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A Guide To Surviving Rehearsals

Posted Nov 18 2008 11:40am
Rehearsals. They're something every dancer has to sit through, especially now, during Nutcracker season (thankfully our director only has us do Nut' every other year). Everyone either adores or loathes the long hours of sitting at the studio doing seemingly nothing while waiting for other people to learn choreography so you can dance. But how do you make the most of your rehearsal time?

Choreography/Blocking Rehearsals:
Choreography rehearsals usually take place in the studio. They are your time to learn the choreography for the piece you will be performing. Sometimes they go by very quickly, like when learning an ensemble piece where everyone is always onstage, and sometimes they drag on for what feels like days, like at rehearsals for classical ballets with lots of variations in different groups.

For long rehearsals with lots of downtime, it is wise to bring things to entertain yourself with (This is a great time to sew/glue/break in the pointe shoes you'll be using for your performance. Dance magazines/books and homework are good, too), light but energizing snacks, water bottles, and lots of movable and warm dance clothing to layer. You always want to stay warmed up so that when it's your time to dance, you can be ready immediately.

Choreography rehearsals can also be a great time to pick up extra choreography so that if anything ever happens and your director asks if someone knows the choreography (or the main gist of it) you can jump in. Another idea is to warm up, stretch, and run the pieces that you are in with other dancers in another studio if you are allowed to. This way, everyone can be sure they know the choreography so that time with the director/choreographer isn't wasted reviewing what you learned last week. These can be the most boring or the most useful rehearsals depending on how you use them.

Technical Rehearsals:
I do not know one person that enjoys tech rehearsals. Generally, they last about twice the time a show will, especially for concerts/recitals or ballets like The Nutcracker with lots of entrances and exits and blocking to learn and rearrange for stage. Technical rehearsals are usually the first time you rehearse on the stage you will be performing on. They are used to adjust sound, lights, and blocking for stage so that dress rehearsal and the performance will run smoothly.

Costumes and stage makeup are not used in most tech rehearsals, but sometimes one dancer will be asked to dance in costume so that lighting can changed to fit the costume for a certain piece if needed. These rehearsals have the most downtime. Every piece/scene is run and blocked onstage, sometimes with and without lighting and music, while the rest of the cast sits in the audience. If something goes wrong, the whole section is usually done over, once again with and without music if the problem is big.

Technical rehearsals are another time to bring lots of entertainment. iPods are usually a big hit at tech, considering no one wants to hear the music from the party scene in Nut' yet another time. Card games, books, and handheld games ( GameBoys, and whatever the higher-tech equivalent of GameBoys are called) are great for tech, too, but sometimes its too dark in the theater for these.

Once again, bring clothes to layer. At my studio's technical rehearsals, most of us usually sit around in sweats and warmers until the last possible minute before we run the piece full out because it is always so cold at the theater. Tech is something everyone has to sit through for every show. It's never fun, per se, but tech doesn't have to be horrible either.

Dress Rehearsals:
Dress rehearsals always go by super super fast. They're almost always the first time the entire show is run straight through in costume, so therefore the first time you get to practice quick changes. In my opinion, they're also the most fun.

Dress rehearsals usually begin with a class/warm up onstage before everyone goes backstage, does their makeup and hair, and outs on their first costume. Then it's time to go go go and hope everything happens like it should. There normally isn't much downtime at dress rehearsals, and even if there is, you're usually confined to your dressing room when you're not dancing, so things to do aren't a major priority.

Sometimes dress rehearsals will be open to groups, usually from nursing homes or schools, for a discounted ticket price. These are a great opportunity for kids who wouldn't normally get to see a dance performance to be able to do so. Our director has opened our dress rehearsals to groups like this in the past and donated proceeds to local charities.

Dress rehearsals are probably my favorite of all the rehearsals that make up a production just because they're so fast paced and feel like the real performance, but it won't be the end of the world if you mess up a little (and honestly, it won't be if you make a faux pas during the performance either). One last note: if you don't know the choreography by dress rehearsal, well, that's bad.

Stay on your toes,

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