What makes a great stage performance?
Have you ever seen an elegant ballerina floating across a stage like a graceful swan? As she spins into perfect pirouettes her movement seems so effortless that she leaves you with an insatiable urge to register for ballet lessons the next day? Have you ever gone to an amazing concert featuring your favorite band, and the electrifying performance and equally astounding crowd response made you think, “Yes, yes, yes! This is what life is about! This is the kind of stuff we live for!”?
Irrespective of the type of stage performer, there are a few things in common among skilled performers who have the ability to motivate, inspire and captivate their audiences: Enthusiasm, discipline, the ability to own a personal unique style, great stage presence and excellent costume selection skills are some qualities that are high on the list of those exhibited by exceptional stage performers.
Most great performers are usually very enthusiastic about their skill of choice. They need little or no motivation to get them going. Practicing to them, is like breathing- it’s something they want to do, something they love to do, and something they take pride in doing. Most great performers are so passionate about what they do that performing in front of massive crowds becomes second nature to them. Their excitement for what they do allows them to develop stage presence and the ability to connect with their audience.
The enthusiasm of great stage performers is inescapable and is the one element of the performer that is infectious and commands audience response.
Regardless of how great a performer one thinks he or she is, discipline is a trait that is essential for the success of every performing artist. Although eagerness for the art makes the discipline of practicing seem effortless, there are so many more fields of discipline that are required by a successful stage performer.
Rehearsals with band members, instructors or stylists demand punctuality. Thus a performer always has to be disciplined enough to plan his day in such a way that he or she is able to attend his or her rehearsals on time.
Many performers are heavily criticized if they appear to be out of shape during their performances. This can be decided based on both physical appearance and control levels during performances. Successful artists who want to stay on top of their game usually develop the discipline of maintaining a healthy lifestyle- they go to the gym, they eat well, and they sleep well. I am sure you will agree that most of the performers that you adore maintain a great looking physique and are rarely out of breath during their performances.
Discipline is directly tied in to a performer’s confidence on stage. If a performer feels like some aspect of the performance was not well prepared before hand, it can definitely affect his or her confidence levels, and consequently the performance as a whole.
The Ability to own a personal unique style
Many great artists are inspired by those that have come before them; and although at times we can in fact detect similarities amongst many great performers, there is always undoubtedly a unique quality about each great artist that separates him or her from the rest.
Having been in many talent competitions myself, and having prepared dozens of students for performances, I have often heard comments like: “You possess an amazingly unique style that is so captivating”, “I have never heard this etude played this way before”, or “You bring nothing unique to your audience, I am sorry”.
Producers are always looking for unique voices, original styles and unmatched talent to work with and to promote. There is no great math to it. People in general are always craving new things; and when they discover something new that they like, their desire for more becomes insatiable.
Great stage presence
What good is a performer with great musical skill, or great dancing talent, if he or she is unable to utilize the stage in a manner that allows him or her to connect with the audience? Commanding the stage is an art in itself, and most definitely does not come overnight. It takes a few performances well, before artists begin to connect with the crowd before them. Some artists begin their performances by saying, “This one is for each and every one of you that has come out to join me tonight”. Others work the stage by using movements and gestures that keep the audience’s eyes glued to them. Many performers utilize the entire stage, working it from left to right as they sing, dance or move with their instrument.
A performer’s challenge is to make each and every person in the crowd feel special and appreciated during the performance.
I am sure you have witnessed the entrance of a performer in a costume so alarmingly outstanding that you become totally tuned in to the performance the second he or she appears. While eccentric costuming can definitely aid in engaging and audience, there must be just the right amount eccentricity so that the value of the performance is not lost.
Most artists like to own a dress style that is unique to them. Artists like Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Shakira often go for the glamorous sexy look. Other artists like Lady Gaga and Nikki Minaj go for more daring costuming; and performers like Katie Perry, Rihanna and Christina Aguilera are usually a combination of both bold and glam.
Group performers usually choose costumes that lend uniqueness to each member of the group, while allowing some commonality amongst them. The common colors may be black, white and green, but the style of the suits may be different.
Although costumes are extremely important for embellishment and effect, it is important to note that costuming can make or break a performance- If it is too distracting, the crowd focuses on the costume to the extent that it understates the performer’s skill; and if it is just right it complements the artist well and aids to an outstanding performance.
As the audience, we are used to getting the final product. We look on, we criticize, we praise, we emote, and we enjoy. I have listed some of the major attributes of great stage performers, but I am sure that there are many more qualities that contribute to stage performances that exude perfection.
For me, the most important of all the qualities a performer must possess is the ability to be true to who he or she is. All other attributes are definitely necessary, but that unique quality or trait that sets one performer apart from the rest is always going to be the most invaluable of the lot, and the one that gives longevity to the performer’s career.