What you need to know about stage makeup_irish dance_ready to feis
The Feis Look
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What you need to know about stage makeup

Stage makeup. It’s fun and exciting and scary and confusing and frustrating and a total nightmare depending on who you are. As you climb up the ranks, the stages get bigger and the lights get brighter, which means the requirements change. Knowing how to get your makeup right for the stage can pull your look together, while getting it wrong gets you noticed for the wrong reason.

What is stage makeup?

According to Pauline McArdle, makeup artist and owner of Feis Fab, “you have to wear a certain amount of makeup, with the right type of makeup. The right application will bring the face to life, to give you a happy and animated look that will be appealing to the judges.” Wearing stage makeup is about looking like yourself, but bolder.

What products do you need?

Knowing how to combat the lights is key. “The lighting in most ballrooms is horrendous, and if you do not apply the right type of makeup in the right way your dancer is going to come off bland and will blend in with the backlights. The fluorescent lighting will wipe them out” says McArdle.

One of the most important things about stage makeup, particularly for a major feis, is endurance. “You need to be able to sustain a look the entire day. You want to be able to go on for your recall, after a whole day of dancing, and still look as fresh as you did at 8:30 in the morning.” When it comes to purchasing products, the key to that endurance is good quality. McArdle acknowledges, “I know it’s not the most reasonable type of stuff! You really need to start with good quality makeup, particularly for foundation and blush. Invest once in a good foundation and a good blush, and that will last you”

Bronzer is also important for fighting the washing out effects of stage lights. McArdle explains, “Bronzer can do a lot for you. It can be used to highlight your cheeks and your natural facial expression. When doing makeup, we ask that the dancer smiles. We see where the cheek bones go and we define that. You want to define your natural expressions, not a frown because a lot of people misapply the blush – they look like they are clowns and they look like they are frowning, and that is not what the judges want to see!”

When talking brands, McArdle says, “We only use MAC because MAC was originally designed for professionals on stage. It was manufactured for stage makeup, that’s where their standard came from, that’s where they started, and it makes perfect sense for us to continue with this brand because it looks the best and the makeup stays on.“

Basic rules of stage makeup

McArdle has a collection of great advice when it comes to getting your makeup right.

  • “You don’t want to wear big bright eye shadow to match your dress, because when you look down that is all the judges are going to see and they will know that you are looking at your feet and not looking ahead.”
  • “The runway look is very big right now – using more natural tones like browns, and getting away from the color matching to your dress that’s very outdated.”
  • “To make the eyes very bright, avoid a lot of heavy mascara, heavy eye shadow, and heavy eyeliner. With natural wide open eyes, an open face and bright lips, it looks like you are smiling and enjoying yourself, which is very pleasing.”
  • “You want to highlight the natural, you don’t want to paint something on that is not there naturally. Putting the blush on the apples doesn’t work for every kid, because not every kid has that facial structure in their cheek bones. You want to follow the natural line of where their cheek bones go so that you lift their face up.”

Please note: Check with your teacher regarding the makeup rules for your organisation. For CLRG, makeup is not permitted for the first two grades, up to and including the under 12 age group worldwide. Makeup (including false eyelashes) is not permitted for dancers up to and including the under 10 age group. Both makeup rules apply to the age group of the competition, not the actual age of the dancer. See the CLRG rule book for rules 4.5 for clarification.

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  • LIzzie

    Any suggestions for boys, as they also look washed out on stage.

    • readytofeis

      Great question Lizzie. A lot of boys at the top level have been wearing bronzer in recent years. Not much – it doesn’t look like they’re wearing makeup – but just enough so that it gives their face a little colour and freshness on stage. Some boys have also been using fake tan on their faces for the same reason.