My oh my – I have been busy with rehearsals, meetings, research, and the beginnings of costume construction. It has been fun, albeit a very busy time. I was updating the production blog for our studio, looking at various pictures I have taken over the last few weeks and thinking of our rehearsals when I realized I needed to discuss some rehearsal tips. A lot of the information I wrote was specific to our studio, but I felt there is some tidbits that might be helpful for everyone. I also would like to, in a very general way, address some issues that I have seen in my years backstage.
Rehearsals are necessary for a performance. Unless your entire performance is based on a completely off the cuff improvisation, you have to rehearse. In dance our cues come from the music itself, although we need to learn to dance as a group, and work together to create a performance that is pleasing to the audience. We have to have the music running through our mind, our bodies preparing for the next move, all while showing off our skill level, our acting ability, and our costumes. It really is an involved process. One cannot expect 1 or 2 rehearsals and pull off a stellar performance. Maybe in very seasoned dancers, but even that is rare.
What do you do when you are dealing with a number of young children though? These children may come in to a dance class for an hour a week, but then are expected to focus and behave during a 3 hour rehearsal. It just isn’t going to happen, not with any panache. I can speak from experience, as this year 3 of my 4 children will be performing onstage with us. As a parent I am full of pride and look for the day when we will take a bow after our performance, but as a fellow cast mate I look with horror as these children goof off, scream, run around, and in general be children. These aren’t just my children (for… my children are so very sweet and well-behaved – Those Goluska Kids can be said with reverence… hahahahaha) but once one child loses focus they take the entire lot with them. It can be funny, especially if we are all just standing around waiting while the director takes notes, reviews music, or checks costumes, but it can be maddening when the children don’t calm down and recenter again when called to order.
I can only offer you bits of advice that you might or might not find helpful. I know that the majority of parents just drop their child off at the studio, check when rehearsal is done, go out for their latte or shopping. However, if all parents spent just a few minutes preparing their child for a rehearsal it would make the entire cast, and the director much happier.
First, come prepared. Please, if you have a child 10 or younger, eyeball their dance material before they come to the studio. I have had more than my fair share of experiences where my children told me they had everything only to arrive and discover there is only 1 shoe, or they have no sweater to stay warm with during breaks. Send water, small non-messy snack (even if the studio provides snacks, it may not be to your child’s liking), and something to occupy them in the down time. This could be a book, a small game (although discuss with them noise level ahead of time), paper dolls, drawing paper, small figures, etc. Encourage them to share with their fellow dancers. I have been witness to many little play areas going on in the studio during rehearsals.. the children are occupied, the dancers can dance, and the director is happy.
Second, be on time. If you know you just can’t make it at the start time you must call and tell the studio. For almost all performances I have been a part of, there is a sign in sheet, and the director will be watching the clock because time is money (as well as there is often a lot to rehearse in a short time). If they go to start a scene and your child is not there, it throws the rest of the cast off. It’s a small thing, especially in this day of cell phones. Please, show respect for the performers.
Lastly, rehearsals should be fun, but it is also a lot of hard work. Children may not be aware of how much will be expected of them, for the stars in their eyes overshadow the rest. Encourage them to work hard, listen to their teacher, and dance to the best of their ability. Don’t berate them if you come in and watch and see them make a mistake. Rehearsals are just that… a time to make mistakes, work out the kinks, and figure out the best steps. Heck, think of the old bloopers, or funny outtakes from movies – even the rich and famous make mistakes.
Enjoy this time with your dancer, for if it wasn’t for them it wouldn’t be the same performance. None of us can expect a young child to behave the entire time, especially in relatively stressful situations, but with the right support from the home front the director will thank you… as will the rest of the adult cast.