, but thinking back a big part of me regrets it; similarly one of my friends declined to participate at all and she really regretted it.

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Thanks to both of you for the stories! I can totally see myself getting a costume caught on something right before going on.


My teachers are wonderful - it's more that I'm surprised by how nervous this makes me. My job involves a lot of public speaking, interaction, etc. and I'm used to it, but dancing is another kettle of fish :shrug:

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Trust your teachers to prepare you properly. It is also true that having some knowledge of stagecraft will be helpful so that you can avoid those scenery entanglements.


Let me start by having you find out if you will be performing in a Union house, because the expectations are different for union and non-union houses.

1. In a union house, a performer may never touch: wardrobe/hair or wigs/props that do not belong to their "character". This means if a fellow performer is struggling with a costume backstage you must find a "dresser" to help her. The only exception to this rule is when you are on stage doing the show, and the problem must be taken care of right then. So if a gem pops off a costume and is endangering the dancers, do pick it up gracefully & in character, and deposit it to a stagehand or dresser when you exit.


2. You may and you should look for your own props and be sure your wardrobe is pre-set either in your dressing room or backstage, wherever it is designated to be. There will be a prop table both backstage Right & Left, and the appropriate props will be set there by a stagehand, but it is still your responsibility to make sure your props have been preset prior to every show & every act.


3. Always stay out of sightlines.


4. Look up, look down, look around, and if anyone shouts "Heads Up", look up and quickly move out of the way of whatever it is.


5. Do not lean on or touch any scenery, lighting, and especially, lighting booms. Also do not stand in front of the boom in the wing as it will cast a shadow on the stage that is distracting for the audience.


6. Check out the crossover. It will have a long row of lights pointing up at the back of the scrim/backdrop. Do not ever place any part of your body in between those lights and the backdop, because it will clearly define you to the audience.


7. All stagehands will have flashlights if needed. The floor will also be marked with gaffers tape so that performers can see backstage in the dark. If you see a red X in tape on the floor in a wing, look up above it. You should see some heavy piece of scenery that will be "flown" in at some point during the show, so do not stand there at any time!


8. Be sure the speakers work in your dressing room so you hear the calls. The stage manager will call "1/2 hour", "15 minutes", "5 minutes", and "Places". Be sure you are in your place on stage, whether it be in the wing awaiting your entrance, or on stage in pose when they call "Places".


9. "Quiet on the set"


10. Stay in character well into the wings so that you help keep the magic alive for the audience.


11. Tech week will likely involve alot of "Hurry-up-&-wait". This means that you may do much standing around on stage while stagehands adjust lighting/sound/scenery to ensure everything will go smoothly. You will not have a full out rehearsal during this time period because it is for the crew- not the dancers. Dancers will get their turn during "Full Dress", which means a full production rehearsal with minimal stopping, in costume/wigs/make-up and full props/lights/sound.


12. Be cognizant in the wings. If you have a full long dress, hold it into your body so it does not catch on things, and so that people do not step on it.


Lastly, your teachers will ensure that you have enough rehearsal time to get everything to muscle-memory. This means that while you will likely have some butterflies just before the big show, that is normal and the show will be the most fun you've ever been allowed to have!!!

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Easy answer for me. My first and only (so far) ballet performance came as an adult at a studio recital back in June. I loved it.


Although, I had a little bit of help. I sang in church and sang and danced in high school with show choir and color guard all my life. Being in front of an audience is old hat.


At the ballet recital, I of course had butterflies. But it was so odd as I stepped onto the stage and started the piece...a few bars of music in and I relaxed, a big smile popped up, and I danced it without error.

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Thank you, Clara 76, your advice was helpful and calmed the butterflies a little :grinning: I think it's a union house, but will need to confirm. If it's non-union, what are the other differences?


Temptress Too - lovely story! In high school and college, eons ago, I played flute in a woodwind chamber group, but most of my memories are of trying to keep a straight face while my father sat in the audience pretending to suck on a lemon as a prank -- if any of you play the flute, that's a wonderful way to mess up someone's performance.

Edited by Tarthulhu
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In a non-union house, there will likely be less rules and more hands-on from the performers. The union rules were originally set in place to protect the performers and to clearly set job expectations so that there were less accidents with performers getting in the way of stage hands and vice-versa.


Luckily in a big house, you will not see the audience, and since you should be projecting upwards anyway, you wouldn't see them if they were sucking lemons!!!

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  • 2 weeks later...

First rehearsal tomorrow! Should be interesting to see how character shoes feel - all that time we spend practicing in flat shoes, and now there's a 1.5" inch heel :)

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  • 1 month later...

Nutcracker has come and gone, and I'm very sad it's over. What a great time.


For those of you interested in Nutcracker mishaps.... we had our share. My costume /did/ catch on something - the back of the costume of the dancer in front of me. We walked onstage one pair at a time, and as he went forward.... so did my skirt :blink: Cue hasty motions to release skirt without ripping lace. We never did figure out what it had caught on.


Later, during that same show, the Snow King pirouetted offstage and collided with a set of lights (he was fine). The lights spun a 180, leaving part of the stage dark. Two snowflakes forgot their cues and were MIA for half their dance. One of the Russian dancers entered late, remaining five beats behind the other two. Then the Sugarplum Fairy and Cavalier decided lifts weren't working for them that night.


The next to last show, one of the men in the party scene forgot to come back onstage for our 'big' dance :) He had wandered off to the dressing rooms to change. His partner, a quick-thinking woman, grabbed one of the maids and tossed her into the mix, and the poor girl had never done the dance before and ended up going to wrong way, which started a chain reaction of wrong-way interweaving among the couples.


Snow also started falling at random intervals during Act I.


Oy. Still, the other three shows went relatively smoothly and it sounded like the audiences had a wonderful experience. I can't wait for next year.

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My memories are that by the time of the performance, I couldn't wait for it to be over because I was so sick of rehearsing my utterly exhausting piece lol. I wasn't nervous in the days leading up to it - it started the day before when we rehearsed on the stage. Immediately before the performance I was dying of nerves, but little by little they faded as I danced, until I was just absolutely adoring the moment. And then it was over. So sad! :green: But, casting for the next one is in just a couple of months. :yes: And so it begins anew!


Tarthulhu that sounds so funny. We had a little mishap during our recital as well.

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My first dance “performance” was in a ballroom competition. That was many years ago. I remember very little about it. I know I didn’t have much anxiety as I had spent a lifetime in competitive athletics. I can’t remember the results. I can’t remember at all the first time I performed on stage either. It might have been a New Year’s Eve performance where the “big” thing from my point of view was when a cast member forgetting what was supposed to happen and there was about 20 seconds of nothing happening on stage. I think the most exciting “first” for me didn’t come on stage or in a competition but rather in a street performance. I wasn’t anxious, but the adrenaline was running high. Performing on the street corner of a major city will cure any performance anxiety problems one might have, I guarantee it.

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I know this is not QUITE on topic, but mishaps - I took my little ones to the Nutcracker a few weekends ago. The theatre had a power outage - lights, music, everything went dark - just the emergency lights. They were in the middle of the party scene and everyone just froze like it was a tableau. It was the most amazing thing to see! You could have taken a picture of it - or done a sketch in the time they stood there.


After a few minutes of nothing, when it was evidence power was not going to come on right away, they brought the curtain down so that the performers could relax a bit. About 10 minutes in, the power came back on and they re-started the scene from its beginning.


Very well done to those performers - mostly children!!

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