Dancing in a new space

Your dance studio is your second home and you know the space inside and out. But what about when you pack up to perform on stage? You’re suddenly thrown into a new space with different dimensions, set pieces, backstage designs, a live audience, and…no mirror.  Adapting to a new space calmly and efficiently is an important skill for any dancer.  Think about it—performing on tour with a pop star or musical production, you can be in a different theatre or arena space every night of the week!  Here are 5 tips to help you adapt to a new space:

  • Rehearse without a mirror. The mirror is a dancer’s tool to learn choreography, perfect technique, practice style, and perform in unison.  But it’s easy to use the mirror as a crutch.  Once you know the material and have cleaned the piece, try flipping your “front” so that the mirror is to your back and you’re able to perform more intuitively rather than relying on the mirror.
  • Do your research. Let’s imagine your dance team is scheduled to perform on the amphitheater stage at your local park.  While you’re still rehearsing in the studio, tape out the exact measurements of the stage so that you’re prepared to dance in a different space than you’re used to.  Even if you aren’t able to go on the stage before performance day, visit the space or research it online so you can get an idea of the surface of the floor, backstage amenities/dressing rooms, and how the audience will be set up.
  • Walk through it. Before you run through the piece full-out during tech, do a slow walk through to sort out any spacing and safety concerns. Use a portable number line that you can bring to any studio or stage to make re-spacing a piece a little less overwhelming.
  • Look beyond the stage. Explore the backstage area, the dressing rooms, and even the audience house seats and mezzanines.  Getting comfortable with the backstage (where to get ready, where to stretch, which wings to enter from and exit in, etc.) will bring you more assurance once you take the stage.  It’s also important to understand the “house” (where the audience sits).  Are seats stacked like bleachers?  How many balconies are there?  Is the audience “in the round?”  If you’re at a competition, where are the judges located? Understanding the audience set-up will enhance your performance and adjustment to the new space.
  • Stay present. You might know the choreography like the back of your hand, but when you’re performing in a new space, it’s especially important to stay present in what you’re doing so that you and your fellow dancers can stay safe and perform to your fullest potential in this new environment.

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