The X Factor. Engaging the audience. Capturing the crowd. Having “It”.
There are some dancers that just seem to own it. From the moment they step onto the stage you are drawn in. It might be a walk, a look, their costume. The dancer might not have even moved yet, or be on stage, but their choice of music and/or pose has you mesmerized by their mystery.
These are the shows I want to talk about. The ones that stick in your brain for years to come. The performers that you can watch again and again. They are the shows that make your dinner go cold as you sit there frozen, moth agape, unable to turn away.
A few years ago I joined a small group to train with Jamilla Deville as part of her Extend Yourself training program. Over two days we learned some great pole tricks and cross training advice but we also talked extensively at this elusive “it” factor.
Like many abstract concepts, it was easier to describe what it wasn’t then to truly grasp what it was. No one could put quite their finger on it.
One thing was for sure, however, we knew what it was when we saw it!
If you are seeking to understand stage presence and begin to learn how to capture it yourself, my advice is this,
1) Start studying dancers who you see have it.
Short Instagram videos are great for mini tutorials and finding new tricks, but you are going to have to watch entire performances to begin to understand stage presence. You can find many full clips on YouTube of pole competitions and showcases. Pole Ranking offer live streams of the larger comps too. Add your favourites to a short list so you can return to them again and again.
2) Go and see a live performance.
It doesn’t even need to be a pole performance. Check out some local plays, or head to a burlesque night out on the town. Small intimate venues will let you be close enough to the action to see their movements and get a feel for how they are putting on the show. Larger venues, like Miss Pole Dance Australia at the Enmore Theatre, will give you the chance to see how great performers can dance in front of 1000s of people while giving the impression that they are solely dancing for you.
3) What elements make these performances the same?
Aside from the fancy pole tricks, sensual body rolls, and legs for days, ask yourself what else are these performers doing.
- Are they making eye contact with the audience? When? As they walk out on stage, during pole tricks, during floorwork?
- Are they telling a story? Contemporary and lyrical pole performances can be particularly enthralling when done well.
- Are they using props that help you understand the story? Your narrative is only worthwhile if the audience knows what is going on.
- Do you notice the soundtrack or is the music working seamlessly with the choreography? Everything doesn’t have to be on the beat, but a sense of musicality goes a long way to helping a performance look polished.
- How long are they holding their poses for? Even with a fast song, a good performer knows how to draw out their pole poses and floorwork so the audience has time to see and understand what they are watching.
If you can start incorporating these elements into your own routines, you will be well on the way to a brilliant performance. Begin working on these ideas as you are writing your choreography too, then they will be ingrained into the routine just as well as your pole tricks.
For extra tips about feeling confident on stage and developing your performance skills I recommend reading, Feel It, before you try and say it and Everyone is Talking About Sexy Pole. Or if you are on the look out for some inspiration, I have linked to my favourite dancers here.