Introducing Dancers to the Theater

            The theater is magic, and blessed are those who make that magic.” -Author Unknown

            It is performance time for dance schools around the world.  Young children gather at theaters, excited to show friends and family members what they have learned in weekly dance classes, and teachers excitedly anticipate the moment when they will feel a sense of pride, knowing that they have been able to pass this art form on to another generation.

            Quite often when teachers and students enter the theater, it is viewed as a finish line to be crossed.  It is important to remember, that because dance is a performing art, the year-end performance, or recital, needs to be treated as an educational experience in its own rite.

            The theater is a very different place than the classroom.  Since dance educators have spent countless hours in the theater, it is easy to forget that this experience may be the first of its kind for many of the students.  Performing in a theater can be overwhelming, and one of the dance educator’s jobs is to make the experience a pleasant and educational one. 

            As the performance approaches, class time should be spent learning and reviewing the rules of the theater.  Students need to be taught about the hierarchy that exists backstage, how costumes should be treated and backstage etiquette.

            Upon arriving, the younger students should be given a tour of the theater, including dressing rooms and the house, as well as the stage area.  Walking around in a small group both backstage and onstage, in full light, can help quell any traces of fear or anxiety.  The students should be taught the proper names for the different areas of the stage, become acquainted with the wings and the placement of lights and made to understand the importance of being quiet backstage.

            It is also extremely important that the students meet the stage manager and stagehands and realize that a show would not be possible without these important people.

            The theater is, and has always been, a sacred place, and young dancers need to be taught to treat it that way.  It is easy to forget amidst the excitement and bustle of spacing and dress rehearsals that a dance educator’s job is to teach dance students about all the aspects of the dance form.  Since dance is a performing art, learning to respect the theater is as integral a part of a young dancer’s education as is learning proper technique.