Teachers, we all know the most exciting part of dance for our students is the opportunity to perform. Dancers prepare all year for that stage time when all of their hard work and commitment has paid off and brought them (and you!) to this point. The music is chosen, the choreography is rehearsed, the costumes are fitted….but what about the hair and makeup? The design of hair and makeup can make or break the entire look of your recital and either make it  look professional and appropriate or amateur, without focus or thought. So how do we keep to the basics but give our dancers the guidelines to a clean, fresh and theatrical presentation that will be cohesive across the board? 

The trick is to not overthink it. Don’t try too hard. Hand out a guideline with the materials that your dancers should acquire for their kits and keep it as a staple going forward. Though there may be specific numbers which will require special makeup effects or hair styles, nothing comes across more vividly to an audience that neat, clean and age appropriate. Here are some of my do’s and don’ts to get you on the right path to a perfectly designed hair and makeup recital look!

  1. Skin. Younger dancers do not need to worry too much about foundation or powder. Let them remain young and fresh without overdoing it. A little bit of powder to wipe off excess oil is fine. For older dancers, a foundation that is good under lights is essential and will create the base for all other makeup which will be applied. MAC Studio Fix is still a stage-staple for my kit.

  2. Blush. Younger dancers will do well with a little bit of light pink blush. Remember, young dancers need just enough to make them pop under the lights (and feel special as they go on stage!) but not too much. Rule of thumb…have them smile and apply in the apple of the cheeks. For older dancers, create a uniform look. A bronzer comes in different shades for different skin tones which can be great for light contouring with a brighter pink applied strategically on the apples of the cheeks just for a fresh pop of color.

  3. Eyes. For young dancers, a little bit of mascara goes a long way. For older dancers, classic smoky and a winged eye is always a winner. Add a light, shimmery white or ivory color under the brown bone and in the corner of the eyes for a little pop and to open the eyes up on stage. White liner can also be used in the rim of the eyes to make the eyes appear whiter and brighter. Depending on skin tone, stick with greys and dark browns for shadow color. Black liner always should create your winged eye look and a bit on the bottom for dimension.

  4. Lashes. Yes, once your dancers are old enough (mid-teens) they should be wearing lashes for stage. It not only darkens the lashes but creates a wide-eyed look where the eyes appear bigger and more open to the audience. Swipe a couple of coats of mascara on top for some depth. Make sure you go over the proper way to apple lashes with your students so they understand how to cut them correctly to fit their eye shape and apply adhesive appropriately and safely. Follow up with eyeliner on top.

  5. Lip Color. As a rule of thumb, younger dancers can wear a light pink just to give a little bit of color. Tweens and adolescent dancers always fair well with a mid-tone, plum color that looks good on all skin tones (make sure it does not have too much of a brown base or it will wash the dancers out under the lights) and teenagers should stick to a classic red tone. (Think MAC Red or Russian Red my MAC) with a similar color liner to fill in lips before applying lip color (for darker skins go deeper with the lip liner.)

  6. Skip the glitter. Avoid the glitter and sparkles, bejeweled rhinestones glued to the face, glitter hairspray, etc. Believe it or not classic always reads best out to the audience. Sometimes if not properly guided, dancers come on stage with so much of these elements that one is distracted from what they are actually doing on stage. Furthermore, unless you are lucky enough to have a makeup artist or one person who is doing all of the students’ faces, it never looks cohesive and there is always one or two that go a little crazy on the glitter.

  7. BLENDING IS KEY! It is always a good reminder for students to have 3 or 4 brushes in their makeup kit that will do the trick. A blush brush, a couple of hard, firm eye shadow brushes, a blending brush and a foundation brush are all wonderful. Be sure to remind students that it’s not about just throwing the color on their but layering it little by little and blending and blending! This will ensure the dancers are wearing the makeup and not vice versa!

  8. Hair. Be sure whichever hairstyle you choose for your entire show or per number is followed through by every dancer. If it is a bun make sure they are all in buns, if it’s half-up half-down same thing. Take note that hair is securely pinned, sprayed appropriately for no fly-away’s and uniform to what everyone has in the piece.  If you are changing hairstyles per number, keep in mind that if a dancer has many quick changes, changing hair could complicate things and look rushed on stage. The important thing is to ensure every dancer looks meticulous. This goes a long way…regardless of age, talent or level!

Always remember, less is more. Keep it classic. Keep it fresh and keep it age appropriate! Your dancers are bound to shine under those lights!


See you in the dance studio,



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