If you’ve been to see shows and seen a performer who you really felt had that extra something, a natural performer who knew how to work a crowd, perform with energy and seem to move with joy, then you know what I mean by a super star performer.
Although this definitely comes with experience, yep, like anything else experience allows you to learn what works and what doesn’t, there are definitely a few inside tricks to the trade when it comes to bringing out your super star qualities.
These tricks are probably just things that you possibly haven’t put much thought into before. So as you work towards performing see if you can put these skills into practice, as much as work on your actual routine itself. Ask yourself these questions:
1.) CAN YOU ENGAGE YOUR AUDIENCE?
Super star performers always include their audience.
Do not forget or ignore that they’re there. So how can you involve the audience?
- Make eye contact
- Direct your energy to one person within the audience
- Project your energy to the others around you
- Use or respond to the energy that others give to you
‘Long experience has taught me that the crux of my fortunes is whether I can radiate good will toward my audience. There is only one way to do it and that is to feel it. You can fool the eyes and minds of the audience, but you cannot fool their hearts.’ Howard Thurston
2.) CAN YOU USE YOUR EYES AND FACE TO DRAW YOUR AUDIENCE IN?
Super star performers know that the eyes have it.
Facial expression is important but it’s more than just smiling in a performance. Real or sincere facial expression has more to do with the eyes than with the mouth. So, rather than focusing on a ‘smiling’ mouth, practice an ‘open’ and natural expression with your whole face but especially the eyes. Relax the lower jaw – this will improve any type of expression, and smile naturally. Do not plaster a smile to your face – this is fake, rather have a smile that comes easily so the audience feels your authenticity.
As you perform, engage the muscles in the face by slightly lifting the eyebrows – not to a comical extreme, but in a way that is comfortable and easy to maintain. It is the same expression most people use when making eye contact with, or really listening to a friend, or when they are speaking excitedly in conversation.
Truly see, look, and take in the world through your eyes as you perform.
3.) CAN YOU EXPRESS THE MUSIC?
Super star performers understand musicality.
An audience hears the music, and their eyes see you being that music. Dance is the music made visible. You ARE the music!
While counting helps dancers to be precise and together in their movement, musicality in performance is expressed through more than just counting beats.
When counting, it is easy to forget that a beat includes not only the ‘tap’ of a particular rhythm but also the space between those taps, just as all movements include transitions and shifts of weight between desired ‘shapes’ of the body.
Exciting and musical performers fill these spaces in the music and movement, not letting the energy or intent drop between shapes or between counts. They also utilise dynamics in their performance like crescendos and decrescendos. Here are some more ideas for you to think about:
– What are some dynamics or qualities in the movement that you might emphasise?
– How can you create dynamics in your movement. Are there moments that can “whisper” and others that can “shout?”
– How can you create seamless transitions between moves or fill-out the music more?
– Where might you suspend the timing of something to the absolute limit and still make it to the next move on time?
4.) CAN YOU OOZE CONFIDENCE?
Super star performers ooze confidence.
Don’t confuse attitude with confidence. Attitude is something which is acted or portrayed. Attitude requires a level of confidence to be played well but, it is simply a layer or a persona the performer wears in his/her performance.
Confidence is trust in yourself and in the situation but, it is not centred on the self.
Trust in yourself comes from preparation and experience. The work you put into your routine, the time and effort you put into class and technique, and the build up of experiences on stage. These things allow a performer to trust in themselves and therefore develop confidence.
Performers with confidence give a lot of themselves without dwelling on what the audience is thinking of them. This allows the performer to focus on making good use of all that preparation, overcome mistakes when they arise, and concentrate fully to the performance itself.
‘Don’t be afraid to be amazing’ Andy Offutt Irwin
5.) CAN YOU TELL A STORY?
Super star performers are actors as well as dancers.
Just as musicians understand the music, actors understand the context (the situation, the scene, the conditions, and background) within which they are performing.
Like actors, engaging performers, also ‘suspend disbelief’ or, make the audience believe something even if it is not true or actual. Performers pretend to be happy, curious, confused, or angry even when they are not. Much of being a convincing performer is making something seem real even to yourself – evoking emotions that were not present a second ago.
What is the context of the routine? Can you come up with a reason, or character, or story behind what you are doing? Can you act this out so that the audience truly believes the story it real.
6.) CAN YOU HOLD A SECRET?
Super star performers are secretive.
Although good acting usually reveals something to an audience, a good performer knows that playing one’s hand all at once is not a good idea. It helps when you perform to imagine you are keeping a secret from the audience.
Think about how it feels to withhold something you want to share with someone else and apply that type of contained excitement or knowledge to your performance. There may be natural points in the choreography that you might build toward or reveal portions of this secret — like opening birthday presents one at a time.
This may seem a little abstract but give it a try. Even if you don’t know what your secret is, pretending that you have one as you perform changes the energy on stage and helps depict the fun in your act without relying solely on happy or joyful feelings. After all, not every performance is happy but they can all have their secrets.
‘Remember that dance has a dimension beyond the physical. The body is only part of the picture. Your energy, the quality of your movement, your feeling about the world, your performance spirit – that is what we see under the lights.’ Dance Magazine
7.) CAN YOU PERFORM BEYOND YOUR KINESPHERE
Super star performers dance beyond their kinesphere.
Kinesphere is a word used that describes the space surrounding the body. It is the imaginary bubble that encircles your frame in stillness and as you move. Performing beyond this bubble is something that you must imagine, not necessarily something that you do.
Moving with a sense of directing or expanding your energy beyond your kinesphere will not only make you a more engaging performer. If practiced throughout your classes as well, projecting energy beyond your fingertips and toes, out through the top of the head, from your eyes, or even from every cell in your body, can improve your execution of the movement as well.
‘When it comes to the requirements for pleasing an audience, all the knowledge and instruction and apparatus in the world is worth less than one ounce of soul.’ Ottawa Keyes
So hopefully that has made you think a bit! There is more to performing than meets the eye right. These ideas may not all work for you but have a play with them and see if anything works for you.