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Competition, How To...

Applying Stage Makeup for Recital and Competition

When dancers are on stage, their facial expressions can add to and enhance the movements of a particular piece. Not wearing makeup in a performance can cause a dancer’s face to look blank from the audience’s perspective, being washed out by the spotlights and stage lighting. It is important for an audience to be able to see the dancers’ eyes and mouths. Here are some tips to properly apply stage makeup for your next performance.

Foundation should be applied that either matches the dancer’s skin tone, or is slightly darker. Naturally pale-skinned dancers should try to use a foundation that is darker or more pink than their natural tone. To highlight the facial structure and give more emphasis on the face when on stage, use rouge or blush in streaks – across the forehead, across the upper portion of the cheekbones, down the top of the nose, and on the chin. Remember to blend these streaks into the foundation with a sponge, which will create a softer, sun-kissed look.

A lip pencil can be uesd to make smaller lips more prominent. Outline the lips with pencil, and then fill in with a similarly-colored lipstick. Red lipstick is typically used because it stands out on stage, but any shade that is brighter than daily wear (in red or burgundy tones) will work. Using a lipstick that is too dark, or more on the purple side, will look out of place on stage. Many competitive studios will use a certain manufacturer and shade of lipstick so that their dancers are all uniform, so check with your studio to see if they have a particular shade in mind.

All dancers should use eyeliner to emphasize the upper line of the eyelids. To make eyes appear larger, slightly extend the line of the eyeliner from the outside corner of the eye. A smaller line should be used on the lower lids. For eyeshadow, natural colors work best, such as browns or dark purples. The “smoky eye” effect can provide a dramatic look onstage, but may be too much for younger dancers. The point of most stage makeup is to look like a more enhanced version of your natural tones. Whatever colors are used for eyeshadows, remember to put a bright color in the center of the eyelid just above the pupil to make the eye appear to be open wider. A bright blue works best for this technique.

A dark mascara (or false eyelashes for older dancers) will put the finishing touch on the look. Dancers should practice different makeup techniques before the day of the performance, to be sure that all their makeup is in good condition and the looks they create are appropriate for the venue and routine.

Article written by Terry Finch.

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9 Responses to “Applying Stage Makeup for Recital and Competition”

  1. On August 11, 2011 at 5:16 pm Eve-lyne Thomas responded with... #

    As a studio owner and teacher, I have two questions regarding having little girls wearing make-up on stage. I find a few parents trying to argue with me that their little girl is too young for make-up, so I empahsis the following importance; that they’ll look washed out without wearing any, and that it will actually enhance our dancer’s natural features. I also tell them that; all performers who go out on stage has to wear it, and lastly that it’s our studio’s policy to wear it. I still get arguments from them, and I don’t like to encourage it any further. So, what else do you recommend I tell them? Secondly, besides having a little girl look down while applying mascara on her, what is the best way to apply mascara on a little girl so she doesn’t blink, get it smudged, and complain?

    • On August 15, 2011 at 6:59 pm admin responded with... #

      Hi Eve-lyne,

      Thanks for your comment! The topic of stage make-up for young dancers is indeed something that can be very touchy, and something that differs by studio, as well as by family. It is important to take parents’ opinions into consideration while making sure performers look appropriate on stage.

      I feel the key is in education, balance, and moderation. Explaining, as you do, that stage make-up is a part of performance tradition that enhances the dancers’ features while they are performing on stage is a good starting point. This is something that can be explained to both parents and young dancers so they understand this is part of the art form, and does not mean they get to wear that type of make-up to school the next day! Many studios recommend a different amount of make-up required for younger students compared to that of older students that allows a more natural look with natural colors that do indeed enhance the dancer’s features instead of bright or dark colors that can be overwhelming for younger students.

      We’d love to hear the opinions of other teachers and parents on this topic! Thank you again for your comment.

      • On October 27, 2011 at 7:56 am Jaime responded with... #

        At my daughter’s studio (she’s 4) the little ones aren’t required to wear as much make-up as the older girls, just enough to add a little color so they won’t be washed out without looking overdone.

        The way I explained it to my little girl was that make-up is part of her costume. She understands that the only time she will be wearing it (for quite a few years) will be if she’s in costume/going on stage. She doesn’t ask to wear it otherwise, and doesn’t fight me when it’s time to put it on for recital. I think if parents would think of the make-up that way maybe it wouldn’t bother them so much.

  2. On November 4, 2012 at 6:32 pm Katie responded with... #

    This is my daughter’s 5th year dancing. She started when she was barely 3. I have found the best way to apply eye makeup is to sit on the floor with your legs in a ‘V’ and have them lay with their head between your legs with their eyes closed. Apply mascara coat by coat with their eyes CLOSED, have them open them to examine your work, this way they eyes don’t water and there is no resistance! Perk for this is the lashes look longer and more curled (without using the curler!) Good luck!

  3. On April 3, 2013 at 12:22 am Fuller responded with... #

    I am not a dancer, but have done theatre since the age of 3. Sometimes I have played roles which required costumes/makeup that were a little bit older than my age. When I was a tween, I would sometimes beg my mom to wear the dark makeup that my character wore. She told me “What you wear onstage STAYS onstage!”

    • On April 3, 2013 at 3:34 pm admin responded with... #

      Thanks for that comment! Our parents play a huge role in explaining the difference between what is acceptable for stage and what is not acceptable off the stage! Yay for mom!

  4. On April 6, 2013 at 7:37 pm SR responded with... #

    As a parent of a dance-besotted tween, I sympathize with the parents giving the studio owner some push-back about their young children wearing makeup. I personally don’t like the stuff at all. But can understand it to be part of the costume for older girls, once they’ve made some sort of “commitment-transition” to the stage and dancing. But while still younger, these kids are just playing, not really performing in a serious way. I absolutely do not think it should be part of a studio’s “policy” that young girls wear makeup. I would, quite frankly (and because living in a big city I can), leave a studio over this issue. And this is said by one who now, with an older girl, will swallow the necessity of the makeup and try to smile through it; I would take the point for older girls. For younger girls, say, below pointe-age (+/- 11yo?), I think there is a different set of rules at work. =0.02

  5. On April 30, 2013 at 1:53 pm cara responded with... #

    I am a studio director and haven’t been confronted with this issue very much, but if you require your dancers to wear makeup to their dress rehearsal, maybe you can invite those parents to watch from the audience and see the difference between their child with no makeup and a child with it. I know as a teacher it can be frustrating trying to explain how the dance world works. Like the last person said, if they are so against makeup that they would leave the studio, let them. There is nothing you will be able to do at that point and they will have a hard time finding a dance program that doesn’t require some sort of stage makup. Don’t settle on the quality of your program because of a few parents who don’t understand you are not condoning a four year old wearing makeup to daycare. The stage is a unique setting that requires unique preparation. Hope that helps, and good luck!

  6. On May 4, 2013 at 2:35 pm kismet responded with... #

    My daughter started dancing at 4yrs old. Is now 14yrs old. When she first started dancing, we’d put on make-up just to enhance her features (similar to her everyday makeup now). It helped to be able to see her on stage & you didn’t even notice it in pictures. As she got older, we applied a little more make-up, still not going overboard. Starting last year, she started doing her own make-up to really emphasis her face, as they can get lost in a “sea if faces” for the larger numbers. This year, she definitely has stepped up the make-up for her dances, but only for the recital. Doesn’t like that overly makeup feel, buf is definitely necessary for stage presence. They are the Senior dancers & really should present a better overall appearance. Like a previous post stated “it’s part of the costume”.

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