By: Lea Fosbenner, EDT Artistic Director & Choreographer
The beginning of a rehearsal season is a very exciting time; we are back in the studio surrounded by friends, and creating new works! But it can also be somewhat daunting: hours of rehearsals lie ahead, stress over remembering choreography, and recovery from sore muscles. And there is always a nonstop to-do list going through my head!
In my experience as a director, dancer, and choreographer here are some things I have found particularly helpful to get back into the swing of rehearsals, and prepare for the rehearsal season.
1. Get your ducks in a row ORGANIZATION IS KEY. Before rehearsals start I like to stock up on my essentials so I don’t have to worry about those throughout the season. For me that’s Advil, IcyHot, therabands, foam rollers, ballet shoes, bobby pins, hair ties, and maybe a new pair of leggings if I’m feeling fancy. I write down my rehearsal schedule in my planner as early as possible.
Knowing your rehearsal schedule is imperative during the season; especially on those long days when you jump from rehearsal to rehearsal.
Review choreography from previous rehearsals before walking into your current rehearsal. This is a simple process, but it is extremely beneficial for your memory. It allows your body to review and digest old movement but also prepares for the intake of new movement; not to mention it will make the choreographer’s life easier. Being organized before and during the rehearsal season allows me to focus on the important things, like choreography! 2. Eat, sleep, hydrate: repeat This may sound very obvious, but it will make a big difference in your performance. Making sure you get enough sleep, drink enough water, and are eating healthy will contribute to how well you pick up and retain choreography, and how you feel in rehearsal.
To prepare for busy rehearsal days I prep meals ahead of time and review my rehearsal schedule to see when I have breaks to find a good time during the day to eat my prepared meals.
Making sure I bring something that will keep me feeling energized without making me feel heavy is important. As soon as rehearsals start I also like to start eating cleaner and reducing my alcohol intake (except for that occasional glass of wine!) to increase my overall energy.
Sleep is obviously something you can’t plan weeks in advance, but it is still very important to get enough sleep before long rehearsal days! To be honest I am horrible at getting enough sleep, but I have found setting a bedtime for yourself can be very helpful to make sure your brain and body get the rest they need!
3. Go back to basics I have found getting back into those weekly ballet classes is really fundamental to feeling stable during long rehearsal days. Working on proper placement and alignment will come in handy during those nine-hour rehearsals, and will help prevent injury. Focusing on strengthening my core is also something I keep more in mind and makes a difference in how I feel in rehearsals. Stretching is also an important step in taking care of yourself.
I make sure to give myself enough time to stretch before and after rehearsals, in order to warm up and cool down properly.
I find using my theraband and foam roller Is extremely helpful during these sessions. 4. Cross train Our shows can be very demanding on the body and I have found that adding cross training into my routine, in addition to extra dance classes, has helped me feel more confident on stage. Cycling has helped me increase my stamina for performances while not putting too much stress on my body. I also really enjoy hot yoga after a long rehearsal weekend with sore muscles. After dealing with a back injury involving bulging disks, I have realized the importance of strengthening muscles that we don’t focus on in dance. I worked with a physical therapist who helped me strengthen the areas I needed to reinforce, and overall I feel I have become a stronger and smarter dancer as I have learn more about my body. 5. R & R Rest and Relaxation are not every dancer’s favorite words, but taking time to rest and take care of your body is important after long rehearsal hours and while cross training. It is very easy to keep pushing our bodies, but that can easily lead to injury and exhaustion. It really is crucial for the recovery of our muscles to take time and let them rest. Getting a massage, a warm bath with a bath bomb from Lush, ice bath for the feet, eating balanced meals, some extra hours of sleep, or doing simple meditation can all be beneficial and restful for a dancer. All of these allow the mind and body to take a breather since we are asking so much of them!