Backstage Before Showtime

October 26, 2008

Jennifer Goodman, a seasoned member of The Joffrey Ballet, tells DS how she prepares for her role as Helena in The Dream 60 minutes before the curtain rises.

60 minutes: Physical Therapy

Goodman, already in full makeup, gets a 10-minute physical therapy treatment an hour prior to curtain. For the tendonitis in her left foot, the PT gives her ultrasound and a massage in the calf and shin areas.

50 minutes: Hair

The character Helena wears a Victorian hairstyle wig that is pinned on by a designated staff member from The Joffrey. Underneath the wig, Goodman’s hair is already affixed into several tight pincurls that lay flat against her scalp.

40 minutes: Warm-Up

After the wig is secured, Goodman takes the stage, where barres are placed for the company’s dancers. She begins her warm-up with stomach exercises, then takes herself through a 15- to 20-minute barre.

30 minutes: Half-hour call

The stage manager’s half-hour call is Goodman’s signal to head back to the dressing room to put on her pointe shoes. Instead of sewing the knots of her ribbons to keep them secure during performance, she uses clear tape. “I started doing that because sewing takes longer and rips the tights sometimes,” says Goodman. “The tape is easy to take off if you have a quick change.”

15 minutes: Costume

After stepping into her elaborate dress, Goodman goes to the hallway where dressers hook and button performers’ costumes. A 15-minute and a 5-minute call are given before the final “Places!”, at which point the dancers are in position, ready for the curtain to rise.

Hannah Lagerway, who recently joined Seattle’s Spectrum Dance Theater, on prepping for Donald Byrd’s
Sleeping Beauty Notebooks

Hannah Lagerway prefers to have her hair and makeup finished an hour before curtain, so that she can fully concentrate on physical and mental preparation. She spends 30 minutes going through a “Donald Byrd warm-up” with a fellow company member, followed by five minutes of Pilates ab work and stretching. (Lagerway has been studying Pilates for seven years and teaches a weekly mat class at the company’s studios.) This close to curtain, her focus is on making sure her center is engaged and her breathing is calm.

After the warm-up, she rechecks her costumes and props to ensure everything is in the right place, then changes into her first costume. Her next order of business is to review notes from rehearsal and any changes made from the previous evening’s performance. “If there are sections that are really hard for me, I’ll go over them. I make sure technically everything is working, but as soon as I’ve done it once, I have to leave it alone,” says Lagerway. “I’m not one of those dancers [who] will go through everything right before the show, because mentally it trips me up.”

She also listens to music to avoid being distracted. Since Sleeping Beauty Notebooks is a long, physically and emotionally demanding piece, she opts for mellow music, to help “stay in the zone.” Finally, she takes a few quiet moments on the side of the stage to focus. Her last task before taking the stage is to wish “merde” to her fellow cast members.