How to prepare for a stage show

July 14th, 2008 by Anjali

A great performance is a result of planned and sincere efforts. Not only dance, but any debut onstage requires some amount of organization. Therefore I decided to share my views on this topic. Considering the following points, should definitely help the dancers perform better on stage.


It is very important to know to what occasion I am performing i.e. is it a dance festival, global dancers meet, college celebration, competition, religious festivals etc. It helps to determine a theme to which the dance can be choreographed. This will also give an idea of the kind of audience.


Once the occasion is known the type of audience is also understood. This step is important because it helps the dancer to decide whether to stick to classical performance like padams or varnams or to move on to semi classical or a folk concept. Imagine the plight of the college students if they were to witness a 45 min varnam. In such cases an Allarippu will serve the purpose. Though the dancer may be excellent on stage but if the rasikas or the audience don’t enjoy the show, your performance remains incomplete. So as a dancer it is very important to understand what the audience needs and deliver accordingly.

Song selection

A good song creates a great impact on the audience. Selecting a song depends upon the occasion and the kind of audience. Example, for college and school festivals select a song that is very popular and liked by a layman. In case of competitions keeping in mind the objective of each round, make the right choice. If you have a folk round to perform select an authentic folk song like a Lavani, kurathi, or Garbha song. A song should provide an opportunity to exhibit both Abhinaya and Nritta. Song must not be too big more than 15 min or too short less than 5 min. When performing for a western round do an authentic western like a jazz, salsa, Tap dance or hip hop. Do not make a mixture of different styles.


Choreography is about giving a visual form to the music or a song. Blending right gestures and movements with music is the main job of a choreographer. He/she needs to understand the meaning of the song and the talams or the rhythms. When meaning is understood it becomes easy to bring out the expressions. Awareness of the Talams or the beats enables easy transition from one step to another. Thus a good choreography helps the dancer to smoothly glide through the song.

It is very important for the choreographer to project the plus points of the dancer. Do not incorporate any new or complicated steps without getting a hang of it. This will only reduce a dancer’s confidence.


Right practice makes an artist perfect. The more you practice, better is the confidence. There have been moments when I went blank for a second while performing. But If I had practiced well, I could continue without confusion.

Practice helps to build stamina. It will be possible to give a longer performance without getting exhausted.

Learn to give expressions while dancing. Even a dance on just music and beats can be executed with subtle Abhinayas. Analyzing your expressions by standing in front of the mirror helps.

Synchronization in case of group dances is achieved only with practice. A group performance is not about projecting one particular dancer. It is about a group effort, coordination and understanding between dancers. It all about right timings. At times the dancers, the song and the costume would be wonderful, but poor synchronization spoils the charm.

Saroj khan, a very intelligent choreographer of bollywood says “Practice like a beginner, and perform like an expert”. Practice sincerely without any compromise or overconfidence. While performing dedicate your performance to a higher alter so that right amount of energy and grace flows through


Costume adds wonders to a performance and the personality of the dancer. Right from selecting the right fabric, colors, make up, jewelry, and accessories is an important decision.

Always use bright colors with good combination to be effective. I prefer combination like yellow and maroon, Cream with colors like green, red or black. I avoid colors like plain black, brown, and golden unless the character requires it.

Makeup is another factor which helps the facial expression to reach the audience. The makeup should be loud enough so that a person in last row of a huge auditorium can see your expressions. Shampoo your hair and dry them. Oily hair fades the make up and affects the hair style.

Always go for some authentic costumes like a nine yards saree for a lavani or complete bharatanatyam attire for a performance.

Creative costumes with the theme in mind will also work. A perfectly fitted costume will project the body movements clearly. Make the alterations if necessary. A good dancer with a bad costume will not be admired.

Use minimum accessories. Don’t crowd yourself with too much of jewelry or extra hair which is burdening for a dancer.

Carefully use the safety pins on the costume, else it may open up and hurt you while dancing.

I advice my female students to wear a black colored cycling tights below skirts, frocks and even under Bharatanatyam costumes.

It is always advisable to perform a full dress rehearsal before the final stage show to get a hang of it.


If the dance is done with a recorded music then see to it that you have two copies of the song one for the practice and back up for a final stage show.

If the song is 2nd or later in the cassette, set it to your song in order to avoid last minute confusions. Mark the cassette with the correct side and the song number so that the technician’s donot require any explanation.

If you get a chance, go on to the stage well before your performance to see if the stage is firm and smooth, else you have to be careful and alert.

Get ready with costume and full makeup atleast half an hour before your show. Then move to a corner and try relaxing yourself. You can do 5 minutes breathing exercise with your eyes closed. Try not to get distracted with the backstage mess. Don’t even bother to watch any performances from the backstage before you have finished with yours. This is what I practice to keep myself poised and focused.

The final Performance

Do a namaskar before you begin. You can even enter the stage with the namaskar done backstage. This is to invoke the blessings of the all those who have helped you in the whole process.

If you have stage fears don’t look at the audience. Just concentrate on your dance. Look into your hands as you perform. Forget yourself on the stage. Being self conscious reduces the focus. Doesn’t matter if your bells come off your feet or an earring falls, or that extra hair is getting loose. Just keep dancing is what I believe.

Adding your thoughts to the article will definitely add value to this post. Please feel free to share your experiences too.

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Leave A Comment

29 responses so far ↓

  • 1 bansuri Jul 16, 2008 at 8:58 am

    “Being self conscious reduces the focus.”
    That’s so very true! And it can seem very paradoxical given the fact that performing onstage means you have to be completely aware of each and every hand/eye/foot movement.

    I like the article! Thanks!

  • 2 Anjali Jul 16, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Thanks Bansuri. Awareness is in terms of the role taken up. Even a person at meditation needs to be aware of his state of mind else he would be just physically sitting but wondering else where or sleeping. So in dance if not aware of your movements they too may go wrong of may be forgotten. Bansuri, your words have set me thinking. I shall probably write an article on these line.

  • 3 Priyanka Jan 24, 2009 at 2:40 am

    Thanks!!! It was nice to know about the preparation for the dance.It will surely help me in my performances.And its good to read such an article.Hope it helps everyone in need.ALL THE BEST.

  • 4 Anjali Jan 24, 2009 at 8:59 am

    Hi Priyanka
    Happy to know you found this helpful. Wishing you good luck for your performances. Thanks

  • 5 Kajol Mar 26, 2009 at 7:32 am

    Hi Anjali,

    I don’t know if this is the right place to ask my question. Do you perhaps know if there’s an online store where I can buy the training sarees? The cotton ones? Where did you get yours?


  • 6 Anjali Mar 30, 2009 at 6:24 am

    Hello kajol, I bought it from Giritrading, mumbai.

  • 7 nishi May 24, 2009 at 6:51 am

    Hi Anjali Madam,
    My daughter is going to do her arangetam. Dress costume will be ready by master but all other make up including hair style is mine. I am confused because i have no idea about it and my beloved daughter is teaching me bharatnatyam. Could you please help me in this matter?
    thanking you

  • 8 Sarayu Jul 17, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Lovelytips…we have a performance comming up and readingthe teips makes me feel more relaxed…
    Keep up the wonderful work….
    Long live dance…..

  • 9 Anjali Jul 17, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Thank you Sarayu. Wish you all the best.

  • 10 asha Apr 15, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    anjali,i do visit ur site often. i just started learning bharatnatyam. will u suggest me a bharatnatyam song in malayalam could be thillana ,or jathi.

  • 11 neha mishra Jun 3, 2010 at 3:50 am

    again a great suggestion given by you anjali…..u r gr8 my dear.i thankyou frm all of us who r learning dance and need these knowledge.keep up ur gud work n god will bless u for that.thanks a lot anjali.

  • 12 Anjali Jun 6, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    @ neha, thank you

  • 13 Advika Oct 7, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Hi anjali
    Could you suggest me some good moves for the song ambe by jagjit singh ? Since I have to perform it next week and I haven’t even started the choreography yet ?

  • 14 Wilda Feb 4, 2011 at 9:50 am

    I love this post but you neglected to recommend something that has helped many star performers over the years which is self-hypnosis. Meditation is also very popular. Calming the mind will certainly improve the performance.

  • 15 bhavani Apr 14, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    i neither have my costume nor the chalanka……………….what shall i do for the next month competition?
    please do suggest ways

  • 16 Anjali Apr 17, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    @bhavani, buy them or rent them soon.

  • 17 Nalini Apr 12, 2012 at 4:49 am

    Hi Anjali

    Where could i find makeup of hair, face & costumes video on your site

  • 18 Mini Jun 18, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    I have a Bharatnatyam performance next week and I was a bit anxious and nervous about it because I was forgetting some steps in the middle. THANKS a lot for helping me. Could you give me some tips about the makeup and hair( I have medium brownish-blackish hair).
    And Thanks a lot again

  • 19 Deepa Jun 29, 2012 at 2:32 am

    If we become self conscious..wont we forget the choreography..was just wondering.anyway many helpful tips.thanks for the post.

  • 20 chandrankaiveli Jun 30, 2012 at 9:04 am

    very usefull site

  • 21 Snehal Dec 11, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    I loved this article.. It is written in very systematic manner and in detail way….

  • 22 Sangeetha Jun 19, 2013 at 1:25 am

    Hi!Thank you for this wonderful article.
    I would like to know more about explaining the dance to the audience, before performing it.Any ideas on how to go about it?

  • 23 Anjali Jun 20, 2013 at 11:42 am

    @Sangeeta,you can the talk about what the piece is about. if it is just Nritta then, talk about the music, the relevance of the piece. In case of Abhinaya talk about the character, the mood of the song. Also mention the poet and the choreographer.

  • 24 Arathi Oct 26, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Hi, Can you please tell us what are the make-up materials/brands we can use for Bharatnatyam here in U.S.?

  • 25 Shrijita Mishra Apr 11, 2015 at 8:54 am

    Dear Anjali Didi,
    I have my performance next month and I have to do a group performance in which I am playing the centre role.The dance is about Maa Saraswati.Can you please suggest the costume combinations.
    Thank you

  • 26 Bhoomi Sep 25, 2015 at 12:34 am

    Thank you very much it worked

  • 27 Ela Gore Aug 9, 2016 at 10:02 am

    I really liked ur article.My first public performance is there on 13th August,2016. I found ur advice useful…Need ur blessings for my performance..

  • 28 Ela Gore Aug 9, 2016 at 10:20 am

    Mine is a 3hrs performance i.e 12 items I would like to know when should I take my lunch as program starts at 5.00pm to 8.00pm. Should I eat or take sugar/jaggery between each item?

  • 29 Dakshika Sep 30, 2018 at 6:58 am

    But I think u must keep on practising the steps sitting with eyes closed imagining that u will perform the same on stage. Don’t be conceited on ur looks .They will do nothing but distract ur focus from ur dance.But try meditating for 10 mins before going on stage.And don’t forget to do namaskaram if u r going to have a Bharatnatyam performance so as to express sorry and thnx to dharti maa…