Eat, Pray, Stretch: Dancers Reveal Their Pre-Performance Rituals
“Once I have my makeup and hair done and my costume on, I go through the different turn sequences in my routine and do each until they’re perfect. Then I tell my mom I love her—I text her if she’s not there—and pray. Next I do some sit-ups and a few balance exercises, and then I go through my routine as fast as possible in my head. I put on my performance shoes right before I go onstage and as I’m walking on I swivel my feet to feel if the floor is sticky or slippery.”—Kaitlyn Conley, JUMP Convention demonstrator
“Before I go on, I move around to work out any kinks and warm up my muscles. I do about 20 squats to get my blood flowing, and then I get a sip of water. If I’m with a group, we usually do a chant to get pumped and to remind ourselves to be thankful that we get to do what we love.” —Ellenore Scott, “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 6
“I always wear these old socks from Discount Dance Supply that I’ve had since I was 11. They look like hot pink pointe shoes and I wear them over my pointe shoes while I’m warming up. They’re so ragged now, but I love them. I also have a cup of Chinese herbal tea and pray. Then I’m in a good, spiritual mode before I perform.”—Whitney Jensen, Boston Ballet
“Right before I go onstage, I have to do something four times. Whether it’s clapping my partner’s hand four times or hitting my leg four times, it has to happen four times. Four has been my favorite number forever. I was born on the fourth of the month and have had the number four at auditions more than once. It always brings me luck!”—Mishay Petronelli, tap dancer and faculty memberat Broadway Dance Center in NYC
“My rituals are show-specific. Fifteen minutes before I perform in STOMP, I have to drink a can or 20-ounce bottle of Dr. Pepper. The show is so physically grueling and high energy that I need simple sugars to burn. In Darwin Deez—the band for which I dance and play bass—the drummer and I do a core workout and a series of push-ups or planks to get energized for the show. We’re so serious about the workout that it sometimes takes place in a dirty hallway, depending on the club’s accommodations. We also have a secret chant that we all say in unison the second before we take the stage. The only hint I’ll reveal about the chant is that it comes from Busta Rhymes!” —Michelle Dorrance, tap dancer
“First I say a long prayer, then I kiss my hands and throw them toward the ceiling to release the energy. Then I hop around and do a series of deep-breathing chi exercises. Depending on which role I’m performing, I either do jumps to bring buoyancy and power to my body or do a deep plié to ground myself. I say ‘good show’ to the other cast members, then I grab a handful of chalk and rub it on my pants and shirt. I completely cover my left arm in chalk. Once I’m onstage, I look for something in the theater that I’ve never seen before. I don’t start my part in the show until I’ve seen something new!”—Nicholas Young, tap dancer
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!
Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.
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.
We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)
So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.