Sometimes it’s almost impossible to get a round of applause, an oooooh or an aaaaahhhh out of your audience. This becomes even more challenging when you aren’t speaking directly to them, like an actor of comedian would. Here are some tips to get that engagement!
A fairly obvious pointer, but really try to lock eyes onto an audience member. Other people in the audience will feel included and pay more attention in the hopes that you will lock eyes with them.
Gestures that involve a sweep or flourish can be simple to do but look very effective. Think magician hands!
- Play with levels.
Play with dips and sudden drops, for example onto your knees or in a low squat, to make the audience change their line of sight. If you have a raised stage with a close audience, come to edge of the stage and stand tall. This creates another dimension, like you are towering over them.
- Use your face.
Flirty winks, poking out your tongue, a wide grin; these expressions can easily be interchanged throughout your performance. They catch the audience by surprise, and follow the age old rule; if you look like your having fun the audience will have fun with you. Obviously this is subjective to the mood of the performance, if you are encompassing a dark tone, use your eyebrows, scowl slightly, or lift your chin and look down on the audience.
- Turn your back strategically.
If you do want to turn your back on the audience, do this at a point in your performance that will have the most impact. For example, starting with your back turned can be effective, because when you do turn to face the front it is like a grand reveal. Perhaps turn your back when you are changing props or costume.
- Make your poses strong.
If you are using a pose, hold this and hold it with strength. Engage every single muscle in your body, even if you are only raising one arm. The audience will see your presence, and feel you are performing from head to toe.
- Be aware of your space.
Try to let your positioning on stage fit symmetrically. There is nothing more frustrating that having that beautiful final pose ruined by standing slightly off center. Find a point at the back of the space, a light fitting, an audience member, a landmark, that lets you know where to line up.
- Travel with purpose.
When traveling, make sure every step is purposeful. Wandering is distracting and confuses audience members. Set your pace as well, particularly if you do not have music. Try to keep in time with an even rhythm.
- Plan your movements.
If you are performing to movement, listen out for key words or key phrasing that would suit a certain gesture or expression. A little preparation can go a long way. If a song lyric implies something a bit cheeky, give a sly wink, or if the music takes a dramatic turn, use large sweeping gestures, especially if you have a cape!
- Own the stage.
You are there for performers to watch you. Whether you are on stage for 2 minutes or 20, the audience is there to see you perform. Embrace this, and love that feeling that us performers get completely addicted to!
Written by Tess Hazelhurst
Head of Sales and Marketing
Cabaret and Burlesque Performer as Belle De Jour