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Backstage Etiquette

Dancers learn from a young age that there is a certain etiquette that accompanies ballet lessons. You learn how to stand at the barre, how to accept corrections, ways to pick up combinations, and when to ask a question. From the moment you greet your classmates to reverence at the end of class, the etiquette of ballet becomes ingrained in your mind and body!

But what about your etiquette during an event? At a ballet competition, for example, dancers gather from miles away into one place, getting ready for their moment in the spotlight … and most of the time, there are no governing etiquette rules like there are in the classroom.

As a participant, you are usually sharing small backstage spaces as dressing rooms, with everyone preparing in the same general area. It can be intimidating to adapt to that environment quickly and focus on your performance! To enhance your backstage etiquette and help you feel confident at the event, we recommend following these tips:

  • Be welcoming

Smile and greet those around you! You don’t necessarily have to make conversation, but be polite and courteous in the way you would want others to treat you. In such a small shared space, it pays to show you understand that a little kindness can go a long way. Don’t forget to use your basic manners at all times, saying please, thank you, and excuse me, whenever needed.

  • Be aware of your surroundings

Take care to notice how your space affects others. Try not to allow your costume or pointe shoes to migrate over to someone else’s area, for example! Or if you need some extra space to stay stretched or warm, ask your neighbor before using her chair for pliés. Although you are focused on yourself in the moment, it’s important to pay attention to others to make sure that you’re using the space respectfully.

  • Speak quietly

Conversations backstage should be kept to a low volume so that other participants around you can focus (and so the event staff can focus too!). Loud talking or laughter can easily flood into the wings or on the stage and can break a performer’s concentration. Be the person who remembers to respect the sound level and influence others to do the same.

  • Know where you are supposed to be

Every event has its own rules about dressing room loitering. Check to see how long you are expected to stay in the dressing room, or if you are only supposed to be there for a certain amount of time. Since space is often limited, hanging around backstage too long after you have danced can be obtrusive. It is necessary to stay alert and be in the right place at the right time!

  • Pick up after yourself

Keep your backstage space tidy. Not only does it help you stay organized, it ensures that you don’t allow a mess to accumulate over the course of your time at the event. Always keep an eye on where your belongings are too; don’t leave your leg warmers on the side of the stage after warm-up and expect someone else to become responsible for them! If you’re mature enough to compete, you’re mature enough to watch your stuff.

For your best experience at a ballet competition, channel all of the great ballet class etiquette you’ve accumulated over the years and apply it to your interactions with others backstage. You never know when you might dance or work alongside some of the same people again, so it pays to treat everyone and everything with respect.

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