I don’t’ watch much TV so I joined the team late and have reluctantly become a fan of the infamous “So you think you can dance?” reality TV show. I can’t help it. I just love watching dancers do their thing. And I am in awe of how the dance industry has been forever changed. Artists of all genres are being inspired by the choreography, the costumes, and of course, my favorite – THE MAKEUP.
However, I am seeing a trend that is being followed that is doing a disservice to dancers. Dancers performing on stage are following the makeup trends they see on TV shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” without understanding a very simple but important fact. The live audience members at these taped TV shows cannot see the gorgeous makeup these dancers are wearing as clearly as we can see it on our TV screens. That is because these makeup styles are designed for TV.
My point: There is a BIG difference between makeup applied for TV and makeup applied for STAGE.
TV Makeup is applied for TV lighting. The intensity of the makeup look is for the distance between the performer and the audience. TV (especially HD TV) brings the performer’s face into the living rooms of their audience so the makeup needs to be seen at a distance of, at the most, 5 feet away. The lighting for TV is very intense and the cameras are going to be up close…so close you can almost see their pores! You are looking at the performer’s face as if they are standing right in front of you.
Stage Makeup is done for stage lighting and to accommodate for the distance between the performer and the audience as well. And even though the lighting is very intense, the audience will NOT be in the performer’s face. The audience is going to be pretty far away from the dancer’s face. In fact, the best case scenario is that we are a minimum of 40-50 feet away from the performer and that is in a small theater. As an audience member, we are going to struggle to see the facial emotions of that dancer if the makeup is not bold enough. Now, I am not talking about the old “clown-like” style of stage makeup we applied with grease paint that we needed because of intense footlights that used to line the front of the stage . NNNOOOOOOOO! Footlights are not being used anymore! Our lighting today is much gentler and much kinder but still intense so that the performers can be seen well to the back of the theater. Our stage makeup should be applied skillfully but intense enough to reach the first 10 – 12 rows of the theater – approximately 30 to 50 feet. After all, at a Broadway show, they paid the most for their seats, right? Shouldn’t they get to see those beautiful faces?
On shows like, “So You Think You Can Dance”, I’ve seen stunningly beautiful dancers wearing lovely, soft tones on their faces to match their costume. The looks are gorgeous – so light, pretty for HD TV – but would not have been enough for a stage performance.
Trendy TV reality show makeup looks are beautiful but trends should not be followed just because they are popular. Make sure they are appropriate for the venue you are performing in. Why would you want to work so hard on choreography, costumes, and rehearsals only to have the audience in a theatre not be able to see the part of your body that expresses the most emotion – your FACE!