From one dancer to another…

dancer It’s recital season!  Time to get our children primped and ready for the stage.  Some for the very first time.

Like my daughter.

This Saturday she will debut her dancing body for all the world (or at least a high school auditorium full of parents) to see.   She can’t contain her excitement about it either.  Her costume is ready.  We’ve even bought makeup.  And she’s been practicing every chance she can get.

It’s weird to see my daughter prepare for a dance concert.  It’s not anything like my experience as a professional.  At her age, she’ll get to run her 1.5 minute piece once at dress rehearsal, then that’s it until the show, when she’s to arrive no more than 30 minutes prior to the start of her recital.  One of six going on that day.

Six. Freaking. Recitals.

She’ll get herded in to a classroom with 50 other kids where she’ll be expected to sit quietly for over an hour, but instead will probably run as wild as she can until her hair bow falls out and she looks like the Tasmanian Devil.  She will get on stage without any warmup and dance her heart out to Julie Andrews.  And it will be the best day of her entire life.

When I was a professional, performance week was a stress-inducing string of long nights and mad dashes to Target for last minute costume, hair and makeup items.  Slap on parenting and working on top of it, and by the time the show arrived, I was almost wanting it to be over already.

I said almost.

But not when I was young.  As a kid, I LOVED recital time.  I felt fancy in my costumes, like a “real dancer.” I relished in the energy of backstage (or the large janitor’s closet of the Shriners building.  Whatever.).   But mostly I looked forward to the giant ice cream sundae that awaited me after the show.

As I helped my daughter get ready for her dress rehearsal, a few old tricks of the trade came to mind. Things I hadn’t thought about in a while, but had taken for granted knowing as a dancer.  Things my daughter might need to know, from one dancer to another.

Like how to go to the bathroom in full costume without taking your leotard all the way off.  (Hint: it’s easier if everything is made of a stretchy lycra/polyester blend).

Or even better, the ability to completely remove your tights without getting fully undressed.  Knowing how to shimmy and a bit of flexibility can go a long way.  I remember doing this in the front seat of the car on the way home from dance classes, hoping no truckers peered down to see what I was doing.

As I got older, other weird things I learned were tidbits like the magic of baby powder as a sweat and odor mask.   That it was helpful to always have superglue on hand for splits.  Oddly, hairspray works wonders on static clingy costumes.

I had all sorts of rituals during performance week. If dress went well, I had to wear the same warm up clothes every night of the show.  I could only eat certain foods at very specific times.

I had to get ready in a specific order:   a bit of basic makeup in the dressing room, followed by class, my own warm up where I’d make sure to get in certain exercises, then running specific parts of pieces.  Then back to the dressing room for the rest of my makeup, do my hair, put on my costume, perform some weird yoga breathing and I’m off.

And it all had to be done in that order.

I believe my daughter’s order will be:  Fight with Mommy while getting makeup done, get in costume, get out of costume to go potty, get back in costume, play Ring Around The Rosey until on the verge of puking, then head on stage.

As it should be.

So, as you send your babies off to their recitals this week, let me leave you with one last insider tip.

It is forbidden to say “Break a leg” or “Good luck” to a dancer before a show.  Instead, if you really want to feel “in the know”, you should tell them MERDE.

For those of you up on your high school French slang, it means Poop.  Or Shit.  Take your pick.

The history being that in the time of horse-drawn carriages (and lots of horse dookie around), when dancers walked in to the theater, they’d warn each other not to step in the poop, or “merde.”  Basically, a fancier way of saying “watch your step.”

Saturday, will mark my daughter’s first dance performance, and a first for me, too.  The first time I will watch her perform.  The first time I will catch that excitement in her eyes that I remember so well.  The first time I will applaud crazily for her after she blows her kiss and marches off stage.

And the first time I will tell her merde.

Merde, tiny dancer. Merde.





  1. My daughters recital is this Saturday too! I forgot about the Merde, my aunt who is a dancer and director would always say that to us before we went on stage!!!! Not being a dancer I have to say I really love the little girls in dancing costumes on the stage!! Love this post. I can’t wait to hear about it!! Lol!
    Kathy Radigan recently posted…Sunday in the Car with FranMy Profile

    • Well then, Kathy, I wish her MERDE as well! The little ones really are so freakin’ adorable. Half of them know the routine, half of them don’t, but it doesn’t matter. As long as they don’t pee themselves, it’s a win. Thanks for your kind words, and I’ll let you know how it went!

  2. My daughter’s dance recital was a couple weeks ago. She LOVED it!!!! After her performance, I went backstage to get her and bring her to my seat to watch the rest of the recital. The moment she saw me, she leapt into my arms with a smile as big as the sun — and shiny eyes to match. I didn’t really have to ask, but… I did. “How was it, baby girl? Did you have fun?”

    “Oh, Mommy! It was the best day of my whole entire life!”

    Now I’m crying happy tears. Thanks!
    Karen Dawkins recently posted…Southern LivingMy Profile

    • Aw, Karen, that’s such a sweet story! My daughter’s younger than yours, but I’m sure the reaction will be similar. Tonight at dress rehearsal, I had to tear her away from watching the rest of the numbers. That girl’s got dancing in her blood, that’s for sure.

  3. chouchane says:

    alors je souhaite MERDE a miss P ;)

  4. It is beyond amazing to see them get their first taste of an art form that has been our lifelong passion, and to wonder quite literally, where these first steps will lead. Such a thrilling and amazing day for you both! I was almost sobbing in my seat as Mr. R did his first recital… And when Lady A does hers, there’s no telling what will happen.
    keesha recently posted…My Profile

    • It really is. She’s so excited this morning she can’t sit still. It almost feels like passing the baton a bit. I’ve been forcing myself to repeat this mantra “I WILL NOT cry today. I WILL NOT cry today. I WILL NOT cry today.” And, yes, it does feel like a giant first step. I don’t know where this will lead her, but this little girl certainly has an artist’s sensibility. Thanks, friend.

  5. She looks adorable in that dress :)
    Vintage Inspired Girls


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