How to Prepare for a Ballet Show

The weeks and months of rehearsals have flown by, and now the big day is at hand. Your show is finally here. But just when you thought all the hard work was behind you, there are suddenly a million and ten things to do and no time to do them!

Don’t worry—if you feeling lost and overwhelmed just break it all down into the easy steps listed below. It’s sure to make the path to show time more manageable, so you can have fun and enjoy the entire experience. Well, barring the lead getting injured, the theatre lights blowing out, or the sudden appearance of your aunt Mildred in the front row…

The Night Before the Big Day

The night before the big day can be just as important as the big day itself: Remember to stay hydrated, eat healthy and substantial meals, and even more importantly, get a good night’s sleep!

It can be difficult to fall asleep when you have a show the next day, but try to stay relaxed by doing some light stretching, reading a dance magazine, and/or drinking a cup of chamomile tea before you head to bed. If you are still anxious, take deep, six-count breaths once you are in bed to calm your nerves and help drift into a peaceful slumber.

Hot Tip: Dream Disasters

It’s very common to have nightmares of your show going horribly wrong. Whether you dream of slipping on a banana peel or forgetting your tutu, when you wake up, remember that it’s all just a dream! Dreaming about disastrous performances are just your mind’s way of dealing with fear. Think of it this way: Nightmares deal with the worry while you sleep so that you can focus on other, more important things during show time!

The Morning of the Show

Eat a Good Breakfast

You probably won’t feel like it, but try to eat a good breakfast the morning before the show. Have a banana for potassium, an egg or two for protein, and some toast or cereal for the carbohydrates you’ll need during your first warm up.

Avoid greasy or fattening foods that could give you indigestion—that’s the last thing you need before a show!

Don Some Serious Layers

Theatres can be cold and drafty, regardless of the weather outside, so swathe yourself in knit warm-ups and fleece in the morning to keep your body as warm as possible. Use layers so that you can take off and put on clothes as you warm up (or cool down) throughout the day.

The Afternoon

Do Some Light Stretching

Once you’re awake and raring to go, take some time to loosen up with some light stretches. Don’t jump straight into your oversplits and kick up a bridge, but do try and prep the areas of your body that give you the most trouble.

Calves, Achilles, quadriceps and hamstrings can get tight easily, so gently work them out with exercises and massage.


Before you rush off to the theatre, take a few moments to relax: breathe deeply and close your eyes; sit in silence, listening to nothing but the air around you; or imagine being at one of your favorite summer hangouts, like the beach or sitting in the sun in your backyard.

Any or all of these easy exercises will help quiet your nerves before they overwhelm you later on stage.

Do a Full Warm-Up Class

If your company or studio offers a warm up class, take advantage of it! A good warm up will not only prepare your body, but also release endorphins which will help you stay happy and calm.

If there’s no class available, find space in the theatre and go through the warm up alone. Take the time you need to rehearse any problem movements/steps, find your balance, and gauge how your body is feeling.

The Hours Before

Grab a Snack

Make sure to munch throughout the day, whether there’s food ready at the theatre or you packed a bit yourself. Foods like nuts and granola bars are great options, as they’re portable and supply a solid amount of protein and carbohydrates that your body will desperately need to complete an entire show.

And unless you hate them, try to keep a banana handy. The potassium relieves cramping muscles and will give you filling, stomach-calming energy.

Stay Hydrated

Drink a lot of water throughout the day, as nerves will make you feel more dehydrated and thirsty than usual. Water and potassium (via the banana mentioned above) will eliminate the risk of cramps and tight muscles that come with increased anxiety.

Remember that anything you drink will come out the other end, so make sure not to overdo it right before you have to go on stage!

Hot Tip: Hydration Sensation

While ice water tastes great when you’re thirsty, it is also a shock to the system and harder for your body to absorb than warmer liquid. So instead of loading your thermos up with ice and sticking it in the fridge, fill it with water that’s mildly chilled or room temperature. This will keep you refreshed and hydrated without freezing your already panicked nervous system.

Take Care of Hair and Makeup

Give yourself plenty of time to get your hair and makeup ready. Don’t rush your preparation or you’ll be more likely to muss it up and make a mistake. 90 minutes is usually a good estimate—especially if you have to style your hair or attach any headpieces.

Warm Up All Over Again

At this point, it’s probably been a few hours since you warmed up and stretched, so give yourself a condensed, twenty to thirty minute warm up class. Go over the difficult parts of your pieces and stretch out your muscles.

Don’t panic if you’ve suddenly lost your triple pirouettes; getting nervous can cause you to tighten up and alter your natural balance. Instead, just take a few deep breaths, calm down, and try it again.

Breathe and Visualize

Use the last few minutes before a show to wish other dancers merde, then take some deep, relaxing breaths. Find a (relatively) quiet place, close your eyes and visualize yourself dancing perfectly; positive visualization will make it easier to perform well once you are actually on stage.

Just Dance

Shows can be stressful and chaotic, but if you structure your prep time into these basic steps you’re sure to eliminate any excess anxiety. So when things do go wrong, you’ll be able to dance beautifully through it all.

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