Here at Reigate School of Ballet & Commercial Dance, we instill performance techniques into our dancers and musical theatre performers, but we are often asked how children can improve their stage presence / performances?
Although some children may find it natural, for many it is a learned skill taught as children grow and develop in confidence and maturity.
The key is to communicate with the audience. We often ask our children to keep their heads up while they dance so that the audience can see your eyes and notice your posture - in other words, creating a presence. Smiling is often a key fact, but not all performances require smiles by any means!
There are a few ways that all children (and adults) can improve their performance values, and this will be so beneficial for them outside the dance studio and give them the presence they need in life.
1. POSTURE - We could all do with improving our posture, and carrying yourself well gives an immediate "that person's confident" impression, even if they don't feel it inside. Dance, in particular ballet instills good posture and alignment which carries way beyond the dance class.
2. COMMUNICATE WITH THE EYES - The eyes are an important feature in dance and performing on stage, and they need to be bright for certain performances, especially in positive / happy musical theatre numbers. However if it's an Adagio (slow) or solemn piece of music, a downward gaze is fine. Even when on the barre, looking beyond the person in front of them is so important or when looking into the mirror or performing for both small and larger audiences - learning to do this well stops the vacant look, and perhaps pupils who act / sing or partake in musical theatre often have an edge on pure dancers.
3. "FEEL" THE MUSIC - Relating to the music requires a mature performer to express themselves freely. In other words, children need to learn what the music is all about, the emotions the music is trying to convey, and how the body should respond to varying musical moods, e.g. a slow, minor key song danced in a contemporary style would require very different reactions to an allegro where the dancers should have attack in their legs and energy in their faces. It goes beyond what the choreography demands.
So next time you dance, sing or act, firstly ask what the piece is about and what the narrative or music is trying to convey. Then bring yourself into the piece, not just remembering your lines, where to stand, or ensuring you do the right choreography. It's a great feeling and it's total escapism, but your performances will no doubt be much improved over time.