The first dance recital can be full of nonstop surprises for the first-time dance parent. Dance has its own culture of expectations and traditions, and they all converge on recital day. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, the following insider tips can help you make the most of your first dance recital, whether your dancer is a toddler or a teen.
Bring snacks and activities. Recitals can seem long to young children, around two hours of dancing in each show. Be prepared to stay and cheer for every number, and, more importantly, prepare for your dancer to be happy when he or she is back stage. Send some things to entertain your child; card games, a sketch pad or stuffed animal can make the wait much shorter. Also plan for your dancer to be hungry. Recital times often coincide with snack or meal times, so bring non-messy foods, such as dried fruit and nuts, cheese and crackers, or granola bars are good options. Avoid sodas and juices because of a) the danger of spilling on a beloved tutu, and b) the sugar content will not sit well with a child waiting for the end of the show.
Costume tips and tricks. You may have several costumes to manage. When you pick up your child’s costumes, avoid the temptation to let her wear them before dress rehearsal. They should look fresh for the performance. Costumes can be itchy, too. Sequins and glitter come at the cost of comfort sometimes. Nude-colored leotards are a good option for your dancer to wear under her costumes. This also provides coverage and eliminates any shyness about having to do quick costume changes in front of the other dancers. Also note that many studios provide instructions on how each accessory should be worn. Keep notes on those and bring them with you to avoid any confusion. It also helps to keep accessories for each costume in a zip lock bag with each bag attached to the corresponding costume. And whatever you do, don’t forget your dancer’s shoes! Come equipped. Planning and preparation are key. Bring tissues, make-up supplies, plenty of bobby pins and hair elastics. A hairbrush and hairspray are crucial additions to your recital bag. Look for double-sided “fashion tape,” a costume tape that is magic for keeping costumes in place in a pinch. Clear nail polish works wonders on last-minute runs in tights.
About the hair. Speaking of bobby pins, a little bun know-how can go a long way. Dance buns can seem daunting at first, but with a few practice twists and some insider knowledge, you’ll master them in no time. First, damp hair is much easier to work with than dry hair with all its flyaway action. Texturizing spray is also a great tool to tame and prepare your dancer’s hair. Brush her hair out and pull it into a tight ponytail. At this point, if your dancer has shorter to medium-length hair, you can use a bun-maker—also known as those squishy nets shaped like doughnuts. If your dancer has very long hair, skip the bun-maker. Instead, twist the ponytail. Wrap the twisted ponytail around the base of the ponytail, and voila… you have your bun. (Note that this technique works on medium-length hair, too). Two important secrets: wrap your bun in the same direction you twist, and invest in some high-quality hair pins to secure the bun. Look for pins that are the same color as your dancer’s hair, and tuck them in tight. Keep in mind that your dancer is going to be jumping and twirling, arms moving every which way. Building a hair-pin and hairspray fortress will help to keep that bun in place through all the action. Hairnets also work great for buns!
Expect to purchase a ticket. Virtually all studios sell tickets to their recitals to cover the cost of the venue and other expenses that come with producing a top-notch experience for the children and their families. If you attend a studio that performs in a theatre and provides services like online ticketing and reserved seating, expect to pay more for those amenities.
Nerves. Remember that our children are little emotional sponges. It’s normal for parents sometimes to feel anxious or nervous about their children’s first events. But work to avoid channeling your nerves to your child, who is just excited for a fun experience. Remind yourself of what’s most important (your child’s enjoyment of the show experience), take a deep breath and cheer (wildly!) for your dancer. If you observe that your dancer is nervous, remind him or her that everyone is there simply to celebrate a great year of dancing and to enjoy the show!
Plan for a gift. Recital gifts are a strong tradition in dance. Flowers are typical; our studio partners with a local florist and you can pre-order flowers to be delivered to the event. This is a nice, stress-free option. If your dancer is not the flower type, you may consider a balloon bouquet, a recital teddy bear or small gift basket. Younger dancers love receiving stuffed animals to help them remember their first recital for a long time to come.
Save the memories. If you can be at the dress rehearsal, plan on taking photos and video there. The crowd is less…crowded, the children are usually in costume, and this frees you up to just be present and celebrate your child during the actual performance. In fact, cameras and phones are not allowed to be used during the performance. Even easier: just order the professional DVD or Blu Ray. It’s an extra investment that pays for itself when you can put the phone or camera down and enjoy the show and dancers love watching other friends dances too after the show!
Remember the Why. A big part of the dance training process includes learning through performance. The experience helps build self-esteem and confidence. Onstage experience can also result in better school presentations, improved social skills, and strong interview skills for future college or job opportunities. Participating in rehearsals helps children develop retention skills, teamwork, and adaptability.
As we prepare for the end of our year recital at Turning Pointe Dance, we need to ask, “Why are we having a recital?” 1. We are dancing because we like to perform. 2. We are dancing because we like to wear cute costumes. 3. We are dancing because we want all of our family to see us. Even though all of these reasons might be true, here at Turning Pointe, we dance for a greater purpose. “My soul magnifies the Lord,” Luke 1:46. We hope that all our dancers will be “Big Lights” that shine for Jesus. We want to glorify God through our bodies with dancing and present the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I also read a great article that I wanted to share part of: Researchers Bruce Brown and Rob Miller asked college athletes what their parents said that made them feel great and brought them joy when they played sports. Want to know the six words they most want to hear their parents say? “I love to watch you play.” (or in our case “I love to watch you dance”) That’s it. Nothing aggrandizing like “you’re an all-star,” and nothing discouraging like “here are a couple of things I noticed that you can work on.” Just “I love to watch you play.” As we gear up for soccer, band concerts, gymnastics practice, dance recitals, and everything else we’ll be watching our kids do these next few months, lets internalize these six words. We want our kids to hear that doing what they do, and learning about who God created them to be, is a joy to watch as it unfolds.