For any dancer, the actual time of the dance performance is very crucial and a dancer tries to make sure that nothing goes wrong before or during the performance. However seasoned and professional you might be, you’ll always get butterflies in stomach before the show!! Any dancer is one of best examples of multitasking people; a dancer needs to look after the music, make up, costumes, dance sequence, lights, stage, co-artists, hair-do, etc. and the list is quite exhaustive… while handling all these things, a dancer can’t lose out the focus from the main dance performance. If the dancer has a checklist for the things to do before going up on the stage, it might make things simpler for him/her. The most important thing is to remain calm and focused before the show and this check list may come to help to stay calm and be ready for the show!
This checklist is particularly customized for the Indian classical dance performers. You can use it as a reference and make your own based on your preferences, practices and experiences… So here goes the checklist of things to do before the Indian classical dance performance-
1. Tie your Ghungroos properly
In all Indian classical dance forms, Ghungroos (bells) are worshiped like the God Nataraja and to dancers, their Ghungroos have a very special place in their hearts. Once you wear Ghungroos, they transform you to a sense of being a dancer and they make you ready to create a magic on the stage through your performance. Tying your Ghungroos correctly before the show is very important. They shouldn’t be ‘too tight’ or ‘too loose, they need to be tied up ‘perfectly’. A dancer needs to feel comfortable with the number of Ghungroos he/she is wearing and how tighly/loosely a dancer is tying them up. A lot of dancers worship/do some Puja ritual before tying their Ghungroos. They take blessings from the God Nataraja and their gurus before tying the Ghungroos and this ritual is supposed to be powerful in getting the positive energy from the almighty and Gurus. After tying the Ghungroos, doing some basic movements/warm-up, doing basic footwork is also helpful in getting used to the weight of the Ghungroos and feeling comfortable before going up on the stage.
2. Warm up
Before the dance performance, warming up your body is essential. Warm up will be helpful in preparing the body for the show as well as it reduces the chances of injuries during the performance. One can do a simple warm up which includes basic exercises of main joints of the body- neck, shoulders, elbows, trunk and the legs; or some dancers also include basic dance footwork, spins, dance postures, etc. in their warm up routine. You can also choose to do your warm up routine with the Taala (rhythm cycle) or Raga you’ll be performing in the show. This might help you setting the mood for the performance and ease you to start your dance show when you are already attuned with the Taala and Raga for the performance.
3. Check your costume, hair pins and jewellery
If your earrings, necklace, mangtika, flowers or any other accessories come off during the performance; it is disturbing for you as well as for the audience. Sometimes it breaks the flow of the performance or it may also leave the impression that the dancer didn’t wear or check them neatly. As a dancer, one should be careful and check if he/she has tied up the hair and flowers tightly, worn the jewellery and costume correctly with enough precautions taken; which would avoid the chances of these things falling/coming off during the performance. One could use hair spray/hair gel to avoid the hair becoming fizzy, pin up the flowers and other accessories well, if required double pin them to make them secure and tight in the place. This is a very important thing to do before any dance show!
4. Follow a pre-performance ritual
Sometimes, last few minutes before the dance performance can be as stressful as the time before your board exams! You make all possible efforts to stay calm and focused like you used to do before the exams… Following a specific pre-performance ritual could be one of the best ways to reduce your nervousness and get yourself all charged up for the performance.
Different dancers have different preferences when it comes to pre-performance routine. The most commonly practiced ritual is ‘meditating’ before the show; which helps you to stay calm, focused and to concentrate your energy towards the dance performance. Before the group performance, the team usually prays or meditates together, forms an energy circle, chants positive syllables like ‘Aum’, etc. which helps them unite, be attuned to each other’s energies and form a strong bond between the group which is important for the performance.
This can also be done with the entire team including musicians, light operators, make-up artists, etc. who are equally important members of the team of any dance production.
Some dancers also prefer walking or being on the stage before the show as this helps them get used to the dimensions, energies of the space which is going to support the performance. Creating an awareness about the performance space before the show is often quite powerful as it helps the dancer during the dance performance.
Some beginners also keep some time for the last-minute revision of the dance sequence. Just like any other exams, these last minute quick revisions are helpful in increasing confidence, clearing any small doubts that one may have before the show and memorizing the sequence better!!
You need to try out different routines and see which one works best for you or create one according to your personality, style, preferences and experiences… You can always modify them once you know what works well for you!
5. Prepare a kit for backstage
This is also an important thing to remember and follow before the show. Your backstage kit comes to use during the performance and to save your time during the show; this backstage preparation needs to happen promptly before the show starts. Dancers can keep all the costume changes arranged backstage according to the sequence of the dances of costume changes. This makes it easy for the dancer to change the costume quickly if everything is arranged properly beforehand.
A dancer can also keep a basic touch up make-up kit (make-up powder, brush, lipstick, etc.) which can be used in between two dance sequences. Usually make-up fades after a while due to sweating, hence a quick touch up helps you to look fresh and ready for the next dance piece. You can also keep a napkin to pat gently and wipe your sweat before you touch up your face.
You can also a keep the entire dance performance flow chart in the wings, which helps all the team members to be cued for the next dance piece and get ready accordingly. One can also highlight the chart with florescent marker, so that everyone can read it even in the dark.
Dancers can also keep water bottles in wings, as dancers need to keep them well hydrated during the performance. (Small tip- a water bottle with a straw would be a good option as it’ll avoid spilling of the water from bottle and help you keep your lipstick intact).
Backstage prep can change according to the requirements of the show, dancers, time to prepare in between 2 dance pieces, etc. but the whole team needs to be involved in backstage preparation to avoid any confusion during the performance.
These are a few important things to follow before the dance show, which will make it easier to let the dance show go smoothly and hassle free; most importantly it will help the dancers to remain calm, more confident and focused during the show if the pre-show things are done right! Pre-show time is crucial as it affects the quality of the performance and thus it is recommended that the dancer plans and follows the pre-performance time and responsibilities wisely…