#1. Rehearse, rehearse, then rehearse some more.
I cannot stress enough the importance of running dances. I know it can get a bit monotonous and tedious, but judges love a clean, well-rehearsed dance. Teacher tip: Have a Nationals rehearsal the week before Nationals. Run every single dance, every single day and have someone else (a fresh eye) clean your dances too.
#2. Talk about the emotion of each piece with your instructors and your group.
Judges want the whole package. A clean dance is one thing, but a clean dance with full-out energy and consistent emotion from the whole group will send your dance soaring to new heights. Discuss pivotal moments in the music and choreography, create a story or character, and discuss dynamics and how far you should take your emotion. The beauty (and high scores) is in the details. Teacher tip: You cannot withhold any information from your dancers – especially the more mature dancers. If the piece you choreographed is about something personal that means a lot to you, have a discussion with your dancers about how you feel and what they should be feeling. This will translate on the stage and you won’t regret opening up as dance can be very therapeutic.
#3. Practice your faces for each dance in the mirror.
If you don’t go full-out in the studio, how can your teacher expect you to just turn it on when you’re on the Nationals stage? Practice your faces in the mirror and do not feel ashamed if the teacher tells you to pull it back some. If you go completely full-out with high energy during rehearsal week before Nationals, your performance can only get better and be more elevated when you hit that Nationals stage.
#4. Have a pep rally!
Positive energy and studio spirit is so important for mental and emotional preparation for a Nationals dance competition. I highly suggest a studio pep rally. Yes, the whole nine-yards, like a football pep rally. Hire a DJ, buy some silly string, paint your faces, and get pumped up with studio spirit before Nationals! Teacher tip: This exciting, fun-filled day will bring your dancers closer, and the camaraderie will be so much more heightened during Nationals week.
#5. Make a list and check it twice.
Having a checklist for your costumes and hairpieces and then checking it again before you pack is essential to a positive Nationals experience. You don’t want to be the one girl/guy with one glove on or with the incorrect shoes on stage. Teacher tip: Remember to tell your dancers to bring their studio gear. And discuss how wearing your studio brand is important and that professionalism is expected when representing the studio. So no ugly talk about other studios. Only positive vibes!
#6. Stay in shape physically.
Most likely, the Nationals that your studio is attending is during the summer and a couple of weeks after your recital. Make sure to stay in shape physically by taking open dance classes, yoga, or working out on your own at the gym or at home. Endurance is key! I suggest hitting the gym at least three times a week and doing the elliptical or running at least a few miles each visit.
#7. Get plenty of sleep.
I know, I know. It’s summer! But sleep can affect your performance more than most athletes know. Especially during Nationals week, sleep is important for energy, focus and injury prevention. Teacher tip: have an in-bed curfew the week of Nationals. This may seem a bit harsh but Nationals are no joke.
#8. Have fun!
Preparing for Nationals may seem a bit overwhelming, but try to keep an open mind and positive outlook. Your teachers only want the best for you and to make you look your best on stage. Try to listen and really take in every correction and comment. Nationals are usually the final time you perform your dances for that year – so make it count!
Do you have any other tips to add? How do you uniquely prepare for Nationals? Share below:
Photo (top): Photo courtesy of Velocity Dance Convention and Competition.