Just Keep Dancing!

Recital time is hectic enough when everything goes right, but what about when something goes wrong? We asked you to share your funniest recital mishaps, and you delivered! Here are five of our favorites.


The Domino Effect

My 5-year-old daughter Leah is a spitfire with natural tap abilities—or so I thought. When she had her first tap recital, which I choreographed, I was smitten. She did so well in rehearsals and even practiced at home. At showtime, I was watching from the wings when Leah came out leading the conga line. But her shoelace came untied, and one by one the tappers behind her stepped on her shoelace and bumped into each other, falling like dominoes one at a time! Of course, Leah remained standing the whole time. —Brenda Thomas, Washington, DC


Kitty’s Cameo

During our Nutcracker snow scene, one of the theater’s cats, Pippin, decided to join the snowflakes onstage and curl up on the edge by the audience. Our director asked Clara to calmly walk out with the Snow Queen, scoop Pippin up and carry him offstage. Unfortunately, Pippin hates being touched—as soon as Clara bent down, he bolted, jumping straight toward an audience member! It was a performance the cast (and the audience) will never forget. —Ivy Elizabeth Lonnen, Ocala, FL


A Holey Day

I had been standing all day long while working backstage, and I needed to take some stress off my legs, so I decided to squat while watching the show. As I bent my knees, I caught my white linen pants on the corner of an electrical outlet sticking out of the wall behind me. My pants ripped, along with the skin underneath. I rushed around doing my best MacGyver impersonation, fixing the hole in my pants with a Barbie Band-Aid and safety pins. I carried my clipboard behind me and stayed standing for the rest of the show. —Alisa McCool, Birmingham, AL


Gulch’s Glitch

My studio’s recital theme was “The Wizard of Oz.” And when they needed a teacher to play Miss Gulch, I was the obvious choice due to my ability to ham it up. On recital day, I rode an old bicycle onstage, cackling and yelling, “I’ll get you and your little dog, too!” The audience loved it. I rode around the stage one time...two times...and then I went for a third—a lap I hadn’t practiced in rehearsal—but the crowd (and hubris) got the better of me. I felt the bicycle wheels slip out from under me, and I went sailing over the handlebars. And there I was, limbs splayed in the middle of the stage with 3,000 eyes on me. I bounced up and proclaimed (in character), “Well, that shut me up!” As the crowd laughed and clapped, I dragged myself and the bike offstage. Thankfully, nothing was broken (except my delicate pride), and I went on to ride two more times during intermission. —Mandy Brame Marxen, North Wikesboro, NC


Skirting Disaster

I was backstage at a recital, running music, calling cues and getting ready to go onstage myself. I ran onstage during the blackout. When the lights came up, I kick ball-change turned and...my skirt fell to my knees! I grabbed that skirt with my right hand and, smiling all the way, finished dancing with only my left arm moving. At the end of the show, I told all the students, “I’ve said it a thousand times: ‘What do you do when something goes wrong? Keep dancing and smiling!’” —Theresa L Baker, Bay City, MI


Illustration of "Kitty's Cameo" by Emily Giacalone

Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.

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For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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Teachers Trending

From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

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