Oh, the joyful opening number. It’s the first time you get to step on the competition stage, shake the jitters, and dazzle the judges with your crown-winning smile. It’s also the cause of fear for many in the pageant world (I mean, dancing in heels…Who thought of this madness?!). The Pageant Planet family, along with the help of renowned pageant coach, Kyle Haggerty, have teamed up to give you a ‘master class’ in learning the opening number and rocking it like a dancing queen.
Miss California’s Outstanding Teen 2019 Isabella Mills. Photo: Miss California's Outstanding Teen Instagram
Love What Your Opening Number Outfit Is
The opening number isn’t just about dancing. The primary goal is to get the event started and to give the judges their first look.
“With that being said—wear an outfit that you love. It will make you feel more comfortable onstage. Also, be sure the outfit flatters you. This is important because if you look fabulous (this includes your hair, make-up, and jewelry) they’ll focus on that more than your poor dancing skills. But, you really need to go all out,” says Kyle Haggerty. This is the first chance for the judges to see you, so make it count! Being stunning onstage can outshine poor coordination. Furthermore, be smart with what you wear.
Again, Kyle gives us a coaching tip, “If it’s a pageant that allows jewelry for swimsuit, wear it during opening number. Opening number to swimsuit, in most cases, is your quickest change. (Think clip-on earrings!!!) And if you know you are super prepared for the rest, you’ll be more relaxed.” The more relaxed you are, the better you will perform no matter what.
*An extra tip from Kyle: Wear swimsuit hair for opening number—you only have a 5-10 minute window to change to the next category. Whether your hair is on the side, or full ‘Texas hair’ you need to do that style for the opening number. So afterward you can be focused on everything else. That way you are already more prepared for swimsuit (or the next phase of competition.)
Kyle’s Number One Rule for the Opening Number
POSES are key. You have to have them. The Opening Number nowadays doesn’t consist of much actual dancing; therefore, a pageant girl must work on modeling skills. The opening number itself is not so much about the big dance number production—it’s a lot more walking and posing. When discussing poses, Kyle suggests, “You should have 4-6 fabulous poses that you look good doing. So much of the opening number is posing. Another thing too, is, also in an opening number you want to do more of a catwalk than a pageant walk. A pageant walk is a watered down version of a catwalk. You want to stand out and give them your best catwalk.” Knowing which poses work best for you lead you to be a knockout competitor, whether you can or cannot dance, especially if you can nail them in the beginning of the pageant and impress the judges, before the actual scoring begins.
Dancing Points for the Opening Number
If learning the choreography is a struggle, befriend a girl that is a dancer so she can help you. The other girls will be your best and most reliable resource. After all, they have to do the opening, too! When you are learning, write things down so you can practice them later. Writing also helps with memory. If you have to draw pictures to remember certain things, do it! Don’t hold back from whatever helps you. To add, get to know the music like the back of your hand. Like everything else in pageantry, you have to dedicate yourself to your struggles and improve them. Stay positive when you mess up. Getting down on yourself won’t improve your skills or the dance. (So don’t do it!) When all is written down and you have the music—practice! Practice! Practice!
Worst Case Scenario
There are two worst case scenarios. The first is that you have a hard time remembering or physically doing the dance. If this is the case, talk to the choreographer. “I’ve had a girl come up to me and ask to walk in late and be in the back row and just have to take it.” says Kyle. One of the contestants walked on stage after the dancing portion, for the introduction. Now, this is a WORST CASE scenario. I would not suggest missing the number altogether, since it causes you to miss a chance in the spotlight. That’s why Kyle proposes a better solution—be honest with yourself. Be real about your dancing ability level. So many girls try to cover it up, but in reality, the choreographer can tell who can and cannot dance. If you lack the coordination, that’s OKAY! Give the choreographer a chance to see this, and he or she will put you in the place they deem fit (even if it’s in the back row.)
The choreographers don’t want anyone looking bad. Thus, they won’t go putting a girl who is clearly struggling front and center, which, although you may not be in front, can lead to a good thing. It’s better to be a mediocre dancer in the back than a complete mess up front—which is the second worst case scenario- blatantly tripping or blundering the whole routine onstage. If you muddle up the opening, you have just set a precedent that is going to carry through the rest of the pageant. You don’t want to be remembered as the contestant who fell on her face, therefore, if you are placed in the back, accept it graciously.
Shoe Choice for the Opening Number
Is your shoe choice for the opening really that important? Shoe choice helps, but it’s not the central focus. Mr. Haggerty states, “On a scale from one to ten of importance, shoe change is about a 6. It would be good to do it, but it’s not an ‘Oh my gosh, she has to do that’ thing. It’s not quite to that level.” When it is time for opening number wear REASONABLE shoes. For example, if your competition shoe for swimsuit and evening gown is 5 inches tall, wear 3 inch heels. Don’t fret over being the shortest girl there or feel like you must wear platform stilettos. After opening number, you can change into higher heels for the other categories.
Kyle Haggerty’s Final Remarks about the Opening Number
Above all else, do NOT compare yourself with other girls. Throughout my interview, Kyle kept stressing this point, “Opening number is first impression, you do not win the pageant there. You win it more in interview than the opening number. Some of the girls that are competing may be experienced dancers. That does not mean they will be crowned.” Let them inspire you to dance well, but don’t let them intimidate you. Not everyone is a natural dancer and the judges recognize that. The opening number isn’t about your technique. It is about your confidence. Leverage the Opening Number in a way that makes the judges want to see more of you. Nail your poses, be energetic with your introduction, and have fun with it—it is, after all, only just the beginning.