Concert time! That crazy, exciting, stressful, action-packed time of year is here! So how do we get on top of everything and make sure we can get through the big night smoothly? Read on for my top concert survival hacks, and enjoy an awesome night!
Checklist, checklist, checklist.
Your checklist is your best friend. Either make your own or your teacher might have given you one which you should always double check and add to.
Include EVERYTHING! Small accessories like gloves or hair ties, plus shoes, tights, even the right socks and undies for each routine. Need a specific bra for one costume? Add it to the list. You should also include your makeup and hair essentials, drinks and snacks. Add extra supplies for emergencies: bandaids, scissors, a small sewing kit is always handy. Makeup wipes, and extra safety pins, even strapping tape if you need it. Everything goes on the list! Pack in advance (don’t leave it til the last minute!) and triple check that checklist as you go. Don’t just leave it up to mum, you need to pack or at least do it together so you know exactly where everything is. Knowing you have everything on hand will make you feel less worried backstage.
Bonus: Pack SPARES. Need black socks for a routine? Throw in a second pair. You might just save a team mate’s life when she realises she has left hers on the kitchen counter 2 mins before curtain! (Growing up I was usually the one who forgot my socks, not the one who packed spares… actually I still kind of am that person. Trust me, if you bring spares you will be loved forever by that poor person you help out!) Also if you wear stockings of ANY kind you gotta have spares. The person with no spare pair is always the person who gets a huge hole before the performance!
It’s not just what you pack, it’s HOW you pack. Everything folded in one duffel bag together = nightmare during quick changes! Put each costume with all its accessories it’s own clearly labeled bag. When you arrive at the theatre take time to look over the running order/program and arrange your costumes with the first routine at the front or on the top of the pile. Put everything in order so you are ready for those quick changes, and take this time to do a final check that you have everything.
You need to also have a way to organise what you are taking off. During a quick change there are usually bits of costume flying everywhere and before you know it you can only find one shoe, and that perfectly organised pile looks like a tornado has hit it! Almost every year I am tearing a dressing room apart looking for someones hat that they “seriously put right there a minute ago!!!!”.
If you have every costume in a separate bag, make sure you put that costume back in the bag as you get changed. You might have a separate empty bag, tub or laundry basket to put these clothes in. Whatever the plan is, stick to it! It’s little things like that that will make a huge difference and keep you feeling calm in the dressing room.
Fuel Your Body.
What you eat directly impacts all areas of our performance including our energy levels, muscle performance and even our mental alertness. Your body is exactly like a car that needs petrol to run, so make sure you are fueling your body high-performance ingredients. The night before: Eat a great dinner that your body will be able to use tomorrow. Dancers love carbs! Go for brown rice or wholegrain pasta. Pair your carbs with good fats and protein for optimal performance: the protein will help the sugars release more slowly. On the day of the show you should eat regular small meals rather than one huge lunch so keep you feeling light and to keep energy levels up. Don’t skip breakfast! Even if you aren’t hungry, you need this kickstart to the day. Slow energy release foods are best, like greek yogurt with granola and berries. Keep snacks on hand during the show too. A banana is our favourite energy booster, along with trail mix or cheese and wholegrain crackers. Try to resist the urge to just go crazy on the lollies! You will get a great rush of energy when the sugar hits, but it won’t last long and you will soon feel even more tired than before. Of course throughout the day you need to HYDRATE! It doesn’t matter if you don’t “feel thirsty” just keep sipping. Your muscles will thank you!
Remember to fuel your car properly so it can drive the distance!
Catch some zZzZzZzzzz’s.
It can be hard when you are full of nerves and excitement, but sleep is SO important in guaranteeing a great athletic performance. Did you know Olympic athletes often sleep up to 12 hours a night!? It is treated as an important part of their regime just like their training and diet! Sleep is the time when your muscles repair and grow, making sure that when you wake up your body is strong, not fatigued, and is ready for action. The last thing we want when we are performing is tired muscles or low energy.
On any game day or performance you need to be mentally switched on. Sleep increases your reflexes and reaction times, it helps you think clearly, aiding concentration and memory to prevent you from making silly mistakes at crunch time. You will be much more focused on a full night’s sleep.
To make sure you get a good night’s sleep make sure you don’t snack too late at night (the food will turn into energy and keep you awake), and try to reduce screen time an hour before bed. An hour with no computers, iPads or phones will help you wind down and get a great sleep.
Get in the zone.
Arriving at the theatre on concert day is SO exciting! All your dance friends are buzzing around the dressing rooms and there is a special feeling of nerves and excitement that you only get on concert day. Among all the chatter and excitement and selfies, remember to take the time to organise your costumes, snack and hydrate and get in the zone. Make sure you know where everything is, what order your routines are, where your quick changes are. And get prepared. Get hair and makeup done as early as you can so you have time to chill, so you know you won’t be running around looking for your brush as the overture is playing! Then find a little space for yourself, and get warmed up. Warming up your body and stretching is just as important for your mind as it is for your body. Breathe deeply and listen to your body. The butterflies will be easing up and you will be in your concert zen in no time.
And finally… enjoy your moment!!!!!
This is your night! Leave it all on the stage and savour every beat! Concert time is where you feel alllll the feels. It can be bittersweet performing your competition pieces for the last time, nerve wracking performing new routines and exciting showcasing the products of your hard work and passion – so enjoy it! You have worked hard for this, and now you can trust that your hard work in the studio has set you up for a great performance on the night. Don’t forget to be present on the stage with your team mates and friends. Feel their energy on stage with you, enjoy the stage and the lights and the dance, and realise that you are doing what you love for the last time this year. When you are up there really feeling the love, your genuine smile will light up the stage.
Chookas to everyone with concerts, recitals and show-offs coming up! Congratulations on all you have achieved this year, and I hope the performance is one to remember. Enjoy!
Congratulations! If you are reading this, it might be because you think your coach/instructor/teacher is “picking on you”. Do you feel like you are always being corrected, or like your coach calls your name allllll the time in class, or that they are on your back every lesson? They probably are. And here’s a quick breakdown of why its actually a positive thing.
1. You are capable!
Your coach will simply not waste their time and energy telling you over and over to do something if they know you can’t do it. Trust me. If you are being corrected or told to do a particular thing it’s because your coach knows that you can physically do it! Dance and cheerleading are not sports for dummies. You really do need to be intelligent to do well. Hearing a correction /note and having the ability to make your body do what it is being asked to do is not easy, and it is not a skill everyone has! Complex notes are given to the students who are smart enough to put them into action. If we see something that’s not quite right but we know it is the absolute best you can do, or that you aren’t physically or mentally up to doing better than that, you won’t be called out. It’s as simple as that.
Your teacher can also get annoyed and frustrated (and yes, a little loud) when they see potential in you and know that you are capable of doing better. One of the most frustrating things for a coach in any sport is trying to help an athlete who is not reaching the potential they have! If you are being corrected it’s because we know you can do better! So take the corrections and notes as a positive that your teacher sees potential, intelligence, and capability in you!
2. You are NOT the dancer next to you.
Another reminder of the cheezy saying “Everyone is different” But it is TRUE! You are not the dancer standing next to you. The best coaches of any sport know this, and are able to not only coach a whole team at once, but address and teach each individual in the way that suits their needs. One dancer might get a lot of positivity and ‘coddling’ while her friend gets a stricter, more hard lined approach. Particularly in younger teams this is common as teachers know which approach gets the best out out each student.
So, let’s look at an example. You are leaping from the corner and the first dancer is not perfect but the teacher simply says “good job Sally!” Then you take your turn and give much more technically correct leaps – yet instead of “good job”you hear “Longer back leg Suzie!! Softer hands!!!” HUH!? Why are you corrected and not Sally??
Do not. Worry. About Sally. Because you are not the same as her. She is doing her thing and you are doing yours, it does not matter if you are ‘better’ than another dancer or if you are ‘worse’. Your notes don’t come from comparing you to the others, they are notes for you. Just for you. This lesson will serve you well throughout the rest of your dance career – and life!
3. Your teacher cares.
Mushy ending point, but again, it’s true! You know this. If we didn’t care about you, your future, about you reaching your potential or feeling rewarded and proud of yourself – we would not persist. And when we get frustrated or raise our voices or get emotional, it is because we care! You won’t get much of a reaction from someone who just wants to have a nice night, get paid, and who doesn’t really mind whether you improve or not.
Please remember how much you as an individual person are valued by your coach. We spend a loooot of time working with you, tracking your growth, thinking about the best ways to teach you and how to bring out the best in you, strengthening you flaws and celebrating your improvements with you. We talk about you to your other teachers, we get to know your personality and what makes you tick. We go home after class and wonder what else we could do to help you. Yes, specifically YOU! Please don’t forget how much you mean to your teacher or coach, and try to take that cranky correction or frustrated note as the display of love it really is.
Food for thought:
Are you coming to class to have someone sit and watch you dance? Or are you being coached? A class where your name is not mentioned at all, is not a good class. Whether it is a positive comment or a constructive one (or in a really great class, it will be a mix of both types of comments) your teacher is paying attention to you. They aren’t zoning out wondering what to cook for dinner when they get home. They are actively watching you and are engaged with what you’re doing. When you think of it this way, maybe you do have a pretty great coach after all.
A last note on negativity:
In this blog post use the term “picking on” because it is something young athletes say. “Miss Such-and-such picks on me” refers to the teacher always calling them out or correcting them. Comments from a teacher can get absolutely loud or passionate when we are frustrated, and yes we do yell (either to be heard over to music or just to get a response from you; we keep the energy way up high as much as possible!) and I won’t pretend that we don’t get fired up from time to time. HOWEVER corrections should never be mean-spirited or insulting. All dancers/athletes need a thick skin as they are constantly being corrected. Corrected. Bullying is different. Please make sure you know the difference and know what the intention is behind your coach’s comments. Is the intention to help you improve? Or is it to make you feel bad? If you feel like you are being bullied by anyone, a classmate, friend – or even a teacher – that is never OK and you need to speak to a parent or another teacher about it.
SO! Next time you’re in the studio, listen to the comments being made by your teacher or coach. Appreciate the intention behind the comment. And do you best to put it into action! Your coach already knows you can.
Hi Dance friends and family! So much for my goal of fortnightly posts, I am already a day late on this one! The last 2 weeks have flown by. I had a post prepared ready to go for this week’s entry, but after a huge 3 day competition this past weekend I decided to write down a few thoughts I was left mulling over instead.
Dance teachers are just that: teachers. We do our job primarily in the studio, but we are also coaching and teaching our students during their competition. Children in particular take something out of every experience and never stop learning. So here are a few of the valuable things (written for both dancers, coaches, and parents) still soaking into our little human sponges during comp time.
Self (and coach) performance evaluation.
Yes, coaches do tell the kids when they did something wrong on stage. No, we don’t just tell them that as long as they had fun that’s all that matters. This is because that attitude of “close enough is good enough” does not do any justice to the dancers themselves. Telling you you’re great when you are, and that you’re not when you’re not, is what the hard working dance student deserves to hear.
When the dancers really do a great job, we of course celebrate and make them feel as good about themselves as possible, which they absolutely deserve – but how will they get to enjoy these moments if we are just always telling them how amazing they are?
A great thing about most All Star comps is that you get to watch an instant video replay of the performance after you come off stage, which is an extremely valuable coaching tool. The kids have just come off the floor so the performance is fresh in their minds. To have a visual tool they can then compare with what they felt they did (as opposed to what it actually looked like) means we can take them through a play-by-play of the routine, so generally the dancers will watch the video with the coach speaking over the top of it giving running commentary. They know to keep an eye on themselves as well as the overall picture, and to make mental notes of what they thought was good and what they would like to improve on next time. Our dancers are usually right on the money and know where they can improve, self correcting is a skill you continue to hone as you develop as a dancer and smart dancers are often able to do it without much prompting. Coach commentary is always a mixture of both negatives and positives, as they happen. Its usually simply “Sally that supporting leg” ( or even just a quiet “Sallyyyy” is enough – Sally knows.) and then we are straight onto “great timing guys!” literally on the next beat.
The dancers who can connect the coaches correction with what they see on the video or in the mirror in class and can apply the note quickly are the ones who progress the fastest.
Yes, we do call out individuals both in class and at competitions. We are never nasty or personal with the correction (I promise, no teacher is ever yelling “point your toes” just because they hate you!) but we will mention the dancer by name. Dancers, when you are on a team accountability is so important, and it is a tough life lesson to learn. It is something that carries over into your adult life though and makes for a strong young adult. In cheer for example, your whole team can drop from first place to fourth simply because one person landed their tumbling badly (among many other things) and she every other member has done their job correctly, the disappointing result is literally because of that one person. No pressure.
The lesson? Own it. Grow from it. Apologise to the team if its really that bad. Move on. And the rest of the team? Accept it graciously. Learn from the mistake as if it was your own (because if it hasn’t already been you, it will be some day!). Forgive. Move on.
At every dance school ever, parents will every now and then raise concern about coaches “singling out” their child or correcting them “in front of everyone”. If this is happening to you/your child (which it is, because it happens to them all!) trust me it is not a negative thing. You grow a thick skin, and even better, you very quickly stop making that mistake. Out there on the dance floor you can’t blame anyone else. We know that you do your best every single time because of this! In your post-dance adult life wherever you find yourself living and working, you will be able to quickly identify your own mistakes, own them without the need to throw anyone else under the bus, and correct yourself swiftly. Accountability is a tough one to get the hang of, but so important.
… but not getting in “Trouble”.
Very rarely in a dance class or at a competition does a dancer actually “get in trouble”. They are spoken to if they did something wrong. They are corrected. Our voices get more forceful the more times you make that same mistake. But as long as you are trying your hardest and giving 100% then no matter what goes wrong, you are not in trouble. Half the time a little pair of eyes will dart straight to the coach when something isn’t executed well, and the facial expression we give back is all the dancer needs! Dancers please remember, if you’re being corrected it is because your coach/teacher cares. If we thought you weren’t worth it we wouldn’t bother!
Supporting your team.
Another one that flows on into other aspects of your life. A good team player is a good member of staff, team leader, business manager. This means everything from congratulating the member who performed well, to psyching everyone up backstage and staying positive, to supporting the person who didn’t give their best performance. Sometimes you come off stage knowing you crushed it, only to realise you have been let down by someone else not performing quite as well. How does a good team member respond to this? With strength and positivity towards all team members. Helping them recover for the next performance. Realising that all ups and downs are shared as a team. Remember, YOU as the dancer create the team you want to be in. The phrase “your vibe attracts your tribe” is true. Set the tone of support, positivity and encouragement and you will be pleasantly rewarded with how the day pans out.
Dealing with disappointment.
Sportsmanship is something all coaches of all sports teach their kids. You clap for everyone and remain professional at awards presentations even when you don’t get the desired result. You never ever carry on like a sore loser. No one wants to see a tantrum because you performed badly, or because you thought you would win and didn’t. HOWEVER. Disappointment is part of the game, and if you are upset with your performance or the result, it is because you care. This is a good thing! When something goes wrong, it doesn’t pay for coaches and parents to say “it doesn’t matter”.
It does matter.
To say “don’t worry about it” or “it doesn’t matter” diminishes the hours of hard work you have put in, the dedication and passion you have, and the effort that went into the performance. It does matter.
Instead we can say “Next time it will be better” “We will keep working on it” or if it was a one off, encourage the dancer to focus on the positives of the performance. The coach can broach the subject again at the next training session. A disappointed dancer is not always a bad thing. A disappointed dancer is usually a goal-setting, hard working, passionate dancer.
The art of moving on.
Important both in class and on a competition day. Take the criticism or correction seriously, and acknowledge the mistake BUT : Do not get worked up (no tears!). Do not dwell.
Dancers, if you are upset with yourself or have made a mistake, acknowledge it and make a mental note to look at it at your next class. Then erase it from your mind. The last thing your team needs is a dancer who is still in a negative frame of mind for the next performances – all that will happen is your performances will steadily get worse and worse!
Just think: “Yep that was disappointing – I know why that happened/didn’t happen – OK let’s nail this next one!”
That attitude will make a world of difference.
Same goes when you are corrected in class. Taking it personally or taking on a negative attitude will create a mental block for the rest of the class. Take the criticism, apply it, and off you go. Chances are the next thing your coach will say to you is “Great job!” and you can both move on and keep working.
The takeaways: take every opportunity to self-improve. Trust your coach. Give 110% ever single time. Acknowledge and correct, then move on.
Thank you for reading another little note from my brain! Please feel free to leave messages and comments, and share this post with your dancer, dance coach or dance parent. Enjoy the rest of your comp season! xx
Hello and thank you for checking out my first (of many planned) dance blog articles!
Competition season has officially started for us at Bradshaw (we do mostly All Star style dance/cheer-dance competitions and the Australian season has just begun) and I thought the perfect place to start my foray into dance blogging would be to talk about a competition or eisteddfod from the view of your coach.
All dance teachers, choreographers, and coaches ride an emotional rollercoaster watching their pieces performed on stage. While it is a shared experience understood between all of us in the industry, I think it might be illuminating for the dancer or parent to realise what might it might be like for us! So. in 5 brief(ish) points, this is kind of what that ride is like for me.
1. The Nerves
As nervous as you are, trust me, we are too. The routine is our baby, right from the moment we conceptualised it in rough form. We choreographers are extremely passionate creatives and any artist be it a writer, painter, designer, knows the trepidation of presenting your finished artwork to an audience – let alone a judge! Will the judge/adjudicator like it? Will the opposing teams be impressed? Will the parents be happy?
From another aspect, we are always nervous for you. One thing we hate is seeing you come off stage disappointed in your performance. We are all dancers or used-to-be-dancers who know and love that feeling of absolute elation that comes from knowing you just gave the best performance you could. It is magical! And we want absolutely nothing less for you, every single time you dance. This is why we mentally dance every single step with you!
2. The Mental Commentary
I wish I could put into words what your dance teacher’s brain is doing during a routine. It is watching, thinking, feeling – a million things at once. Your mind is checking that the spacing is even, that the dancers are actioning their notes from class, keeping an eye on the girl who wobbled on this part in the last lesson, waiting for that one rhythm the team sometimes rushes, having a quick micro-celebration when something great happens. Like many coaches, I am even twitching on the parts that need to hit and squeezing my own core muscles on the turns (yes, seriously!) …and all of that is just one count of 8.
For any given section of a routine, my brain’s inner dialogue is usually something like this:
“Ok come on guys you can do this, good opening, good, good, GOOD, whoops timing girls!!!!! Aaaand remember that change, got it, yes! Boom ta ta good. Remember hit on two, one TWO! YES! Ok hows this visual looking? Yes! 6,7, and gooooo, YES! TOES SALLY!!!!! Shoom boom ah. Hit 7, hit 8. Squeeze squeeze squeeze SQUEEEEZE!! 7,8 and 1 YES! Here’s that turn, come on Suzie come on Suzie come on Suzie! YES SUZIE!!! Ok guys remember what we practiced on this part: bennnnnd and a boom ah shoom YES! Damn not quite right, ta ta budoom shoom ahhhhh, oh wow that really hit! WOOOOO YES GUYS!!!!! Ok pull up pull up pull up ok whoops thats ok, ENERGY GUYS COME ON YES THERE YOU GO KEEP IT UP COME ON WOOOOO oh wow that bit looks really good! Now the new part Sally new part Sally YES SALLY! SHE GOT IT!
3. The Screaming
Trust me, we all know how crazy we as coaches can look when we are screaming and our bodies are jerking around half doing the choreography. We know. We just can’t help it. (Those who do eisteddfods may not have this problem, but one thing I really love about All Star and Cheerleading style comps is that cheering by the crowd is encouraged. Perfect for the crazy screamer style of coach.)
No matter how I’m feeling, I know the kids will be listening out for my energy. If you are in the audience at once of these competitions I really encourage you to show your support this way. Energy from the audience in front of you makes a huge difference and as performers it is the very thing we thrive off.
As soon as the routine is over the dancers notice if the coach/teacher just claps, cheers, or goes mental. It is their first piece of feedback from their coach. Ever since I was a kid we placed so much importance on Miss Coralie’s dreaded reaction at the end of a performance – a cheer from her was our holy grail. In the eisteddfod enviroment where I grew up, the teacher would stand in a quiet and dignified manner at the back of the auditorium and noise during the routine was not encouraged. All we had to go on was her cheer at the end, OR if the audience wasn’t too dark, we were dancing for “the nod”. The sacred nod meant we had done very, very well. Without fail this was the first thing everyone would talk about as we made our way back to the dressing room,
“I didn’t hear Miss Coralie, did she cheer? Did any one see her face?”
“She didn’t cheer, I saw her nod” – then a flurry of Chinese whispers all the way down the corridor to the last dancer:
“Miss Coralie nodded!”
“I saw it too, she was smiling”
“Guys she was smiling!”.
I remember those moments more vividly than receiving any trophy, and any coach who grew up as a young dancer does too. Those memories are exactly why we as teachers now measure our reaction, comments, and energy so carefully.
4. The Pride
This is the big one. Dancers, you probably don’t realise how proud you make your teachers! It is such a beautiful thing. Working with you even over the course of one term, helping you improve, finding ways to overcome a mental block or stick a skill or just have more confidence: it all pays off when we see you on the stage.
Usually with long-term studio dancers it goes even further. We watch you dance as a senior and can’t help but be transported back to the studio where a young, shy little girl was still learning coordination and basic technique. There have been a few truly tear jerking moments like this for me, particularly on the Worlds stage, and those moments of seeing your students achieve great things and bloom into beautiful mature dancers and confident young men and women are worth more than gold.
5. The Debrief
The second the dance is finished a new checklist starts in your coach’s brain. There is one overwhelming feeling (usually joy, relief, or pride, but sometimes it can be disappointment or dissatisfaction, too). Under that main emotion however is my brain having a micro-debrief. Usually we only have 30 seconds before we are going for a costume change or warming up the next routine. So that chat will go something like this:
YAYYYYYY OH I AM SO HAPPY THAT WAS BEAUTIFUL!
*insert skill here* needs more work at our next class
So proud of Suzie she was fantastic in that part
Sally didn’t nail that combo but its ok we’ll get it
SO happy the visuals worked/lift stuck/dancers remembered their notes
Still not happy with that second section, should I change it? Ok think about it later.
Need to remember to tighten that transition next lesson
Costumes looked great, glad we went with the gloves
Oh there’s the team go hug them!
Then I get to exhale the nerves and run to the dancers and share in their excitement and happiness! I have a quick, warm moment where I just love my job and every member of the team, and then I tear off into the dressing room and prepare to do it all again.