Dance Spirit's Best Onstage Bloopers
One year while I was at Nationals with my competition team, we were thrilled that our large group tap routine received a high enough score to gain us entry into Headliners' coveted Platinum Circle Championship. Awesome, right? So we're all excited, ready to go onstage a second time in hopes of taking home the event's top prize. But maybe I was a bit too excited, because while I was front and center, I propelled myself into a toe-stand turn—one I had done a million times both in rehearsal and onstage—and BOOM! Totally bit it. I mean, I wiped out. I lost my footing, face planted, shook it off and stood back up and kept going. Yikes!
Now, I know I'm not the only one with an embarrassing onstage blooper story to share. To feel a bit better about myself, I got the rest of the DS staff to sound off on their most awful onstage moments. And I'm nice, so I'm not telling you the names behind the stories—you'll have to just take your best guess!
And remember, whether you face-plant or lose your top, everyone has these moments. Sure they're awkward, but eventually you'll learn to love sharing your story and getting a laugh. Plus, little setbacks will only make you a stronger performer. So stay confident and read on...
"When I was 14, I was cast as one of the Merlitons (aka Marzipan or Marzipan Shepherdesses) in The Nutcracker for the first time. It was one of my first "grown-up" soloist parts, and I couldn't have been more excited. One of the best perks? The gorgeous tutu, with clear straps that made the bodice appear to be elegantly strapless. On opening night, I threw myself into the divertissement's first arabesque—and heard a loud "pop" as one of those straps snapped right off, leaving the left side of my (non-existent) chest totally exposed. I was in such a state of shock that, rather than exit the stage gracefully, I continued to dance the variation with my elbow pinned to my side, trying desperately to keep myself covered. What a nightmare!"
"When I was 14 I spent a few weeks studying at a Joffrey workshop in Michigan. I was cast in a modern piece for the workshop's final performance and was really excited to be dancing at the front of the ensemble. We rehearsed on stage and one day, when the choreographer was working with the soloists, I was goofing around in the wings: I was holding on to my left foot (and legwarmer) with my right hand, and jumping through with my right foot. I completed this trick successfully a couple of times and then, disaster struck. My right foot got caught on my legwarmer and, without my hands out to catch me (still holding my foot), fell flat on my face and right knee. There was a loud thump and as I popped up, the choreographer looked at me and said, "Did you just fall over?" "No," I said and then ran to the bathroom, where I saw my lip puffing up and my knee ballooning. I had to tell the choreographer I was injured and was moved to the back of the pack because I couldn't perform the moves full out. To this day, I still have a numb spot on my right knee. Serves me right for messing around!"
"During our Spring concert my sophomore year of college, I had quite the mishap. The third number in the show was a high energy pom routine, and admittedly, I am that dancer—the one who is always over-the-top and full-out. So by the time we got to the end of the routine—'step five, giant battement six, down seven, pose eight'—I was killing it. Unfortunately, I gave that count six battement a little too much force and the next thing I knew...CRACK! went my nose—and it was definitely broken. BUT, I still had nine more numbers to perform and was heading to Nationals in two weeks. Surgery, they told me? That would have to wait! So, after we returned from Daytona Beach (with a massive championship trophy), I had my first (and hopefully last!) septorhinoplasty."
"Janet Jackson may have coined the phrase "wardrobe malfunction," but she certainly wasn't the first to experience one. When I was 16, my boob popped out on stage. It has been nearly 10 years since this happened, but I can still feel my face growing red whenever the incident comes to mind. I can't recall which song we danced to, but I have a vivid memory of the skimpy white dress with the thin halter straps that we wore. I was a C cup in high school, so going braless like most of my fellow dancers would have been obscene. Instead, I pinned a strapless bra into my costume, pulling it down in places to accommodate the low back. I was nervous as I stepped on stage for our dress rehearsal, but I figured that I was just being dramatic. I wasn't. About halfway through the dance, I launched into a right tilt and as soon as I extended my arms to the side, my entire left boob slipped out the side of my costume! Horrified, I quickly yanked my costume back into place and kept dancing. We were one of the last few groups onstage that night, and the auditorium was mostly empty, so I was hoping that I had covered up quickly enough that nobody noticed. However, years later, at a barbecue, I ran into a boy who used to dance at my studio. We were catching up on old times, when he suddenly brought up "the incident." It turns out that he was sitting in the front row on that fateful evening, and he had noticed. So embarrassing!"
Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
The dancers who take our breath away are the risk-takers, the ones who appear completely fearless onstage. "When you see somebody trying to travel more, go farther, push the limits of their physical abilities, that's always going to be inspiring," says Ballet BC dancer Alexis Fletcher.
But dance training can feel like it's in conflict with that idea. We spend thousands of hours in the studio trying to do steps perfectly, and that pursuit of perfection can make us anxious about taking risks. What if we fail? What if we fall?
Luckily, fearlessness is a mental skill that you can work on, just as you work on your technique. Here's how you can learn to push yourself past your limits.
When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.
In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.
The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."
Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.
Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.
She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.