Ballet Hair Tips, Stage Makeup And Dance Competitions U.K.

Are you interested in the world of professional ballet dance competitions? Do you want to be a dancer when you grow up? This post is dedicated to the reader who wants to learn more about the ins and outs of theatrical presentation as it relates to hair, makeup and costumes. The first thing a dancer wants to achieve when she is going to be scrutinised by a dance judge is a perfect appearance.

The Flattering And Professional Ballet Bun

ballet-bunDo you ever just throw your hair up into a bun with a scrunchy or combs and consider it done? I do.  Gathering long hair up on top of  the head is a practical way to get through the day without worrying about how your hair looks. However, a ballet dancer getting ready to enter a competition has to be extra fussy about the way she makes her bun. A professional ballerina bun takes longer to construct.

The most important thing to remember about creating a professional ballet bun is that the bun be flat and close to the head. Large poufs are not professional and destroy the lines needing for the correct aesthetics.

The first thing that any competitor will need are the right supplies to create the perfect ballet bun. Here are the basic items required to make a professional one:

  • Hairbrush
  • Spray bottle of water
  • Hairspray
  • Bobby pins that match hair colour
  • Hair net that matches hair colour
  • Ponytail holder that blends with hair shade

Watch This Instructional Tutorial To See How A Ballet Bun Is Made

Ballerina Stage Makeup Is Creative Yet Functional

Now comes the fun part! If you love the creative expression that using cosmetics gives you, stage makeup application takes it to the next level. One of the most enchanting memories I have of my childhood ballet books were the exotic eye makeup looks that were created by some of the world’s most famous dancers. Unlike costume fitting and construction, makeup application for a performance is something that most dancers learn to do for themselves. There are different levels of makeup application that can be seen in the world of ballet performances and are appropriate for each level. * Makeup application tips for students courtesy of Monica Newell, Costume Creations U.K.

Beginner Or Youth Competition Makeup

  • Soft and natural-looking makeup is best for this age groupyoung-ballerina-makeup
  • Face foundation that closely matches the natural tone of the skin
  • A neutral, well-blended eyeshadow in soft tones of grey or light brown
  • Thin well-blended eyeliner and mascara instead of false lashes
  • Lip color in the coral or deep pink family can be more flattering on a younger dancer than bright red

Performance Makeup For Intermediate Or Advanced Levels

  • Darker, more dramatic eye makeupadvanced-competition-makeup
  • False eyelashes
  • Thicker, bolder eyeliner
  • Deeper contouring of the cheeks and cheekbones
  • Brighter, more vivid lip colors
  • Darker blush shades

Professional Theatrical Stage Makeup For Roles

Here is where makeup application is as varied as the number of dancers and ballet roles that exist in the world today. The techniques that individual dancers use to create a basic face for increased stage presence typically focuses on using pancake foundation, powder, blush, brow enhancer, dark lipstick, thick winged liner and double rows of false lashes. The application of products like sparkle dust and glue-on gems are the real magic of fantasy makeup for ballet.

With so many informative videos online that offer theatrical makeup tips, learning how to make up your face the way principal dancers do is much easier today. My favourite video is the one below.  Because of the creative ( and incredibly pretty!) use of faux gems around the eyes that pick up the shimmering qualities of the tutu skirt, it is a wonderful example of high-level eye makeup for ballet.

Embellishing The Eyes To Match The Tutu

Ballet Tutus For Competitions Versus Role Costumes FAQ’s

Because many people enjoy reading ballet-related articles as fans, not dancers, they can have questions about costumes that go beyond construction techniques. Even as a blogger, questions come up for me as a write a post about a particular topic. You may wonder how and why costumes are chosen for the many different levels of ballet training. Answering these questions is way beyond my expertise, so let’s find out from somebody who knows all about this subject. Many thanks to Monica Newell of Costume Creations U.K.  for taking the time to answer all of the following questions.

1. Who Chooses The Choreography In Individual Competitions?

“The Dance teacher does the choreography and chooses the music in most competitions. In my day they had sheet music and a pianist. Every school had their own pianist who traveled to competitions. Today it is cds. At International comps sometimes a set piece is given to everyone; for example : ‘Swanhilda’s Solo.”

2. Are Youth Costumes Based On Designs That Already Exist?

“The costumes depend on whether it is ballet, lyrical , modern, song and dance etc. If it is modern or lyrical or tap the teacher and the parent liaise with someone like me for a design. If they are doing a Song and Dance straight from a musical they usually ask for the costume to be as near to the original as possible.”

3. What Do Dance Judges Look For In A Competition Costume?

“Judges like a costume that suits the dance especially and is also age appropriate. I get a lot of compliments from judges about my costumes – probably because I know what they are looking for.”

4. How Long Does The Variation Last When A Dancer Competes In Front Of A Judge?

“The dances are usually approx. 1 min 30 sec. Rules for lengths of dance are given out in the Competition Rules.”

5. Are There Many Judges, Or Just One?

Most of the Festivals have one judge (probably for cost reasons). At the big Internationals there is usually a highly renowned panel; for example, the Prix du Lausanne.”

6. How Does Someone Qualify To Become A Dance Competition Judge?

” For example, In England,  the organising bodies (  The RAD,  ISTD,  IDTA, and BBO)  have exams for people to become Teachers then Examiners/Adjudicators.”

7. Does The Dancer Know If She Won Right Away, Or Does She Have To Wait?

At most of the Festivals they are in sections according to dance and age. For example, Ballet A is the babies,  Character F would be over 15’s and so on. The winners are announced at the end of each section.”

8. Who Okays The Final Choreography For Each Contestant?

The Festival is organised by the Festival Organiser – they usually invite local dance schools who they know do festivals. The school will let the organiser know approximately how many entrants they will have. For example, 6 in a ballet , 12 in D character, 2 in senior groups and so on. The organiser has to collect fees for each entrant in each section to be able to plan the amount of time for each day. Most of them go on for 2 to 3 weekends.

The organiser has to know how long to book the venue and the adjudicator for. Other things have to be arranged like photographers (some book a professional photographer because of the child protection thing).  Parents are not allowed to photograph other children than their own. Some totally ban photos while the children are on stage. They also have to arrange for caterers to provide refreshments

The teacher decides which children will compete and what they will dance then submits the entries to the organiser. The only time entries might be turned down is if there are just too many for the amount of time, so a school might be told to cut a few out but normally they will try to accommodate everyone because,  after all, a Festival can be quite a good money-spinner.

9. Are The Contestants Allowed To Rehearse On The Competition Stage?

They nearly always hit the stage Blind – which is hard – different floors – dark auditorium, special awareness – I am surprised how so many children so young cope so well, especially on pointe. It can be very disorienting suddenly landing on a bright stage looking out into the darkness and wondering where you are and where to go let alone do a load of steps well and perform.

10. Is There A Fee For The Participants; Family, Friends And The Contestant Themselves?

Yes it can end up being expensive, entry fees for each dance then the parents and relatives have to pay to come in and watch. This is after tights, shoes, tutus, national costumes , tap, modern, greek, duets, song and dance …………… petrol , parking , snacks , siblings to organise.

This information offers a great deal of insight into the world of dance competitions, doesn’t it? So many variables have to come together that can be a bit mind-boggling. One important fact that a person can gleam from all of this is that it takes a village of people to coordinate ballet competitions successfully; even small ones!

How Costume Designers Collaborate To Construct The Perfect Theatrical Garment

Competition costumes are incredibly unique. Knowing the hows and whys of their appearance helps us understand the challenges a costume maker faces with each concept of his or her design. The best way to showcase the points a designer considers is to look at some of the costumes made by Costume Creations for the individual client.

From left to right: Tia Dalma from Pirates Of The Caribbean, Jack from Nightmare Before Christmas, Princess Fiona from Shrek The Musical.

If I were going to make these costumes, what would I have to consider? Again, I asked the designer herself how the costumes came to life.

* Tia Dalma– “This costume was made with cotton on the dress and petticoat, the flowers on the petticoat were painted to look washed out at she comes out of the sea. I used genuine fishing net sewn on the front with lots of sea shells sewn on to it. I try to use fabrics that would have been around at the time”.

* Jack Costume-” Stripes can be extremely challenging. This was a modern dance – so stretch was required for splits etc, mainly stretch is used for modern , tap, etc”.

What a fun and unique costume! Although the finished garment is quite whimsical, a lot goes in to constructing costumes that not only use stretchy fabrics, but have stripes as well. Matching stripes correctly takes a lot of skill as a sewer. This Jack costume was created for maximum movement so the dancer could perform splits and acrobatics in her role.

* Princess Fiona- The bodice and skirt were made of Lycra and the bodice was lined with stretch cotton, this combination was done mainly to get the colour match – the gold was to give a Regal Effect and there are a lot of Emerald Coloured crystals – the costume was based on the design used for the West End Show”.

In the case of Princess Fiona, choosing Lycra fabric and designing the bodice trim in that particular pattern takes a real understanding of the character and the dance moves that will be performed .

“I cannot count my day complete
‘Til needle, thread and fabric meet”.
~Author Unknown

After learning more about the ins and outs of fabric choice and design concepts for dance costumes, you may be wondering if choreography is ever created around a costume idea, or if costumes are always made to match an existing choreography. I plan to discuss this interesting topic in a future post.

Using Textures,  Specialty Sewing Techniques And Research To Create Costumes

From left to right these photos tell a story that would not have been possible except for the design expertise of Monica Newell.

This character is a seagull trapped in oil.  In order to construct the right look, fabric had to be found that resembled oil and then cut to appear like dripping oil. The dripping oil section had to be constructed with strategically placed Velcro to allow that part of the costume to fall off at just the right time; when the Seagull dies.

2. Here we see the death of the Seagull and its spirit being released.

3.The spirit of the Seagull dances and represents the species by the construction of the skirt;  designed to give the impression of a bird tail.

In keeping with the choreography and intended results for the designer, teacher and parent, this particular dance number was researched prior to making the costume so everything would come out perfectly for the performance. The slightly shaded wings show a high-level of artistic talent when it comes to making them appear appropriate for a Seagull, not a Swan. That is a lot to think about, isn’t it? It’s in the smallest of  details that a costume is either a winner or a loser.

Why Do Ballet Students Have To Compete?

I would say that no dance student has to compete, but that competitions are a large part of the training process in the world of ballet. It all revolves around healthy self-pride and the incredible feeling of accomplishment that comes when a dancer is rewarded for all of her hard work with a trophy, a title or a special medal.

Ballet students in training learn important social skills and how to work with many different types of people in the world of the performing arts.

Just like beautiful roses thrown onto a stage and the sound of a passionate audience yelling, ” encore, encore!“, winning a competition prepares a student for the positive accolades she can receive if she clings to her dance career with all of her heart and soul.

© 2013 by Tutu-Love.
All rights reserved. No part of this article’s content or images may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Monica Newell and /or L.Perry.
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