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Now with children of my own I understand protecting our young ones and what we do and don’t allow.  However today I’m going to bust some misconceptions about make up! (I hope).

I have heard lots of concerns over the years…

Children shouldn’t have to wear makeup.

Why are we subjectifying them at a young age?

What are we teaching our children if we are asking them to put make up on to dance on stage and feel pretty?

The list goes on.

Let’s take a step back for a moment.

Dance competitions or performances are not a beauty competition.

The words we say to our children before they step out on stage is equally important.

Are we only saying “you look so pretty” or “wow, you look amazing darling” when they are in costume and have make up on?

Even though we don’t mean anything by it, the little comments said with make up on and off make a huge difference.

When we make a bigger deal when the makeup is on than when it is off (because they should already know they are pretty without it) should be thought of a little more consciously.

The origins of stage makeup date back to the early Romans and Greeks where masks were worn to portray the roles of the characters.

Then flour was applied as make up in the Baroque theatre. In the 1800’s the Orient techniques were adapted from the Kabuki theatre Japan and Chinese operas.

The term Ham actor came from performers using horrible smelling rinds from ham and lamb fat, it was used as a base to apply pigments from dirt and chalk until they came up with much nicer alternatives and then named “STAGE MAKE UP”

Make up was hard to find and only in small chemist stores, they were normally sold in a very solid form given the name “greasepaint, you would apply it on the face in streaks and then smooth with your fingers that were dipped in water (Haven’t we got it good today!).

The exciting history of makeup from blush and lipstick, eyeliner and mascara is very cool and will put in another blog for you.

Let’s get back to the basics of why stage make up was introduced.

Originally you would look at the venue in which you were performing, as a rule of thumb about 12m away the dancers face starts to disappear.  Most theatre stages are about 12m in length from wing to wing (roughly to give you an idea). So, where the judge is sitting in the comp is at least that for most theatres. Unless you are at a school stage and then you might be closer.

There was once appointed a theatre make-up artist. Their job was to work with the layout of the theatre, look at how many people the theatre seated, and what the shape of the hall is and work with the lighting technicians. The 5th and 12th rows about the 12m mark away was where the “important” people were seated.  These were the critics. Those sitting closer to the stage saw more of the effects and those in the balcony saw less.   More pink makeup was used for woman and more ruddy for the men.

Lighting is so important when looking at makeup application. In the 1800’s as many as 40 lighting men were stationed through the theatre to control the lighting and today everything can be done by a push of a button.

Makeup application for the dancer should be different when they are on a stage, on a photo shoot or in person close up like a shopping centre. The idea of “stage make up” is actually to make you look as close to the real you as possible.

When you are on a stage with good lighting, your features can be washed out, Forehead can go on forever if eye brows aren’t clearly defined. Eyes can look closed and disconnected on stage.

When a parent has concern about make up for their little one, at our studio I always leave the option for the parent to decide, especially if they are very young.  If however the dancer has spent quite a lot of time at the studio, the costumes have cost a fair amount of money and photos are looking at being purchased then I would suggest giving valid reasons for the makeup application.

Without makeup, your child will look washed out, eyes closed and features all lost on stage making them a little unrecognisable. Advanced techniques for jawline shading and nose shaping can be done but just simply applying makeup to eye brows, blush in the correct position and the correct shade of make up on the eye lids can make a huge difference.

For photo shoots make up of different colours works fabulously.  For stage the earthy colours such as browns, taupes and golds look best on a wide variety of dancers.

I have brown eyes and putting purple or pinks on my eyes incorrectly can end up looking bruised or punched in the face. When we are asking parents to do make up application and not make up artists, this can end up doing more harm than good.

Having a foundation shade if your skin tone is light, in a shade darker ( in a warm more yellow colour) can often work well on stage and those with olive or darker complexion, foundation tone matching or a little more warmer slightly off colour again can look quite nice.

If a dancer has their eyes closed on stage or the appearance of being closed they are disconnected to the audience and that is the dancer’s ultimate goal. “to connect”. Applying make up so we can actually see the dancer then takes the whole beauty pageant argument out of the equation.

Makeup application for children should not be to subjectify the dancer or to make them feel more beautiful. It should be taught that it is part of the costume and without it the whole process is compromised.

I hope this has changed some views on make up or just reaffirmed them.

I’ll be posting more tips on make up in later blogs, so comment on what you would like to know more of! Be yourself as everyone else is already taken, remember don’t blend in, stand out and be Stage Ready!