Dance Shakeout

This is a ritual performed by my informant’s dance team prior to every performance. The team would stand in a circle and the team captain would select a number, generally 10 or 15. The girls would start to shake their right hand in the air at the wrist, counting up from one to the number previously selected by the captain. Once they had shaken that hand that many times, they would switch to the left hand and repeat the process. Then the right foot, then the left. Then they would return to the right hand and shake that one fewer times than the previous shake, and the ritual would continue on. Each round would be counted slightly louder than the previous. When it got down to where you only shook every hand and foot once, all of the girls would either do a pre-decided cheer or simply jump up and down yelling to prepare them for their performance, and then go out onstage.

This is a very common warmup exercise in many performing arts; it is described in the book Acting Antics: A Theatrical Approach to Teaching Social Understanding to Kids and Teens with Asperger’s Syndrome (29), and was also mentioned to me by another informant from Georgia before her dance competitions. It’s important because it loosens the muscles after stretching them and honing focus, and it is done together in a circle to encourage the connection between the performers before they go onstage. It increases in volume to either release some of the tension or egg it on, throwing into a constructive use. The cheer or scream at the end fosters team unity and spirit, and prepares the team to go out and perform.