Its performance season for my family and my thoughts turn to what would a new Mom of a dancer need to know about being performance ready? I settled on undergarments, makeup and hair. Given I am a mother of four children, three avid dancers and one who danced for a while and three of those were boys, I decided I would park on boy performance ready and the next blog today would be girl performance ready.
Keep in mind, each studio will define what they mean by performance ready, so you should follow your director’s meaning of that term and as I’m sure you know by now if you have read my other notes, if your director has a preference, they have written it down, so be sure to check. Performance ready means that everything needed is on your dancer’s body when you walk in so that all you need is to put on the costume; hair is done as specified, performance undergarments are being worn as specified, and makeup has been applied as specified.
I am starting with boys because unless you are in a studio that has a boys program, much of this you need to figure out on your own. Additionally, there really isn’t the plethora of mothers with experience specifically relating to your needs just sitting around. I won’t address it in this article, but later I will give you Moms of male dancers hints on how to costume your dancer.
Ok, here is the super dark secret that no one is talking about. The industry needs male dancers. Ask any female dancer who is going to professional try-outs about her experience. You are going to hear something like this: “Oh, I guess there were 500-600 dancers there, about 20 guys, they cut at least 500 of us on the first round, none of the guys. The guys made it all the way through.” Here is the insight into why I am screaming “DANCERS!!!!!” when someone yells, “Go girls!” from the sidelines. We want to encourage young male dancers as much as possible. Problem is that there are some hurdles to overcome, which I can attest to as VERY real and VERY impactful on a young man’s self-esteem and VERY much not to be pooh-poohed or told is not real (and yes, both my son and I have been told these things). Hurdles such as societal attitudes that men should not dance or dancing professionally is not a real job, bullying from male and female peers (yes, even fellow dancers), females in the business trying to compete the males out rather than encourage them in, ostracization and general dance curriculum issues such as well, ballet is not the most stimulating class for a male brain that needs some action. A male dancer has pretty much everything working against him to discourage continuation in the field. It breaks my heart that my youngest boy thinks he sucks at dance. Yup, you heard me. Wait, isn’t this blog on lighter topics?
Yes! Hurdles of the undergarments males wear; hair and makeup are nothing to sneeze at either. Moms of ladies do not underestimate how difficult this is for the Moms of male dancers – you have no idea. Fussing and bucking and bucking and fussing.
Let’s start easy, hair. Keep it out of their eyes and off their face. If they want long hair, fine, pin it back just like the ladies. Male dancers need to look neat and put together. That means, um, two eyebrows, not one. And that peach fuzz? Yup, ya gotta shave it. And for the sake of complete openness, some companies want the chest and underarm hair gone too. Hopefully, your teenage dancer will not face this uncomfortable issue. I face the struggle of thick, curly hair. Too short of a cut means frizz, too long means he looks like he has a 70’s white man style afro. Very sad. Gel and hairspray are a Mama’s best friend. Find yourself the person who can cut it consistently well and get yourself a nice spray bottle of water. Wet the hair and gel it heavily. Not really with the expensive, “oh isn’t my hair soft and pretty” gel, but more with the, “oh my hair feels crunchy” kind of gel. In curly hair you need to use your fingers to arrange the hair, not a comb. Dads, don’t comb this hair! Really! When the performance is a shorter time, maybe a nursing home with only two numbers, that is enough; however, when it’s a long day with 15 numbers, you need to add hairspray. Again, not the fancy stuff you use. Nope, Aquanet. You know, the 60s hairspray, that. Just douse that hair so that a hurricane can hit and your kid’s hair will still look good. Now my oldest was opposite, thick hair that was straight, straight, straight. Simple right? No, thick straight hair sticks straight up if it’s too short!!! Literally, straight up. Took me years to realize that. Now when you read the girls blog, you will see me say you need dirty hair to get a good style for the girl, not so for the boy. It will be easier if you shower them and immediately style their hair.
Let’s talk men’s makeup. Makeup and the decision to use makeup for your son is entirely based on the type of performance. For performances where my son is not under lights, I do not have him apply makeup, with the exception of perhaps some foundation or eyebrow highlights. My son has a ruddy complexion with effort, so the foundation helps with that. For dance pictures I encourage, but not push his lipstick. For my second son, who hated hands near his face, I didn’t push makeup because it was going to be the difference between him going on stage and him not going on stage and that wasn’t a battle worth fighting. My oldest and youngest, however, were fine with makeup within reason. The goal of men makeup is to give them features WITHOUT looking like they are wearing makeup. The tones of makeup for males need to be brown tones. I find it easier to just buy the male stage makeup kit and luckily on my way home for work is Costumes by Margie who just sells it. I walk in and say, “I need a male stage makeup palette please.”
I really do love this brand and kit. I needed to provide most of the brushes/ application tools, but that was no problem as I had them in my spares. For a closer look at the best colors for a male:
Let’s get started with foundation, of course. Using a makeup wedge put the foundation all over, including over the eyelids, eyebrows, and lips. If your dancer has an uneven complexion, like mine gets red cheeks with effort, put some extra there and blend down into neck. Powder over everything as well.
Yes, this wedge is dirty, be sure you keep clean ones handy. When you are working with a younger dancer, talk out loud of your steps always keeping in mind that you will transition this task to them. Your dancer needs to be able to do this on their own eventually.
Next, shape face with eyebrows. I often see dancers of both sexes and all ages forget the importance of the eyebrows. The eyebrows, even dark ones, are easily washed out by stage lights, and humans look funny without eyebrows. I just use an eyeshadow type powder eyebrow highlighter on the eyebrows. If he doesn’t have two eyebrows, I will use a small electric razor to trim his brows. Plucking or waxing for my boy is right out. When putting on the eyebrow highlight, you can add a bit of shape; however, men aren’t women, his eyebrows should look like a guys.
Next I focus on the eyes. I use the above with a slanted brush to line eyes underneath, pulling the line slightly out from the eyes, but not as much as you would for a girl. If your guy lets you, those beautiful long lashes pop if they use mascara, but I would not fight that fight if you get too much resistance.
The shadow of brown and cream colors from the male palette kit should be placed similarly, but muted, to the female contouring of eyes, with the lighter tone on the lid and brown on the bridge. The blush for a young boy needs to be in a subtle circle on the apple of their cheek. You need to place enough blush to give the cheeks life under lights, but not so much that the dancer looks like they are a doll. For ages 13 years and up, male dancers need to have more square features, so blush should be placed below the cheek bone and brought forward and down, lines on the side of the nose, highlighting the chin dimple, under the jaw and some on the forehead. When you feel like you have too much blush up close is when you have enough blush.
Finally, using a lip brush, place lip colored lipstick on. I don’t find that lip liner looks good with male makeup. The end result under the lights provides your dancer with nice distinct features.
Last topic for this blog will be guy dancer unmentionables. Now male dancers in a program that has specific men’s classes will likely cover this information. This is also a bit of an information session for any female dancers who are tuning in to help you understand what your male counterpart needs. Under that pair of tights or tight pair of jazz pants, your dancer guy friend is wearing a dance belt. The purpose of a dance belt is to tone down the specific shape of everything, but also to place certain body parts in places where no negative impact from dance moves will occur. Was that clearly vague enough? Moms of boy dancers, I recommend if your dancer begins to show an interest in dance, introducing the dance belt around age 8 or 9, starting of course with the full seated pair.
Any Moms of girl dancers curious, these run about $25.00 a pair and you need one for every day they dance and a spare. Ladies, young male dancers need to adjust to this, just like you need to adjust to wearing tights without underwear. Later, when they become 16ish, male dancers need to transition to the dance belt that is not full-seated. I will leave it at that description and no picture. Confidence. Just saying, ladies, just saying, guys got things to handle too.
For gentlemen in companies that perform in the community requiring quick changes in public places, they need nude undergarments as well. My son prefers the biketard, but it does cause lines that are seen so in some situations the leotard is needed. With the increase in popularity of compression wear, often some of that type of clothes works well under dance costumes; however, they are generally not sold in nude if that is a color you need.
Finally, men and boys who take ballet do wear tights, but men’s tights are thick, or they are supposed to be, as it serves as their pants. I’m telling you right now, some companies, including Capezio and Bloch make their men’s tights see-through. Yes! Can you believe it? When I called them they suggested wearing multiple pairs. It’s hard enough to get a young man to wear one pair, but two will restrict his ability to leap. After searching Sansha is the tight company to go with. They make some nice quality tights. Men’s tights are much more expensive than women’s, so be prepared. They are thicker and can be sewn if a hole develops, but still a spare set of tights is highly recommended. Men’s tights can be footed or not. Be sure you know which you need before you buy. Generally, footed tights are what is expected. Men and boys do not have a lot of tights practice, so they do need some coaching to not allow it to bunch up around the ankles and men’s tights have a seam that is visible and needs to be straight up the back of the leg or side of the leg, depending on the brand. If it is the back of the leg they may need a second eye to ensure it’s straight.
So Mom of guys, when your director says arrive performance ready, that means undergarments on, hair plastered in place and make up expertly fashioned like a pro. You are all ready to go!