‘Stage presence’… ah, that whimsical ideal that every performer obsesses over. Whether you are entering a competition or performing at a showcase or local event, you’ve probably been thinking about what you can do to improve your stage presence and ensure your pole routine keeps the audience engaged. Although it seems as though some people have just been born with that X-Factor, the self-confidence and attitude they project on stage is something you can cultivate and develop with the right attention and tricks.
I’ve learned how to channel nervous energy whilst performing, and because I work hard to boost my own self-confidence I’ve found it easy to project that confidence and attitude in my dancing and routines. However, I should point out, that it has been hard work and a tough journey at times. Shock horror! I haven’t always been as self-assured and bad ass as I am today, and yes, it took work. I was bullied as a teenager, mostly verbally, sometimes even physically. It took me time to become the fierce woman I am today, but if I can do it then with the right direction I believe anyone can.
With some simple tricks I believe everyone can become more confident, in themselves, their abilities, and on the stage.
Here are my top tips to improve your stage presence, and really, to improve your self-confidence overall, because that’s kind of my #1 mission and the one thing I believe improves everyone’s performance skills.
- Nurture your self-confidence every day, not just when you dance
If you aren’t confident in your everyday life, then being confident on stage is going to be a whole lot more difficult. Yes, you aren’t going to be a glowing beacon of self-love to begin with, but you can start acting confident right away, even if you aren’t yet. Changing your body language and some of your automatic behaviours can help to ‘trick’ your mind into becoming more confident.
Your subconscious brain is in charge of many of the opinions, feelings and beliefs that you hold. Ever since you were born your subconscious mind has been creating connections and associations to help you understand the world and your place within it. Many people lack self-confidence because their subconscious has been trained to believe they don’t deserve to be confident, or that being confident is a bad thing. If you were ever bullied at school, or if you were ever ridiculed for being ‘boastful’ when you spoke about your achievements, then your subconscious has absorbed those experiences and altered your self-identity accordingly.
My advice is as follows: recognise what your strengths are and don’t be afraid to brag. Yes, really go for it – next time you are conversing with someone about pole say ‘Hey, you know what, I’m really good at this move / my flow is impressive / I never give up / I’m really strong / my lines are lovely’. You definitely have talents, but if you are struggling to identify them yourself why not ask your teacher or pole partner in crime to help you find out what your X-factor is, and THEN have a good brag. Modesty is overrated and something I believe has been wrongly drilled into us from a young age.
Stop the negative self-talk!!! Understanding your weaknesses is one thing (and very important), but constantly talking negatively to yourself is a recipe for disaster. Whenever you tell yourself ‘I am ugly’, ‘I am rubbish’, or ‘I can’t do anything right’, your subconscious mind hears you and adds yet another negative belief to your self-identity. If you catch yourself negatively self-talking tell your brain to shut up and replace it with something nice! Replace ‘I am ugly’ with ‘Damn gurl your hair is perfect / your eyes are sexy / your legs are so long etc’ and replace ‘I can’t do anything’ with ‘There is so much I CAN do, and someone out there is in awe of ME’. Even if you do not believe it to begin with, you will be slowly re-programming your mind to be more positive.
- Create An Alter-Ego
If you lack self-confidence in real life (but promise me you are working on it!) and want a ‘quick fix’ then using an alter-ego can always help. Coming up with a character you can embody and play is a great way to distract your nervous mind and ensure you project the most confidence you can on stage.
Just as Beyoncé had Sasha Fierce, you too can have your own version. Are they a vixen? A femme fatale? A warrior? Whatever personality you wish you could be put into your alter-ego. Instead of you being on stage playing at being someone else, you really ARE Cindy, Roxanne, Titus… Completely embody the character you have created; write down their personality, their body language, any unique quirks they might have, and who their favourite pole stars or routines are. Really breathe the character.
- Bigger Is Better
I say bigger is better for a reason, because once you are on stage it is not enough to be your character, you have to be a BIG GIANT version of your character. Every facial expression has to be 10x bigger, every accent with your hand or hair flick needs to grab the audience’s attention. Many people worry about looking silly, and they end up going smaller with their movements instead of bigger, but looking half-assed looks much worse than over-animated. You’ll notice the best routines often have the biggest performers with the most precisely exaggerated movements.
Really enjoying your routine and having fun will show through a lot more if you exaggerate your facial expressions and your body movements. A great way to practice this is in front of the mirror – stand a good few feet away from the mirror, put on your music and spend the entire song pulling faces at yourself. This allows you to see what expressions work, and which don’t, what angles they look best at, and what you need to do to really project.
When I was preparing for my routine at Pole Theatre UK earlier this year I would spend entire car journeys listening to my performance song and practicing facial expressions with the music. I may have gotten some very strange reactions from other people on the road, but it was totally worth it for the end performance.
People are naturally attracted to confident and charismatic people, so if you work on your self-confidence in everyday life, along with utilising an alter-ego and BIG expressions, your stage-presence will improve dramatically. Once you have that sizzle coming off you, connecting you to the audience, they won’t be able to take their eyes off you, and the applause at the end of your routine will be the biggest you have ever had. Even if your moves weren’t as clean, or you forgot your floor work, if you do it with confidence and conviction it will be your most impressive performance to date.
Do you have any tips for improving stage presence?
How has pole helped your self-confidence, in everyday life and whilst performing?