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How to Prepare for a Dance Recital: The Ultimate Guide

By Samantha Bellerose, B.Ed, Dip.Dance (Performing Arts)

Dance Recitals and end-of-year ballet concerts are very exciting for both dancers and parents. For the kids, they get to wear make-up, costumes and dance on stage in front of an audience. Parents get to see all the hard work from throughout the year come to fruition.

But for parents a lot more goes on to get ready and prepared for a ballet recital or dance concert and although your dance studio may send you lists, and emails about what they expect from you, they sometimes assume you know some of the finer details or leave it up to you to ask other parents what to do.

To prepare for a dance or ballet recital you need to follow the four P’s – Practice, Prepare, Perform and Pack! Practice doing your kid’s hair and make-up, Prepare the bags and schedule, help during the Performance, and Pack Up in an orderly fashion!

So in this ultimate guide, I hope to cover everything you might need to know!

But remember – Your dance studio will have a particular way they organize their recitals. They may have more than one performance or junior and senior shows, they may only allow a handful of parents backstage, you might hire your costumes or you may own them and be responsible for them, they might have a few helpers do all the kids makeup and hair, they may do the show in their studios or in the biggest theatre in town, your child may be in one routine or they may be in ten, the studio might do one dress rehearsal or they may do more or none at all.

And we haven’t even gotten into how your school will allocate seats and ticket prices or show t-shirts, DVDs, photos, and concert packages yet!!!

The Dance Parent 101
4 Step System to be Recital Ready!

At the end of the day, though the result is the same – kids performing dance and choreography they have learned in class for an audience. So even though your studio might do things their own way, there is still a clear and predictable system that parents can follow to get recital ready!

STEP 1: Practice, Practice, Practice

For the full practice guide click here!

The Practice step in this system is not only for your dancer as you will find out in the following section. Get ready to practice your skills too parents!!!

Dance Practice

The number one tip your dance teacher is going to tell you to help your child prepare for their dance recital is for them to practice the routines they are learning not just at the dance studio but also at home.

Many dance teachers are now recording the class rehearsal and uploading them to their studio’s dance studio app so their students have them to watch and rehearse at home.

This is only one tip for practicing dance before a rehearsal and for more in-depth tips read our article Practice – The first step to being ready for a Dance or Ballet recital

Practice Hair and Make Up Before Your Recital

If this is your first time preparing for a dance recital, especially if your child is young, taking the time to practice putting makeup on your child and doing their hair will make the day run so much more smoothly.

With all my experience as a dancer, I thought that doing my daughter’s stage makeup would be a breeze. But it wasn’t and I faced a few hiccups which we were luckily able to smooth over because I did a practice with her earlier.

She was three and I knew from doing face paint with her that she hated me putting makeup on her eyes so we needed to get over that. I was lucky because she really really wanted to be part of her dance recital so she let me practice putting eyeshadow and mascara on her gently and she was ok with that.

But as soon as I started with the eyeliner she opened her eyes and it went all over her lid. I was using liquid eyeliner and she did not like how it felt and was having no part of it. If this had been on the day, I would have had to wipe her makeup off and redo it all which could have been extremely stressful to both of us on the day.

To find out what we ended up doing about the eyeliner on the day and other solutions read Practice – The first step to being ready for a Dance or Ballet recital

Practice Fast Costume Changes

Sometimes for whatever scheduling reasons you may find you only have one (or even less) item in between your child’s dances to get them changed. Therefore you should make sure you practice the changes at home if possible – with a timer!

Honestly, if you have practiced them even once, then you will know what issues you might encounter on the day – a hook that is hard to undo, a buckle that might catch on fishnet tights for example.

For some more tips on what to look out for during a fast change read Practice – The first step to being ready for a Dance or Ballet recital

Practice Staying Calm

If you have yelled at your child or seen another mom do this in the dressing room out of stress, or seen the show Dance Moms perhaps you will hopefully understand why this practice is so important.

On recital day, your child may be nervous, excited, worried, and basically a mix of many emotions.

This I have found may make them be demanding of you, not use their manners as you would like them to, or act in ways towards you that you do not appreciate. In all honesty, I can remember acting like this at times to my own mother when I danced, but I will tell you it was all out of fear! Fear of not making it back on stage after a quick change, or forgetting a hairpiece, or my buckle breaking or finding we forgot a piece of the costume.

I am not saying you should accept this behavior, but understanding it and taking a step back to realize your child is reacting to their emotions, rather than attacking you can help you to be more empathic and not react in a way you might regret later.

As the adult this is a perfect opportunity for you to practice all those calming tools you know such as taking a few deep breaths, counting to ten, looking for a solution rather than someone to blame.

If you need more help or tools to practice I recommend taking a look at Dr Laura Markhams Website Aha parenting here.

Practice Self Care

Getting ready for a recital should be all about your child, shouldn’t it??

There is that saying that parenting experts often refer to from airplane safety cards – that parents need to put their own oxygen masks on first before they can help put them on their children. This is generally to push the point, that if the parent doesn’t have their needs met adequately, then they are of no use to their child.

So in the lead-up to recital day and rehearsal week, make sure you take some time out for self-care and getting your needs met, so you are not feeling like everything you are doing is for your child during that time.

When your cup overflows, you are able to give more to others, than when it is empty!

For more tips on self-care for dance and why one year I took the option of not being backstage at my daughter’s recital read Practice – The first step to being ready for a Dance or Ballet recital

Practice Healthy Eating and Sleeping Habits

One of the best things that you can do for yourself and more importantly for your child before a dance recital is to make sure they are sleeping and eating well in the days leading up to the performance.

Many dance recitals occur in the evening and if your child is young it might be hard for them to stay up late especially if they are used to an early bedtime. Making sure they are well rested can mean that for this one evening they are able to make it through till the end.

For more tips on healthy eating and sleeping especially when your child is so excited they can’t sleep – read the more in-depth article about Practice – The first step to being ready for a Dance or Ballet recital


STEP 2: PREPARE

For the full Prepare Guide Click here!

Being prepared for a dance recital can be as much work as you want it to be. You can simply prepare the day before by throwing everything you think you need into bags and rushing to the store for red lipstick for example and be perfectly ready for the recital the next day.

But not all of us are able to cope with this kind of stress, so if you like to be prepared and organized the information we have on this step is for you! If you are the kind of parent who likes to do things on the fly – not a problem, but it is probably still a good idea to read this section so you get an idea of the things you will need as well!

Things You Need to Prepare Before a Dance or Ballet Recital

  • Hair Supplies
  • Makeup supplies
  • costumes
  • tights
  • dance shoes
  • tickets for the recital
  • food and drinks
  • props
  • personal and first aid care
  • Location and directions to the venue
  • Parking options
  • how everyone is getting the recital

Recital Checklist

Whether you’re a dance mom or a dancer yourself, you’ll really make a checklist whether mental or written of everything you need to bring on the big day.

Writing down your checklist keeps you organized and confident that you have everything you need.

Recital Information from your Dance Studio 

You will hopefully be given a rehearsal and performance schedule or information about the recital before your show by your studio. Your studio may do this by posting it on a wall at the studio, sending an email, posting on their social media etc…

Whichever way they send the information, you should review this ahead of time so you know when, where, and in what your dancer is to perform and are ready to go.

Just know – They are not going to hand-deliver you a package with all the information you need – it is up to you to find where they are posting the information – ask them if you can’t find it well in advance of the recital because the days leading up to one is extremely hectic for your dance teacher and they may not be checking their inbox all that regularly!

You’ll also be able to find important information, such as venue locations, information about costumes, hair and make-up, tights to be worn, shoe colors, when tickets are on sale or allocations, and more. Keep a copy of this with your checklist so you can refer to it when needed.

For an in-depth look into how to prepare for a dance recital check out our article Prepare – The Second Step in getting ready for your kid’s Dance or Ballet recital where we have a checklist available for you to download and modify.

For the full Prepare Guide click here!


STEP 3: PERFORM

For the full Perform Guide click here

After all the practice and time it took to prepare for the recital, it has finally come to the stage where you are ready to perform – yes you the parent, not just your dancer will need to perform all the duties and tasks of being a Dance Parent on the day of the recital – so get ready and make sure you have charged your battery as well as your phone so you can make the day a success!

Rectial Performance Tips for Parents:

  • Create and stick to a schedule
  • Get your dancer as ready as you can before you leave home
  • Double check you have everything before you leave
  • Know what is expected of you on the day
  • Enjoy your child’s performance
  • Crete memories – take photos and video (where allowed)
  • Go with the flow

For an in-depth look at what to expect on recital performance day and tips on how to survive and thrive head to our article Perform – The Third Step to Successfully Navigate Your Child’s Ballet or Dance Recital

For the full Perform Guide click here


STEP 4: PACK

For the full Pack Guide click here!

Once the performance is finished a dance parents’ job is not done.

It took time to prepare for the recital and now you need to take the time to pack everything up, take it home, put it away, and organize and store it for the next time it will be used.

The packing step is a really important step because if overlooked you will find that you are missing items such as a left tap shoe, that eyeshadow dust is all over the makeup bag because it was not put away properly, or that costumes are all wrinkled or smell because you left them in a clump at the bottom of the costume bag. Have I made my point? Can you see how this is an important step?

Don’t worry you don’t have to enjoy it – I mean we all love preparing and going on a holiday, but not many people love having to come home and unpack and do the washing afterward! It is the same here, but it needs to be done, so you might as well know in advance what to expect and get some tips!

What You Will Need to Pack, Store and Organise After the Recital

  • Hair Supplies
  • Makeup supplies
  • costume racks & bags
  • costumes
  • tights
  • dance shoes
  • props
  • rubbish – new tight packets, cotton tips, snacks packets etc…

Things that will Help You to Quickly Pack, Store and Organise After the Recital

Whether your recital is in the afternoon or evening you and your dancer will probably be tired from all the excitement as the adrenaline leaves your bodies and the reality of the event being over sinks in. Therefore to help speed up the packing process here are some things that can make it go so much quick at the end.

  • Costume Bags
  • Garbage Bags
  • A Costume or Garment Rack that folds in to a bag if taking costumes home.
  • Having a system for putting costumes away after they are worn.

For more information and packing tips head to the article Pack – The Fourth Step to Surviving your kid’s Dance or Ballet recital where I tell you how my mum packed our costumes when my sister and I were in almost every second dance item one year of our recital and other tips such as the etiquette for returning loaned costumes which is what I have had to do several times with my daughters.

For the full Pack Guide click here!

Now it is your turn….

Whether you are a veteran dance parent or a newbie to the game, learning some tips and tricks to help you sail through your child’s next dance recital will always be helpful and worthwhile.

Dance recitals can be a lot of fun and a real bonding experience between you and your child to look forward to when you are ready and organized for anything that might come your way on the day!

The Ultimate Guide

If you didn’t find all the information you were after that is because I turned what was an extremely long article about getting ready for your dance recital into a 5-page Ultimate guide.

For more information, tips, and advice on each step to getting recital ready head to any of the other four following articles in the guide here:

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