Ritual Before Opening Night

Nationality: American
Primary Language: English
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Performance Date: 04/26/2024


“In high school, whenever it was opening night of a play or musical, all the cast and crew would go into the hallway like 15 minutes before we started and do a little dance. You first like take your right hand and put it by you right ear, and shake it 8 times while counting like ‘one-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight.’ You put it at your side, and do the same thing with your left hand (by your left ear), your right foot (raised a little bit), and finally your left foot (raised a bit). You then start over with your right hand again, but only counting till four this time. You do the full cycle, then do it twice, and then once.”


The informant was a participant in theater for about eight years of her life through an external theater group. She remembers an older performer teaching it to her and her friends the night before their first show when she was eleven. It has since served as a ritual before every single opening night she has ever been a part of. She said it wasn’t really for luck or anything, but rather as a dance to commemorate the start of a new show, and to shake the nerves out. While she has performed with a variety of different people, she said that normally a vast majority (and nearly all by her senior year) knew the dance, and teaching those that didn’t was a heartwarming and fond moment every time it happened.


Dances are a common form of ritual as the ordered steps can easily be taught and instructed. I think that this form of ritual is quite common, as it serves as a bonding mechanism, while also being a form of tradition that can be passed down through generations and cycles of performers. I think the personal value of this is relatively clear, as it is a way to invoke the energy and memories of past performances, while marking the start of a new one. Furthermore, it is a way to “shake out the nerves,” and expel jitters, serving as soothing ritual prior to a relatively stressful experience. This ritual has definitely been featured in TV shows before, and most has probably spread in part because of that, and because it is a way for performers to contribute something to a new cast and new performance.