“5, 6, 7, 8!” The numbers that every dancer lives for. But for musical theater performers about to burst out of a long dance break into the most vocally demanding section of their big song, those digits can spell doom. How do you prepare to deliver that big solo moment emerging from such fancy footwork? Here are five tips to keep you going when you’ve gotta sing after you’ve gotta dance.
1. Master the singing and choreography separately.
We all know that rehearsal time is a precious and limited commodity in the musical theater world, and we often have to prioritize one thing at the expense of another. That’s showbiz, kids! But if your knowledge or execution of the choreography is tentative and your vocals aren’t solid unto themselves, you’re more likely to waver when it comes to passing the baton from dance to vocals during a performance.
2. Pace and plan your breath.
Don’t conceive of your breath as “in the moment” with regard to your dance break. If you’re going to have any hope in coming out strong with some rocking vocals afterward, you need to plan exactly where you’ll breathe as you dance. Then, integrate your breathwork into the choreography so that it’s consistent every time. Take into account where you need to conserve, and where a little more breath is necessary.
3. Have a parachute ready.
OK, not a literal parachute. But you do need to have a backup plan in place, in case something goes awry with your intended process for breath management (see number two above). If something doesn’t go accordingly in a given performance, maybe you’ll choose to mix that moment instead of belting it or even incorporate some (tasteful) back phrasing to stabilize your breath as the vocal line takes over. In any case, when things go off the rails, you have to have a gimmick (i.e., a Plan B) in your back pocket. But don’t wait until performance time. Set yourself up for success by determining your parachute plan during rehearsal.
4. Get enough rest between performances.
Different roles require more rest between performances than others. Be sure that your body, voice, and mind are receiving adequate downtime between shows. Like any other athlete, performers need to make sure their instruments are getting the requisite R&R to stay healthy, prevent injury, and deliver top-quality performances.
5. Don’t forget to hydrate.
This sounds like a basic reminder, but it can’t be overstated. Not only does the voice require plenty of hydration at all times, but you’ll be sweating a good amount during that dance break, too. Ensuring the body is stocked up with the H2O that it needs will help keep everything moving smoothly and consistently.
Singing, acting, and dancing merge together to create the musical theater artform that we know and love. The excitement of pushing ourselves to achieve the level of a top-notch triple-threat can be exhilarating, but it’s important that we plan ahead in order to be sure we’re doing so in a healthy way. Not only will this help in our quest to stave off a potential injury. It’ll also provide the conditions necessary to deliver a standout performance, night after night.
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