Creating the Perfect Look
Makeup for your team
You’ve been doing your own stage makeup for years, and you know what colors work. But when designing a uniform look for students with a range of skin tones, it can get tricky. You don’t want your kids to appear too painted onstage, so creating a natural look with neutral colors is key. As New York City–based makeup artist Alex Michaels advises, less is more. “Remember that at competitions, judges sit at tables close to the stage,” he says.
Even on Broadway, the kids playing Jane and Michael in Mary Poppins wear very little makeup. “I use concealer, blush and mascara,” says makeup supervisor Amy Porter. “You don’t want kids to look made-up, you want them to look youthful. From the back of the house, an 8-year-old with too much makeup will blend in with the 25-year-old ensemble member next to her.”
Here, Michaels creates an all-purpose performance look for three Broadway Dance Center students and tells us how to keep it polished, professional and age-appropriate.
Stage 1: The Base
On most young girls, the skin is so perfect that a full face of foundation isn’t necessary. Unless a youngster has uneven skin or breakouts, Michaels says stick with only a concealer and powder.
Step 1: Choose a color that’s close to the dancer’s skin tone, and apply a light coating of concealer under the eye and to any problem spots with a concealer brush or by dabbing it with your fourth finger.
Step 2: Set it with a dusting of powder—either from a pressed powder in a compact or loose powder—with a large brush.
Step 3: To mask and soften, sweep a very pale blush under the eye area.
Tip: If you do choose to use foundation, take note if the solution is cream-based or water-based.
“We go water-based. If dancers have allergies to makeup, it’s more likely that cream-based foundations cause reactions, not water-based,”says Karen Armand, specialty makeup supervisor and designer for Pacific Northwest Ballet. “Also, we’re around expensive costumes, and the water-based foundation comes out, but the cream doesn’t.”
Stage 2: The Eyes
Step 1: Select a neutral, warm tone with a little shimmer. Cover the eyelid and under the brow with a light, even application.
Note: Stay away from silver or white. Those colors appear gray on dark complexions. Gold, champagne or pink tones will flatter everyone.
Step 2: If needed, fill in a dancer’s brows with brown eye shadow. Use shadow so you can control the concentration. You want to be able to see the individual hairs.
Step 3: Keep long eyebrows in place using a clear mascara or brow gel, then sweep through the brows with a stiff bristle to keep them looking soft and natural.
Step 4: Next, blend a medium brown or plum shadow into the crease of the lid as well as across the lash line. Create an almond shape that meets on the outside of the eye. Blend well with the base shadow so the colors don’t look too divided.
Note: You can use the same color on all complexions, but vary the amount. On deeper skin tones, you may need to build color more, but when applying it to light complexions, be delicate. The less makeup on the brush and the more you blend, the softer it will appear.
Step 5: If your dancer has long, full lashes, a few coats of mascara will be enough onstage. But for a more dramatic look, choose false eyelashes that are feathered, so you can see the eyelids.
Lashes: Start with one thin coat of mascara on the dancer’s natural lashes. Next, squeeze a little adhesive from the tube and drag it across the top of the false lash. Don’t use too much—it gets too wet and sloppy. Line up the outer edge of the lash with the dancer’s, and gently ease it on. After 15–30 seconds, push up the lashes slightly; you want them to flare up when the eye is open. (If they shoot straight out, the eye will appear closed.)
Step 6: Finish the eyes with one more coat of mascara. This makes the lash line pop, and it joins the natural lashes with the false.
tip: If you need to cut the lash to fit small eyes, cut from the center, not the outer corner.
Stage 3: Blush
Step 1: Using a blush brush, start with a little blush under the apple of the cheek, and pull it outward onto the cheekbone. Like the eye shadow, less makeup on the brush is better, and blend well.
Note: For dancers with fair to medium complexions, use light, rosey pinks for the blush. They enhance the cheek but aren’t too much. Save the plums or warmer reds for dancers with dark complexions.
Step 2: Sweep over the blush with the same loose or pressed powder from stage 1. This will set, soften and blend the blush.
Stage 4: The Lips
Step 1: Apply a layer of clear lip balm.
Step 2: Then, line the lips with a medium- to dark-pink lip liner. Using a lip brush, blend the liner and the balm, starting from the outside in.
Step 3: And finally, apply a bright-pink gloss over the balm and liner. Stay away from reds. They look too grown-up on young faces; pink is more appropriate. DT
Photo by Matthew Murphy