Monday, September 12, 2011

Dress Rehearsals, and Why You Need Them

I had a purple drawstring skirt that I was dying to wear to a performance. However, I'd bought it from another dancer who was slightly taller than me, so it was a few inches too long. No matter; I'll just roll it a few times and pin my scarves to it to keep it up, I told myself. But when it came time to go on stage, I realized that all the safety pins in the world weren't going to keep that heavy skirt around my waist, hip scarves or no hip scarves. For the entirety of the performance, I was in fear of stepping on that skirt and accidentally ripping it off.

What would have helped me realize that nothing short of superglue was going to keep that skirt on was a dress rehearsal. My troupe does do rehearsals, but we never do a full dress rehearsal, with everyone in their costumes and makeup, leaving it up to the dancer to determine whether or not her costume will fit. Looking back, it sure would have been helpful to try dancing in that skirt beforehand so I could realize that it wasn't going to work. I've run into many other dancers who should have tested their costumes before a performance--there's nothing more distracting than watching a belly dancer frantically tugging at her hip scarf while in the middle of a performance.

So what is a dress rehearsal, and how does it differ from just a rehearsal? Well, it's in the name already. A dress rehearsal implies that you wear your full costume and makeup and run through the entire performance, rather than just marking it out on stage. All kinds of performance art use a dress rehearsal, from theater to musicals to a ballet show. You are basically putting on the show for an empty theater before you perform the show live, allowing you and your troupe to work out any and all kinks before letting the audience in. And a dress rehearsal will point out all kinds of things that you never thought you'd have to worry about.

For instance, I spoke to a belly dance recently who was growing her hair out. Prior to an upcoming show, she decided to do some floor work, and during the dress rehearsal she went through her routine. It was during her routine that she realized the floor work wouldn't be practical because she kept sitting on her hair! She would have never thought of this before the dress rehearsal, but it was lucky she realized it prior to going on stage, or she would have had to do some quick thinking.

If I had had a dress rehearsal, or even just worn the skirt to our practice, I'd have realized beforehand that the skirt needed shortening before I could consider wearing it on stage. A dress rehearsal is also a good time to figure out if any parts of your costume need reinforcement, such as hair pieces and bra straps. The last thing you want is for a large flower to come flying off your head and hit an audience member, or for your coin bra to snap open in the middle of your show.

Even with all the preparation of a dress rehearsal, though, there are still small things you won't get to practice. I have seen plenty of zill-related incidents that would have never been worked out in a dress rehearsal. There's also the freak accidents that occur, such as a troopmate getting too close to you and accidentally hooking their costume on yours, or getting your hair caught in their jewelry. You're certainly not going to spend your dress rehearsal brushing past you troopmates to determine whether or not you'll get stuck to them! And you can't always plan for your performance space or audience, either.  Things just happen sometimes, and no matter what, you can't have control over them.

However, the advantage of a dress rehearsal is that you can be as prepared as possible. Freak accidents will happen; but that's no excuse for making sure your costume will stay put and you won't accidentally kill an audience member with a flying accessory. And one of the best things about dress rehearsal is that it gives you another chance to dress up in your finest and dance. Sometimes that ten minutes on stage just isn't enough to make up for the two hours it took to get ready, and you'll enjoy that second chance to rock your costume, even if it's just for your troupe mates.

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