Performance Superstitions


  • For our collection project we interviewed Dartmouth Students on athletic teams, in acappella groups, in theatrical productions, and on dance teams. We analyzed the different pre-performance rituals that these different groups engage in. We also interviewed several international students to see how folklore here at Dartmouth in the United States differed from that in their country of origin. Many of the rituals we collected share similarities, but they are also quite different with one another. This demonstrates the type of energy and mindset that each individual must be in to optimize their performance in the different forms of competition. For example, a lacrosse athlete reported getting hype and sharing energy with her teammates, while a member of a theatrical production reported performing rituals to make her more focused and calm. We analyzed the similarities and differences between different groups and across different types of performances in order to best understand the origin and lasting impact that folklore has on these individuals and groups.





There were certainly commonalities between all of the pre-performance folklore that we collected from both performers and athletes. Not only were there similar rituals collected, such as the Shake Out for several distinct acapella groups and building up chants in athletic groups, but also, there were common goals amongst them. There were also unique examples of folklore and interesting cases of differing rituals depending on context (or location) of performance. The majority of the folklore collected aimed to promote unity and focus in order to optimize performance. However, there are general distinctions between folklore collected for pre-musical performance and pre-athletic events. When preparing for a musical performance, the goal was mainly to clear the mind and relax the body. This emphasis, for example, is seen in the Shake Out, which attempts to calm nerves and release tension within the body. On the contrary, the primary goal of pre-athletic event folklore is to increase intensity and get hyped. Thus, in general, the pre-athletic folklore tends to wind participants up, while pre-musical performance folklore tends to calm participants down.


  • Maddy Schoenberger
  • Tori Dozier
  • Katie Persin
  • Audrey Giblin


  • Athletics
  • Sports
  • Theatre
  • Acappella
  • Arts
  • Performance
  • Pre-Performance Ritual