Preparation and Memorization

Recital season is sneaking up on us, which means we’re double checking our dance bags to make sure we’re ready for all it entails. From long rehearsals to staying warm in the wings, having the tools to get you through it smoothly means you’re free to just enjoy the performance. And for those looking to work as dancers after their education, recitals are a great way to feel what company life might be like!

We checked in with a couple of So Dancers on how they prepare for their recitals: Madison Penney and Tia Wenkman of The Royal Ballet School.

Performances tend to take lots of preparation, which means lots of rehearsals. Committing all the moves to memory and spending so much time in the studio can be a bit demanding. So how do these So Dancers stay kind to their brains and bodies during the rehearsal process?

Recitals require us to remember a fair bit of choreography – often in entirely different dance styles. We tend to think we’re all either “good” or “bad” at picking up choreography. But what if memorization is just about building good habits? 

Penney recommends always doing the movement full out as it’s being taught, since “it takes a bit to have my body process what’s in my head.” So why not instill muscle memory as early on as you can?

Wenkman likes to take notes about counts and the order of the steps. “I also film myself doing the work the day that we learned it so I can always go back and look if it slips my mind.”

The other tricky part of the rehearsal process is how long the days are. Penney and Wenkman both start by ensuring their bodies are properly fueled. “I make sure to pack snacks such as fruit or protein bars and nuts,” says Penney. Wenkman also recommends bars and almonds, as well as drinking lots of water. “I used to drink coffee, too, but I have found that it actually makes me feel more tired throughout the day.”

During recital season, your usual class schedule might get turned upside down. “During prep, things tend to get a little hectic,” notes Penney. “We sometimes devote class time to rehearsals, and spend Sundays rehearsing as well.” With the altered schedule, you may not be getting your usual training. Sometimes a quick warm-up class will be the only class of the day, followed by a lot of “hurry up and wait” while your teachers are working to put on the production. Wearing warmups afterward is essential to help hang onto that heat you built up. 

Everyone has their go-to warmups that make them feel confident and ready to move. Penney swears by her Só Dança Jessie Jacket whenever she has downtime throughout the day. For Wenkman, it’s her Só Dança warmup booties. 

To combat the chaos, Wenkman likes to get her things in order the night before so she doesn’t run into any last-minute unneeded stress. “I also put my phone on silent and try to get a good night’s sleep so that I feel ready and energized for the next day.” Penney ensures that she has everything she needs sorted into her Só Dança Harry Backpack. “It has a total of 13 pockets for anything you can fit in there (which for me is quite a lot).”

Of course, for the performance proper, both of the girls agree that nothing beats Só Dança shoes when it comes to helping them feel the floor. If the dance requires flat shoes, Penney slips on her SD16 Bliss ballet shoe (a Só Dança classic with a stretchy canvas and split sole). When the piece calls for pointe work, she's in her Toshie pointe shoes. “I have been wearing them for a few years now, and I never want to try another shoe on again!” If the stage is slippery, a pair of shoes you can rely on is an essential secret weapon.

Penney points out that although it’s a lot of work, “the lead up to a recital is exciting! Coming up to a show, we spend lots of hours in the studio preparing, and although it is tiring, I love it. It gets me excited for the performances, and I love being on stage!”

Memory tricks and warm-up tools will set you up to go seamlessly from rehearsing in the studio to performing on stage. So set yourself up for success, and then enjoy your steps in the spotlight!