Navigating the Recital: A Guide for First-time Dance Parents
The first dance recital can be full of nonstop surprises for the first-time dance parent. Dance has its own culture of expectations and traditions, and they all converge on recital night.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, the following insider tips can help you make the most of your first dance recital, whether your dancer is a toddler or a teen.
Bring snacks and activities. Recitals can seem long to young children, around two hours of dancing in each show. Be prepared to stay and cheer for every number, and, more importantly, prepare for your dancer to be happy when he or she is back stage. Send some things to entertain your child; card games, a sketch pad or stuffed animal can make the wait much shorter. Also plan for your dancer to be hungry. Recital times often coincide with snack or meal times, so bring non-messy foods, such as dried fruit and nuts, cheese and crackers, or granola bars are good options. Avoid sodas and juices because of a) the danger of spilling on a beloved tutu, and b) the sugar content will not sit well with a child waiting for the end of the show.
Costume tips and tricks. You may have several costumes to manage. When you pick up your child’s costumes, avoid the temptation to let her wear them before dress rehearsal. They should look fresh for the performance. Costumes can be itchy, too. Sequins and glitter come at the cost of comfort sometimes. Nude-colored leotards are a good option for your dancer to wear under her costumes. This also provides coverage and eliminates any shyness about having to do quick costume changes in front of the other dancers. Also note that many studios provide instructions on how each accessory should be worn. Keep notes on those and bring them with you to avoid any confusion. It also helps to keep accessories for each costume in a zip lock bag with each bag attached to the corresponding costume. And whatever you do, don’t forget your dancer’s shoes!
Come equipped. Planning and preparation are key. Bring tissues, make-up supplies, plenty of bobby pins and hair elastics. A hairbrush and hairspray are crucial additions to your recital bag. Look for double-sided “fashion tape,” a costume tape that is magic for keeping costumes in place in a pinch. Clear nail polish works wonders on last-minute runs in tights.
About the hair. Speaking of bobby pins, a little bun know-how can go a long way. Dance buns can seem daunting at first, but with a few practice twists and some insider knowledge, you’ll master them in no time. First, damp hair is much easier to work with than dry hair with all its flyaway action. Texturizing spray is also a great tool to tame and prepare your dancer’s hair. Brush her hair out and pull it into a tight ponytail.
At this point, if your dancer has shorter to medium-length hair, you can use a bun-maker—also known as those squishy nets shaped like doughnuts. If your dancer has very long hair, skip the bun-maker. Instead, twist the ponytail. Wrap the twisted ponytail around the base of the ponytail, and voila… you have your bun. (Note that this technique works on medium-length hair, too). Two important secrets: wrap your bun in the same direction you twist, and invest in some high-quality hair pins to secure the bun. Look for pins that are the same color as your dancer’s hair, and tuck them in tight. Keep in mind that your dancer is going to be jumping and twirling, arms moving every which way. Building a hair-pin and hairspray fortress will help to keep that bun in place through all the action.
Expect to purchase a ticket. Virtually all studios sell tickets to their recitals to cover the cost of the venue and other expenses that come with producing a top-notch experience for the children and their families. If you attend a studio that performs in a theatre and provides services like online ticketing and reserved seating, expect to pay more for those amenities.
Plan for a gift. Recital gifts are a strong tradition in dance. Flowers are typical; sometimes, dance studios will partner with local florists and you can pre-order flowers to be delivered to the event. This is a nice, stress-free option. If your dancer is not the flower type, you may consider a balloon bouquet, a recital teddy bear or small gift basket. Younger dancers love receiving stuffed animals to help them remember their first recital for a long time to come.
Save the memories. If you can be at the dress rehearsal and your studio allows it, consider taking photos and video there. The crowd is less…crowded, the children are usually in costume, and this frees you up to just be present and celebrate your child during the actual performance. In fact, cameras often are not allowed to be used during the performance. Make sure you know your studio’s policy on that. Even easier: just order the DVD that the studio produces. It’s an extra investment that pays for itself when you can put the phone or camera down and enjoy the show.
Most of all, remember that our children are little emotional sponges. It’s normal for parents sometimes to feel anxious or nervous about their children’s first events. But work to avoid channeling your nerves to your child, who is just excited for a fun experience. Remind yourself of what’s most important (your child’s enjoyment of the show experience), take a deep breath and cheer for your dancer. If you observe that your dancer is nervous, remind him or her that everyone is there simply to celebrate a great year of dancing and to enjoy the show!