We have all seen those scenes where the star of the show is presented with flowers as the curtain falls and seen dressing rooms flooded with flowers. But do you need to buy flowers or a gift for a dancer for their dance recital?
Everyone appreciates receiving gifts or flowers and they would make any dancer feel extra special. However, it is not essential to buy a dancer flowers or a gift for their dance recital or concert. Your support and presence at the performance and positive feedback afterward are generally enough.
So although no one expects flowers or a gift, the fact that you are here reading this article means that you feel you should do something special for a dancer after their recital so read on as we explain the tradition of giving flowers and gifts to performers, who traditionally you should not be buying flowers for, the best flowers to buy and their flower meanings, some alternative gift ideas, as well as some special non gift tokens and actions you can give instead to make your dancer feel extra special on their recital day.
Why Do Ballerinas, Dancers & Performers Receive Flowers After A Performance?
The tradition of giving ballerinas, dancers, and performers flowers after a performance is a form of audience appreciation. Admirers and fans send and give flowers to ballerinas to symbolize how much they are loved, adored and idolized.
There is no clear history as to how the tradition started but the giving of flowers to show respect, appreciation and admiration has been around almost since the beginning of human time. Many archeology sites have discovered evidence of pollen and therefore flowers placed in and on graves from as early back as the Neanderthal period between 35 to 45,000 years ago. The Pharoahs and even peasants during ancient Egyptian times would adorn themselves with flowers and give them as gifts of love and worship.
The Romans bestowed floral wreaths on their winning athletes and Chinese history tells us it was custom for those followers of religion to place cut flowers on their altars of worship from as far back as 618 CE.
During the Victorian era (FYI – The Victorian era is the label given to the time and the people who lived in England during Queen Victoria’s reign during 1837-1901), the giving of flowers was art and language all in itself. Every flower and color was given a meaning, even the way the flowers were handed to the recipient meant something. As it was a time when showing emotion openly was not socially accepted and the giving of flowers or a bouquet helped to convey love, gratitude or friendship in a way that words at the time could not.
In particular, flower giving became ingrained in the tradition of many British ballet companies as the fans who supported them would supplement the dancer’s low wages with meals, chocolates, and flowers to show their admiration. Back then it was the scent that was coveted by many as regular bathing was not accessible to all and the scent of the flowers helped mask many smells.
Gifts have also been lavished upon the most admired ballerinas and dancers by their fans for centuries. In her book Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet, Jennifer Homans recounts how in the 1700’s audiences were so enthralled with budding ballerina Marie Salles performance, they would throw gold coins wrapped in banknotes and ribbons to look like bonbons onto the stage. But Salle was well renowned for her professionalism during a time when being a female actor or dancer often meant playing the role of a courtesan for financial reasons. Even during the 19th century, there are many documents that note, the giving of gifts to ballerinas after a performance was not only a sign of admiration but a transaction for more than just a mere thank you by the dancer in return for accepting furs and diamonds. But for some, it meant the possibility of becoming a mistress and being taken care of financially.
Many ballet companies today also have strict rituals as to when and who can receive flowers on stage ensuring that the stars and principals receive theirs first and only on opening or closing nights, or other special occasions, otherwise flowers from fans are sent to dressing rooms for dancers to receive. Male dancers are not given flowers (unless playing a female role), as this is seen as faux pas and are usually given a bottle of champagne or wine instead (which I personally feel is really unfair, give me the champagne any day LOL!) His female partner will often pluck a flower from their bouquet and give it to him as a sign of thanks and gratitude instead.
What kind of Flowers Should I Give To A Dancer After A Recital or Performance?
The type of flowers you give can depend on many factors and I believe in this day and age when giving flowers for their scent and in particular to use to mask body odor and other smells is not a purpose for giving them, that flowers with the least allergenic triggers should be considered alongside those that are more traditional to give dancers.
Long Stem VS. Short Stem Bouquets?
Generally, if a principal female dancer is presented with flowers on stage they are given a bouquet of long-stemmed flowers. This gives the appearance of the star receiving a larger arrangement than the other dancers who might receive shorter stem bouquets that can be held in the hands rather than having to be cradled by the arms.
A shorter-stem bouquet is usually also appropriate for a young dancer who has not yet worked out the mechanics of holding a longer stemmed arrangement.
Type and Color?
Most flowers are bestowed with a meaning when in the context of giving them to another person even down to the particular color you should give to convey how you feel about them. The following is a guide of the most common flowers given to dancers, their meanings and a color guide so you can choose the best combination and send the right message to your dancer about how you feel about them and their performance.
Roses are usually your safest choice in flower, just make sure they have no thorns as it is also tradition for a dancer to pull out a single rose to give to their teacher or someone else who supported them to be their best on the day. It is the different color of the rose that defines their meaning.
Carnations represent pride and beauty. But don’t get the color wrong as you could be sending the wrong message completely! According to the Victorians apparently yellow carnations symbolize disappointment rather than friendship like roses do and a striped carnation sends the message of refusal.
Safe colors to buy carnations in are:
RED for love, pride or admiration
PINK for love of a woman such as a close relation like a mother
WHITE for innocence or pure love
Lillies are known to have various meanings regarding royalty and purity and the Stargazer Lily which is striped pink and symbolizes ambition and encouragement is usually the most recommended Lily to give to dancers. But as it is an Oriental Lily it has an intense fragrance and is not great for those with allergies. Therefore choose an Asiatic Lily as these have a less overwhelming fragrance and in a color such as red, orange or yellow which represent creativity, passion, and energy.
I personally love the Hydrangea and it is recommended by telefora.com as a popular choice to give to allergy sufferers. The Victorians, however, bestowed this particular flower with some negative meanings such as heartlessness I would imagine because it comes in blue the color of sadness. But Hydrangeas come from Japan where the flowers are bestowed among other meanings a sincere heartfelt emotion, which is what I would go with. To make this message clear try to go with pink or white hydrangeas rather than purple or blue, which are unfortunately my favorite!
Tulips are recommended by WebMD as being low allergenic and represent elegance, grace as well as fame when given as a bouquet. The color of the tulip you choose will also give an added meaning to your gift. Pink or Purple are your safest options as pink is affection for friends and family and purple is tied to abundance and prosperity. Yellow tulips can mean cheerful thoughts but can also mean you are not sure how the person feels about you depending on how the recipients interpret your gift. Happiness and warmth are represented by orange tulips. Unless you are passionately in love with your dancer, it is probably best to stay away from Red or almost black colored tulips as these represent true love or the lover’s heart.
Is is it appropriate to give young dancers a gift or flowers?
From my research above and the history of why and how gift-giving to dancers essentially began (which was more of an exchange for some sort of liaison with the dancer, rather than a gift given in prosperity) this question is absolutely relevant. It is also relevant in the conversation of whether we reward our children too much for things they should be intrinsically motivated to do to be able to succeed, therefore should we really be giving a gift to a child after their recital to encourage them? In fact, does giving a gift to a young dancer begin to glamorize and give false expectations as to what being a dancer is all about?
All of the above are valid questions and arguments to decide to not give a young dancer a gift or flowers, but at the end of the day gift-giving is just as much about the giver and them wanting to show their gratitude, love, and joy as much as it is about the receiver feeling appreciated. Therefore if the intention behind giving is genuine it is appropriate to give a young dancer a gift or flowers as you see in the following photos of me with my girls after their recital.
What Can You Give A Boy Instead Of Flowers?
So as we wrote earlier, it is kind of a faux pa or nontraditional to give boys flowers to show your appreciation and admiration for their performance so many people wonder what else they can get instead.
Honestly though as a parent I feel it is a stereotype and quite sexist to say that only girls can receive flowers and not at all what I want my son to learn. Therefore if you want to give a boy flowers at a dance recital then go ahead and give them!
That being said if you are a traditionalist and would like some other ideas we have got you covered.
What To Give A Boy After A Dance Recital?
As a mother and an educator, I think the best gift for any dancer is a book. You can see my top pick for a young, pre teen, teen and adult male dancer on our resource page – The Best Gifts To Give A Boy Dancer here.
Otherwise, the following are a few DIY ideas I have sourced from Pinterest that you could put together. I particularly like the ‘You Knocked our Socks off’ gift with a pair of socks and a sweet treat!
What Should I Get My Daughter or a Little Girl For Her First Dance Recital?
A first dance recital can be as stressful as it is exciting and many parents like to buy their child a gift as a way of showing how proud they are of their child. But what should you buy?
I am going to be repetitive here and say that a good book about dance will always be your best bet! I love that you can inscribe your name and the date and reason for giving the book on the inside cover. You can see my top pick for a young, pre-teen, teen and adult female dancer here on our resource page The Best Gifts to Give A Female Dancer here.
In the meantime, the following are a few DIY gifts you could make that I have sourced from Pinterest. I personally really like the Hair accessories bouquet.
How Long Does A Dance Recital Last
A dance recital generally lasts 1.5 to 2hrs. The length of the recital will depend on how many items or routines the dance teacher has decided will be performed on the day or if the recital is based on an actual ballet. If the recital is based on performing a ballet such as The Nutcracker or Giselle the studio teacher will be able to give you a good estimate of the length of the recital based on the length of the music being used.
At other dance schools, generally, every class will get to perform in at least one routine if not more. If your teacher has told you there are 20 items being performed a good rule of thumb would be to multiply this by six minutes. So 20 routines x 6mins is 120 minutes or two hours. You might need to add more time if there is an interval.
Why six minutes? Most group routines are about 3 minutes long. Then you need to add on any time for closing and opening curtains, getting kids on and off stage and setting up any props. When I was in full-time training, we had minimal props, no curtains between items and as we were all competent teenagers there was not a lot of messing around between getting everyone on and off the stage so six minutes would have been an overestimate of the time needed for each item. But at a children’s dance recital, however, there can be a lot more organization that has to happen backstage to get kids on and off and therefore six minutes is probably a good estimate for all the movement that needs to happen in-between items.