How to Avoid Ballet Stage Accidents

From tutus that tear to hairclips that won’t stay put, a strap that breaks or shoes that slip off, there is no limit to what can go wrong on stage. But before you panic (and develop stage terror), check out these common stage mishaps and learn how to handle them.

Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth two pounds of melting makeup!

Costume Malfunctions

Tutus can fall down, skirts can come undone, and leotard straps love to snap at the worst times. But the easiest way to deal with these situations is to anticipate them right from the start. Use dress rehearsal to address costume worries, as you then have test and fix anything that may malfunction during a performance.

Tutu Trouble

Make sure your tutu hooks are all done up, and consider having a teacher, stagehand or dance partner put a few loose basting stitches at the top of your bodice. This will help keep it together, even if the hooks fall apart.

Also, put stitches in any knots tied on your costume, particularly with wrap skirts and corset style bodices.

Hot Tip: Costume Customization

There is a good chance that you’ll be able to give your costume a test run a few times before dress rehearsal. If you feel like the closures aren’t enough, don’t be afraid to tell the wardrobe mistress or director. He/she can add an extra zipper or some hook and eye closures to make you feel more secure and able to dance your best.

Slippery Straps

Prevent any unintentional loss of modesty by stitching adjustable straps in place and tightening stationary ones by cutting and re-sewing them the day before. If you still doubt the integrity of your neckline, wear a skin toned bra or leotard underneath your costume; it will protect your decency in case anything goes wrong (or falls off!)

Slinking Skirts

If you’ve prepared properly, no costume malfunctions should happen. But if they do—a strap snaps, a tutu slides off, or a bodice falls loose—just keep dancing. It isn’t easy, but it is important to keep your hands away from your person during a performance. Otherwise, the audience will be distracted by movements unrelated to the dance itself and wonder why that girl on the left keeps squirming like an antsy child.

If you can find an opportunity where your port de bras brushes your bra strap, adjust it subtly, but otherwise keep arms where they’re supposed to be.

Shoe Shakeups

Pointe shoes and slippers can both misbehave, but you can prevent them from running away without your foot by taking the precautions listed below.

Use Rosin

Rosin—dried tree sap that makes shoe soles sticky and slip proof—is important to have with you at all times, no matter what kind of shoes you’re wearing. Most theatres will provide a tray in the wings, but bring a small bottle of your own just in case.

On the other hand, you don’t want to overdo the rosin either. Start by using less than you think is required and add in small increments as needed. Figure out the amount that works best for you during dress rehearsal, so that you can get it done quickly by show time (and without mistakes.)

Pointe Shoe Panic

Sew ribbons into place before the show, slipping your needle straight through the knot before stitching it together. This will prevent even the tightest knots from coming undone, which might cause you to trip over your ribbons.

Make sure to break in new shoes and snip the satin off of the tips before dress rehearsal. Slippery platforms or unbending shanks can cause you to float all the way across the stage—but not in the good way.

Hot Tip: Pyromaniac Pointe Practice

The next time you trim the satin off of your platform, rotate the edges of the fabric over a lighter or candle. By singeing the edges of the material, you’ll create a hardened edge, preventing the satin from fraying and causing you to slip.

Slipper Scares

Make sure elastics are triple stitched to the sides of your shoes and that drawstrings are trimmed and tucked neatly under the top. You may even want to put a couple loose stitches over the drawstring to hold it in place inside your shoe, but if you do, just make sure to use a small needle and slipper colored thread.

Makeup Mistakes

With false lashes, greasepaint thick foundation, and eyebrows penciled like something out of a horror movie, makeup can wreak all sorts of havoc: Lashes can fall off, foundation can drip, and eyebrows can smear. Plus there’s the discomfort one feels wearing two pounds of goo on their face as they leap across the stage.

Make it Last

Make sure your makeup stays put by applying a few spritzes of finishing spray. It may feel a bit sticky, but it will prevent sweat from taking your makeup off and falling into your eyes.

Also, use stage-specific makeup products which are designed to hold up under stage lights and sweat; department and drug store brands may look prettier, but most aren’t designed for the wear-and-tear of the stage and may smear all over your face.

Lose Loopy Lashes

False lashes should be applied with a thin strip of glue, from the beginning of the lash-band to the end. But even with the right amount of adhesive, they can still come loose while dancing.

If this happens, use your time in the wings to simply take them off. It’s better to dance with slightly less enormous lashes than to have your vision obscured during the next manège.

Adjust the Smudge

Stage makeup is want to migrate on your face as you sweat, no matter how much finishing spray or setting powder you use.

To cure the problem of dripping eyebrows or liner on your cheeks, keep a box of Q-tips and tissues backstage. In between phrases, gently pat your face with a tissue and run a Q-tip around the major/bold lines of your face, such as your liner, eyebrows, and mouth. This will get rid of makeup that bleeds outside its area and help you stay cool and dry.

Roll with the Pirouettes!

With the right amount of preparation and attention to detail, you’ll be sure to limit the amount of accidents on stage. But if something does still go wrong, don’t panic! Instead, go along with it and stay focused on the dancing.

Lights may explode, the music may stop, but so long as you keep dancing, the audience will keep watching!

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