Dance teachers and choreographers are careful while planning their classes. When it comes to performance, there is an added responsibility to also plan the stage setting. It takes not just creativity but also shrewd discipline of what-can-go-wrong and creating a back-up plan. The most important thing for any stage manager is to make sure that the performers and the audience enjoy the performance without any disturbance.
Here are some ways of planning the entry and exit of stage.
KEEPING A COUNT
Whether you have a stage manager or not, keeping count of students, number of total performances, number of green rooms available, is a very good idea. Size of the stage does matter because other things have to be arranged around this. A map of the stage venue and going through its details 2 weeks before the showcase gives a good idea of how to manage the sequence of the performances. Even if you are not completely aware of the stage, trying to do rehearsal 1 day before the final show or if possible reaching 3 hours before the performance is necessary. Basically, keep a count of everything, every student and each minute of the hour is important.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Genius people make complex things look simple. The idea is to be creative but at the same time doing smart work. Whatever type of choreography you have planned, it's important to keep the entrance simple especially for a big dance group. Whether it's a beginner or a professional, starting choreography on stage, setting your dance position while the stage lights are dim, or curtain closed, always works. And simple entrance does not need to be boring at all, after all a lot depends on the music and light system as well.
There are variations in both entry and exit in a modern or contemporary solo performance but only because it's easily manageable for a single person to improvise.
As a stage manager, it is important to be the one to inform performers about the sequence of events. Dancers are busy doing their makeup and managing their costume. The stage manager should post a sequence of performances on a paper on a common door, be constantly connected to the music console room about which performance is going on and when it's finished, informing dancers about their entry well before time.
These small things matter most because from an audience perspective, the entrance has to be in character and that can only happen if the dancer/performer is mentally calm and prepared. Meditation or yoga or simply doing your warm up quietly is a good way to keep your focus.
Another very important thing is clearing the stage wings area. Making a cluster to watch the performance, too many wires or props, chatting while standing in the wings can disturb the dancer on stage as well as everyone else. Stage discipline is something that a dance teacher should definitely inform their students of. Even while exiting, the discipline has to be maintained because sometimes the exit of your act is the entry way for the next act. One has to be very clear about stage right and stage left and which side of the stage wings to be used.
USING A PROP
There are so many school functions where there are lots of props used to make the performance colourful. While it looks very pretty, the work that goes behind is very challenging. Bigger props need bigger room and if it has to be shifted on stage then it takes a lot of people to execute it properly and on time. A lot of rehearsal with the dancers and the prop has to be done. Not many choreographers can execute a smooth entry and exit of a huge prop. Most just use the background screen or just give a static position to the huge prop which always works.
If you are a dancer who has more than two acts on stage, it is even more important to make an inventory of things to carry (including energy bars and water, a skin colour unitard) and be aware of time of your act. In a rush of events, it might be possible that the stage manager is not able to inform you about your act or you might forget a particular ribbon that is to be used in the act, then you have to be mindful all the time. In this case, the only person responsible for your performance is yourself and no one else. It is better to avoid being on phone or clicking selfies backstage.
Things that help are like keeping a water bottle near the stage wings in a corner that does not disturbs others and also gives you easy access. Some dancers also keep their costumes near the wings area so that it is easier for them to change and quickly go for their next act. During this time, it is also very important to know which side is entry and exit for each act.
PERFORMING A FINALE
The entrance can be subtle or with-a-bang, but it has to catch the attention of the audience. The exit has to be most impressive so that the audience applaud the wonderful performance. Never underestimate the exit of your performance. Many dancers stay in their dance pose for a minute and let the audience know that the act is done, and they can clap. Others, like in ballet, have a fixed way of bowing before an audience.
After all the planning, somethings will still go wrong for unavoidable reasons. The important thing to remember is to enjoy every moment on stage as you feel the audience laugh, cry, sing and dance along with you.