1. PERFECT your movements.
Turns and leaps are highly impressive additions to a piece, but only when they are impressively executed. Here are some simple steps to take that will ensure an impressive execution:
– TURNS: Pick a spot directly in front of you and focus on that spot. Prepare for your turn; plant your legs firmly and evenly on the ground, bring your arms into position, and plie deeply. A plie is a bending of the knees and is an essential beginning to a turn. Focus on your spot and do not let your eyes leave that spot until the very last possible second in your turn. Turn your head and immediately find your spot again. This will ensure a clean and complete turn, and you will not become dizzy when executing multiple turns. Imagine that you have a bar connected to your body that goes into the ground through your base foot, and into the ceiling through your head. Make sure that every single movement you make is with purpose. Flinging your arms or allowing gravity to determine your finish will create sloppy movements. Move with intention and purpose, and visualize yourself executing your turn.
– LEAPS: Again, a deep plie is crucial to a leap. The deeper the plie, the more power and lift behind the leap. Remember to look up, never down (unless it is intentional). Looking down automatically causes your leap to stay lower to the ground. Straighten your legs, point your toes, and extend as far as you possibly can. Bring your arms gently and intentionally into place; no flinging. Imagine yourself hovering in the air, and then intentionally allow your body to land. Anticipate your landing, so that you are in control of your body.
2. PRACTICE your piece
Performing a piece in front of a live audience, with judges grading your every movement, is an intense and nerve-wracking experience. Help yourself out as much as possible by practicing your piece as much as possible. Choose your costume far in advance and perform your entire piece in your costume. You will be amazed at the number of movements that feel foreign once you have an actual costume on, rather than just leggings or a sweatshirt. Video your performance and watch it multiple times. Each time you watch the video, look at a new aspect of your performance. Look for pointed toes, fully extended arms and legs, a raised chin, intentional placement of your body and movements, and correct facial expressions (a blank face in never a correct expression). Once you feel that you have perfected these items, perform your piece in front of a live audience. Ask for feedback and suggestions, and then work on your performance again. As a performer, I was given this advice that has stuck with me through all of my pieces: perfect practice makes perfect performance.
Even if you are feeling nervous, your posture must never show it. Keep your head high, shoulders back, and your steps intentional. Convey an air of confidence even when walking onto the stage. The audience will immediately feel more at ease when they feel that YOU are at ease. Remember to point your toes and fully extend your legs. When under pressure, it’s easy to allow your nerves to enter your arms and become tense and sharp. Take a deep breath before performing and allow your arms and hands to be graceful and relaxed. Plant your feet firmly as you step. Never shuffle or walk aimlessly. A dancer walks with purpose and direction.
4. STRETCH before performing
As a dancer, there is nothing worse you could do than to perform a piece without stretching beforehand. You could cause serious injury to yourself, and you will likely not perform the piece to the best of your ability because your body will not be at its best. Stretching will also enhance your flexibility, allowing you greater movement within your dancing. Warm up your body by stretching your neck, arms, back, legs, and feet before practices and performances.
5. Costuming is essential.
Costuming is an important part of dancing. It can at times be tricky to find a costume that allows for proper movement, but is not inappropriate. Give yourself ample time to find the perfect costume. Remember, you want your costume to be an extension of you; you do not want your costume to distract from your performance. Low necklines should always be avoided, and proper tights or leggings should accompany any and all costume choices. Think about the movements in your performance before buying anything. If your dance features a lot of turns or floor work, a heavy floor length skirt is going to distract and trip you during your performance. If your arms are a main feature of your movements, then a tight sleeve might be a better choice to showcase those movements.