Zoe Lemelman performing at competition

Courtesy Lemelman

Pros Share How to Nail Your Next Quick-Change

Your heart is racing, your adrenaline is pumping, and your friend is zipping up your costume while cheering you on. It must be a quick-change! From shoes to hairpieces to makeup, costume changes between dances have a lot of moving pieces. Luckily, Dance Spirit talked to two quick-change experts—Zoe Lemelman, an incoming Pace University Commercial Dance freshman and competition block-scheduling veteran; and professional dancer Tiffany Griffin—and got their best tips on how to nail your transition drama-free.

Dance Spirit: What does your quick-change preparation look like?

Zoe Lemelman: As soon as I know the sequence of the show, I always write out the order and highlight my dances. Knowledge is power, and simply being aware of how much time you have is a good place to start.

Once I've got the sequence down, I always make sure to lay out each piece of the costume, completely ready to throw it on: zippers down, shoes untied, and pants ready to step right into.

Tiffany Griffin: In my toughest changes, I've fully transformed my look, including shoes and headpieces, in less than 45 seconds! Laying things out in an orderly way and practicing my changes really helped me. I try to be as self-sufficient as I can.

Griffin backstage at the Santa Fe Opera performing in Rigoletto

Courtesy Griffin

DS: What are your dressing-room essentials?

TG: Goody hair clips, Göt2b Glued Freeze hairspray, Cover-Roll stretch tape for my toes, water, Pedialyte and a sweat towel. If there's space backstage for a chair or stool, I'll use that to place any jewelry, faux ponytails, or headpieces I need to put on during a quick-change.

ZL: I recommend keeping body glue nearby for any costumes that tend to ride up, and having your water in an easy-to-drink container.

DS: How do you make sure you're ready for your next dance?

TG: I always choreograph my costume changes, so they're consistent and efficient. Just like getting all the steps consistently in your choreography, it takes practice to make your costume changes flow consistently.

ZL: Deep breaths and a calm mind are hard to come by in a stressful quick-change scenario, but I always make sure to try my best to make those things happen. Getting a sip of water and taking audible deep breaths will help slow your heart rate from the previous exhilarating performance and prepare you to go onstage and kill your next one.

Griffin performing with Step One Dance Company

Courtesy Griffin

DS: What's an example of your quick-change routine? Do you have any assistance?

TG: If a fellow cast member can help with a change, that's always great. You can communicate what you need them to do, so you're both working on something at the same time. For example, for one of my quick changes when I performed on a cruise ship, I had a leotard and tights layered underneath pants and a jacket. I took the pants and jacket off, stepped into the skirt, and had the cast member zip up my skirt while I put on my headpiece, earrings and gloves.

ZL: Though having a support system of friends who want to help you is nice, sometimes too many helpers can be overwhelming and, in fact, unhelpful. So I always stick to one or two quick-change buddies. For example, one friend is in charge of unzipping/zipping the back of my costumes, and the other helps with untying/tying shoes.

Lemelman performing at competition

Courtesy Lemelman

DS: Any final advice?

ZL: My quick-change hack is remembering that I always have more time than I think I do. If I am stressed, not only am I not going to move as efficiently, but I am also going to be exhausted before my next dance! So, I always make sure to take the time that I do have to prepare for my next piece.

TG: The most important thing is don't freak out! Stay calm while moving as quickly as you can.

Latest Posts

Photo by Lindsay Thomas

Ashton Edwards Is Breaking Down Gender Barriers in Ballet

When Ashton Edwards was 3 years old, the Edwards family went to see a holiday production of The Nutcracker in their hometown, Flint, MI.

For the young child, it was love at first sight.

"I saw a beautiful, black Clara," Ashton says, "and I wanted to be just like her."

Ashton has dedicated 14 years of ballet training in pursuit of that childhood dream. But all the technical prowess in the world can't help Ashton surmount the biggest hurdle—this aspiring dancer was assigned male at birth, and for the vast majority of boys and men, performing in pointe shoes hasn't been a career option. But Ashton Edwards, who uses the pronouns "he" and "they," says it's high time to break down ballet's gender barrier, and their teachers and mentors believe this passionate dancer is just the person to lead the charge.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo Courtesy of Apple TV+

All the Hollywood and Broadway Musical Moments to Look for in “Schmigadoon!”

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of about two dozen dancers got the rare opportunity to work on an upcoming Apple TV+ series—one devoted entirely to celebrating, and spoofing, classic 1940s and '50s musicals from the Great White Way and Hollywood. "Schmigadoon!", which premiered on AppleTV+ July 16, stars Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key, who get stuck inside a musical and must find true love in order to leave. The show features a star-studded Broadway cast, including Aaron Tveit, Ariana DeBose, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Jane Krakowski and Dove Cameron, and is chock-full of dancing courtesy of series choreographer, Christopher Gattelli.

"The adrenaline was pretty exciting, being able to create during the pandemic," says Gattelli. "I felt like we were representing all performers at that point. There were so many who wanted to be working during the pandemic, so I really tried to embrace this opportunity for all of them."

Gattelli says it was a dream come true to pay tribute to the dance geniuses that preceded him, like Michael Kidd, Agnes de Mille, Onna White and Jerome Robbins, in his choreography. Each number shows off a "little dusting" of their work.

Dance Spirit spoke with Gattelli about all the triumphs and tribulations of choreographing in a pandemic, and got an inside look at specific homages to look out for.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

Shouldering the Load: What kind of dance bag should dancers use?

Walk into any dance convention, audition or class, and you'll see a vast variety of dance bags lining the walls. But can the style of bag you use (and how you wear it) have an impact on your dancing?

Don't worry—you won't have to shoulder the load alone. Dance Spirit spoke with two physical therapists who specialize in working with dancers to find out what dance bag is best.

What should dancers look for in a dance bag?

Dr. Meghan Gearhart, physical therapist and owner of Head2Toe Physical Therapy in Charlotte, NC, recommends dancers opt for a backpack-style dance bag rather than a duffel or cross-body bag.

"A bag that pulls the weight all to one side creates a side bend and rotation in the trunk," Gearhart says. "That is going to lead to muscle imbalances that will affect dancers while they're dancing, as well as just in regular everyday life." Muscle imbalances can mean limited mobility on one side of your body, as the muscles on one side are overly contracted and the other side is overly extended to compensate.

Gearhart suggests dancers pick a backpack made from a lightweight yet durable and breathable material, such as cotton, linen, nylon or polyester. Straps should be wide enough to not dig into your shoulder muscles, so avoid drawstring styles with rope straps. Adjustable and padded straps are best, so you can wear the straps at a length where the bag rests at the middle of your back.

Dr. Bridget Kelly Sinha, physical therapist and founder of Balanced Physical Therapy and Dance Wellness in Matthews, NC, emphasizes the importance of finding an even weight distribution when choosing a dance bag.

"If a dancer has a lot to bring, like when heading to the theater for a full day of rehearsals and performances, then I recommend a rolling suitcase to offset the load," Sinha says.

How should dancers wear their bags?

Even if you've selected the perfect dance bag, it's important to be mindful of how you wear it.

Gearhart advocates wearing both straps when carrying your backpack. She also suggests placing heavier items towards the back of the bag, where they will sit closer to your body. A bag with straps that are too loose (or a bag that is too heavy) can create an increased arch in the lower back or cause a dancer to compensate for the weight by leaning forward. Ideally, Gearhart recommends a dancer's dance bag weighing no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight.

"I usually tell dancers to use their common sense. If you don't have tap today, you don't need to bring the tap shoes," she says. "If your water bottle makes the bag too heavy, just carry it." If your studio offers lockers, take advantage of that storage space to lessen the number of clothes, shoes, and dance accessories that live in your dance bag.

And if you think your bad dance-bag habits have given you alignment issues, seek out a dance physical therapist to prevent further injuries.

"As a dancer, your body is working so hard all day," Sinha says. "It does not need excess strain from your bag."

Editors' Picks

Enter the Cover Model Search