Dance Guides: Prepping Your Child for Recital Season


With recital season just around the corner, here are some tip-top tips to help you get prepped and primed for the big show day! Being ready for a dance showcase is not only about knowing how to do hair and makeup, it’s also about finding confidence through practice and determination to combat stage fright. A little preparation goes a long way, and by channeling our inner Mary Poppins we can make sure that we’ve packed our dance bags with hair kits, first aid, snacks, and all sorts of dance recital gadgets. So check out these top tips to make your show day run as smoothly as that slicked-back, gelled-up, stage-ready hair!

‘Smolder’, ‘Smize’ or ‘Blue Steel’?

When hearing the words ‘makeup’, ‘hair’ and ‘costumes’, it can be easy to jump straight to the glamorous world of runway fashion. Though, the mastery of a stage-look for a dance performance is entirely different in purpose and technique. Makeup for stage performance is about accentuating facial features so that the performer’s facial expressions can be captured by the audience members all the way up in the balcony. For this reason, there are techniques specific to stage make-up which require a different understanding of highlighting, contouring, and colour palettes. Generally, young dance students under the age of 10 will wear less makeup than the older dance students. Stage makeup not only makes a dancer’s eyes, lips and rosy cheeks ‘pop!’, but it also gives that extra boost of excitement and adrenaline! It is always best to check with the student’s dance teacher for the style of hair and makeup required. If you’re still feeling unsure about how to apply makeup or do hair, make sure to ask the dance teacher to provide some instructions and tips. There are also plenty of stage makeup and hair video tutorials on Youtube which offer great step-by-step tips on perfecting DIY stage-looks. And to make sure you’ve got all your tools ready, we’ve compiled a standard recital checklist below of things to pack! Be sure to practice at home before the actual show, and if there are any areas you find challenging, there are plenty of dance gurus happy to share their advice.

Butterflies Be Gone!

Everyone has experienced nervousness or ‘butterflies in your stomach’ at one time or another, and they are no stranger to the world of stage performance. Aside from students practising at the dance studio, there are plenty of ways that parents can help ease those stage fright nerves before the recital. The world can feel smaller and less scary when we are in the comfort of our own homes. An at home dance recital can be lots of fun for our tiny dancers, and it lets them explore their creativity and builds their confidence for the big stage. Encourage your young dancer to draw and cut-out some tickets, invite their favourite teddy bears or play dates, and let them set the stage and pick out their own costumes. It can also be a great chance to practice a stage-ready look by applying make-up and doing hair. Make sure to have the speakers ready, as no recital is complete without music. Your tiny dancer can show you all their favourite dance moves or the routine that they’ve been practicing for the recital. If you’re feeling bold and want to take the practice recital into a slightly bigger space, think about renting a dance room in a residential clubhouse or at your local sports centre. For young dance students who want to brush up on their technique or need some more practice with their dance routine, consider booking a private dance class before the recital.

At home recitals or private dance lessons are great ways to combat nerves, but what about igniting the inspiration to dance? To prime your dancer for the stage and spark their passion for dance, go and watch a live dance performance with your child. Check out the box office at your local theatre, or URBTIX for the latest dance performances in town. There are also several movie theatres within Hong Kong that offer Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, which bring live ballet productions such as Petrushka, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker to the big screen. And if you want to catch some great dance movies at home, check out our article, Movin’ Movies: Our Top Picks of Dance Movies for the Whole Family.

Packing Hacks for your Recital Dance Bag

If Dora the Explorer has taught us one thing, it’s that your backpack can come in handy! We’ve created a general recital dance bag checklist, just remember that some of these items may not apply to all dancers. Here’s a list of some things to pack:

A Hair Kit for those Dancing Heros and Heroines:

  • Rat Tail Comb/Classic Styling Brush/Detangling Brush: Rat Tail Combs are great for parting hair, and can also be used for styling. Classic Styling Brushes are suitable for those with thick to curly hair. A Detangling Brush untangles hair, and it’s also Rapunzel’s best friend!

  • Spray Bottle: A spray bottle filled with water is a great way to start the hair styling process.

  • Hair Gel and Hairspray: Gel makes the hair nice and slick, while hairspray provides the finishing touch to hold everything together!

  • U Pins: These are open ended pins generally used for a ballet bun. They come in small and large sizes depending on hair thickness and length.

  • Small Bobby Pins and Long Grip Bobby Pins: These are closed pins used to flatten flyaway hair strands and to secure costume headpieces.

  • Hair ties or Free Size Elastic Hair Bands: Hair ties are a pre-set size of hair elastics. The Free Size Elastic Hair Bands allow you to cut the perfect length of elastic so that you have a tight and taut ponytail. Be sure to get a colour that matches your hair!

  • Hair nets: These keep the flyaways tamed, and make a ballet bun neat and tidy. Again the colour should match your hair.

    A Movement Lover’s Makeup Kit:

  • Makeup brushes, pads and sponges: These tools allow for a smooth and hygienic application of makeup.

  • Primer and Face Cream: The very base of ‘making up’ your face.

  • Concealer Cream or Stick: Used to mask blemishes or eye bags to help even out the skin.

  • Foundation Cream or Powder: To smooth and even out your skin tone.

  • Contour and Highlighting Palette: Don’t get washed out by those stage lights, be sure to highlight and contour your facial features!

  • Eyeshadow Palette: Sometimes you need to bring out those eyes, or the colours in your costume.

  • Blush: Brightening up those cheeks that your aunt just loves to pinch!

  • Lipstick: Boosting the colour that frames your smile!

  • Mascara, Fake Eyelashes (plus eyelash glue), and an Eyelash Curler: For those beautiful Bambi eyelashes, start with mascara and an eyelash curler.

  • Make-up Remover, Tissues, Wipes, Cotton Pads and Swabs: Makeup mishaps do happen, but luckily you can wipe it away and start over!

    A Winning Wardrobe:

  • Extra extra! It never hurts to bring extra pieces of attire, whether it’s tights, dance shorts, socks, shoes, slippers, or elastics and ribbons for shoes.

  • Sewing Kit and Safety Pins: Slight alterations on show day are very common in the stage world, so be sure to pack a sewing kit and safety pins!

  • A warm zip-up sweater, jacket, warm-up pants or booties: It can get chilly backstage, and because of the hot stage lights, the theatre must be kept at a cool temperature. It’s always helpful to pack a warm zip-up sweater or jacket, and try to make sure that it is a zip-up, otherwise a pull-over sweater can smudge makeup and make that stage-ready hair all staticky!

    Fuel-up and First Aid

  • School Friendly Snacks: It’s important to stay fuelled and fed before the show, so make sure to pack some light allergy friendly snacks. Fruits, animal crackers, vegetable sticks and snack bars are always a good choice.

  • Sip and Hydrate: Make sure to bring along a water bottle and remember that it’s better to sip rather than to gulp when hydrating! Of course fruit juice, chocolate milk or coconut water are great options too, but water is definitely a must!

  • First Aid Kit: Bandaids, Athletic Tape, Gauze, and Disinfectant Wipes are the basics, of course you know your child best and what else they may need to bring.

It’s Go Time!

Leading up to the recital day, make a schedule for both you and your child. That way, you both know what to expect and it will ensure that you arrive to the ‘backstage drop-off’ prepared and on time. The more prepared you are, the less nervous both you and your child will be. As a parent, you also have to pack your own bag with a camera and maybe even a little post-show gift to show your talented dancer how proud you are of their achievements, whether it’s flowers, a card, a plush toy, or a delicious treat!

Show day is finally here! You’ve done all the preparation and practice that you can, and now it’s time to let your little birds fly! The most important thing is that your child has a good time, and that they grow and learn from this stage experience. Not everyone will be ready to take the spotlight the first time, and stage fright is very common in a dancer’s early training. Every performance brings our young dancers another step closer to building their confidence and it improves their ability to perform and present themselves in front of a crowd. Dance recitals are all about stepping stones and improvement, it’s an experience that your children will cherish for a lifetime, building some of their greatest childhood memories! Make Ms. Poppins proud and be prepared to take the stage!