Archive | March 2013

Performance Preparedness – Warming Up Before Performance

perfromance warmup


Warming up is part of a dancer’s daily schedule. You should be stretching before class begins and massage and rub your tender muscles, and then you stretch again. What about during show time?



There is an excitement of doing your hair and makeup, getting into your costume and finally performing what you have been working on for so long that dancers don’t consider their bodies. Are you warmed up enough to actually do what you have been rehearsing? Are you warmed up enough not to be injured on the stage? Remember, all year long you have been warming up in class anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes, depending upon your dance level, before actually doing any dance combination what so ever. Today, I will try to instill how crucial warming up before performance, is for your outcome on that stage.

Warming up prepares the body for larger, more exerting movements and decreases tension in the muscles so you can move without stress and strain. It creates a more limber and flexible body. It allows you to perform with ease and grace. Your goal is to limber up and gradually increase your body temperature, warm muscles, and to avoid injuries.

Warming up before a performance will give you a sense of calmness, and allow you to concentrate on what is ahead. There are many ways to begin a pre performance warm up, wrap your self in nice cozy sweats and maybe a pretty shawl around your shoulders and lets get warmed up.

One idea is to begin on the floor with abdominal work. It will give you a center and balanced feeling while performing. While on your back do some leg circles. Lift the leg and draw little circles in the air while keeping the small of your back on the floor.

If you are tense and your back is very tight you may want to begin with a series of slow, deep roll-downs from a seated position, then do a yoga plow where your legs go over and behind your head and your toes touch the floor. Back tension can make you stiff on stage. If you have a tight back, stretching forward and back from a standing position too quickly can make it feel tighter, or even throw the muscles into spasm. Remember that the abdominals and your back muscles are crucial to your performance.

From this point you can follow with barre exercises, such as plies, tendus and degages. Plies will enable the over all muscles in your legs to respond with more agility. Remember that your feet need to warm up too. You need that beautifully arched pointe on stage, so working some tendus and degages will warm up your feet and ankles which are just as essential as the rest of your body. .

Move on now to more leg stretching exercises and some grand battements. Always moving and not keeping still until you are actually on that stage. If you feel that your hamstrings are tight, it indicates that your back is taking a lot of stress and you need to keep it loose and relaxed. This is where the abdominal exercises come in to strengthen your core and to make your body and mind aware of the muscles that you should be engaging almost like tightening the screws on a machine before turning it on to ensure it will run better. Then, you can move on to do a nice and easy barre that works every muscle you would use in ballet. Continue to remind your body what dancing is, then there won’t be any surprises onstage.

You my also want to test the floor of the stage with some small jumps and go across it with some turns and leaps just to get a feel of the stage, so there are no surprises once you are finally out there.

Warming up can be a personal action. You many want to wear your Ipod and listen to soothing music while warming up. For some dancers, warming up may be more beneficial along with other dancers. Which is your preference? Either way …do not get on that stage with out a warm up first……

Performance Prepardness – Lips, The Outline Of A Smile

red lipstick


Your lips will outline your smile, so making up your lips is as important as the creativity you use on your eyes.

Just as your eyes will create a facial impression so will your lips. 


I like when a lip liner pencil is used to outline the natural shape of your lips. Your lip liner pencil should be the same shade or one shade darker than the shade you plan on for your lips. It will give your lips definition and shape. A creamy, matte lipstick is best for stage makeup application, as excess shine that glossy lipsticks provides is both distracting and wears off more quickly.

Normally a deep red lipstick is used, but that also depends on your skin and hair type. I prefer almost a maroon or cranberry color. These color choices go well on darker skinned or olive skinned dancers, those dancers with dark hair. For lighter skinned dancers and dancers with blonde or reddish hair, a dark pink lipstick should be used.

To Begin:

Take a wash cloth and rub it in circular motions over the lips. This increases circulation, giving the lips a natural rosy glow, and also exfoliates any dead or chapped skin that may make color application uneven.

Then apply some lip balm. Lip balm will provide a great base for lip color. It will smooth and sooth the lips, and also enhance the colored lipstick once it is applied.

Apply lip liner pencil first along the outline of the mouth, then fill in the lips with lipstick. Line the outside of the lips, following the natural lines and curves, stretching the lips out as you do so to prevent creasing or feathering. It should be the same shade or one darker than the lip color you intend to use.

Now fill in your lips with lipstick. Use a Q-Tip to adjust the color. Blot to remove any excess by pressing down on a tissue placed between your lips. Make sure to avoid blotting too many times as this will remove too much of your lip color.

Be very careful with applied stage makeup, especially with lipstick, when you are changing your costumes as not to smudge the lipstick or other face make up or get it on your costume or someone else’s costume.

Applying lipstick concludes our discussion on stage make up. Remember that stage make up is to brighten and define your face under stage lights. You will look quite made up in natural lighting ….that means you did it correctly……

Performance Preparedness – The Eyes Have It All

eye make up 3

I feel that the most important part of your stage make up is your eyes. Your eyes give definition and expression to your entire face. When applying stage make up, you should spend the most time on defining your eyes. Be artistic and don’t skimp with the mascara!

Eye Shadow

Good eye make up will bring a face to life on stage. Your choreographer or teacher will tell you what colors they want. Sometimes it will be one color all over, but most times it will be two or even three colors. A popular example is brown or mahogany and off white or ivory, which looks great on stage. A note here on applying make up on a child’s eye, have the child close their eyes, but not scrunched because the may cause creases in the shadow.

Begin by using your off white or ivory on your brow bone and down onto your lid. Apply some ivory below your eye and out towards your hair line. Be sure that the under shadow blends into your blush.

If you are using two shades of brown apply the darker brown on the bottom half of the lid, using an eye shadow applicator. Use smooth strokes starting at the inside corner of the eye, and moving outward to the edge. Blend this eye shadow out and up to the end of the eyebrow, but not on the brow bone where you have your off white or ivory shadow. On the top part of the lid, apply the lighter shade of brown, filling in the rest of the eyelid.
This is a basic style of eye shadowing.

Once you’re more experienced at applying stage makeup, you can get more creative, using another shade of brown to blend in. See the diagram below to get the feel of a third color.

eye make up 2


If you have purchased white eye liner, which is purely optional and depends on how creative you want to be, now is the time to apply it. It may be difficult to find white liquid eyeliner but you may be able find a white eyeliner pencil. Look for a soft pencil. Using white eyeliner has an amazing effect of opening the eyes up on stage, and making them appear much larger.

Next we apply Black eyeliner to the top lid, along the line of eyelashes, as close to the lashes as possible. Bring the stroke from the corner of your eye right out to the outer edge of your eye. Try to complete this line with one stroke to prevent a choppy line. When you are dancing close to an audience, a thin line is only necessary, however on stage, a thicker line is needed to emphasize the eyes.

I personally prefer the liquid eyeliner, it takes a little practice to apply neatly. Very young dancers may not like an eyeliner pencil coming so close to their eye so a quick brush stroke may work better than a sharp pencil liner. Remember, if you are using liquid eye liner, wait until it dries before opening your eye or it will smudge.

An amazing effect of enlarging the eyes is to apply a thin line of black eyeliner under the white eyeliner on the bottom lid.

Next we need to accent your eyelashes. Black mascara is the only color you should be using for stage makeup. Many people like brown for street wear, but on stage, black is the only color that will show up.

Begin with your top lashes. Gently sweep a minimum of two coats on the upper and lower lashes. Some dancers will want to add the addition of false eye lashes. However this is unnecessary to achieve thick beautiful lashes. After the second coat of mascara, lightly brush with your finger some baby power or cornstarch on the wet mascara. This process needs to be done one eye at a time since the mascara needs to be wet for the powder or cornstarch to stick. Let the powder or cornstarch dry on your lashes and reapply more mascara. This process may be repeated over and over again until you get the length and thickness of lashes you desire.

The eyes are the biggest display of your expression on stage…take time to practice how you want to do them before the big day…..

Performance Preparedness – Applying Face Make Up, The Foundation

applying foundation


In our series of Stage Make-up Application, we will concentrate on the face…..

Today we will discus how to apply face make up for dancers for the stage. Young dancers, that is 3 to 6 year olds, may not need as much as an older dancer would, since they may not be able to tolerate sitting for any length of time to apply it. They may not like the feel on their face. But….ALL dancers who will be performing under stage lights, no matter what the age, needs some facial make up application.


To begin our make up application first we need to pull your hair completely off the face with a hair band, then wash and dry your face. If your skin is particularly dry you may need to apply a thin layer of moisturizer.

Foundation, Face Powder and Blush
When choosing a foundation, find one that matches your skin tone, when blended in and doesn’t leave a definite line between makeup and skin, if it does, its probably too dark and needs to be lighter.

First dot the foundation all over your face and then with circular motions, rub the foundation into the skin, making sure your whole face is covered, including your nose and eyelids. Blend it well into your skin around your hair and jaw line and fade it onto your neck so you don’t see a line where the make-up starts.

You can apply your foundation with your fingers, or you can purchase a make-up sponge. Dampen the sponge very slightly. Still apply dots of foundation first to the face and then use the sponge to blend in. With time and practice you will develop a preference.
After applying stage makeup, pat the face powder all over your face. Then, taking a large make up brush, gently brush off any excess face powder. This will help set the foundation and avoid shiny faces on stage, especially noticeable under bright stage lights.

Next to apply is your blush….

Choose a rosy color for your blush. Pick the shade that would contrast best with your skin tone and color of foundation you have chosen. Blush can sometimes be tricky to apply to young dancers who don’t have pronounced cheekbones. A powder blush with a brush is best. One way to apply blush to young dancers is to ask them to suck in their cheeks. This will allow highlighting the cheek bone to be easier. When applying the blush to your face, brush the blush from the cheek bone near the ear, running along the bottom edge of the bone (feel it with your fingers) to end just before the bone ends. Blend in slightly.

Our next post will concentrate on the eyes….expression is most effective with good eye make up design…..




Performance Prepardness -Stage Makeup; Collecting Your Items

dancers makeup


Dancers who are new to the stage don’t always realize the importance of stage makeup. If enough color or feature definition is not applied, your face will look washed out under stage lights, no matter what your skin tone. Lips, cheekbones and especially the eyes need to be accented. The primary object of make-up on stage is to accentuate the dancer’s features as well as define the eyes and mouth, which would otherwise appear flat and featureless under the glare of modern stage lighting. No face is immune from the necessity of make-up on the stage; without make up, your face is shapeless, colorless, and has no identity. Try using cruelty free make up products when ever possible.

Always remember that your stage make up is personal and should not be shared. Especially eye make up. Eye disorders, such as conjunctivitis (pink eye) is easily transferred from dancer to dancer by sharing eye make up.

A list of tools are needed for make up application:

  • Foundation – matching skin tone
  • Face powder – matching foundation
  • Blush – browny/peachy/maroon color
  • Makeup brushes
  • Q tips – for quick smudge clean up
  • Tissues
  • Mascara – black
  • Black and white eyeliner
  • Lipstick – red or dark pink
  • False eyelashes – optional
  • Hair band – to pull hair off your face for make up application

As you collect different pieces of dance make-up, and make up tools, it is best to keep your stage makeup separate from everyday make-up. That way each time it is needed you know you have it all in one place and don’t need a last minute panic trip to the store to buy more. You will need a make up case to keep it in and to take it to all of your dance performances for any last minute touch ups. A nice sized make up box like a Kaboodle, has trays and compartments at the bottom. This advantage makes it easier to find things rather than one big bag. Some dancers like to use a fishing tackle box. They have a good clasp, 2 or 3 trays with lots of compartments to separate lipsticks from shadows, mascara, etc. Use the bottom for things like hair nets and bobby pins, safety pins and needle and thread.

Begin collecting your make up items now while there is no rush to get them….practice using them at home before that big day…….

Our next discussion will be how to apply all they things you have bought.

Performance Preparedness..How To Make A Ballet Bun

ballet bun 3


One of the most important things about ballet is knowing how to make a ballet bun. It is funny that most modern day moms don’t really know how if they never danced before. Buns, used to be an everyday way to wear long hair in days gone by.



Buns in the hair have had a long history in hair styling.  They first appeared in Ancient Greece, worn by men and women. They were typically a hairstyle of the wealthy because they were considered a showcase for the expensive hair decorations that were used to secure them. In Ancient China, they were worn only by married women. In the Victorian Era, it was considered an older woman’s hairstyle and generally considered to be very plain and basic.

The following is a step by step process on how to make a perfect ballet bun. Some schools prefer the hair with no part and just brushed straight back, other schools prefer a side part. Check with your school on their preference. In either case, the most important part is securing your bun, tightly so it won’t fall out, and how to make it neat. Never worry about too much hair gel or hair spray. There is no such thing when dancing on stage. Loose hair is very sloppy and takes away from your whole performance. Loose, stray ends sticking out all over your head creates an un-kept look on stage. The ballet bun keeps hair from flying in a dancer’s face; it also creates a clean, elegant line for the dancer.

Here are the things you will need to make that perfect Ballet bun:
– Spray bottle filled with water
– Hairspray
– Hair gel
– Hair pins (Thicker type with plastic tips.)
– Bobby pins
– Elastic band
– Comb & brush (Fine tooth comb preferable)
– Hair net (Fine net with elastic edges. Should be same color as hair.)

1. To start the process, lightly spray your hands and the hair with water. This will give you better control over the hair. Gather the hair and pull it back. Apply hair gel if you need more control over the hair.

2. Use a hair brush to smooth out rough or uneven areas. Form a pony tail by brushing the hair up from the jawline to the top part of the back of the head. This will form a high bun. Your school may require a low bun, then you would direct the pony tail to the nape of the neck . The placement of the pony tail determines the placement of the bun. Mid and low buns are sometimes used with short hair, or to accommodate a headpiece. Very short hair can simulate a bun by using hair clips that blend in with your hair, to fasten the hair down without a bun.

3. Use a coated elastic hair band not a bulky scrunci, to secure the pony tail. A tidy pony tail with hair drawn snugly back is the key to making a good ballet bun.

4. Apply gel to your entire head to keep the hair neat, and twist the pony tail.

5. Coil the pony tail into a tight circle.

6 Use hair pins all around the coil to secure it to head. Slide each pin through the outer part of the coil, then into the base of the bun. With longer thicker hair, hair pins are necessary to secure each round of the bun as you wrap it.

7. Be sure to wrap a fine hair net around the bun. Keep twisting and wrapping so that the hair net tightly secures the bun. Make sure the hair net is the same color as the hair. A hair net alone will not hold your bun! Hair pins and bobby pins are the key. A hair net just keeps your bun sleek, neat and smooth.

8. Those with very long or thick hair will have a large bun that may protrude too much. A flat bun is preferable. To flatten, as you wind the bun bring each twist more outward from the center and pin each wind around the center.

9. For extra hold, when the bun and hair are all secure, use hairspray. If you need to add a headpiece, be sure to secure it tightly with bobby pins.

One of the important points of having good stage presence is looking professional from head to toe! Secure neat hair is essential….

Performance Preparedness – Stage Presence

smiling arabesque

Some dancers seem like natural performers when they get on that stage. They know how to “work an audience,” they dance with energy, and seem to move naturally and with joy. Of course, the more years you are on that “big“ stage and gain experience as a performer certainly plays a big part in how you react to your audience. Just like all things in life, practice in what you love to do, brings excellence in the outcome. The same goes for stage presences. Practice in performance allows you to learn what works on that stage and what doesn’t.

“Natural” performers, seem to know something that others don’t. Here are some suggestions and my view points of dance you most likely haven’t put much thought into before. As you are working to your final performance, be sure to put some thought into practicing not only your technique and choreography, that you have been working so hard on all year long, but some thought on how you will present these dance room accomplishments on that stage.

Never dance alone, not even in a solo. Always include the audience in your presentation. Never forget that they are there with you. Smile at them, look at them, even try to locate a stranger in the first row and catch their eye. Let them know that you are up there on the stage to entertain them. Make eye contact and direct your energy to one person in the audience to project to. While dancing in a group, be aware that there are others in your group. If in a story ballet, make eye contact and expression to other dancers in reference as to what is going on in the story. When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the stage but to enjoy each step while getting there. This is a part of being “a natural” as a dancer.

Facial expression is important in dance but it’s more than just smiling. Real or sincere facial expression often has more to do with your eyes than with your mouth. So, instead of just focusing on a “smiling” mouth, dancers need to practice an “open” expression with their whole face and especially the eyes. Practicing facial expressions in the mirror is good practice. In my Musical Theater classes, in the beginning of the season, we add facial exercises in the mirror as part of our class warm up. By facial expressions we move one part of our face at a time. Sound silly? In class we have fun doing this, but it allows us to be aware of our facial muscles. What I mean by moving one part of our face at a time, is sort of like doing body isolation exercises in a jazz class. You know the concept, only moving one shoulder or hip and not allowing any other part of your body to move. Practice moving one eyebrow, then one eyelid, then one cheek and so on……

As you perform on the stage, use your facial muscles by slightly lifting the eyebrows, to give you a happy appearance. As for the rest of your face, be natural. Relax the lower jaw and make a smile that comes easily but in not plastered to your face.

Your facial expressions have so much to do with keeping an audience interested in you while you are up there. Remember, the audience is there to be entertained, keep them entertained by adding them to your performance.

We will add to Stage Presence in our series of Performance Preparedness…there is so much more to add…..

Performance Preparedness – The Importance Of Rehearsal

ballet black tendu back

Today in our series of Performance Preparedness we will take a look at the importance of rehearsals…..

Repetition is important to learning a dance piece. In order to remember the steps naturally, practicing the movements is essential so that it becomes automatic and appears natural. The repetitive practice of the same steps allows you to develop a motor memory of the dance combinations. (Motor memory is the process of improving motor skills, the function, which involves the precise movement of muscles with the intent to perform a specific task through practice.) This ability is applied to remembering motor patterns, (a sequence of muscle movements directed to accomplishing an external purpose), is very important to learning a choreographic piece. When motor memory takes over your steps are performed without having to stop to consciously think of each step that makes up a combination of steps, or quite simply put…. your dance for the show.

Now that you have an idea of what rehearsals will accomplish, let’s take a look of what is involved and their importance.

Once your teacher or choreographer has clear idea of what message they want to portray, your rehearsals will begin. Normally a portion of class time is devoted to rehearse your piece for the revue/recital/concert. I can not express how important attendance at this crucial time of the year is for you the dancer and for your choreographer. It is a very important idea to practice at home before class or rehearsal time to have your parts in your head, this will allow the rehearsal time of your class to move more quickly and time will not be spent on steps previously taught.

Your teacher/choreographer will build movement material with the dancers together as a whole or with an added solo. Some choreographers can be very specific about setting the particular movements that they want and while other choreographers will rely on the talent and ability of the dancers involved to develop the dance piece. Choreographers don’t alway create a dance piece in order, from start to finish. Often steps and phrases of steps develope more randomly and are later linked together and shaped into a whole along with the music
For you the dancer, the creative process is a very different experience from just a technique class, stopping and starting, experimenting with the steps and combinations of steps, repeating things over and over, and reworking various sections can be so exhausting. But, when it comes down to the initial run though, putting everything together for the first time can be very exciting! Dancers should also use their rehearsal time to develop their perfection of the steps, practicing their technical execution and improving on their own creativity. Don’t let precious rehearsal time just slip by, make your time worth it.

Rehearsals are important for teaching dancers to combine their material with other dancers, helping the dancers become accustomed to working with each other. Rehearsal schedules, sometimes in two hour increments or more for each section of a performance is not uncommon. The rehearsal process is tedious and very time consuming, but so essential. If you care about yourself as a dancer, and the other dancers in your ensemble, never….never…miss a rehearsal and keep class attendance up to excellence at this crucial time of the season. You, as a dancer have spent many hours in class learning technique, don’t let distractions come between you and your audience…..remember the best rehearsal quote for this season of the dance year….”I can’t…… I have dance” ….

If you consider yourself a dancer, you owe rehearsal and class time to your teacher/choreographer, to the other dancers in your dance piece and mainly to yourself!