As a natural show-off, I wanted to share with you some simple dance performance tips that can really change your next dance recital from a series of steps to music to a true performance that will gain you extra applause, enjoyment and personal satisfaction.
Performance is a natural progression for a dancer. Some people are natural performers and dancing is just the excuse they need to get in front of an audience and show off – dance like everyone is watching (I think it says that on my LinkedIn profile…)
But for some getting up and dancing in front of other people is a huge challenge (and I salute anyone who has performance anxiety but still turns up for the troupe).
Holding your head up has several benefits: it stops you looking at the floor or at your feet; it immediately improves your posture and it makes you appear more confident. Naturally, when we dance, move our heads so make ‘chin-up and proud’ your default stance. Always remember to think ‘head-up’ during every rehearsal and dance class to help it become second-nature.
Use a thought or emotion
Assign each dance with a thought or emotion that you want it to convey. This could be something your teacher or choreographer talks mentioning during training. Or it could be something you agree with your troupe mates beforehand. This isn’t an act or emotion that you physically perform through the chosen moves but a feeling or attitude that gives greater depth to the performance – the sense that something unsaid is going on.
It can be anything you want but here are some examples:
- Think ‘Tina Turner’ – to add energy and command to a performance
- Scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup Final in the third minute of injury time – power and defiance
- Really need a wee – gives humour and urgency
- Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music for innocence and joy
You can be as personal or political as you want. Make it something you can all connect to. Sometimes using something ironic bordering on humorous makes this technique more accessible to dancers who aren’t such natural performers that can result in more expressive dance for them. Don’t make it an actual joke though else you could appear clown-like or drunk!
I have friends who changed up a performance of an existing choreography simply by both thinking about being “dirty bitches”. Interrupt that how you will but it certainly gave their routine ‘edge’.
Similar to holding your head upright, keeping your shoulders back will improve your posture and make you look taller and more confident. It also helps engage your core muscles to give you a stronger and more responsive frame. This allows better communication with your dance lead or follow and helps with upper and lower body isolations. Plus it makes challenges to your balance like spins and arabesques easier.
Make eye contact
What a winner eye contact can be! Catching the glance of an audience member who is clearly loving your performance can raise even the most experienced dancer’s game. Looking at the audience can be daunting but, believe me, it is worth pushing yourself to do so. Depending on the mood of the dance, this may be an inviting look or it could be a challenging glare. It will give you confidence and it will make the audience believe in you as a performer.
Eye contact can (and should) also be made with your fellow dancers. That moment when you turn and briefly face someone else always results in the most natural and spontaneous smile.
No doubt any dance teacher you have had over the years has shouted/screamed at you (who are these people and why do we pay them money?). Or more nicely reminded you or begged you to smile! Rule one of dance performance tips: look like you’re enjoying yourself! Okay, so a smile may not be the right expression for your dance or style but just don’t look passive or neutral or – worst still – bored! I know dancers with years of experience who teach advanced techniques who look just miserable when performing. I’ll take your technique class but I really don’t want to watch you dance anymore.
Whilst a good costume can helps with a performance, passion and confidence beats technique and experience every day of the week. That’s every day of the week. I don’t care who you learnt with or how many years you spent drilling your technique, if you can’t sell it on stage I would rather watch a first-time performer who’s having the time of their life shaking what their mumma gave them.