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

Photo by Jayme Thornton

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