Dress Rehearsals are useful in a lot of ways.
In choir, I use them in a few ways.
One way I use them is to “walk through” the program so students know where they need to be and when they need to be there. To “walk through” literally means to go through the motions of the program without doing any singing. This especially helpful for new students or “beginning choirs” because although we practice all of this in class, nothing is solid until students get a chance to do the “walk through”.
Another way I use them is to “run the program”. This is different in that the students involved go through the entire program by not just going through the motions but also singing all of their pieces. For me, this would be ideal because students would get a complete practice with all groups involved. It is also advantageous at my school because this gives the different groups a chance to hear each other for the first time and sometimes the only time. This is because our auditorium is situated in a way that makes it necessary that we have two concerts. By having two concerts, one concert group of singers doesn’t get to hear the other group because we don’t have enough space for all of the performers and their guests.
I can also use dress rehearsals as just a final rehearsal meaning we practice only a specific group’s number. I use this one for our yearly “Mentor piece”. For the mentor piece, students get to choose an adult they consider a musical mentor and sing with them on a group piece. My students love this opportunity as they get to choose who they sing with and often get a chance to sing with someone they have always wanted to sing with but hadn’t had time or the situation to do so. The mentors love it because they are often the parents of the student(s) and have been a huge motivation for their students being in choir in the first place. The mentors also love it because most have missed the performing opportunities they once enjoyed as a member of a school choir.
The theatre and the opera use dress rehearsals in a much more elaborate way but they still accomplish basically the same thing. Each possibility gets the student ready for the finale.
Teachers of most subjects call a finale the “final”. Meaning the end results of the hard work of learning. These teachers usually hand them a written test that may include multiple choice, true/false, short answer or even essay questions all geared to get a student to “show what they know” in that subject.
The thing I like about the performing arts is that our “final” is built into what we do. Students HAVE to know the material or the “show” is a FLOP! It is also really easy to grade these “finals”. The students either know it or they don’t. There’s not an enormous amount of in-between. However, I never just grade a student on what I see. I ask each student to evaluate their performance on specific criteria we have been working on for that quarter. I take everything the student writes into consideration when giving a grade. I like this approach because students not only become empowered in their performance, they also learn more and share more as they progress from quarter to quarter.
Dress Rehearsals…preparation for the Finale!