Performing – Dance Advantage Solutions For All Stages Of Your Dance Life Fri, 12 Jan 2018 12:02:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Managing Money as a Dancer on Tour Sat, 09 Dec 2017 14:28:33 +0000 Touring dancers must be smart about their money. Take it from a dancer who has been on the road and be prepared. Know how you're getting paid and where the money is going so that you can have some fun along the way.]]>

When I was little, I didn’t know growing up to be rich and famous was out of the ordinary. I thought it was just something you could do.

Imagine if you told that little girl that someday, people would pay to see her dance, and she still wouldn’t be rich. Or famous.

While I’ve long since made peace with the fact that I’ll likely never be fabulously wealthy, I find my fame in standing O’s and curtain calls. Besides, nobody said that a touring dancer had to be a starving artist.

I did my best to be fiscally responsible while I was traveling, and I walked away financially sound and experientially wealthy. A little bit of planning can go a long way towards being a financially successful touring dancer.

Travel money

Employment Status

Start with finding out if you’re being paid as an employee or as an independent contractor — both are feasible in the world of performance dance. The biggest difference is the way you file your taxes.

You also need to find out what expenses you’re responsible for. Does the company provide your gear, or do you? Are you responsible for your own lodging and food, or is the company providing it? Are they giving you a per diem to use as you want for those expenses, or are they making umbrella decisions for the whole company?



If you’re an independent contractor, your “employer” doesn’t pay or extract any taxes from your salary. It means a prettier paycheck now, but if you’re not prepared come April, your tax bill can be a rude awakening. It also means you’ll likely be in charge of providing more of your own equipment, but those expenses are potential deductions.

We all like to save wherever we can. If dancing is now your primary means of income, your leotards or Latin heels may be eligible for a tax write-off.

If you’re paid as an employee, your employer will take taxes out of your salary and pay a portion of what you own the government from the business’ bank account. You’ll also be provided with workman’s compensation coverage and possibly medical coverage.



In addition to the cost of food and lodging, it’s important to find out if you have any sort of medical insurance or health care stipend included in your pay. You are about to take on a physically challenging job, and there’s a possibility you may be injured. You may also require maintenance health care during your tour stint.

For example, when I left on my second tour, I was under regular chiropractic care to rehab a shoulder injury. Under the company I was dancing with, medical care and insurance was my responsibility, so I made it a point to select travel medical insurance so that I was covered everywhere we went. If you have a recurring prescription or other regular condition, this is exceptionally important.



Just because you’re on a new adventure doesn’t mean that your tried and true money habits get to go out the window. In the absence of rent, grocery bills and other costs of living, it may seem like all your income is disposable. I promise, it’s not.

While your expenses may be significantly diminished, you will still have things to pay for on the road. Making a personal budget will help you allocate money for any responsibilities you still have back home, potential medical expenses, a looming tax payment or simply put away some money for later.

Many touring companies pay their dancers a per diem amount in addition to their salary to cover food and lodging. If this is the case, that means you need to budget your food out of your salary in addition to other expenses you may have. However, it also provides an opportunity to save money by eating inexpensively if you’re looking to put away some extra money.

Finally, make sure you’ve got some money to live it up while you’re on the road. You’ll want to budget so that you’ve got pocket money to see the sights. When I was in New York, I spent my off evenings at Broadway shows and famous restaurants and in California I visited some of the most beautiful vineyards I’ve ever seen.


Final Thoughts

The long and short of it is that smart money management doesn’t really change just because you’re on tour — so don’t act like it does. Make sure you understand how the company is paying you and what that’s for, and then allocate your earnings to cover your expenses. Just don’t forget to have some fun along the way.


Alyssa Robinson is a lover of words and movement who happily resides in the Pacific Northwest. She started dancing at 19 when the ballroom (and latin) bug bit her, and she hasn’t stopped since. If she’s not writing about food, fitness, and dance, she’s in the studio training for her next ballroom competition.

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Dancing on Tour: Surviving Life on the Road Sat, 18 Nov 2017 21:00:07 +0000 Traveling to perform as a dancer means that few of your days are ever the same. Alyssa provides tips to survive the sometimes chaotic experience of life on tour.]]>

In her book “The Cranes Dance,” Meg Howrey writes, “When you step from the wings onto the the stage you go from total blackness to a blinding hot glare. After a moment you adjust, but there is that moment. Like being inside lightning.”

I spent my touring days reveling in that electric moment and chasing the excitement. I thrive on (a little bit of) chaos. I love the energy it lends.

a woman stands in a spotlight

But that feeling isn’t for everyone. To be a successful performer, it’s the moments before and after standing inside the lightning that matter. It’s the day in and day out that fuel your performances.

Traveling to perform as a dancer means that few of your days are ever the same, including what you’re eating, where you’re staying and what the stage feels like. It takes a special level of effort to work the unpredictability of tour-life into a functional schedule.

Develop Routines and Rituals

When your days get wonky, routines are absolutely your best friend.

On tour, I have little routines for a lot of things — my hair and makeup playlist are set in stone, I always do the same thing before bed and I have little rituals with some of my castmates before every show. This makes transitions easier, no matter how hectic the day has been.

Bedtime and morning routines are especially important to your well-being on the road and can help combat jet lag from time zone changes. If you’re not getting a full night’s rest, especially in a physically taxing environment, your mental and physical health may suffer.

Manage Your Free Time

Along with a flexible routine comes free time; figure out how to use your time wisely to get the most out of it.

Remember that on tour you likely won’t have the discipline of daily workouts or technique classes to keep you in line. Your workout routine and technique practice are all up to you.

  • Do a barre every morning.
  • If you get studio time, take it.
  • Find and save some easy, hotel-friendly workouts.
  • Check to see if your gym offers its members location-wide access.
  • Toss on running shoes and explore your new locale while getting your cardio on.

Just make sure you’re moving and practicing. Dancing every night might be a workout, but doing the same show ad nauseam can create a sense of security and complacency in your movements, not to mention, create muscular imbalances that can be improved with a bit of cross-training.

Take Care of Your Body

Caring for your body means more than hitting the gym. You need to make sure you eat well and stay hydrated. This seems obvious but it is easy to over- or under-eat while traveling.

I always keep a squirrel stash of power bars in my dance bag for emergency situations when I’m traveling. Figure out which snacks work for you and stock up. The healthier your approach and the more regular your eating routine, the better you’ll adapt to new environments and schedule disruptions.

Take Care of Your Mental Health

Caring for your spirit is equally important while on the road. You cannot be a successful performer and give energy to your audience and your fellow dancers if you do not give energy to yourself.

It can be impossible to find a quiet moment on tour. You’re constantly coexisting with the other members of your company. Take it from me: headphones are a godsend. Blocking out the world without actually having to disappear makes putting on your makeup a private ritual and sitting in the company van, a little retreat.

Add moments into your routine where you take stock of yourself and what you need and then prioritize making time to fulfill that need. My favorite opportunity for introspection while on tour is hot showers — no one bothers you when you’re showering post-show. I have also used apps to track my mood and to remind me to be grateful. Remembering to smile can help in all the chaos.

Center yourself by keeping in contact with friends and family back home. The world of tour can become all-consuming, and sometimes you may forget there’s life outside the stage. Call home to get an emotional reset and an outside perspective.

Make the Most of Life on the Road

Take whatever free time you have while on tour to get out and explore. You may feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere but that tiny rural community might be hiding your favorite boutique of all time. The best tactic I’ve found for exploring a new location is to find a local coffee shop (i.e. not Starbucks) and ask the baristas what to see, taste and experience to best get to know their town in 12 hours. Regardless of how long you’re in town, asking what to cover in that 12-hour time range elicits the truest responses.

Of course, after going to the trouble to ask, go do it! Eat, walk, see, smell and experience where you are. Make some memories and take SO MANY PICTURES. Live it up. You can always nap on the plane.

Newsflash: You won’t be successful with all of the above advice all of the time. Take each day as it comes and don’t expect perfection. Enjoy where you are, listen to your body and strive to be the best you can be, both on and off the stage. Shape the chaos of touring in a way that works for you and, while they last, chase those moments that make you feel like you’re inside lightning.

Alyssa Robinson is a lover of words and movement who happily resides in the Pacific Northwest. She started dancing at 19 when the ballroom (and latin) bug bit her, and she hasn’t stopped since. If she’s not writing about food, fitness, and dance, she’s in the studio training for her next ballroom competition.

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An Organizational Primer For Dancers In “The Nutcracker” Sat, 03 Dec 2016 17:40:16 +0000 Reduce stress, stay organized so that you can dance beautifully especially during the busy Nutcracker season with these tips from dancer-turned-blogger, Sarah Arnold.]]>


As a ballet teacher, I am always very concerned that the dancers keep up their strength and stay injury free during performance season.

“The Nutcracker Primer” ~ my gift to you!


Nutcracker rehearsals are difficult due to down time between pieces. You dance full out, you wait 30 minutes, dance the allegro finale, break, put on your pointe shoes and run a corps de ballet piece.

Break two hours. Warm yourself up again. Repeat and rinse for four hours. Maybe in the middle you are in the Party Scene but it is on flat. Challenging to say the least!

How do you stay in shape, injury free and dance your best in every role? The answer is to prepare and create a fool proof routine.

Rehearsal routine for all the weeks in advance of your performances.

  • Use your time effectively in order to do your best in rehearsal and injury free.
  • Do your floor barre or ballet conditioning exercises on the sidelines while awaiting your rehearsals. This will strengthen your technique and prevent overuse injuries.
  • Check your rehearsal schedule and keep warmed up in time for your next rehearsal. This will prevent injury.
  • After each rehearsal, put on your booties and warm-up clothes. Do not go outside and get cold air on your muscles. If you have 30+ minute break, have a light snack and stay hydrated.
  • Don’t sit around in big stretches, stand up and just jump back into rehearsal. Stretches do not keep you warm. Better to stretch dynamically (with movement) rather than statically.
  • Learn other roles— next year or understudy, you might get your chances
  • Review your roles on the side and perfect the challenging sections.
  • Review your roles and if you forget a section, ask a friend for help in advance. Don’t waste time in rehearsals by asking unnecessary questions.
  • Bring protein snacks that are easily digestible and keep hydrated.
  • Eat and sleep well.
  • Be organized. Make sure you have all your rehearsals and costume fittings on your calendar.
  • Do not skip class before rehearsal or any time in the weeks leading up to the performances.
  • Practice your hair style in advance if you have something different than your normal style bun. If possible, try it in rehearsal. Please don’t wait until dress rehearsal to experiment!

Your stage kit prepared in advance

Prepare a list for your theater kit and make sure you have purchased all your needs. Pack them ahead of time.

Here are some suggestions:

Makeup kit~ ballet schools may vary as to what makeup you will need. Most schools require foundation, powder, eyeliner, neutral shadows, red lipstick, blush, eyebrow pencil.

Hair supplies~ hair nets, bobby pins, hair pins, fake hair pieces, hair spray and/or gel, extra bobby pins for headdresses— don’t rely on the costumers to supply them.

Shoe kit~ prep shoes (color them, trim threads, calamine, strong attachments for ribbon and elastic, necessary padding, baby powder for sweaty feet, rosin if allowed or not supplied, sewing kit, spare elastic and ribbons, enough pointe shoes for the run.

Cosmetic cleansers~ kleenex, makeup wipes, cold cream, toner, clean washcloths. (Keep your skin clean from the heavy makeup and sweat!). Anti-perspirant. Remove nail polish in advance of performances.

Jewelry~ leave expensive jewelry at home, bring your bling stage earrings.

Miscellaneous supplies~ safety pins for emergency, feminine supplies, foot rollers or balls, The Stick, a foam roller, washcloths, anti -perspirant, pad of paper and pen for notes, rehearsal schedules, a small magnifying mirror, clear nail polish for last minute run in tights, tiger balm or any remedy for sore muscles, ibuprofen or aspirin if you take it, blanket for keeping warm or a nap, etc.

Undergarments~ beige camisole for under costume if you have quick changes backstage. An extra pair of tights.

Makeup Tips:

Check makeup kit to make sure your makeup is not contaminated, old or gone.

Practice your stage makeup if this is new to you or if your makeup might be different for a character role— even Arabian can sometimes be more exotic. False eyelashes and eyeliner are worthwhile techniques to practice ahead.

At the theater

  • Check in on time.
  • Check call board for any changes to cast, last minute rehearsals, costume fittings.
  • Create a ritual for your dressing room space
  • Setup a hand towel for your dressing table. This keeps your space clean, designates your space, put out lucky charm, soothing music to keep focused and not expend extra energy. If you have enough time you can listen to your music on your headphones.
  • Create a routine for each performance~ write it down so you don’t have to recreate it each time!
  • Get or set your props
  • Organize your costumes
  • Get a program for order, tape to mirror
  • Take the warm-up or a class before the theater call Rewarm-up if necessary


If you use your time effectively by rehearsing and performing well, the best part is that you will be looked upon as reliable and proficient dancer. What does that mean? Perhaps an advancement in roles for next time!


I hope my “Nutcracker Primer” reduces stress and keeps you organized and dancing beautifully!

Whether you are a novice adult student or seasoned professional, I hope you may find this helpful and discover a new tip or two! I would love hear about your routine so I can improve this for the future. If you are a student, please keep this list on hand and be sure to print out and share with your parents. I know they will appreciate it!


Sarah ArnoldSarah Arnold is a former professional ballet dancer and has been teaching ballet for 30+ years. She never thought she would enjoy teaching when she was a dancer. However when she quit dancing, teaching quickly became her newfound passion. Her ballet teacher blog is a place to share new and old finds about teaching! Sarah loves to share with any inspired student.


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16 Performance Habits That Guarantee A Great Show Mon, 02 May 2016 18:49:15 +0000 Backstage, every dancer must do their part to make sure a performance runs smoothly. These 16 behind-the-curtain habits should be as much a part of your routine as the choreography.]]>


In performance, mishaps sometimes just happen. The show always goes on but every dancer, crew member, and volunteer can do his or her part to make sure all goes as planned on and offstage.

The following is a list of 16 things to do behind-the-curtain to put on a fantastic show every time because, when a performance runs smoothly from an audience’s perspective, it’s a win. When a performance runs smoothly from the perspective of the people backstage, it’s a dream come true!


"Dança" by Luci Coreia is licensed CC BY 2.0 [text added]
“Dança” by Luci Coreia is licensed CC BY 2.0 [text added]

1. Check in.

Cast members typically arrive at an appointed “call time” for the show. Avoid being late and make sure you check in as directed so that the stage management team knows their cast and crew are in the building.


2. Be where you are expected to be.

Crew members should always know where to find you. Stay in the dressing room, “green room,” or lounge where you are supposed to wait to go on stage.


3. Say thank you.

While you should always show gratitude to those around you, this is more than just a common courtesy. It is customary when crew members make announcements like “10 minutes to places,” that the performers respond, “Thank you, places,” to show that you heard the announcement.


4. Wear shoes backstage.

For your safety, you should have slip-on shoes on in the backstage areas. In a place where sets are constructed and lights may break, you never know what’s on the floor.


5. Stay quiet.

In many theaters, sound from backstage or the wings travels easily to the “house,” where audience members are seated. If you need to talk, speak softly.


6. Bring something to do.

There can be a lot of waiting around during the run of a performance. You should always have something that will keep you quietly occupied before or during the show.


7. Respect others’ pre-performance rituals.

Every performer has a certain way of doing things as they prepare for a show. Some energetically jump around to stay warm, and others are quiet or meditative. Watch and be courteous, especially if your pre-show routine is different from your neighbors.


8. Keep calm.

Performers handle nervous energy and the post-performance “high” in many different ways. It’s okay to feel excited about the show or what just happened on stage but mistakes happen when those jitters get out of control. Maintain an even keel by focusing your energy or at least waiting until an appropriate time to release it. That’s what the pros do.


9. Know your show.

Hopefully by opening night you are well rehearsed but take responsibility for knowing the order and where you are supposed to be at all times. If you miss a cue or entrance because you’re not paying attention, that’s on you.


10. Look after your own body.

Dancers especially need to prepare and keep their bodies ready to perform as showtime approaches. Be sure you are properly warmed up and stay warm.


11. Be responsible for your own stuff.

Large productions may have crew members dedicated to managing props and costumes during the show. If your show is smaller scale, you may be in charge of your own stuff so always do a check or two to make sure what you need is placed and in good condition before the start of the show.


12. Stay away from other people’s stuff.

It is the job of the stage management crew to look after performers. As a performer, typically you are responsible for you and your performance alone. Other performers’ props or costumes should not be touched or moved even if you think it’s set in the wrong place. If you are positive something is misplaced, report it to the person in charge of the item.


13. Don’t bump the drapes.

Even the smallest touch can cause a curtain to move and the eyes of the audience will catch even the smallest ripple. Avoid touching the curtains, legs, cyc, and other theater drapery.


14. Stay out of sight.

When waiting just offstage in the “wings,” ensure the audience won’t see you by staying within the triangular space closest to the “leg” and border curtains. If you can see audience members, they can see you.


15. Be aware of tape marks.

Some lines and marks are placed for your safety. For example, when the front curtain closes, you don’t want to be caught in its path. Others, like the spike at center stage, are there to help orient you on stage. It’s your job to familiarize yourself with these markers.


16. Wait for the right moment.

Light from offstage can mess up the lighting onstage. For that reason, wait until it is “safe” to open doors between backstage and the wings or offstage area.


Practice responsibility backstage so that you can fully appreciate the applause onstage!
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How To Prepare Yourself For Dancing On An Unfamiliar Stage Sat, 30 Apr 2016 13:00:49 +0000 When your first time on a new stage is to perform on it, it's hard to feel prepared. Here are four things dancers do to feel more comfortable before the show goes on.]]>

I once had a dancer lose her balance on stage at a competition, and later tell me that she was startled by her own shadow. We laughed it off, but this experience highlighted why it is important for dancers to take inventory of their surroundings before taking the stage at competition.

Very few dance competitions (such as Youth America Grand Prix) allow dancers a chance to “tech” their piece on the stage prior to performance. For the vast majority of competitions, the first time a dancer touches the stage is go-time. To achieve maximum comfort at your next competition, take the following steps before taking the stage.


1. Find Your Spot

Stained glass exit sign
Stained Glass Exit” by Glen Bledsoe is licensed CC BY 2.0

Spotting is easy in the studio. I often tell my dancers to use the mirror to look themselves in the eyes. However, when there is no mirror, we must adjust. The most common item in convention center ballrooms and theaters are “exit” signs. If there are none, look for non-moving lights or visible signs. Think through your choreography and decide where you will spot for each turning sequence.

Bonus Tip: It is common to fall backwards out of a turn on stage. This occurs because the dancer’s spot is much further away than in the dance studio. If you feel yourself falling backwards during a turn, pull your sternum towards your spot in order bring your center back over your leg.


2. Survey the Floor

Surveying the floor on which you will be dancing is important so that you can “space” your piece in your head. If you are able to look at the stage before you perform, consider the following to visualize the spacing of your choreography:

  1. Are there wings (and if so, how many)?
  2. How many strips of flooring (or tape lines) are there?
  3. Are there markings for center or quarter?

If you will be wearing pointe shoes, always have rosin with you in case the stage appears slippery. Water will do in a pinch, but use sparingly so you don’t ruin your pointe shoes. I recommend wetting a paper towel and stepping on that.


"Stage Lights" by Fuzzy Gerdes is licensed CC BY 2.0
“Stage Lights” by Fuzzy Gerdes is licensed CC BY 2.0

3. Check for Distractions

There are many distractions at dance competitions – flashy lighting techniques such as colored gobos (projected lighting patterns) or spotlights and large, loud audiences that may make it difficult to hear the music, for example. Being aware of these distractions before you dance makes it less likely that they will disrupt your performance.


4. Visualize

Once you have surveyed your external surroundings, it is important to make sure that you are mentally prepared to perform. After you have warmed up, use an mp3 player to listen to your music. Mark through your piece from the waist down, and perform full out from the waist up. As you are going through your piece, visualize yourself executing every step perfectly. This will prepare your body and mind to step on the stage and perform your best.


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What Charlotte The Spider Knows About Nurturing Champions Thu, 07 Jan 2016 15:30:31 +0000 If Charlotte can take a small, lonely, frightened little pig and turn him into a healthy, strong, confident winner, so can you. With lessons from "Charlotte's Web," dance teachers can learn how to turn their dancers into real champions, not just in competition but in life.]]>


Anyone who has ever felt a little emotional (or, outright sobbed) during a telling or re-telling of Charlotte’s Web knows it is a heart-warming yet bittersweet story about a little girl’s love of animals and also the friendship between a wise spider and a young pig. But, as Leah Singer writes, “[Charlotte’s Web] is also about words and the difference storytelling can make in people’s lives.”

This is the front cover art for the book Charlotte's Web written by E. B. White. The book cover art copyright is believed to belong to the publisher, HarperCollins, or the cover artist.
This is the front cover art for the book Charlotte’s Web written by E. B. White. The book cover art copyright is believed to belong to the publisher, HarperCollins, or the cover artist.

If you’re not familiar with E.B. White’s classic children’s story, Charlotte’s Web is about a small pig, a runt, in danger of being slaughtered because he is “very small and weak, and . . . will never amount to anything.” A young girl named Fern convinces her father to spare the pig, who she names Wilbur. Fern loves and nurtures Wilbur but his life is once again in danger when he is sold to her uncle. It is Charlotte, a barn spider, that ultimately saves Wilbur’s life. Charlotte weaves a series of words into her web–”Some pig.” “Terrific.” “Radiant.” “Humble.”–which the farmers take as signs of Wilbur’s greatness. Word spreads of this remarkable pig and he becomes too famous to kill.

Wilbur is entered into the county fair and, though [SPOILERS ahead] he does not win first prize, he wins a special award for being extraordinary. Knowing that Wilbur is now beloved by all and his life is for certain no longer in danger, Charlotte finally gives in to her own death but not before leaving her egg sac in the care of Wilbur who returns with it to the farm. There, he welcomes and befriends Charlotte’s children and future generations of spiders for years to come.

Through Charlotte, we learn a lot about coaching young dancers to greatness.


When it comes to nurturing champions, Charlotte knows:

That words matter and that the story you tell can save a life.

In the book, Charlotte makes a choice to re-write Wilbur’s story. At first she’s just tricking the minds of gullible humans on behalf of a little pig who is scared and defenseless but Charlotte does see something special in Wilbur. Maybe it’s just that he is willing to see beyond her “bloodthirsty nature” but helping Wilbur gives Charlotte’s life purpose and makes her feel good.

“…by helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”.

Where would an “unlikely ballerina” like Misty Copeland be without her first supporters and mentors who chose to see beyond the obstacles of her early life and the color of her skin and instead speak of Misty’s potential to rewrite what could have been her story? Not all dancers are as famous as Misty but I’d guarantee that, if asked, every single person in the dance world could give you the names of teachers whose words changed their lives.

"Barn Spider" by Dave Fletcher is licensed CC BY-ND 2.0
“Barn Spider” by Dave Fletcher is licensed CC BY-ND 2.0


That ordinary dancers become extraordinary the same way gifted ones do.


Wilbur blushed. “But I’m not terrific, Charlotte. I’m just about average for a pig.”

“You’re terrific as far as I’m concerned,” replied Charlotte, sweetly, “and that’s what counts.

Wilbur doesn’t start out as anything special. He is a common runt and even he doesn’t believe he is anything more. It takes time, hard work, and Charlotte’s steadfast belief in him but, by the end, he truly is a magnificent, “completely out of the ordinary” specimen of a pig. Wilbur can barely handle all the praise he receives.

I don’t think Charlotte foresees all that Wilbur eventually accomplishes but that doesn’t matter. She always plans her messages one word at a time. Who can truly predict which students will go on in dance, and which won’t? Who knows what the result of your influence will be? A perfectly average dance student becomes exceptional the same way a gifted student does–one step at a time.


An average dance student becomes exceptional the same way a gifted one does… one step at a time.
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That the way a student feels is as important as their skill.

Charlotte loves Wilbur but she’s not always overflowing with praise. She sees his limitations clearly. While searching for her next word, Charlotte asks Wilbur to run, and jump, and flip. He exhausts himself doing everything she asks. When he’s finished, Charlotte concludes…

“I’m not sure Wilbur’s action is exactly radiant, but it’s interesting.”

“Actually,” said Wilbur, “I feel radiant.”

“Do you?” said Charlotte, looking at him with affection. “Well, you’re a good little pig, and radiant you shall be.

Charlotte acknowledges that Wilbur is eager and willing and realizes that a pig’s natural abilities aren’t everything. Not to mention, they are completely different from her own abilities. She sees that the way Wilbur feels about himself is absolutely essential in helping him become all that he can be. Later, people take notice of the “interesting” things about Wilbur.

Your students are their own kind of dancer. They need you to guide them and challenge them even though they will eventually go their own way. Positive praise when your students show enthusiasm and effort builds their confidence but so does validating them. Show them that their feelings and thoughts–who they are on the inside–matter.


That people (and pigs) live up to their descriptions.


“When Charlotte’s web said SOME PIG, Wilbur had tried hard to look like some pig. When Charlotte’s web said TERRIFIC, Wilbur had tried to look terrific. And now that the web said RADIANT, he did everything possible to make himself glow.”


Over time Wilbur transforms into the pig that Charlotte says he is. He’s always been a sweet little pig but, according to the story’s narrator, “good food and regular hours were showing results.” Wilbur goes from a weak, lonely, uncertain runt that no one wanted to a healthy, strong, and confident pig that “any man would be proud of.”

Saying what you want to see is a concept that works for work ethic as well as pointed toes. It’s not that you need to make things up about your dancers that aren’t true. When you have a seed, you water it because you know the potential for growth is there if you do. As you work with your students, regularly sprinkle them with recognition of the growing potential you see in them.


"Piglet" by Jim Champion is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0
“Piglet” by Jim Champion is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0


That encouraging humility brings handsome results.


“Wilbur was modest; fame did not spoil him.”


The other animals worry that all the attention might go to Wilbur’s head but it doesn’t. In the back of his mind, he knows the fate he’s escaped–it haunts his dreams a little–and he knows he would not have gotten far without Charlotte. “During the day he is happy and confident” but, when faced with his biggest challenge, he still wants Charlotte with him

When they attend the county fair, Wilbur’s owner has a special crate that says “Zuckerman’s Famous Pig” in gold letters and his wife fusses to make Wilbur look good with a buttermilk bath and clean straw. They believe his fame and looks will win him the prize. But Charlotte sizes up the competition and though there’s a bigger pig, she knows exactly what Wilbur’s got that that pig doesn’t–she writes HUMBLE above Wilbur’s pen. Charlotte’s word is true and it serves Wilbur well. Everyone has something nice to say about it him.

As a mentor to your students, you can help them see their best qualities. The rest of the world tells your students that being a winner means you must be “Instafamous” or look and perform better than everyone else. But when you let dancers know with your words and actions that humility matters, they win.


Charlotte the spider shows that as a mentor, you can help students see their best qualities.
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That the work you do every day is a miracle!


Though it is remarkable that Charlotte is able to understand and weave human words into her web, Fern’s uncle fails to see it as anything special. Fern’s aunt hints at the idea that perhaps it is the spider that is extraordinary and not the pig but Charlotte’s role is soon forgotten in all the excitement over Wilbur. That’s okay by Charlotte. She cares only that her plan works and that Wilbur is saved. When Fern’s mother becomes concerned her daughter is spending too much time talking to animals, she consults the family doctor. They end up chatting about the writing in Charlotte’s web and he has this to say:

“When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.”

“What’s miraculous about a spider’s web?” said Mrs. Arable. “I don’t see why you say a web is a miracle – it’s just a web.”

“Ever try to spin one?” asked Dr. Dorian.


Like a spider’s web, not everyone appreciates everything that goes into teaching dancers and the “ordinary miracles” you perform every day. Your reward isn’t the point or the purpose for doing what you do but when they do come, the rare moments of recognition are all the sweeter.


"spider web" by Alan Reeves is licensed CC BY 2.0
“spider web” by Alan Reeves is licensed CC BY 2.0


That you are never too small to leave a legacy.


Though she is small, Charlotte works extra hard to do her very best on Wilbur’s behalf and Wilbur never forgets her work and sacrifice. No matter the lengths you’ve gone to support your dancers, no matter how intricate the web you’ve woven, like Charlotte, you probably fade into the background. But your students remember and, just as Wilbur carries Charlotte’s egg sac back to the farm, your students carry forward the things you’ve taught them. They spread them, share them, and often pass them to future generations.

Your students may not become famous or win in every competition but if you help them as Charlotte helped Wilbur, they become winners–ordinary dancers who succeed, who go on to live lives that are remarkable in their own way and, in the process, create your legacy as a teacher and dance educator.

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8 Ways To Overcome Stage Fright Mon, 26 Oct 2015 14:45:04 +0000 Don't let nerves, butterflies, anxieties or fear paralyze you. Use these strategies to calm the body and mind so that you can perform your best when you hit the stage.]]>

I will never forget lying in bed the night before my very first performance of Mirlitons in the San Francisco Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” a complete and total nervous wreck. I called a friend on the phone to try and get help to calm me down. They guffawed at my fear, casually replying, “What? Are you afraid you’re going to go out there and NOT do it?”

And I thought, “Yes. That is EXACTLY what I am afraid of.”


Makeup and nerves backstage
Dança by Luci Correia is licensed CC BY 2.0.


If you have ever experienced stage fright, then you know what I am talking about – that paralyzing fear where you have butterflies rumbling in your tummy, clammy, sweaty palms, cotton balls in your mouth and you feel like you can’t feel, let alone move, your body; Where you actually think you just might step on stage and completely forget every single piece of choreography that you have so painstakingly rehearsed for the past days, weeks, and months. Well, if so, then this article is for you.

Here are eight tips for coping with stage fright, helping you take back control of your body and your performance.


1.     Breathe.

Inhale deeply into your belly and your lungs. Exhale slowly. Feel the breath wash over your body like a wave, from toe to head and head to toe. Repeat.

2.     Feel your body – especially your extremities.

Feel your hands, your feet, your nose, and your ears.  Be as physically in your body as possible. Here’s an exercise to try: Rub your hands together, briskly. Develop some heat in them. Feel the heat. Then, hold your palms close together and slowly start to separate them. Feel the energy between your palms. Now, take that energy and “wash” it over your body from head to toe. Allow any tension in your muscles to release as you wash the “energy” over them.

3.     See your environment.

The lights, the wings, the people around you, the stuff surrounding you (dance bags, pointe shoes, old leg warmers strewn about, etc.). Force yourself to see the colors, shapes and textures. Let your sight pull you into the present moment.

4.     Have faith in something greater.

Have a spiritual practice of any kind? Great, use it now. Don’t have one? Not to worry. Just try considering the possibility that this current experience might be WAY bigger than you. Envision yourself, where you physically are right now, as if you are watching yourself from outer space. At any given moment, from this grand perspective, we are all each just tiny specks amidst a vast sea of a universe. An important speck, but a small part of the greater whole none-the-less.

5.     Trust the process.

Remind yourself of all the work you have done to get here. All the hours of rehearsal, learning and fine-tuning the choreography in your body. Yes, one could always do more. But, it’s show time. Trust that you are as prepared as you are supposed to be at this moment in time.

6.     Plan something to look forward to after the show.

A nice meal, a hot bath, watching your favorite movie… Something concrete and tangible that will help to remind you that this is just a show. It is one piece of fabric, out of the entire quilt of your dancing life.

7.     Decide.

Decide beforehand to be proud of yourself afterwards, for just going out there and dancing the heck out of your performance – regardless of how it goes.

8.     Have Fun.

When you make the goal of the performance be to have fun and enjoy yourself, rather than to hit that one turn or balance “perfectly,” you instantly set yourself up for success. Then, you can relax. And when you relax and have fun, things usually go a lot better.  And, if they still don’t go so well? Well, at least you had a good time in the process, and that is what performing is all about.

Butterflies, clammy palms, dry mouth…you can’t feel, let alone move, your body. #stagefright
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Why We Dance: In the Studio and On Stage Thu, 06 Aug 2015 14:40:11 +0000 There are many reasons we dance. One dance teacher reflects on these as she looks back on her dance recital and all the students learned and accomplished, demonstrating why dance matters.]]>
"Dança" by Luci Correia. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic
Dança” by Luci Correia. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic


I am struck by the many reasons we dance.

In talking with teachers, parents, and dancers about a recent performance, I heard the declaration of so many different motivations. Each group had their own reasons for participating in the show and each group felt that those reasons were validated by the experience. The best thing about hearing everyone’s comments was realizing that these different motivations all overlap and compliment each other.

But before the stage comes the studio and the many reasons we choose to dance…

Ideally, the studio is a sacred place where problems are left at the door and the outside world takes a backseat to practice. In the past year, I’ve seen students who are motivated by a love of movement, by fitness, and by the enduring allure of a tutu and tights. I’ve heard parents express an interest in the discipline of dance, the health benefits, the socialization, the intellectual stimulation, and simply the fun and enjoyment that it brings their children.

As a teacher, I want all of these things for my students.

I’m working for healthy bodies and minds that love to move and continue to be stimulated by new and different concepts, including those beyond dance technique. I love watching students grow and change and I try my very best to acknowledge those changes. This year alone, I’ve seen students with severe separation anxiety become well-adjusted, creative, and independent movers. I’ve seen dancers with disabilities improve in their dancing and overcome physical limitations. I’ve seen students make connections and create imagery that have improved their dancing as well as their understanding of how their own bodies function.

Most importantly, I’ve seen students engage. From two-and-a-half all the way through to adulthood, I’ve seen students engage their bodies and minds in the process of movement: technique, patterns, rhythm, shapes, speed, energy, and flow. We don’t just practice a dance. We engage in the practice of dance, with all the intricacies that it requires.

The studio is our home, our lab, our workshop, our space to learn, move, and grow. The stage is our means of sharing those achievements.

A father and daughter share a hug at dance recital
Photo by Andrea Stephens

So many of our dancers were visibly excited at the prospect of dancing on stage. Tutus, costumes, and a chance to “show off” their skills was enough to make some of them bounce up and down. Parents expressed their appreciation for the opportunity provided their children to dance and perform on the stage. Some of them went into this day hoping their child would grow to the occasion and, without exception, they did. There were tears, cold feet, and a few melt downs, but they did it. I saw dancers on the autism spectrum perform at the same level as their peers, dancers overcome congenital limitations, and dancers who struggled through stage fright and separation anxiety to show their heartfelt love of dance. Moreover, I saw an audience who was none the wiser to each and every one of these extraordinary accomplishments. More than just showing off their dances, all of the dancers showed off their bravery, their love of movement, their excitement, their skill, and their progress.

The stage shines a light on everything our dancers have learned, and, while we’re proud to show our dances, we are far happier to show our ability to dance with all of the behind-the-scenes learning and growth that it requires.

The studio is our home, lab, workshop, our space to learn, move, & grow. #whydancematters
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Jennifer LawrenceJennifer Lawrence is a studio owner and dance teacher in Morgantown, WV. She has more than 15 years of teaching experience and specializes in ballet, pre-ballet, creative movement, and teaching language through movement. Jennifer also has a PhD in French Language and Literature from the University of Pittsburgh and is in the process of creating a pilot program teaching French through dance and creative movement.

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10 Signs You’re a Stagestruck Dancer Mon, 20 Jul 2015 14:45:30 +0000 Suspect you've fallen in love with performing? Here are the signs you have. Never fear, the next show is right around the corner.]]>

1. You’d rather be a tree than not be in the show…

"IMG_1781" by Bo Gordy-Stith. Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. [Changes to image: filter and text added]
IMG_1781” by
Bo Gordy-Stith. Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. (Changes to image: filter and text added)










2.  Your Throwback Thursdays are almost always backstage pictures.

"Dança" by Luci Correia. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic. (Changes to image: filter and border added)
Dança” by
Luci Correia. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic. (Changes to image: filter and border added)










3. You still watch performance DVDs from years past (just not the parts you’re in…)

Photo by Rachel Hellwig
Photo by Rachel Hellwig


4. Finding old programs can trigger hours of nostalgia…

Photo by Rachel Hellwig
Photo by Rachel Hellwig


5. A week without rehearsal feels strange…

"day 055" by Holly Lay. Licensed by CC Attribution 2.0 Generic.
day 055” by
Holly Lay. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic.












6. You start thinking about Nutcracker…in July.

Photo by Rachel Hellwig
Photo by Rachel Hellwig


7. The last performance of the show gives you that Cinderella-at-midnight feeling…

"swKCB0514_ 1271" by KCBalletMedia. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic. (Changes to image: cropped, text added)
swKCB0514_ 1271” by KCBalletMedia. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic. (Changes to image: cropped, text added)










8. Post-performance blues are real…

"GST_0096" by Gabriel Saldana. Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. (Changes to image: filters, border, and text added)
GST_0096” by
Gabriel Saldana. Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. (Changes to image: filters, border, and text added)











9. When one show’s done, you’re counting down to the next…

Photo by Rachel Hellwig
Photo by Rachel Hellwig


10. Because nothing beats performance high…

"flying high over san francisco" by torbakhopper. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic.
flying high over san francisco” by
torbakhopper. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic.








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B Dancewear Offers A Rainbow Of Dancewear Options Tue, 14 Jul 2015 18:22:37 +0000 B Dancewear offers nearly 40 types of dancewear basics in over 200 colors, in an array of fabrics. See what we have to say about the products they sent us.]]>

When you’re working with small costume budgets, as I do when I choreograph on college students, or needing to add something to that ‘almost perfect’ costume, as I’ve also been known to do, finding the right colors for costume pieces can be tricky.

It’s got to be scarlet red, not cherry red or burgundy red, to match that asymmetrical top you found at the overstock store. And only bronze dance trunks will go with that unique seafoam and bronze dance dress from the catalog… You’ve been there, right?

That’s where I was when I first stumbled across – looking for just the right color of something. I ended up not needing to purchase – we went in another direction – but I definitely filed the site in my mind because they offer nearly 40 types of dancewear basics in over 200 colors, in an array of fabrics.


Cyndi Marziani is the owner of B Dancewear and has only recently decided to take her years of costume creation experience to a national customer base with the help of her son. Having already been somewhat familiar with the company, I was happy to agree to review some products when they approached me.

Of all their products, I decided to take a look at the high-waisted dance shorts which are becoming very popular, the high-waisted palazzo pant (I am a modern dancer, after all), the dance tank top, and out of curiosity, the convertible dance dress.

Fabrics Galore

BDancewear Color SwatchesCyndi generously sent some of these items in a couple of different fabrics to compare, along with full color cards for each of the type of fabrics available, which include Lycra, Shiny Lycra, Cotton, Holographic, Velvet, and Mesh.

Fabric swatches are available to order from free of charge. The full color cards I received can be sent to dance studios for free, but the delivery address must be the dance studio itself. If you plan to do much purchasing as a studio, I would definitely recommend having these on hand. It was very helpful to see the fabrics up close for color matching. The online color images are fairly true on my screen. (At least, I doubt you’ll see gold where I see blue!) But, of course, digital color will never be exact, tending to look a little darker than in reality.

If it’s important to have a good match, get swatches to compare before ordering. They’re free!

Dancewear Designs

As mentioned, I took a look at four different products. All were well made, felt substantial (not flimsy), and worked well in the fabrics chosen. Do consider the purpose your dancewear will serve before you order a particular fabric. For example, cotton can be perfectly breathable for class but is not always the sharpest look for the stage. I received the convertible dance dress in both cotton and lycra. The lycra would be perfect for a costume piece. The cotton, I’d be more likely to wear for practice or for a day at the beach.

I was pleased to find that the sizes available matched typical clothing sizes. This is especially important, I think, for adult dancers who are frequently disappointed that an adult medium in some dancewear fits more like a small or “junior” medium. Not to mention the items at are offered up to Adult XXL. How often does that happen in the dancewear industry?

Here’s a little more detail on the four items I received:

High Waist Dance ShortsHigh-Waist Dance Shorts: I liked that these felt like shorts and not a boy-cut brief (which are offered, if that’s what you prefer). They’ve got a clean hem and the the roughly 5 1/2″ waist can be worn up (particularly on long torsos) or rolled down.

High Waisted Palazzo PantsHigh-Waisted Palazzo Pants: These are a nice wide-legged cut and the waist, as above, can be folded over. I found the standard normal length (which I believe you can see in this photo) a little long for my taste even though my leg length is usually average. It came to the floor which can be a hazard for barefoot dancers so I would probably want to hem them. There is an option to request more length on the website but perhaps less length could also be offered. Take your dancers’ measurements and check the sizing chart so that you’re prepared for any alterations that may need to be done.

Dance TankDance Tank Top: This is a dance staple. The dance tank had good coverage and wider straps, which is nice for comfort and modesty. Because these are costume-style fabrics, the tank didn’t quite have that ‘cozy’ feeling that some jersey knits do but it would look great on stage. I like that this dance tank comes to the hips and I was glad to see that the white, holographic tank I received was lined.

Covertible Dance Dress: Convertible Dance DressThe website says this dress can be worn at least 15 ways. I’m not sure I figured out what all 15 of them are but it’s definitely a versatile piece that would work well for costume variation among the dancers in a piece of choreography. I like the halter look and the possibility of just wearing it as a skirt. Keep in mind that the “bodice” portion is a single layer of fabric and is not likely to suffice on its own in terms of coverage or support for women with larger busts. Either way, a flesh leotard or bra top underneath is a practical addition.


B Dancewear is filling a common need in the dance industry with a line of quality products that gives dancers and choreographers options and versatility in their dancewear or costuming choices. Certainly check them out the next time you find yourself looking for just the right match.


For additional information on the company and more clothing reviews, visit our friends at 4dancers for their take on BDancewear.


Though B Dancewear has advertised on this website in the past, Dance Advantage did not receive compensation for the publishing of this review. Products were provided at no charge. The thoughts within are the author’s own words and opinions, not those of the advertiser.

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4 Dancer Hacks for Performances or Summer Training Mon, 06 Jul 2015 14:50:01 +0000 Find out why oral anesthetic and dental floss are must-haves as you pack your dance bag for performance week or a summer intensive. Their uses might surprise you!]]>

Space, time, and money are limited in my dancing world. Yours too?

I’ve discovered some dance “hacks” that have helped me be more efficient in my self-care, performance, and spending. Here are my must-haves when I pack my dance bag for training and performances.


Oral Anesthetic Gel

Blisters, bruised toenails, skin splits, and other foot injuries happen, despite all of the precautions one takes to ensure a properly fitting pointe shoe, well-developed callouses, and efficient technique.

Once tech rehearsals for a performance begin, you’re typically repeating choreography over and over, sometimes several times a day, in full performance mode. Pain is usually an indicator that something isn’t right, but you can’t usually adjust choreography on the day of the performances.

Oral anesthetics like Anbesol®, a topical treatment usually used for tooth and gum pain, work as a temporary numbing agent. I’ve used it to dull the pain from minor injuries during performance week when scrapes and bruises have less time to rest and recover. Use a small amount of the gel or liquid (pain-relieving sprays may also work) on or around the wound shortly before a performance. Cover and tape the area to protect the wound and prevent the liquid from getting on the floor or costumes.

Test this out, though, before you use it as a last-minute performance save. And remember, this is a TEMPORARY fix to get through some of aches and pains until the performance is over. Take time to rest and heal after the performance so you can fully attack your classes and rehearsals when they start up again.


Dental Floss

When you’re in performance mode, dental floss is, of course, perfect for its intended use on teeth and gums – a post-snack clean-up, a pre-performance beauty/hygiene check, inconvenient food fragments from leftover salad or other meals.

It’s also ideal for industrial-, or dancer-strength sewing. I’ve used dental floss to sew all of my dance shoes – pointe, ballet flats, fix jazz shoes, and most of my costumes. I don’t want anything coming undone when I’m on stage. Most dental floss is white, so fold the fabric to cover the stitching when you’re fixing a costume. Avoid using wax-covered or flavored dental floss to prevent residue on shoes and fabrics.


Heating Pad

In addition to easing sore and tense muscles, heating pads are especially helpful during cold winter months or in super chilled, air-conditioned studios during the summer. Slip your toes or your shoes under the heating pad for an extra snuggly warm up and avoid the challenge of warming up your feet before you warm up your feet (you know what I mean).

The heating also eases the stressful cycle of warming up, dancing, cooling down, breaking, and warming up again on long rehearsal and performance days. During a recent performance, I used my heating pad during intermission because I felt my back tensing up. The time and heat allowed me to feel more comfortable in my body for the second half of the performance and helped me to stay present and mindful during the intermission.

Purchase a heating pad at a local pharmacy, drug store, or dollar store, or make your own! There are do-it-yourself heating pad tutorials on Youtube and Pinterest but we have a simple tutorial for DIY hot-cold packs here.

I like the electric ones because I don’t need to be around a microwave to use them (but I do need a power outlet).


Tennis Balls

It’s so important that we take care of our bodies but sometimes, because of money or time, you can’t afford professional body work. Tennis balls are a perfectly portable tool for dancers to provide self-care, massage sore muscles, and release tight fascia. Experiment with releasing different parts of your body and using the tennis ball in different positions. For example, if your hamstrings are extra tight or sore, begin sitting in a pike position. Ease the tennis ball under your hamstring. Breathe. Allow the weight of your leg to release around the tennis ball. (Imagine your muscles melting around the ball). Gently use your hands to support your pelvis and roll the ball under your leg as needed.

I’ve placed a ball between my back and the seat of a car or airplane when I was on a long trip to ease the tensions in my upper and lower back.

Tennis balls are especially great because they are inexpensive and they come in packs of threes. The extra balls allow you to share with friends, stash them in every bag and purse you have, or use them to make a DIY double roller. When you’re not using them, you can play catch with a friend or a puppy.

Tennis balls come in different sizes and densities but you can experiment with other types of balls, too. My friend uses a gold ball for more targeted pressure. I found an inflatable rubber ball about the size of a basketball that travels with me and deflates to save space. You can usually find a variety of balls in the children’s section of most department stores (to fit every body need, budget, and personality).

    Heating pad, Anbesol, Dental floss, and a ball - essential dancer hacks!
Heating pad, Anbesol, Dental floss, and a ball – essential dancer hacks!


Try these and discover some of your own!

What are your dance “hacks” for performance week?

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The Bolshoi’s Alexander Volchkov on Dancing Romeo Fri, 06 Mar 2015 15:30:35 +0000 What is it like to play Romeo? Bolshoi Ballet principal, Alexander Volchkov tells us of the preparation and experience of giving an emotional performance as Romeo. Dance Advantage: What is the most challenging aspect of dancing the role of Romeo? Alexander Volchkov: The most difficult part of Romeo is the period of emotional preparation. To get yourself [...]]]>

What is it like to play Romeo?

Bolshoi Ballet principal, Alexander Volchkov tells us of the preparation and experience of giving an emotional performance as Romeo.

Photo by Damir Yusupov courtesy Fathom Entertainment
Photo by Damir Yusupov courtesy Fathom Entertainment

Dance Advantage: What is the most challenging aspect of dancing the role of Romeo?

Alexander Volchkov: The most difficult part of Romeo is the period of emotional preparation. To get yourself in that mindset. And of course in rehearsal as obviously, it is physically challenging. But the most challenging is to emotionally become Romeo.


DA: What do you enjoy most about portraying Romeo, and how is it different than other lead roles?

AV: I think what sets this role apart from others is that Romeo and what happens to him is what I could imagine happening to me, and the difficulty I have definitely experienced. It is easy to imagine. My Romeo is someone who truly loves, he is not a Prince or Count, those are roles that you really have to imagine and create for yourself, but with Romeo it is all very straightforward and clear – he is in love and has to love.


DA: As Romeo you share intense and emotional moments on stage with Juliet. What must happen off-stage or in rehearsals with your partner to convincingly create these moments for an audience?

AV: You have to morally and truly fall in love with Juliet and believe that you love her and that she is the only one. And only then, when you believe it, then the audience will believe it. Otherwise they will know that the feeling is false.


DA: The Pokofiev score is much beloved among audiences and musicians. As a dancer, how do you feel about the music of Romeo and Juliet?

AV: Audiences and of course dancers love the music of Prokofiev. It is genius music and it helps you get into the role and the more you dance it, starting with the first act and leading into second act, then you really succumb to it. In terms of emotions, it gives you a minimum of 50% to lead you through, and the audience loves it and of course the artists do as well.


DA: You spend plenty of time on stage with Juliet in your arms but which section of this ballet, that is not a love scene, is your favorite to dance?

AV: I love the emotional scenes, for instance the murder of Tybalt and the final death scene in the crypt. The emotional scenes are the most interesting  to dance and perform. There are of course happy moments which are easier to portray but these more tragic and emotional scenes are very difficult because they get inside of you, start to make your blood run, your body trembles at what you are experiencing on stage and the emotional result which is what I love most.

What is it like to play Juliet?

Visit 4dancers where Bolshoi Ballet’s Anna Nikulina gives her perspective.

Hear more from these dancers:

YouTube Video
Watch this video on YouTube.

See Alexander Vochokov at the cinema

Viewers across the US have the opportunity to see Alexander Volchkov perform the role of Romeo when the Bolshoi Ballet hits the big screen for one performance only on MARCH 8th. Search here for a theater near you.

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d


Alexander Volchkov - photo by ShirokovAlexander Volchkov was born in Moscow. In 1997, having trained at the Moscow Choreographic College (today the Moscow Choreographic Academy), in Leonid Zhdanov’s class, he joined the BolshoiBallet Company. His constant coach is Vladimir Nikonov.

In 2001, Mr. Volchkov won the 2nd prize at the International Competition of Young Ballet Dancers, in Kazan. The following year, he danced the title role in Yuri Grigorovich’s Romeo and Juliet for the Kremlin Ballet Company — in a performance to mark the choreographer’s jubilee.

He originated principal roles in Mr. Ratmansky’s The Flames of Paris (Philippe), Mr. Burlaka’s La Esmeralda (Phoebus), Francesco Ventriglia’s Zakharova Super Game (Lambda), and Declan Donnellan – Radu Poklitaru’s Romeo and Juliet (Paris).

Mr. Volchkov’s has appeared as a guest artist with the Paris Opera Ballet (Jeanne de Brienne in Nureyev’s Raymonda), The Kremlin Ballet Theatre (Romeo in Grigorovich’s Romeo and Juliet), Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre (Swan Lake, The Nutcracker), and Bashkiria’s State Opera and Ballet Theatre (The Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet).

In 2008, after a performance in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Flames of Paris, he was promoted to the rank of Principal dancer. He is an Honored Artist of Russia (2010).


Disclosure: Dance Advantage accepts compensation for promoting the Bolshoi Ballet Cinema Season.

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Dance Auditions for Non-Dancers Fri, 20 Feb 2015 18:28:43 +0000 No dance experience? No problem. In the performing arts, dancing isn't always just for the trained dancers. Here are some tips for inexperienced movers preparing for that dreaded dance audition or dancing-required production.]]>

“On what planet would a “non-dancer” willingly walk into a dance audition?”

It seems like asking for punishment.


Audition Fail


Well, in musical theater, opera, even marching bands and other performing arts it happens a lot. Actors, vocalists, musicians, and other performers often find themselves in performance situations where some dancing will be required.

If this is exactly your predicament, you may be asking yourself how, as a self-proclaimed non-dancer, you can possibly look competent in a dance situation. Fortunately, we have some dance tips just for you.

Ways Actors Can Defeat the Dreaded Dance Audition

Dance Auditions for Non-dancersSome preparation will be physical and some mental, but there are a few things you can do to feel less like a fish out of water while dancing. Decide how much of your time and resources you want to put into your movement self-improvement and then go for it!


Stop calling yourself a non-dancer.

You may be an inexperienced dancer, or an untrained dancer, but you are NOT a non-dancer. There’s no such thing.

Humans move and dance by nature. Even if you can’t remember the last time you busted any kind of move, I guarantee that as a child, you danced. It will serve you well to remember that at one time, even before you were skilled in walking (let alone dancing), moving brought you joy.


Take a dance class.

Any dance class with a good teacher will do. Forget “natural” ability. Things like movement retention, strength, agility, flexibility… these skills get better with practice over time. Where better to practice than in a regular class?


Work it out.

Staying fit will help your dancing. Add daily stretching to your routine for better range of motion. Add regular cardio so that a little movement doesn’t leave you breathless.  Add some strength-training — even simple dance movements require a surprising amount of strength and agility.


Clap, tap, snap, or shoo-bop-a-whap a beat.

There are people who can clap a beat but have trouble keeping in time when movement complicates things. Challenge yourself. Start with a clap (choose a variety of music tempos and styles). Can you add a tap of the foot? Clap rhythms while you march around the room? Notice the space between each beat. Can you fill this space by making the movement of your claps and taps bigger (or smaller)? Don’t worry how you look — focus on the beat. Can you ‘tap’ with your elbow? Your head? Other body parts? Multiple body parts at the same time? Look at you! You’re dancing.

More tips on improvising movement when you’ve never it before.


Look for patterns in choreography.

Just like composers, choreographers use repetition, dynamics, and rhythms to create sentences, or phrases of movement. Whenever you watch dance, keep an eye out for patterns. When you learn or practice choreography, make mental notes. In simple choreography, I guarantee you’ll find that things tend to happen in sets of 2, 4, and 8.

More tips on picking up dance combinations and remembering them.


Observe the movements of daily life.

Great performers are often great observers of human behavior, able to apply their what they see to their own performance. Become a movement investigator. Watch carefully the way others gesture, shift their weight from one hip to another, swat a fly, react when they bump into something. Note it and when you’re alone, try it on. The ability to copy another person’s movement is essential to dance.


Relax and leave inhibitions and apologies at the door.

By the time an audition or that first rehearsal rolls around, you’re as prepared as you’re going to be.

Never apologize (verbally or visibly) for your lack of dance experience. And don’t compare yourself to anyone else. It’s unnecessary. You’ve been moving all your life so just do your best and let YOU shine through.

Guess what, “real dancers” often need this reminder too. You are not alone.


More helpful dance audition advice:

16 Audition Tips

Before, During, and After an Audition



Annie The Musical” Photo by Eva Rinaldi is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0. Text and background added.

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15 Things We Love About Nutcracker Theater Week Mon, 24 Nov 2014 15:00:03 +0000 While The Nutcracker is often the ballet dancers love to hate, all that falls away when we waltz into the theater.]]>

1. Costumes!

Ballerina in peppermint-striped tutu dancing in Nutcracker

Kansas City Ballet’s The Nutcracker. Photographer Steve Wilson.” by KCBalletMedia. Licensed under CC By 2.0

2. Stage makeup

Professional Makeup
” by Amie Fedora. Licensed under CC By 2.0

3. Indoor snowstorms

Dancers onstage in white tutus for Nutcracker snow scene

Nutcracker snow flakes” by Gabriel Saldana.  Licensed under CC By2.0

4. Entering the theater… through the backstage doors

Backtage door

This way in” by Justin Russell. Licensed under CC By 2.0

5. Warming up onstage

Dancers warming up onstage

 “Ballerinas on instructions” by Gabriel Saldana. Licensed under CC By 2.0

6. Dressing room craziness…

Ballet dancers in dressing room

 “girls just wanta have fun” by ChrisHaysPhotography. Licensed under CC By 2.0

7. The day someone brings cupcakes for the cast…

Cupcakes with yellow, green, and white frosting

Cupcakes” by Joel Olives. Licensed under CC By 2.0

8. Or any little present for that matter

Candy canes in a coffee mug

 “cup o’ canes” by liz west. Licensed under CC By 2.0

9. Laughing about the things that went wrong in the show…

Women laughing together

laughs” by Marc Kjerland. Licensed under  CC By 2.0

10. Hanging out in the house….

Dancers in theater house

 “GST_0028” by Gabriel Saldana. Licensed under CC By 2.0

11. Watching from the wings…

Ballet dancers in floral costumes onstage

Roses” by Melissa Dooley. Licensed under CC By 2.0

12. Photos, photos, photos. So many opportunities for fun photos…

Dancers dressed like Nutcracker mice greet peope in theater lobby

Nutcracker Mice” by Mike Fisher. Licensed under  CC By 2.0

13. The one-hour countdown before the show…The jitters. The excitement.

Dancers in dressing room getting ready for ballet performance

 “Dança” by Luci Correia. Licensed under CC By 2.0

14. The indescribable feeling of dancing and acting onstage…

Nutcracker Act II Pas de Deux

Kansas City Ballet’s The Nutcracker. Photographer Steve Wilson.” by KCBalletMedia Licensed under CC By 2.0

15. Stepping inside a fairy tale…

Dancers in Waltz of the Flowers

Kansas City Ballet’s The Nutcracker. Photographer Steve Wilson.” by KCBalletMedia. Licensed under CC By 2.0


What do you love about Nutcracker theater week?


How To Devise an Effective Pre-Show Warm-up Tue, 08 Oct 2013 13:50:59 +0000 There are three methods of warming-up in the exercise world: Passive, General, and Specific. Lauren reminds us that dancers often utilize all three before a performance but could often do so more effectively. Here's how.]]>

Warming up is an essential part of the performance process.

While it’s widely recognized that we should warm up, it may be less understood how to do so effectively.

The amount of time spent warming up before a performance depends a lot on the demands of that particular performance.

Ask yourself these questions:
  • Does the choreography require a lot of jumping, highly athletic movements, or extreme range of motion?
  • How am I feeling today? Am I sore? Injured?
  • How old am I?*
  • Where in the performance does my part occur? How much time will pass between the warm-up class and actually dancing onstage?
  • What type of floor am I dancing on?
  • What shoes am I wearing for the performance?
  • How cold is the theater?

All of these factors can and do influence how much you need to do to be properly prepared.

Class of dancers sitting, stretching side. Photo by Savage Rose Photography

A warm-up class (assuming you have one), often occurs an hour or more before the start of the show, and your body only stays “warm” for about 5-15 minutes (depending on room temperature, clothing, etc) without continued activity. So it may be necessary to repeat a warm-up routine closer to when you perform.

In the exercise world, we divide warm-up into three basic categories: Passive, General, and Specific.

 Passive Warm-up

Dancers have a reputation for wearing lots of clothing during their warm-ups.  Aside from looking fashionable, all those scarves, plastic pants, leg warmers, socks, stocking caps, and shirts wrapped around your waist are serving an important purpose, namely, to provide a passive warm-up.

Heat aids such as heating pads, baths, or salves like Ben Gay or Tiger Balm are also considered a method of passive warm-up.

While these methods can assist in bringing heat and blood flow to the muscles, it should be noted that a good warm-up should not rely on them alone.

General Warm-up

Of the three types, the general warm-up is perhaps the most frequently neglected among dancers.

Consisting of 5-10 minutes of light cardiovascular exercise, a general warm-up is an important component that raises the heart rate, increases overall blood flow and oxygenation, and prepares the body for full range of motion activities. Taking a light jog, jumping jacks, and dynamic stretching are a few ways to accomplish a general warm-up, and should be repeated closer to when you will actually go onstage.

Seeing dancers bounce and rock back an forth in the wings, or prance and jump up and down are performance rituals that actually serve a purpose by warming the body back up and preparing it to perform.

While some might consider a ballet class to be a general warm-up, it’s probably a better idea to be a little warm before you do that first grand plié…

Specific Warm-up

A specific warm-up is meant to target the muscles in demand for the activity you are about to do. In weight lifting, this consists of a practice set of an exercise at a reduced load. Doing so brings blood flow to those targeted muscles and “rehearses” the movement (providing a mental refresher that will ultimately enhance your performance… but maybe that’s the topic of a different post).

In the case of dancers, I would consider a ballet barre and center to be more of a specific warm-up than general. Additional examples could be running through particular parts of your choreography or devising a few exercises that target the _____ (legs, feet, whatever will be utilized the most in that particular piece).

Closing thoughts

While it can be tempting to create a universal warm-up for every situation as part of your pre-performance ritual, the circumstances of each particular performance should inform how and what you do to get warm.

A comprehensive warm-up consists of general cardiovascular exercise, dynamic (rather than static) stretching, and skill or performance-specific movements.

Being vigilant about pre-performance warm-up prepares the dancer physically and mentally for the task at hand.  More than just a ritual, warm-up serves a critical physiological role in helping you perform better and avoid injury.

Long story short: warm-up works.

Anecdotally, one of my students performed a vertical jump test twice, first without and then with a comprehensive warm-up. We found his jump height to be six inches higher after warming up!

Could we then theorize that warm-up could even lead to things like better critical reviews, more roles in the future, higher pay?

What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts on pre-show prep.

* Sorry… but it’s true.  Older dancers should devote extra time to warming up.