3 Tips to Inspire your Next (or First!) Performance

You did it! You booked your first staged performance! But now what? It’s time to develop an act that includes choreography and to showcase your mad flow skills. However there are some things to consider when making an act besides what cool tricks you can put into it such as audience connection, choreography variation, and character and theme. These are the things that turn a good performance into a great one. Unfortunately these are things that tend to be left out of flow performances.

1. Audience Connection

The way that you flow in your living room when you are decompressing after a long day and the way you flow in front of a live audience is going to be completely different. When you are in private you are often dancing inward and for yourself. This is great but the dynamic changes when you add an audience. No one wants to pay to see you work out your emotions on stage with your prop unless they are being let in. Live performance is vulnerable work and you need to be willing to be seen if you want to make an impact on your audience.

We all know it can be scary but picking a person in the audience and making eye contact can be a powerful moment, not just for the person you’re looking at, but for the audience as a whole. Stage presence isn’t just about making eye contact though. It’s about having absolute confidence in the world you are creating on stage and the audience’s uninterrupted interest in it. When you become doubtful about how interested your audience is, so do they. Most of the time people will be forgiving of a drop, especially if it doesn’t interrupt your presence or make you nervous. What people are less forgiving of is if you check out emotionally and aren’t engaging them.

Photo by Bob Taylor of Scarlet Finch at Dramageddon

2. Choreography Variation

When making choreography you should consider a wide range of motions with and without your prop. You want to build your choreography in a way where your audience can’t predict your next move. By using different levels in your performance, keeping your pace varied, and exploring different movement qualities you can make a performance look more interesting from a visual standpoint.

Creating multiple levels and smooth changes from one level to another is a great way to keep the audience engaged. Try incorporating floor work, acrobatics, tosses, jumps, and more to keep a variety of levels. When making your choreography, don’t be afraid to incorporate stillness. As flow artists we are pushed to be constantly in motion but stillness is a powerful tool for audience engagement and you can never really have too much of it. Try adding a balance, slow motion, or slow isolation moves. Movement quality is what makes your act look cohesive. Tricks look amazing but a universal movement quality really ties everything together. Try this exercise: using the same choreography, perform it 4 times in accordance with the elements. Use fire, water, earth, and air to create the basis for your movement quality and refine your idea from there.

Photo taken of Scarlet Finch at Gatsby in Wonderland by En l'air Aerial Dance Company

3. Character and Theme

When performing it is always more engaging when you have put some work towards character development and having some sort of theme for the piece. These can be as specific or vague as you feel comfortable with. Some people might thrive in an act where they are telling a particular story while others might do better in a space where their act hints at ideas. Both of these methods are great! The point is that when you walk on stage you should have an objective of some sort. Here are some questions that might help you think about making character choices:

  • What is your relationship to your prop?
  • What is your relationship to the audience?
  • What kind of space are you entering when you walk on stage?
  • What do you need?
  • How do you want the audience to feel?

In addition to making character choices it can also be helpful to have a theme for the piece. Like character this can go from very specific to very interpretive. Your theme can be borrowed like Alice in Wonderland or it can play off the human experience such as love, greed, or depression. Your theme will tie together your song choice, costume, and movement quality. It can also help give your choreography more purpose. Why are you isolating in this moment? How does it add to what you are trying to say?

Hopefully this has been a helpful resource and a springboard for those looking to make a routine but are a little lost on how to get started or for those looking to take their choreography to the next level. If you are feeling overwhelmed, that’s okay and it’s normal. There is a lot that goes into making an act and not every performance is going to be perfect but with time and practice you can make an amazing act with your prop of choice!