Ideas and advice from our readers
Reality Check: Doing Away With Dress Rehearsal
Q: Do you have a dress rehearsal at the same theater where you have your recital? For the last four years I have, but this year I am wondering if we can pull off our recital without a dress rehearsal at the venue.
—Jennifer Pekins Zwijacz
A: We hold a dress rehearsal on Saturday morning, with a Saturday night show and a Sunday matinee. It works well, and we pay for only two days of rental fees. We also do in-studio rehearsals the week prior to the show.
—Kate Lenaway Undercoffer
A: To lower our costs, we hold dress rehearsal at a church or school.
—Carol Lynne Wildman
A: At the venue, I do one rehearsal to run the entire show in order and another to space my larger groups. It costs a fortune, but the dancers work so hard all year that I’m willing to spend the extra time and money to allow them to feel ready.
A: We used to have one dress rehearsal on the Friday night and two matinees (Saturday and Sunday), but two years ago we ran out of tickets and had to turn our dress rehearsal into a Friday night show. We survived just fine and have kept it that way.
A: Holding dress rehearsals in the studio worked well for years. But when I moved dress rehearsal to the actual facility, and we could see the lights, staging, and entrances and exits as everything actually would be, the level of our show improved by leaps and bounds. Since then, the accolades from the audience have been exceptional.
—Doreen Oros Freeman
A: I’m afraid, without a dress rehearsal, my recital would look like a dress rehearsal.
—Rennae Turner Tieken
Classroom Connection: Elevating Jumps
How do we challenge our advanced dancers to improve their jumps? To work on strength and height, I drill my dancers in a progression of simple sautés, changements, and échappés without music. The silence allows students to be conscious of how they manage their weight and use their feet (toe, ball, heel) on the takeoff and landing. Without the constraint of a particular tempo, dancers can also investigate how high they can actually jump.
I often insert quarter or half turns in simple jump combinations. This direction change while moving through space makes floppy or disconnected arms very conspicuous, and it requires students to focus on the strength in their upper backs and armpits.
To help students engage their arms and backs properly, I ask them to imagine there is a baby chick in each armpit. My students know that if they squeeze too hard, the imaginary chicks will suffer, and that if they do not squeeze enough, we will have a studio full of cheeping chicks. The image of an orange in each armpit also works—squeeze too hard and your leotard will be soaked with juice; not enough and we’ll have citrus fruit rolling all around.
Advanced dancers often neglect to put all of their skill and attention into seemingly simple jumps like sauté arabesque, which has the potential to be a dazzling moment in an otherwise ordinary grand allegro combination. Draw students’ attention to such “overlooked” jumps and remind them to consider the size of each jump—keeping a preparatory glissade small, for example, allows a dancer to maximize the “bling” in the following sissonne.
If you drill students on the basic concepts of use of the feet, stability in the core, maintaining proper alignment, and attaining verticality, your students will see significant improvement in their jumping technique—allowing their confidence to hit new heights as well.
Kerry Ring, clinical assistant professor of dance at the University at Buffalo [NY], is core faculty for Dance Masters of America and is certified in Ultra Barre and Kriya Yoga.