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Everyday vs. Performance Energy

Everyday vs. Performance Energy


Would you go on stage with no makeup on?

Of course not!
Without stage makeup, the audience can’t even see your features, much less see you as the fabulous, glamorous performer.

But many dancers don’t realize that just like they need larger-than-life makeup, they also need larger-than-life energy.

When we perform, we have to turn up the heat – just to look normal.

Because what reads as “normal” in everyday life falls flat when you perform….


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This was professionally transcribed, but it probably still has some errors. If you catch any, drop me a line at I’d love to hear from you!

I spent some time with my two-year old nephew recently and he does not have a great sense of when to use his indoor voice or his outdoor voice. It’s not that he’s really that loud, at least not for a toddler, but he doesn’t understand what kind of volume is appropriate for what context.

I often see a similar thing happening with belly dancers. Not all of us understand the difference between everyday energy and stage energy. You may have experienced this if you’ve ever done what you felt like was a good show, but when you watch the video something just seems off. You can’t point to any problems with your dancing, but it looks almost like somebody’s let the air out of your tires. Often this is the result of using every day energy in a performance context.

The thing is, when you’re performing, everything has to be larger than life just to look normal because what looks normal in real life falls flat on stage. Why is that? I think there are two reasons.

One is distance. When you’re performing, you’re farther away from your audience than you are when you’re having a conversation. This is true in a huge theater where you might be 50 or even 100 feet away from some of your audience. It’s true in restaurant gigs where you’re probably 10 to 30 feet away, but it’s also true when you’re dancing in somebody’s living room because you’re probably about five feet away. Even small differences in that distance matter because a lot of the small nuances of your expression and your energy just don’t read across those larger distances.

The other reason is formality. When you’re performing, you take on the role of the dancer with a capital D, and so the audiences expectations are different about what you’re going to be like when you’re on stage versus when they have a conversation with you one-on-one. What can you do to bring an appropriate energy? The trick is to ramp up your energy beyond your comfort zone just so you can make it look normal. There are three main pieces that contribute to that. One is that you need to bring a more powerful posture than you do in everyday life. You need to be more deliberate in how you move, especially when it comes to your arms, and you need a wide-open expression. Remember that’s just to get a baseline neutral energy. If you’re going for a stylized look, you’re going to have to ramp it up even more.

You might be afraid of overdoing it and that’s definitely possible. It just takes some practice to find the sweet spot, so practice with video or in front of a mirror but make sure that you’re far enough away to simulate a real performance situation. If you try it your bathroom mirror, you’re going to be practicing it at a conversation distance. A good way to find that sweet spot is to use the pendulum approach. Start with way too much energy and then way too little, somewhat too much and somewhat too little, a bit too much and a bit too little. As you swing back and forth, you’ll naturally settle onto just right. This will feel forced, especially at first, but with practice it will come to look and feel more natural.

If this whole concept feels forced and inauthentic, remember that we’re always adapting our presentation just with the people around us all the time. A great example is my little nephew who doesn’t really understand courtesy yet. He has to be reminded to say, “Please and thank you,” and to ask before taking a big handful of blueberries from auntie’s bowl with his sticky little fingers. He still has to think about it just to do what’s appropriate, but with practice he’ll get it and I’m confident you will too.

If you’d like work on the expression part of this, check out my article, How Opening Your Teeth Brightens Your Stage Presence. This free article has a specific and quick technique that you can use to really work on that piece of this puzzle. That was one of my earliest articles and it’s still one of my favorites and you can get it at The easiest way to find it is to search for the word teeth.


Your Turn

Do you have any thoughts, stories, or tips about ramping up your energy for the stage? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.

Or better yet, leave me a short voice message.
Maybe I’ll even play it on the air!


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Check out the article I mentioned in the audio: How Opening Your Teeth Brightens Your Stage Presence

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  1. For some reason, I cannot get the audio to play.

    Could it be possible to have a download option for your audio articles the same way you have for your Clubhouse episodes? If so, thanks in advance. 🙂

    • I’m not sure what was wrong originally, but I switched to a new audio player since then. Let me know if you still have any trouble!

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