Mimi Tompkins – Preparing For Performances

Every dancer has a unique pre-performance ritual, which helps them prepare and get in the zone for the performance. Generally, dancers are required to sign into the theater half an hour before the show to let the artistic office know they are there and ready. My pre-performance ritual starts about an hour before the performance when I first arrive at the theater. I get there early so I can give myself a little more time to get ready and feel fully prepared.

At the beginning of the hour, I get dressed from my street clothes and put on some warm ups to get my body warm and comfortable. I put on my big over-ear headphones so I can listen to my music, focus, and wipe away any nerves. I like to listen to calming music, nothing to high strung or heavy.

Currently, my warm up playlist includes music from Perfume Genius, The Lumineers, Ingrid Michaelson, and Sia, (but it’s always changing!)

After I’m all settled, I sit cross-legged in my chair in front of the mirror, and start doing my hair and makeup. Depending on the style, it can take anywhere from 10-30 minutes to do my hair. I like to use a lot of gel (not spray) to slick back my hair and ensure that it is tight and in place. I like to use a lot of pins and always use a hair net. I think neat hair is very important for professional dancers in performances. After the hair is accomplished, I move on to makeup.

If I stay focused and don’t try anything fancy, it usually only takes me about 20 minutes to put on a full face of makeup. From foundation to eyelashes, the art of stage makeup is individual to each dancer. Some dancers like other people to do their makeup, but I enjoy doing my own. I feel that taking the time to go through each step gets me in the zone and my mind centered.

With my remaining time before the show, I’ll get my costume on and make sure everything fits ok and is proper. Then, I’ll stretch and warm up a bit to get my blood flowing and ready to dance. I do plenty of relevés to make sure my feet are adjusted into my pointe shoes and to get my toes to articulate. I also like to go over the choreography a bunch of times in my head and mark the port de bras. I think about each movement, going over what I want the intention to be and how to make it meaningful. Like all dancers, I am also a bit paranoid about blanking out!

After I complete my pre-performance ritual, I am ready to go! When the stage manager calls the “on stage call,” which means five minutes until the show, I am backstage, rosined up, and eager to dance.

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