“Green Room”- Pre-Performance Ballet Ritual

Informant (“A”) is a 19 year old, female from Rancho Santa Fe, California, and attends The University of Southern California. She is a Human Biology major. She is of European descent and her family includes her mother, father, and older brother who attends college in Texas. Informant has studied ballet for 17 years, including work in a professional company.

A: “Dancers, and, really, it seems most theater people in general, have a lot of rituals and superstitions. The theater can be sort of unpredictable you know? You could have rehearsed every day for a year and something can still go wrong during the show. Especially when you throw nervousness into the mix, things definitely can happen. Sometimes it feels like half of what we can accomplish is just because we were lucky.
The whole time up there you’re praying ‘’Don’t fall, don’t fall down’’, even if you’ve never fallen before, you just don’t know. And you’re not only relying on yourself too. Sometimes as a dancer you just jump and hope your partner catches you! If they’re not in the zone, things can end badly for you. Anyway basically performing is scary and a lot of dancers do things to try and make it less scary.
The first ritual is called Green Room. It’s where the whole cast meets together backstage and we all form, sort of a circle. The oldest member will then say something inspiring, whatever the cast needs at the moment. Then we all hold hands and do that thing where you, like… squeeze the persons hand next to you until it goes all the way around the circle again. This connects us, because like I said you have to rely on other people. Sometimes during this we pass around this green frog you have to kiss, I have no idea why. Then we all do a chant. Depending on the group or show the chant varies..”

Analysis: The superstition seems like a classic example of using a ritual to gain favorable luck of some sort for an event of particular importance. A way to increase control of an event whose failure would be very bad for the performer. It also seems to play quite an important part in binding the dance company together to allow increased trust amongst them. By reinforcing such a sense of community, it increases trust and belonging, things one likely needs if they’re putting themselves in such risky position as a public performance.