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Tips for Students

For all performing arts students:
Practice proper classroom etiquette and get noticed!
There are certain universal rules in the classroom that all experienced performing arts students know about and practice. This is referred to as "Classroom Etiquette". Students who practice proper classroom etiquette are more likely to get noticed and receive more guidance from the instructor. We teach and practice these same rules at VPA. Here are some of them:
  • Arrive on time to avoid distracting the teacher and class.
  • Stand up when your teacher enters the room.
  • No socializing with other students during class.
  • Raise your hand if you have a question.
  • Keep your eyes on the instructor.
  • Don't lean or sit down unless you are given permission.
  • Listen to absolutely every word your teacher is saying and soak it up like a sponge. Ask questions only after you've listened to your instructor deliver the entire concept he/she is trying to teach.
  • Always say "thank you" when you receive positive feedback from your teacher.
  • Look at negative feedback as constructive criticism. It is mean to help, not hinder and means the teacher is noticing and watching you. Say "thank you" when you receive constructive criticism from your teacher.
  • At the end of class, the students and teacher should applaud and make eye contact before leaving the classroom, as a way to say thank you for the experience and the work. It's nice to actually say the words, too!
Actors must be seen and heard.
This phrase should be the starting point for any theatrical production. Actors are taught to "cheat out", this means the performer angles their body so that the audience can gain a good view of them. Actors should always be mindful of committing the theatrical sin of turning their back to the audience. Proper volume is essential for any performer. Young performers especially should hone the skill of voice projection. A good director will find fun and creative ways to coax big sound out of little bodies. A quick fix for volume is for the performer to think of the theatre space as twice as big as it really is. Performing experience is crucial to increasing volume in younger performers; as they become more confident, they are able to focus on details like breathing, projection and diction. ~ Director of Theater and Music, David Zizic  

Singers, know your vocal range.

Vocal range are the notes a singer can comfortably perform.  Everyone's vocal range is different, but if you can figure out what notes sound best for you, it helps you sing with more confidence and power.  A  good voice teacher will constantly challenge you to extend your range higher and lower.  Proper voice instruction can give you the tools for perfecting your optimum vocal range.  ~David Zizic, VPA Director of Theater & Music

Dancers, want to jump higher?
Want to jump higher? The path to "flying" in dance, is through the feet! Many times I will see a dancer going into a jump or leap with flexed feet, which is very telling. What it tells me is that the dancer is not using his or her feet properly and that he or she is taking off from the floor by pushing off from the heel of the foot rather than the toes. The foot and ankle contains 26 bones, 33 joints and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. After a nice deep plie, followed by the feet pushing into the floor, straightening the legs, then the heel should leave the floor first, followed by the ball of the foot and finally the toes leave the floor last. When it happens like this it is because the dancer is using the entire foot in segments to push off the floor which results in a higher jump automatically and pointed feet as well. Try it! It always works! ~ Carrie Bohlmann, VPA Co-Owner/Dance Instructor

Three Tips for Auditions...

1) Warm up before an audition. A warm up before an audition helps center the performer. Think of how calming and soothing controlled deep breathing would comfort a nervous auditionee. Get the blood flowing before your next audition by warming up your body with some cardiovascular excercises and stretches.

2) Never apologize. Nothing puts a negative spin on an audition than a person who makes excuses for being less than what they think is their best. Mistakes are bound to happen; if you don't communicate that you've made a mistake, chances are no one will ever know. Put in your head that you are the most confident person on earth- and it will show though. 

3) Be professional. Introduce yourself as you would in a job interview. Don't forget to say please and thank you to everyone in the room.  Feel free to ask questions and take your time, don't rush your time to shine.

How to Practice for Performance

  • Practice! Practice! Practice! At least once a week, preferably within the same 48 hours after your class, practice what you learned in your dance class(es) at home.
  • As you practice at home, identify parts of the choreography you are having trouble with and bring it up to your teacher at the next class. 
  • Designate a dance notebook/pen to your dance bag. After each class, jot down things you remember learning in class. That way you can refresh your memory when you are practicing at home. Parents, if you have a child that is to young to read/write, feel free to communicate with the instructor to find out what they should be practicing.
  • Don't miss too many classes! Consistent attendance is crucial as we get closer to performance time! Showing up is half the battle!
  • Being well rehearsed is crucial for a successful performance and creates an environment for building confidence in the dancers, which will take them far beyond their dance training!

Actors, ditch the script.
The most successful young actors are ones that memorize their lines as quickly as possible.  I always tell my students: "You really can't act a role until you have the lines in your head".  Many actors use the script as a security blanket, protection against forgetting a line. One of my teachers told me to memorize a short line of something every day; getting into the habit of memorizing helps when an actual script comes along.  Recording your voice and playing it back (while looking at the script) really reinforces memorization by hearing and seeing.  An actor is able to ditch the script and become a character when the lines are embedded in their minds. ~ Mr. David Zizic, VPA Acting Instructor & Director of Music & Theatre

Dancers, go to the uncomfortable place!

"Go to the uncomfortable place!" This is something I am constantly telling my dancers, particularly when they are executing a strength- and/or flexibility-focused skill. For example, when working développé (extensions) at the barre in ballet class, I often see dancers extending to the same comfy, cozy height week after week. Well, as you may have guessed, the result of this is an extension that stays at the same comfy, cozy height week after week. If the dancers instead extend their leg to a height that quite uncomfortable and maybe even bordering on fatigue (so long as technique is not compromised), the body will soon break through plateaus and "remember" that the higher level is the NEW comfort zone! Cool, isn't it? Repeat this pattern in every class, and the leg goes up, up, up. The same principle applies for splits, push-ups, endurance, and much much more. So go for it! Go for the struggle! Eek out that last crunch, that last rep, that last 4 counts -- whatever the case may be -- and you will be amazed at what the body can accomplish! ~Ms. Annie, Dance Instructor and VPA Co-Owner

Singers, open your mouth!
Singers, open your mouth! Doesn't that seem like a logical, no-brainer type thing? There's a little more to it than just opening up. A good voice teacher can help you form a vowel so that a note can sound its best, but a very common issue for beginning singers is they simply don't open up wide enough. Sometimes I have students gently hold their chin down to create some space in their mouth. Singers should always be striving for resonance (a full sound) and the only way to achieve it is to open up to tall vowels!  ~ David Zizic, Director of Music and Theater

Pirouette Tips for Dancers
Dancers, when you are working on pirouettes, try to stay strong in your releve and keep your standing leg straight. If you always "cheat" (example: hop, lower heel or bend your supporting leg to save yourself from falling) you will never learn how to fix the problem. I like to tell my students to be scientists when it comes to balancing in turns. If you feel like you are going to fall, let yourself fall but keep your standing leg straight and stay in releve. That is the only way to figure out which way you are falling. Most likely you are falling the same way most of the time and this practice allows you to identify and fix the problem. Happy turning! ~VPA Owner & Instructor, Carrie Bohlmann

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