A dance recital is the dazzling ending to a year of hard work, dedication and endless hours of rehearsals. A showcase for studio families and friends, a studio's biggest supporter can become some of their toughest critics. Studio owners and teachers work hard to make sure their performances are more memorable than the previous year. That starts with one of the most difficult questions to answer: What is my recital theme going to be?

Studio owners and teachers have a million considerations to sort out when planning a recital. How many numbers are going to be in the show? What levels of dancers will be included? What costumes should the dancers wear? What resources are needed to execute it? While choosing a theme may seem laborious, a theme can actually help the overall process. It provides clarity and can help drive more efficient decisions. It also can allow more creativity by challenging teachers to be creative within a theme so the production is not predictable. Starting with a theme can bring order to the process. The main element that links an entire production together is the theme. From costumes to music, from the venue to the props, a recital theme provides cohesiveness to an entire year of work.

Two of the most helpful questions when picking a theme are "How many dancers are enrolled in the studio?" and "How many genres of dance does the studio teach?" Studio size can play a key role when picking a recital theme. You have to make sure that it's something that every class can participate in, every teacher can work with, and that every dancer feels confident performing. The size of the studio and different styles of dance taught will help the decision if a broad theme, specific theme, or production would be the best fit.

A broad or specific recital theme is based around a general topic. A broad theme gives teachers more creative freedom and makes it easier for multiple genres to seamlessly flow throughout the recital. It's a theme that can be about anything: The 80's, Throughout the Years, Songs from Movies, Around the World, Seasons of Love. When using a broad theme, make sure to take into consideration the theme used in the previous year's performance. Mix it up and give the audience and dancers something new and fresh to look forward too.

Specific recital themes are much more focused, such as Fairytale. These types of themes are easier for smaller studios with a strong focus in specific genres. Finding songs and costumes to fit specific themes are great when you know the entire company is working along the same guidelines. With a smaller studio, a specific theme helps keep the audience interested as the story progresses. Specific themes can be used in a larger studio using more artistic freedom to tie the theme together in less literal ways. For example, working jazz choreography in a Fairytale to The Wanted's "I'm Glad You Came" as the prince is rescuing a princess.

Depending on your studio and planning time you may have the ability to create a full production. These recital themes are based loosely on well-known stories and allow the audience to follow from start to finish. For example, choosing Cinderella as a production recital theme tells the rags to riches story of a servant girl, who through a series of magical events becomes a princess and lives happily ever after. Dedicate each class to an act as a way to portray the story, and use the songs from the movie for an authentic depiction. If you have dance genres that may not fit into specific classical songs, try mixing it up by using modern music that correlates back to the plot to tell the story of Cinderella in a fun and unique way.

Final touches can change the mood of a recital theme. Backdrops, projections, lighting, costumes, accessories and props are a great way bring your story to life and make it feel different and special each year. Remember a theme should also be appropriate for all dancers and audience members.

Once the recital theme is chosen, the fun begins. Music, choreography, set design and of course costume choices bring it all together. A theme provides structure that enables creative vision to come to life resulting in an enjoyable show for the audience and performers alike. Dancers will dazzle on stage leaving the audience anticipating what is in store for next year.