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.
I’m writing this in the best mood on the plane home from Brisbane where I judged our first Qld Hip Hop Knockout – an event concept that’s been my baby for a few years now, and that I have been SO lucky to see brought to life in both Sydney and Queensland this year by DCE.
This is a hip hop only event, and we have an all-on-the-floor style battle where dancers are encouraged to jump up all at once and freestyle to the same music. I felt like my dream had come alive last night watching everyone on the floor doing their thing. So much energy, passion and talent in the one place! Seeing so many amazing young dancers all freestyling at once, sharing the floor together in front of a cheering crowd was just magic!
So how can we possibly judge something like this?? The answer, is that we judge it ith the same emotional response that we use when judging regular routines – we let ourselves be drawn naturally to the what is often called the “It Factor” or that “special something”. You don’t need to look for the It Factor: a person who has it will grab your attention and pull your eye to them without you even realising.
“It Factor”: A hard to define, mysterious, magnetism that draws you to someone.
It is a presence. Charisma, confidence, energy, electricity.
Judges and audience members alike (including you, probably!) have all sat for countless hours in front of so many incredible dancers, who have solid training, experience, and great choreography.
So think of the most memorable solo performance you have ever seen, quick! What popped into your head first? I bet you didn’t think “Oh I just loved that girl with the really pulled up knees” did you?! You connected with the energy, the vibe, and the ‘wow’ moments. That’s what makes you remember a routine or performer you saw days, weeks, months ago.
Now think of a troupe/crew/team. We have all been guilty of coming to the end of an entire routine and realising we just watched that one girl the entire time! Right!? That person who forced you to keep watching, who didn’t let you look at anyone else. There are technically perfect dancers who can’t hold your eyes like that. These special people are the ones with the “It Factor”
There are plenty of blog posts to come about technique and all your dance teachers are working hard with you, perfecting your technique with every class. Harder to teach though, is performance quality, stage presence, “IT”.
So technique aside, what makes a standout, memorable performance? What are those dancers with the It Factor doing differently? Let’s take a look at just 5 elements.
This is SUCH an important word.
Connect with the music. What is the emotion? What is the vibe/character/feeling/story? A dancer needs to deeply understand their music and concept to really dance as one with it.
Connect with each other. If you are in a team or even a duo, you are in it together. No one wants to see a routine that looks like 10 soloists just doing the same steps in their own bubble. When you are connected it shows in your performance and you will naturally strengthen each other. Don’t be afraid to make eye contact! You have worked on this together, now enjoy it together! Trust me, the audience will feel it.
Connect with THE AUDIENCE. Projection is key. A lot of the time in hip hop or a sad lyrical piece the dancer can keep their emotion too close to them. We can not feel it from your body alone. Eyes out to the audience, face communicating, upper body oozing emotion. You need to exaggerate the emotion so the back row can feel it with you. There is absolutely nothing more valuable than an audience/judges who are feeling drawn in to your dance and connected with you. Let us be part of it.
Freestylers, don’t just go. Dance with the music, dance in it. When you hear sounds and rhythms in music and at the same time you see a body making those sounds physical, the synergy gives you goosebumps. My favourite choreography plays to the subtlety of the music and my favourite performers are those who can reflect that with nuance and flavour.
For dancers who have been given choreography, how does it flow with the music? You need to identify exactly where your light and shade is, and how your vibe and facials can amplify or compliment the choreography. Let your movement and the music fuse together – it won’t just look great, it feels amazing too!
Chase that moment where the audience goes “OHHHH!” and get one for yourself. Innovative choreography does this in amazing ways but so can the actual performer. What are your “moments” in your routine? Where can you really feel the emotion? On what parts should you be really connecting with the audience? As an actor I am all about finding the magic moments in a scene. A dance performance is no different! A light bulb will switch on when you find your routine’s “magic moments”. Find them, live in them, and it will completely transform your next performance.
MORE! You cannot argue with energy. Energy does mean strength, intensity and “going for it” but it also means personality, charisma, vibe, flavour, essence, projection. It can be aggression, it can be joy!
Important to note: Energy is not just present in hard hitting choreography. Energy should radiate from your body when you are standing still! At this weekend’s event our favourite dancer was picked before she had danced a single step. She walked on, took her opening position, and we all went “woah.” There were sparks coming off this girl! Then she did not let us take our eyes off her the entire time, not when she was on the side, or at the back, never! In a team routine it is not necessarily the strongest technique that always draws the eye, it’s the performer with that extra something.
Now team dancers, think of this: that one dancer might be amazing, but when every dancer on that team is magnetic and electric oozing their own special something – those are the truly unforgettable performances.
My BIGGEST tip for any dancer/routine as a judge: ENJOY IT. Live in your moment, commit to it, go hard, and project it out to share it with us. If you are really in it, I promise we will be too. And I might just be more generous with points if I am vibing with you and you’ve put me in a fantastic mood. You wouldn’t believe the amount of minor flaws judges will overlook when you are making them smile, feel excited, and enjoy the moment with you!
At the end of the day, when you walk out there you aren’t in the studio any more. You aren’t in your room dancing around in your undies any more, you are in front of an audience. Entertain them, and don’t stop pushing until there is a smile on every face out there, and on your face for the rest of the night.
That’s what its all about.