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Prepare – The Second Step in getting ready for your kid’s Dance or Ballet recital

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

There is a lot more to being recital ready than just packing all the correct stuff. There are also plenty of dance recital checklists out there to help you cross off everything you might need to bring on the day (we have one of those for you too!) So we have gone beyond checklists in this article giving you helpful information on how to prepare for your dancer’s recital day!

To prepare for a dance or ballet recital a dance parent should amongst other things read the schedule and information from the dance school, create a checklist of items they will need such as for hair and makeup, buy tights, clean dance shoes, prepare snacks, buy tickets and work out travel arrangements.

The Ultimate Guide

Click on any of the images to get to any of the other articles in the Ultimate Guide to getting ready for a dance Recital here!

But what YOU need to prepare will depend on your dance studio. All studios have their own recital processes and yours will do some things differently!

For instance, they may follow different approaches to the level of parent participation before, during and after a recital.

All I had to do one year was my daughter’s hair and make-up at home and then send her backstage dressed in her tights with her shoes in her bag, allowing me to pick up family and sit with them in the audience.

At our current dance school, I was backstage with my daughters, but the studio prepared our costumes.

When I grew up my mom made all our costumes and so we were responsible for bringing them.

This means that how and what you need to prepare will be different depending on your dance school.

Therefore use this article as a guide – you do not have to prepare everything on this list – only the things you will need for your dancer’s recital.

How to Prepare for your Child’s Dance Recital

In order to make recital day go smoothly, there are a lot of things in your control that you can do. The rest of the article is going to go through all of those things you can prepare in advance and you need to prepare in advance to have a successful recital day.

READ COMMUNICATION AND SCHEDULES FROM YOUR DANCE STUDIO

I cannot stress this enough – your dance school wants you and your child to have a great and successful experience at the dance recital. Therefore they will generally have information available for you to read about their expectations, dates, and schedules for example.

As a parent, I understand too many emails or random messages in a Facebook group can become hard to keep up with, but it is important to read through everything your dance teachers send you about the recital and to keep tabs on where the information you need is so that you can refer to it when you need.

Tips for Keeping Up with Correspondance from your Dance School

  • Put all paperwork given to you in a folder
  • Print all emails and put them into a folder
  • Put all emails about the recital into a folder in your inbox
  • If your dance school communicates in a different way such as in an app – can you still print off the information or take screen shots
  • When you have a questions try to find the answer in the correspondance they have sent you first

PREPARE A CHECKLIST

A good checklist means taking note of everything from hairpins to an extra pair of tights.

Making a list of every single thing can sound like an arduous task so we have created one with most of the essentials on it for you which is free to all our newsletter members.

But there are different ways you can make checklists, for example, you can make mini checklists to pin to costumes or bags to make sure you have everything you need for your dancers tap item or the penguin dance for example.

You can make a checklist that you place in the makeup case or with your hair supplies.

All I know is that you can’t have too many lists. I mean what happens if heaven forbid, you were not able to be there to pack and all this information about what you needed was in your head?

Having checklists also helps your dancer to take more responsibility in preparing as they can follow your lists!

You should also start making your lists as soon as you start to think of things you need to take so that you can jot those things down. These lists can be extremely long and seem never-ending, so we have curated the following guide to help make sure you have everything you need on the big day. If you want an excel spreadsheet or a pdf version with all the following on it subscribe to our weekly newsletter where we have a whole heap of freebies including the checklist for our subscribers. You can join our mailing list here. (Spreadsheet will be available soon!)

Tips for Preparing a Checklist

  • Check to see if your dance studio has prepared a list
  • Use our free editable checklist as a starting point
  • Create smaller checklists and place them in bags, cases or costume bags where things like makeup, hairsupplies or accessories are stored
  • add things to your lists when you think of them (create a note on your phone for this)
  • Remember creating lists means others can help you and are handy if you are not available whether it be because you need to feed a new baby or attend an awards night for work that clashes with the recital.

PREPARING HAIR SUPPLIES FOR YOUR BALLET OR DANCE RECITAL

Whether your dancer needs their hair curled, put in a bun, or just a ponytail ensuring that you have all the right tools, will make doing your dancer’s hair a breeze on the day.

Please note that all hair accessories such as bobby pins and hair ties unless specified by your teacher should be the same color as your dancer’s hair!

  • U shaped Hairpins
  • Bobby Pins
  • Hair Nets
  • Hair elastics (you many need a variety depending on the hairstyles required)
  • Hair Spray
  • Gel or Mouse
  • Water Spray
  • Hairbrush
  • Bun Donut (if using one)
  • Fine comb with a thin end for parting hair
  • Curling Iron or Flat-Iron or hot rollers (if needed)
  • Plastic hair loop tool (to help secure hair wrapped around a ponytail)
  • Case or bag for your hair supplies so they are located in one place
  • Containers with dividers to organise your hair ties, hair pins, hair nets and other hair items

Preparing hair supplies for dance can also mean putting your dancer’s hair in rollers the night before for curls, purchasing a wig of ponytail curls in your child’s hair color, or even pulling their hair in a high ponytail the night before to help the hair relax into a more upward direction making it easier to tame.

PREPARING MAKE UP SUPPLIES FOR YOUR BALLET OR DANCE RECITAL

The stage lights tend to wash out a dancer’s features while they’re on stage which is why even the smallest dancers wear some makeup on stage. Some of the essential products and tools you will need on your checklist are

  • Makeup brushes and/or sponges
  • Primer
  • Foundation
  • Concealer
  • Setting or finishing Powder
  • Eyeshadow (Usually in browns and white)
  • Mascara
  • Eyeliner
  • False Eyelashes & Glue (not generally used on preschool or kindy dancers)
  • Lipstick (check color with your teacher but generally red for girls and natural pink for boys)
  • Lip liner to match lipstick
  • Eyebrow pencil and brush
  • Bronzer or contour powder (not an essential for females)
  • Blush
  • Glitter if required
  • Makeup remover
  • Pre soaked makeup remover wipes(similar to baby wipes)
  • Cotton buds and cotton makeup pads
  • Tissues
  • Makeup bag or case

Most of the above is probably familiar to you and if not, check out our article Why do young dancers wear make up? which goes into detail about each item. The last few are to help clean up any spills or smudges and will come in really handy on the day.

Keeping all of these items in a makeup bag or case will help you keep everything together and organized. Label as much as you can because it is so easy to misplace.

Lastly, although you want to be helpful and not seem germophobic, try to not loan your child’s makeup out haphazardly to just anyone for hygiene reasons. Cold sores and conjunctivitis are easily transferred this way.

Instead, carry extra brushes or cotton tips and use those if, for instance, someone forgets their lipstick – just don’t double dip!

PREPARING COSTUMES FOR YOUR DANCE OR BALLET RECITAL

What you prepare and take from the following list will depend on the way your dance studio runs its recitals. Even if you have paid to own a costume some teachers like to organize and store them for you making them available on the day.

Other studios may find this too much work and ask parents to take responsibility for their costumes once they have arrived from the costume maker. Or you may have made your own costumes! So whichever it is take a look at the following list and apply it to your circumstance

  • Costume
  • Hair piece or accessories
  • Needle and various color thread
  • Clear nail polish
  • Safety pins
  • Costume garment bags
  • Garment Rack
  • Costume Suitcase or duffel bag

In the case of an emergency, having a needle, thread, and safety pins on hand could quickly fix a broken costume. Clear nail polish can also be used as a quick fix a tear that is threatening to fray – give the edges of the tear or hole a quick wipe over let it dry and harden so the threads can’t fray.

Tips for preparing your dancers costumes:

  • Don’t wash your costume before the recital unless your teacher tells you too! Most clothing you buy comes with the instructions to wash before you wear, but this is not the same for a costume as washing it, even at a dry cleaner, could cause it to change in some way and the risk of it getting ruined is too high. You can wash the costume afterward. Air it out if you need to instead!
  • Do not store it if it is wet! I know of one costume that got wet from a spray bottle and was stored not fully dry with black feathers touching the wet patches – the lyrcra was stained with black splotches!
  • Don’t use an iron on spandex, lycra or synthtic materials.
    Funny story – I was working as a production assistant on a film clip and the dancer’s lycra pants were all wrinkled and I was asked to iron them out. Well on that day I learned the hard way that ironing lycra melts it!! Yes, the imprint of the iron was left burnt into the lycra. I had to ring the costume maker to get a replacement on the day!! I learned I needed to use a barrier layer such as a cotton tea towel between the iron and lycra fabric.
  • If you need to remove wrinkles place an iron safe fabric between the iron and costume, use a garment steamer or hang the costume in the bathroom the let the steam in there remove the creases.
  • Protect the costume from getting damaged, by leaving it in the garment bag it came from or a new garment bag you have purchases especially for your costumes.
  • Do not let your dancer try the costume on for fun or play. They may need to try it on to rehearse in it , but always make sure their hands and the rehearsal space are clean.
  • Check your costume for loose or broken buttons, velcro, clasps, hook and eyes, embelishments and repair these before the recital.
  • If your costume does not fit correctly ask your teacher for advice on a dressmaker to fix it – you will find many of them might have a dance mom at the school who can do this for you if you do not know how yourself.

PREPARING TIGHTS AND UNDERWEAR FOR YOUR BALLET OR DANCE RECITAL

The following are some items you might need to think about preparing for your dancer to wear under their costume.

  • Tights (ballet, jazz, fishnet, etc.)
  • Bodysuit (not necessary, some dancers like wearing them for hygiene and modesty reasons)
  • Dance underwear (some schools request no underwear only tights)
  • Dance Bra (for older female dancers)
  • Dance Belt (for male dancers)

Tips for preparing your dancers Tights & Underwear:

  • Do you know what tights your child will need to be wearing? Are they the same color as the ones they wear in class?
  • What is your dancer wearing under their costume? Some schools have a no underwear policy, others ask you to purchase skin colored underwear.
  • If your dancer is a senior do they need a thong or g-string or a special bra?
  • Do you have a new pair or a spare pair of tights in case they get dirty or torn.

PREPARING SHOES FOR A BALLET OR DANCE RECITAL

It is important to take a look at your child’s dance shoes before a recital and check them for holes and cleanliness.

First though here are a few things you will want to make sure you have before the recital:

  • Your dancers shoes
  • Shoe paint
  • Screwdriver (for tap shoes)
  • Clear matte tape for ballet ribbons
  • Baby wipes for spot cleaning shoes
  • Electrical or Gaffa Tape

I know by the end of the season, most parents do not want to have to buy a new pair of shoes for their child but don’t despair, we have a few tips below to help those shoes look recital ready.

Tips for preparing your dancers shoes for a Recital:

  • Wipe over shoes with a damp cloth and a little dishsoap such as dawn to loosen any dirt, oil and stains. If the shoes are still dirty, read on.
  • You can paint leather dance shoes with shoe paint especially made for painting leather.
  • Use shoe cleaner on black leather shoes to clean up scuffs and scrapes – this will get them looking brand new (but becareful to let them dry fully and for the leather to absorb the cleaner otherwise you may find if the shoes touch tights or a costume the black will transfer)
  • If leather jazz or ballet shoes have a hole in them and you cannot afford a new pair or it is too late to buy some, patch the inside with some sports strapping tape and paint the outside to match. This should only be done temporarily
  • Canvas ballet shoes can be hand washed like clothes. Do not put them in the dryer incase they shrink, let them air dry.
  • You can hide and secure the knot in ballet ribbons by placing matt clear tape around the ankle and over the ribbons. Some people go the extra length and sew them together!
  • Make sure tap plates on tap shoes are secure and that no screws need to be replaced. Tighten loose screws.
  • Skin tone and black Electrical or Gaffa tape can come in handy for broken buckles, to cover holes in shoes and more at the last minute so pack some in your recital kit.
  • Check all heels on your dancer’s shoes feel stable. Have some glue on hand incase a heel breaks off.

Some disasters I have encountered before a performance are my buckles breaking on tap shoes, my heel coming off of a character shoe, holes in my jazz shoes the night before a performance, and more…

Because your child will be wearing their shoes to their classes and rehearsals all the way up to the recital it is easy for things to go wrong with them at the last minute.

Every recital is different, but you may need to bring your own props for your child. It is generally more your teacher and the stage manager’s job to make sure the props the dancers need are available, but sometimes your teacher will get you to make your own and you will need to keep track of them and make sure you have them, so make sure you include them on your checklist.

PREPARING PROPS FOR YOUR BALLET OR DANCE RECITAL

Many teachers like using some sort of prop in their dances to help make them more interesting and unique. It may be a wand, an umbrella, a basket with faux flowers on in my case one year a full-sized dummy dressed in a hat, and a man’s suit for a ballroom-themed item!

You may be asked to make the props and have to follow a set of directions to do so. Your teacher may make them or order them for you, you may be given all the pieces and need to assemble them.

One year, my dad made me a swinging portable saloon bar door for a tap solo I performed. We had to use our trailer to get it to competitions and the recital each time I performed the dance. Other smaller items we made were wands, twirling ribbons, a flower wreath, a headset microphone, chains, steps, and many more!

Tips for preparing your dancers Props for a Recital:

  • If the props belong to your teacher, it is really important at the end of the performance to make sure they are returned, and in any packaging or wrapping it was given to you in!
  • If you’re bringing your own, you should pack your props in their own individual boxes or bags labeled with your name, studio, and performance title so they don’t get crushed and broken or lost with the other performer’s belongings.
  • If you have large props to bring in, see if you can organise a time before the rehearsal to drop them off and also find out when they need to be picked up by. You teacher may have only hired the venue until the end of the night and another crew may be in there the next day.

PREPARING FIRST AID & PERSONAL CARE ITEMS FOR YOUR BALLET OR DANCE RECITAL

In addition to bringing all the dance essentials with you, here are a few other things that you might like to bring to make this stressful time a little easier:

  • Pain relievers
  • Band-aids
  • Instant Hot and Cold pads
  • Deodorant
  • Talc Powder
  • Towel
  • Feminine Products
  • Pen and permanent marker
  • Paper
  • Sticky labels
  • Book or magazine to read
  • Headphones to listen to an audio book or podcast
  • Rubbish Bags
  • Sanitary or Period Items

Tips for preparing your dancers Props for a Recital:

  • Pain relievers, Band-aids and hot and cold pads are good to have on you in case you need them or one of the dancers gets hurt.
  • It’s easy to twist an ankle or pull a muscle when you are excited, and they’ll need something to help them get through the rest of the show.
  • Keeping a simple pain reliever, like ibuprofen in liquid form for young kids and tablets for older ones, could save the whole show.
  • Bandaids come in handy for covering blisters and instant hot and cold pads can give relief to old and new injuries.
  • Dancers also get really sweaty even little ones sometimes, so keeping deodorant and a towel will keep them looking and feeling fresh throughout the performance.
  • Your deodorant should also be clear or nonmarking in order to avoid getting any annoying deodorant stains on your costumes.
  • If your child is sweaty a towel is also useful in drying them to be able to get costumes off and on as well.
  • If they are exceptionally sweaty you might also want to think about bringing talc powder although you need to use it sparingly to ensure you don’t get it all over the costume.
  • Having a pen, permanent marker, paper, and sticky labels or even a roll of masking tape can help if you need to mark changes to the running schedule you printed out, need to label your costume bag or even need to pass a note backstage.
  • Lastly, as the parent, you might be busy and on your feet all throughout the performance or you might find that you were asked to arrive extremely early for a rehearsal of the finale number and after setting everything up have nothing to do, so bring a book or magazine for something to do.

PREPARING FOOD & SNACKS FOR YOUR DANCE OR BALLET RECITAL

Another big thing to not forget are some snacks. Healthy snacks and water bottles are a must to have around while your child is waiting for their performance to keep their energy up.

You should make sure the snacks are mess and spill-free, even though snacks should be for before and after the performance, sometimes kids just get hungry so having some mess-free snacks on hand can help them from ruining their costume.

Here are a few other high-energy, mess-free snacks to eat for dance recitals:

  • Trail Mix (make sure no one in your studio is allergic to nuts before bringing this!)
  • Dry Cereal
  • Dry Fruit
  • Popcorn
  • Vegetable sticks (carrot, celery etc.)
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Pita Chips
  • Protein Bar
  • Museli Bar

For more snack ideas read our article 24 Quick Energizing snacks for Dance Kids – Mess Free Options Included

Tips for Preparing Snacks & Food for your Dancer’s Recital

  • Right before the performance try eating a light meal rather than something heavy or large – no one wants to feel bloated and sluggish with little energy right before going on stage.
  • You should also keep a water bottle on hand during the performance one for you and another for your child. It’s not uncommon for people to feel dehydrated when they’re stressed. Therefore, keeping a water bottle with you will help you feel better during the show and of course will keep your child hydrated.
  • Think about bringing spare water if you think water taps will not be accessible for refills.

PREPARE & BUY YOUR TICKETS FOR THE RECITAL

Another really important part of any recital that a parent of a dancer needs to prepare in advance is the buying of tickets or allocating an allowance you receive to family members.

Prepare a list of people you will invite

Before even worrying about buying tickets though, find out who actually wants to come to the recital and if they are even free to come. In all honesty, don’t make people come if they don’t want to – you can get the DVD and make them watch that! Recitals can be long and if your child is only in one item, it can get boring for some!

Also, think about how those people you are inviting are going to get to the recital. If you need to drive your elderly parents to the venue, this may not be possible because you may be needed early at the venue with your dancer.

Lastly, on this part, be clear about who is paying for the tickets. If they are free and part of your recital package then you do not need to worry about it, but sometimes when you invite people to a recital, it can be unclear who is meant to pay for the tickets. Should you be paying for their tickets? Only if you want to!

Prepare to buy the actual tickets

Different dance studios do this part differently. Some schools include an allocation of tickets or free seats to every student as part of their recital package fees, most studios however do not. This is because the package fee usually covers the costs of staffing and hiring of the venue for rehearsals and does not cover the full hire, lighting and other expenses your teacher covers through ticket sales.

Another thing to find out is if when you buy your tickets you are allocated seats, or if when you arrive you choose your own seating.

Both ways above have their pros and cons so neither way is better than the other. For example with allocated seating, people do not have to arrive early to claim seats and you do not have the problem with people turning up early and claiming whole rows of seats with sweaters etc.. for their late coming relatives.

However, with allocated seats, you have the issues of the first in first served issue. Meaning unless you are one of the first to buy tickets, you may end up with seats towards the back or far to the side. I have heard many parents be upset with being locked out of an online ticketing app or having to get up early to wait in line outside their studio to get good seats.

The way tickets go on sale at your school will also differ, although most will use an online ticketing app nowadays, as these types of apps are another expense for your studio, they may choose to sell tickets the old fashioned way and either make you line up to get tickets or use a lottery system for allocation of seats.

If seating is allocated I would definitely recommend putting in your diary or calendar the day they go on sale and time and organizing yourself to be available and free during this time to get your tickets. I would still put this date in my calendar even if seating was not allocated because if you are at a big dance school, each performance can only seat a certain number of people and you will want to make sure you get tickets to your preferred performance.

PREPARE HOW YOU ARE GOING TO GET TO THE RECITAL

Recently my daughter had an audition for a local musical. I had the address in a shared calendar with my husband. The whole family had to come as we were going out after the audition and because I was busy getting my other children ready to go, my husband inputted the address details into maps for us to follow.

When we arrived at the destination with 10 minutes to spare, it was the wrong location. The auditions like many recitals were being held at a high school, but this particular high school had two campuses, my husband did not add in the street address I had in the calendar just the school’s name. Luckily the other campus was only 6 minutes away, so we just made it in time to register her.

So the moral here is to make sure you know exactly where you are going. Find out if car parking is close to the entry as carrying in your supplies and costumes may take you multiple trips from the car. Are there any road works being held that day in the area? Most studios do a dress rehearsal at the venue prior to the actual recital so you may be able to find all of this information out then too!

PREPARE & BUY YOUR DANCER A RECITAL GIFT OR FLOWERS

If you intend to give your dancer flowers or a recital gift after their performance make sure you organize this beforehand.

If wanting to give flowers, can you ask a family member to buy them and bring them on the day? If it is a small gift then make sure your wrap it and pack it in with everything you are bringing on the day.

Do you need to get a gift or flowers for your dancer after their recital? Check out our article here which will explain the etiquette of gift-giving to dancers!

And if you are after some ideas for gifts – we have plenty of articles on finding the perfect gift for your dancer which you can find here!

THE NIGHT BEFORE THE PERFORMANCE

Create a schedule for how you think the day will go. What time do you ideally want to be up, what time do you want to start hair and make-up, what time do you want to have left the house by to get to the venue? I like to start backward – that is starting from the time I need to be at the venue and working backward with things that I need to do before then!

Double-check the performance schedule, your studio parent portal, or any apps to see if your studio has any last-minute messages for you or your dancer. Set your alarms for the next morning and try to get a good night’s sleep.

Remember if you have prepared in advance you will be ready for anything that comes your way on recital 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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