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Get the Hell Off the Stage!

Get the Hell Off the Stage!


Why the Last 15 Seconds of Your Show Matter. (A Lot.)
I’ve taken a lot of performing arts classes:
  • Dance
  • Music
  • Theater
  • Even Mime!

(Well, I only did a little mime, but I learned it from an artist who trained with Marcel Marceau #ShamelessNameDropping)

And every teacher in every genre has given me the same advice:

The audience remembers how you start, vague impressions of what happens in the middle, and how you end.

The last 15 seconds of your show make all the difference.

So I recorded some tips to help you end with a bang.

Listen Now:


Or Read the Transcript

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 chose the title Belly Dance Geek for a reason. I’ve been a geek for as long as I can remember and growing up I was always into all the usual geeky things like computers and sci-fi but I was always an artistic kid. I love to dance, I love to sing, I was really into theater as a child. I even went to a performing arts middle school for a while. So I’ve had a lot of formal training in the performing arts as well as just spending a log of my free time on it. I’ve taken music. I’ve taken dance. I’ve taken theater. I even studied mime with someone who trained with Marcel Marceau. Now, I didn’t do very much of it. It was only for one show but I’m still really proud of that.

But the thing is is that every performing arts teachers in every genre I’ve ever studied has told me the same thing. The most important part of your show is how it ends. So we work so hard to get our technique just right and our presentation and our joy but sometimes we neglect those last final moments. Now, why would it be so important to really perfect those last few seconds? There’s just a strange quirk in human psychology where we remember how a performance starts, how it ends and then some vague impressions of all the things that happened in between. So we can really ramp up the quality of our performance simply by paying some more attention to what happens in those last 15 seconds or so.

So how do you end your show with a bang? Well, the first thing that you want to do is to make sure that you hold a strong, final pose. This is important because the audience needs time to realize that your show is actually over, especially if you’re doing a multi-song set like we do in a full-length routine which is the common choice for parties or live music gigs. There are often a lot of short endings, so the ending of a song or the ending of a section and you really need to give the audience time to recognize this is the end of the show as a whole.

A strong final pose creates a strong impression of beauty, of joy, of power and it’s also a good photo opportunity. If you hold it for long enough, this is the people’s last chance to really snap a good picture of it. So to hold a strong final pose, you want to pick something that’s attractive and the best way to do that is just to experiment in front of the mirror but you can also check out CD covers or video covers for some good ideas. Once you’ve entered your pose, you want to hold it for a good two seconds. That can be one long slow breath but more likely than not, you’re probably pretty tired and winded so you can think of it as two quick breaths or pants.

After your final pose, you want to take a bow. Now, you wouldn’t think that I have to remind people of this but you’d be surprised how often people forget. The thing about a bow is that sometimes people are afraid that they’re being vain by spending that moment on themselves and accepting the audience’s applause. But if you don’t take your bow, you’re cheating the audience. The applause is the audience’s final chance to participate in the show and for some people, that’s going to be their only chance.

As belly dancers, we know that hooting and hollering and cheering and [inaudible 00:03:17] are all welcome interactions. But for a lot of people, they’ve been trained their entire lives to behave like they’re at the ballet. You sit quietly, you listen and you clap politely at the end. So all of these people who have just gone on this wonderful, emotional and artistic journey with you, if they don’t get to clap for you, they’re going to feel cheated, so don’t take that away from them.

When it comes to a bow or often you can take two. I sometimes like to take one bow to each side of the audience, one to the right corner and one to the left corner. If you’re not comfortable with two, one is fine but make sure that you don’t rush it. Really make sure that it lasts a couple of seconds so that the audience has their chance to participate. If you’ve discarded any props like a veil or a cane, one option to do is to take one bow to acknowledge the audience and a second one to bow down and reach down to retrieve your items.

The third step, if you’re dancing with live music is to thank the band. For one thing that’s polite, it’s always more gracious to thank the band, make sure that they feel acknowledged and that you’re not taking all of the glory and so that can be very good for relationships if you’re going to be dancing with the same band over and over. It’s also important because it gives the audience the impression that you’re a polite and gracious person which makes them think more highly of you and it also gives the audience one last chance to observe an interaction between you and the band. That interaction is a big part of what makes it entertaining.

Now, there are different ways to thank the band. A lot of dancers like to just angle their bodies towards the band and clap at them, encouraging the audience to clap as well. My personal favorite though is to do a slow turn with a giving gesture. So as I turn, I extend one arm, sweep it across the band members and look them each in the eye and smile so that they can see that I’m thanking them personally. One of the reasons why I recommend the slow turn option is that it works even if you don’t have a band. In a lot of areas, there isn’t a lot of live music but even here in Boston where we do have quite a bit of live music available to us, sometimes we do dance to recordings. So if you make a habit of thanking the band, that slow turn just looks like a pretty spin if you’ve forgotten that you don’t have the band after all.

The fourth step and possibly the most important is to get the hell off the stage. You don’t ever want to rush your final pose and your bow and thanking the band but once that’s over, you want to get out of site as quickly as possible. Ideally, you want to be out of the audience’s line of sight before the applause ends. This is a really subtle point, because as I mentioned earlier the audience loves to clap for you, just it feels good for them to do that. But if they feel obligated to clap or if they see you still exiting the stage after the clapping is over then they’re going to kind of feel bad for you and that’s not the impression you want to leave.

So once you finish your bow and thanking the band, you really want to just motor right off that stage. How fast you go depends on how far you have to cover. Do you have a long way to travel or is it just a few feet? But also you can follow the swell of the applause. If it feels like that applause is going to be lasting for a while then you might be a little bit more moderate in your pace. But if it feels like the applause is already slacking off, you want to do your prettiest dancer run and just get right out of there. Remember that until you’re out of site of every member of the audience, you’re still performing. So no matter how tired you are or how glad you are that the show is over, you need to be smiling and sparkling with good posture and strong arms.

If that seems like an awful lot of detail to cram into a few seconds, start paying attention as you watch belly dance shows. Next time you go to a Hafla or a showcase where there are multiple dancers performing, pay attention to how each one ends her show and how you feel about it. You’ll notice that some dancers sparkle their way off the stage triumphantly or sweetly but others let out a visible sigh of relief and then slouch or even stamp their way off stage. Some just shyly give a little wave and run away without giving you the opportunity to clap for them as much as you’d like.

I think the best proof is in the pudding. This is something that I was trained to do by my teacher but I didn’t really think about it in this level of detail until I started teaching advanced and professional students. In my upper level class, we have a drill that we do almost every week that’s an extended technique and performance drill. We end it every single time with our finishing skills, all the things that we’ve just discussed here. I really started emphasizing that as my students started breaking into live music venues, either in a students nights or moving up to the professional nights.

A lot of them tell me that they can even hear my cues in their head giving them the instructions as we go and it shows. When they finish their show, you feel like you had a wonderful experience. So next time you finish your next performance, as you strike your pose, I want you to think final pose, triumphant sigh, take your bow, maybe two, thank the band and get the hell off the stage with speed and style.


Want more?

“Finishing skills” are just one of the topics we’ll be covering in Rock the Routine, my 7-week online course on performing longer sets.

I developed this curriculum to help my own students break into live music venues, but you can get it for less than the cost of my local classes.

Check It Out 

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