Working Toward Performance
Not everyone has the urge to get up in front of an audience—for some, it’s probably a pretty terrifying idea. But over time, in class, we work toward a goal, and in dance, that’s usually showing off our hard work for family, friends and others.
In choreographing a long piece, we break up the movement in chunks, so that we can learn slowly and repeat it over and over until it feels right. Only then do we move on to the next piece. And then we string them together. Generally I will say the moves a split second before we perform them so that the dancers can both see and hear how the pieces go, how they fit with the music and how they can prepare their body to enter the phrase.
We often use props, such as scarves, tambourines or hats and canes, which are not only fun but also give us the sheen of professional dancers in a show.
When dancers are having trouble with a particular move or step, I will always adapt it so that it comes more naturally—for example, if you can’t do something with your feet, you may be able to do it with your hands. This makes for an interesting visual pattern for the audience.
We make sure that the venue has already sent out invitations (usually with a picture of us dancing on it) so that we know the house will be full on the day of the show.
Finally, when we get to dress rehearsal, we wear clothes from our own wardrobe that fit well and feel right. You can never go wrong with white shirts and black pants and shoes! Adding lighting on a real stage always makes it feel like an actual performance.
On the day of the show, we take it easy, we talk through the steps without doing them, and then we practice breathing for a while, letting the body settle so that the right moves may arise by themselves.
And then, it’s show time, folks!