Understudying or covering, is an essential part of dancing that kind of sucks. I have been understudying recently and it isn’t always the most exciting thing to do. I have understudied parts since the age of ten and even though it isn’t thrilling, it is so important. This post will be all about understudying; why it matters, my experience with it, and how to be great at it.

Ok so why it matters isn’t that difficult to realize. Understudying is done so that in case the worst happens someone is able to step in for someone else in a piece. That may be one reason it matters, but there is another. Understudying is important because it is a chance to prove yourself to your director and show that you are up to the challenge.

I have had a lot of experience with understudying. Since ten I have understudied roles and since ten I have gone in for people who were injured, sick, etc. because I understudied. I know it can be rough at times to understudy when you don’t typically get to run the choreography and you’re just expected to know what is going on. Understudying can either be exciting because you may be given an opportunity you weren’t expecting or it can feel frustrating if you thought you would be cast. That’s when you need to change your mind set because being an understudy is being cast.

With that being said here are a few tips for being an understudy.

  1. Write it or record it– write or record choreography even if you don’t usually. You are at a disadvantage with less practice time meaning you won’t be able to rely on muscle memory as much as you typically would. To really succeed as an understudy you should have the choreography somewhere else whether it be in words or imagery, so you can review the material.
  2. Pay attention to detail– this is incredibly important, the more nuances and little bits you know exactly about what you are a cover for the better. Yes it is good to know the choreography and counts, but if you pay attention to corrections on a head movement or some other detail then apply it you will be highly valued.
  3. Do more– always go the extra mile in practicing and marking as a cover or understudy. Work harder than you think is necessary because it will leave you better off and show in your dancing. It may be hard to focus when you have to just practice in the back or on the side, but the more effort you put in, the better the results you will be left with.

All I want to get across is give covering and understudying your best. It may seem like a waste of time or frustrating, but take it from me, covering well can only further your dancing. The work ethic you put into covering can prove to your director you are a hard worker and you just might have to go in. The chances may seem slim or unlikely, but I know that I have had to go in for someone somewhat last minute and it was good to feel prepared.

Covering can be a test of determination, focus, and learning ability for a ballet dancer, so give it your all and do the best you can. Understudying is a chance to prove yourself even if you don’t make it to the stage, so make it count. At the very least you’ll improve your ability to learn choreography and show that you are a reliable dancer.

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