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Preparing to Perform

This is a handout I wrote for my students to prepare them for their first performance. I thought I would post it here, for them as well as for other students and teachers should they wish to use it. I hope you find it helpful.

Please leave all credits in place if printing and/or sharing. Thanks!


by Shay Moore of Deep Roots Dance


Mental Rehearsal in Dance~ Play your music every chance you get.

~ During down-time in your day, run through the piece in your head–marking out where you know you need to be and when in the song.

~ Actively visualize yourself smiling and joyful, successfully performing for an enthusiastic audience. The power of visualization is amazing–believe you are capable of something, really see yourself achieving it, and you will do it. Most of my dance rehearsal happens in my head–lying in bed at night, I can get a good 4 run-throughs of a 15 minute set (all stellar, of course) in my head before I fall asleep. ­čśë

~ When possible, take some time at home dance by yourself to the music. It doesn’t have to be performance perfect–just jam to it and get your body used to moving and responding to the music in the moment. Have fun with it! Visualize having that much fun and freedom on stage.

~ Find time to do a make-up and hair practice. The best way to find a successful look is to give yourself time to play. Pour out all your scarves, flowers, and jewelry, and just tuck and pin and fluff and rearrange. Pull it all off and try again. Pull out your make-up (or go buy some) and try different applications on each half of your face to compare. Give yourself a good couple of hours just to experiment.



~ Do your make-up and hair how you plan to wear it the night of the performance

~ Pack up all your costume elements (refer to your checklist if you have one)

~ Bring along a little make-up bag with your eye color, lip color, and liner. This will give us the chance to evaluate your make-up, and discuss/try changes that night if needed.

~ Arrive a little early so you can change into your costume when you arrive, and be ready to rehearse right on time. As soon as you get in the room, start a self-warm-up. I will have the music playing so everyone can be thinking through the performance/staging while they warm-up. Then we will launch right into talking through and then running through the performance.


~ Make sure you get a good night’s sleep, and are well-hydrated (combats fatigue and puffiness!)

~ Put your costume elements together early in the day to avoid a last-minute rush. Put them near the door, so nothing gets left behind by accident.

~ Find a well-lit space, away from distractions (family et al), and do your make-up and hair. This transformation for performance is a modern ritual of sorts, so give it the time and attention it deserves. Allow yourself a few hours to do it whenever possible–hair and make-up never want to behave when you are on a tight time-line, yet miraculously comes together in no time when you give yourself plenty of leeway! I suggest a good 3 hours to do your hair and make-up. (As a pro, even I can take up to 2 hours for more complex stage looks…on a good day I take an hour to and hour-and-a-half.) **Listen to your music as you get ready–it helps to put yourself in a dance head-space.**

~ Don’t fight bad hair–if your first try at making your hair and accessories behave isn’t working, allow yourself to pull it all off and start over. Trying to fix a bad “build” is harder than just starting over–I speak from years of experience. When you’ve finished, toss your head around and make sure everything is staying in place.

~ When you’re done with your preparations, make yourself a cup of tea and relax. Visualize a successful and fun night on stage with your dance sisters. Remember that the reason we do this is to share our joy in dance with our audience. Let that positive thought fill you up as you head out the door to the venue.

~ Arrive at the venue no later than 30 minutes prior to stage time or whatever the call time you have been given. Don’t forget to account for traffic conditions, finding parking and/or walking to the venue. Check in with me or whomever is your designated Show Auntie so we know you have arrived. Head to the dressing room, get dressed and relax until your performance time (don’t wrinkle your costume! ;).

~ Avoid negative self-talk, before, during, and after your performance. If you keep telling yourself and everyone around you how nervous you are, you are reinforcing your own nervousness and adding to theirs! Trust me, everyone is nervous and they know everyone else is, too. Instead, focus on the positive–talk about what you look forward to doing up there, how much fun it is to dance together, how loud and exuberant your dance sisters in the audience will be when your energy hits the stage, how beautiful everyone looks, and so on. Instead of “nervous”, we prefer the term “anticipatory!”

~ “Fake it til you make it!” Even if you feel jittery, putting on a countenance of confidence translates into actually feeling more confident–this has been scientifically proven. Stand like a dancer–in dance posture, lifted and grounded, energetically expanding from your center, smiling–and see if it doesn’t make you feel more centered and prepared to share your dance.

~ When you exit the stage, make sure the first words out of your mouth are positive. Don’t start by apologizing for mistakes, or groaning about this or that slip-up–remember, it’s improv, baby! It all works out, and we struggle through the tough bits together. Revel in your adrenaline rush, the sounds of the audience, the unexpected “kapows” that happened in the moment… Speak words of kindness and support to your fellow dancers first and foremost. Give yourself the gift of uplifting thoughts and comments. Save the critical review for rehearsal or class next week when we can discuss the performance in detail and turn our focus to technique and cleaning up rough spots.

Have a great performance!

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Shay Moore is the director and primary instructor at Deep Roots Dance in Seattle, WA. She loves writing, movies, costuming, knitting, cooking, and bellydance to the moon and back again; and loves her amazing husband and doggies even more than that.

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