by Karen Musey
It’s the beginning of the 2016 competition season! Emotions are running high and everyone is itching to get the season underway. Help your studio’s competition season start smoothly with these tips:
Dress Rehearsal With Costuming
Judges see it every year – a dancer is performing well, and then their costume malfunctions onstage and their confidence is shaken. Always do at least one dress rehearsal in costume! Costumes don’t always move or behave in the way you expect them to. Sometimes fabric stretches more than anticipated, sometimes not enough. Checking this ahead of time will allow for adjustments to be made (sewing, double sided tape, etc!) and get rid of that awkward tugging onstage.
A benefit of this practice: while working with your costume in rehearsal, you might discover the costume moves in an interesting and unexpected way. Working with a costume in a compelling way really adds performance value to a piece. The more dancers treat their costumes as an extension of their work, the more strongly it shows up in their investment of character and artistic choices onstage.
Of course, always remember to pack a spare set of tights, a sewing kit, double sided tape, lots of hair pins and (an older pair of) shoes if available…even duct tape – you never know when it might be a lifesaver!
Prep Your Music
We’ve all been there – the dancers are in position, ready to strut their stuff and….music malfunction! Remind dancers to stay calm if this happens and to take a deep breath – they will be taken care of as quickly as possible. To help sidestep this scenario, make sure all music is burned properly, cued up, clearly marked and an extra copy is readily available.
Please be professional with cutting and editing music. Listen to the lyrics; do an online lyric search if necessary to clarify what is spoken and make appropriate cuts. Be highly cognizant of suggestive lyrics. Generally speaking, most competitions are family age-oriented and music choices should be reflective of that.
As technology progresses, studios are relying more and more on electronics. Backstage technicians are being handed more iPods and other music devices. It is not professional to expect the music technician to “fade” music at a specific moment if the time hasn’t been taken to cut it properly. Make their job easier with clear labeling, cuts and instructions – the dancers will thank you for it.
Look At The Stage
Dancers get very comfortable and familiar with their home studio’s space and dimensions. Stage dimensions can vary widely, and can be an added factor that ramps up a dancer’s adrenaline before or during a performance.
During the first few competitions of the season, judges will often see patterning that is not spaced in relation to the dimensions of the stage. It is important for every dancer to eye the stage and to take in the space. Is there an apron? Is it lit? Are the stage dimensions equal on both sides? Will they have to travel more or less when moving to new formations? Knowing this information will help them to preemptively adjust their movement prior to their performance.
Also remember to test out the nature of the floor. If your studio is using rosin, please use it sparingly so other dancers after your pieces aren’t dealing with surprise sticky spots. If there is a particular costume that routinely sheds during a number, address it immediately after the piece. Everyone always appreciates teams that have well thought out “clean up crews” that address the situation quickly and effectively. Which brings us to –
Organize Your Props and “Prop Teams”
Having a system in place that allows for quick set up / tear down of props will make your team very popular at an event. Judges and audience members alike are always impressed with teams who have a clear system worked out (in advance) that keeps everyone on time.
Be sure to schedule bigger prop set up / take down run-throughs in the studio. For safety and ease of communication, it is extremely important for everyone to understand the chain of command as well as establish a clear procedure for set up / tear down.
Know how your team will coordinate getting props safely to and from the stage as quickly and efficiently as possible. Remember that there may not be a lot of space available backstage to store your props (as well as other studios will have their own), so create a plan B for storage.
Last, but not least:
This is a biggie. Everyone needs it! Organizing specific responsibility delegation among studio staff and parents will help make each weekend a success and make it enjoyable for everyone.
Be a cheering section for performances your dancers are competing in…and for others! It is a wonderful and growing trend among studios that are encouraging their dancers to reach out across the aisle and recognize others’ achievements around them. The more supportive a community is, the more empowered each member in it becomes. It’s all about feeling supported in taking new risks to be your personal best.
Have a great season!
Contributor Karen Musey is a dynamic Canadian born, New York based performer, teacher and dance adjudicator. Her training includes study at Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet Professional Division, The Banff Centre, EDGE PAC (LA), Upright Citizen’s Brigade, The Barrow Group, Kimball Studio, Canada’s National Voice Intensive, Comic Strip Live and more.
Karen Musey judges national and regional dance competitions and festivals across the United States and Canada. She was a Director/Choreographer Observership Candidate during the 2011/12 season with Stage Directors and Choreographers Union and has served as a rehearsal director and dance captain for KOBA Family Entertainment. Karen Musey is an ABT® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in Pre-Primary through Level 5 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum. She is a U.S. Member of the International Dance Council CID, recognized by UNESCO.
Performing highlights – PHISH at Madison Square Garden; World Premiere of the Canadian Opera Company’s Das Rheingold (Wagner Ring Cycle); National Artist Program Gala for the 2003 Canada Winter Games; for HRH Queen Elizabeth II during the Golden Jubliee Tour; Chicago (Rainbow Stage); comedy short Foreign Exchange (72 Hour Asian American Film Shootout); music videos for The Guards and Malynda Hale; international tours and performances with The Young Americans, J.A.R. Productions and KOBA Family Entertainment; stand up and sketch comedy around New York; Bravo! documentaries, films and more. She is currently co-writing a play. www.karenmusey.com