Mastering the Quick Change

At performance time, nothing beats the feeling of hearing your musical cue—unless you’re hearing it from the dressing room! Keeping track of your shoes, tights, headpieces and costumes for every number (not to mention the choreography) can be overwhelming. We caught up with professional dancers—and a Broadway wardrobe supervisor—who have mastered the art of the quick change. They gave us the inside scoop on how to make it happen, and how to deal when it doesn’t.

Swap out tricky fastenings. “Tiny snaps and hooks and eyes should be replaced with large snaps and large hooks. If the change is very fast, replace all fastenings with Velcro.” —Julie Ratcliffe, wardrobe supervisor for The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway

Trust yourself. “The best way to approach a quick change is to be calm, methodical and prepared. By a show’s premiere, I’ve rehearsed the quick changes as much as the choreography. When I’m onstage, I want to enjoy the moment—the details of my costume shouldn’t interfere.” —Ruth Brill, Birmingham Royal Ballet artist

Layer your costumes. “In one show I worked on, the costume changes were so quick, the dancers began the show wearing their first three costumes—one on top of the other.” —JR

Get organized. “I’ve always found it easiest to pile my costumes and accessories in the order I need to put them on. That way, the steps to a fast quick-change are all right in front of me.” —Keltie Colleen, commercial dancer and former Radio City Rockette

Be prepared. “Have safety pins, small scissors and needles with black and white thread on hand in case of a malfunction. You need to be flexible, quick and resourceful.” —JR

Keep your cool. “Though quick-change disasters can be horrific (or hilarious), knowing how to deal with them is the mark of a true professional. Quick thinking in the moment can prevent disaster. Plus, the extra excitement can really boost your adrenaline.” —RB

The Pressure's On

You’ll sweat just reading about these real-life quick changes.

“On the ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Season 9 tour, I had a costume with a bunch of stringy fabric all over—it was like a spiderweb. One night, I came backstage with one minute to change and it was all tangled. I tried my best, but I couldn’t even pull it over my body. At that point, the music had started, and my partner, Cole Horibe, had to improv a solo for the whole song! —Lindsay Arnold, “Dancing with the Stars” pro

“My scariest change was as an understudy for Elle Woods in Legally Blonde: The Musical. I had to take everything off and put on this heavy, beaded costume, a giant hat and new shoes to become the bandleader in the middle of a song. It had to be done in time for me to run behind doors that opened as a big reveal for Elle, who then jumps through a breakaway sign. If I’d been late, there wouldn’t have been anyone there—but I made it!” —Kate Rockwell, Sherrie in Rock of Ages on Broadway

“During one performance as a Rockette in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, I forgot to put on the white briefs that went under my dress. I went to strut onstage, but then I realized my mistake. I freaked out, and missed my entire entrance. I had to go find the briefs, and then wait in the wings until I could slip back onstage without making a big fuss. I’m surprised I didn’t get fired!” —Keltie Colleen, former Radio City Rockette

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