Makeup for performance: the daytime outdoor gig

My very first time seeing tribal improv live was at the Farmers’ Market in Flagstaff, Arizona.  The dancers brought a carpet to dance on, and drummers, and created such a wonderful spectacle with their wide variety of bodies and faces and skill levels.  They brought so much joy to the people who thought they were just coming to the market for the vegetables.

To this day, street fairs and similar casual outdoor gigs are my favorite venue to perform in.  They’re a great opportunity to share our joy with the general public who wasn’t expecting to see something so delightful.

Makeup for this gig is interesting.  On the one hand, these gigs are probably going to be marketing opportunities for your studio, so you want your face to look accessible and friendly.  You want potential new students to think, “hey, I could do that.”

On the other hand, you still want to create a spectacle, and you still want to create enough of an exotic  look so that someone walking by doesn’t think, “Oh, that’s just Janet from the office in fancy duds.”  You still want your look to be removed from the everyday.

Here’s one way to achieve that.

Step 1: Sunscreen.


This is important, ok?  I like a lightweight cream sunscreen for my face (the purple tube) and a spray sunscreen for everything else.  Don’t forget your back, and neck, and chest!  And midsection!

Yes, I use a foundation that has SPF.  But I still put a layer of sunscreen on underneath.  I live in California, and that sun can get intense.  You could also use a tinted moisturizer that has SPF, if you like, but me:  I FRY.  So this is what Step 1 looks like before I rub it in:


Seriously.  Do not skimp on the sunscreen.  Remember that you can get burned even through clouds or — because this is San Francisco — fog.

(Depending on the texture of your sunscreen, you may find that your makeup slides around a little bit as a result.  Don’t worry, some tips and tricks for dealing with that are coming your way!)


Step 2: Primer.

Face and eyelids.  Here’s what I use.



Step 3: Foundation, contour, blush, highlight.

For foundation, I use one of the normal, day-to-day foundations that I often reach for: a pressed powder from bareMinerals.  (I’ve got very sensitive skin, and the mineral makeup doesn’t seem to irritate it at all. )

Use what makes you feel good.  I don’t recommend liquid, though; I feel like the powder helps set the sunscreen a little bit to prevent too much sliding around.  But that’s my personal experience, of course, and yours may differ.


For contour, I used a pressed powder that is a few shades darker than my foundation.  I put it in standard contouring places:  under cheekbones, under jawbones, on temples, and around the forehead.

IMG_6475 IMG_6476


For highlight and blush, I’m using these from the “Rock Star” palette from theBalm.  I am in love with this palette.

IMG_6479Blush goes on the cheekbones.  Highlight goes on top of blush, over eyebrows, maybe on the nose if you want.

Blend the heck out of all of that.


Step 4: Eyeshadow.

For daytime gigs, my troupemate Jesse turned me on to a black and gold eyeshadow look.  They’re both neutrals, but just bold and blingy-enough that it sets you apart from your daily routine.  And the gold keeps it light, a dramatic look that’s still good for daytime.

First up, the gold.  I’m using Blitz from the Urban Decay original “Vice” palette — lots of great metallics in here — but use whatever metallic gold you want.

IMG_6485 IMG_6487


Next, the black.  I’m using Black Market from the same palette.  Any matte black should work well, though.  Put it in the crease and just under the outside part of the inner lid.

IMG_6488 IMG_6489


Then blend.  After blending, I will sometimes put another layer of gold on top to really lighten things up.  Here’s the finished eyeshadow look.



Now is a good time to give yourself a dose of setting spray.  This one’s my favorite.





Step 5: Eyelashes.

Normally I would always wear lashes, even to a daytime gig, because they really finish off the look and keep things interesting.  Here are the lashes I was going to wear — not as crazy as for stage, but still interesting and bold.


… but I was having issues with the eyelash glue, and my hands were shaky since I’d had coffee but no real breakfast at this point, so I gave up and went a different route:  lots and lots of mascara.

I would definitely not recommend this for stage or any nighttime affair, but if there’s one gig where you can get away with just mascara, it’s the daytime outdoor gig.

I did two types of mascara:  first, a thickening mascara from Makeup For Ever, and second, a lengthening mascara called They’re Real! from Benefit.


Step 6: Eyeliner.

(Or you could do this before the lashes.  Up to you, of course.)

I didn’t do anything fancy with liner today – I don’t normally for daytime gigs.  Liquid on the top lash line (I like the Illamasqua brand), no crazy cat eye, but you could go that route if you wanted.  Pencil about a third of the way in on the bottom lash line.


Step 7: Eyebrows.

I FORGOT TO DO MY EYEBROWS.  SERIOUSLY, GUYS, DON’T DO THIS.  Luckily, my troupemate Sofia had some brown pencil with her and I was able to fix it later.

Step 8: Lips!

Pencil, lipstick, and a little bit of glitter eyeshadow in the pout to finish it off.  But when I leave the house, I just do pencil – it’s enough to help the look appear finished, but you’re not going to eat off your lipstick before you get to the gig.

I always pack a mirror, lipliner, and lipstick with me so I can get those things done before I go on.

IMG_6511 IMG_6513

And here’s the finished look!  With the ever-patient Sofia.  (She’s made different — and equally lovely — makeup choices.  Remember there’s no real right or wrong here, just be mindful of why you’re making the choices you’re making, and be creative.)





Makeup for performance: the nightclub look

Let’s talk makeup, shall we? I separate my makeup looks for ATS into three categories.

1. The stage look.
You need to be visible from far away, and the lighting is harsh. The makeup needs to be extremely dramatic. From close up, it can be kind of scary.

2. The outdoor/daytime/close up look.
The goal here isn’t to be so dramatic or harsh, but rather to match the color and festiveness of the costume and overall performance. The makeup still needs to be heavy, but the lines are softer and contrast isn’t as pronounced.

3. The nightclub look.
This is an unholy hybrid of the other two looks. Lighting in the venue can be dark and unpredictable, so you want intense color and contrast, but you don’t want to look too scary close up when you go exchange your drink ticket for a glass of white wine with a straw (so as not to upset your lipstick, natch).

This post is about that elusive nightclub look, because that’s the gig I was dancing at tonight!

As we go through, keep in mind: this is only a reflection of what works for me. Use whatever products work best for you, and feel free to experiment. There are very few hard and fast rules.

1. Prep and prime.
Don’t skip this! I use moisturizers from LUSH, followed by face primer and eyeshadow primer. The eyeshadow primer in particular is important, as it keeps your colors stable when you get sweaty.



2. Apply foundation, contour, and blush.
Please don’t skip the contour or blush. You’ll be tempted to, because no one really does that in their daily lives, but under any sort of odd lighting, you’ll want people to think you have cheekbones that can cut glass, and this is what contour gives you.  Without contour, you probably look like a large white blob (if you are white).

Blush softens the look, makes you look less like a zombie, and brings color to your cheeks.

Here are the specific products I’m using.  From left to right: contour brush, mineral foundation brush (both from Sephora), bareMinerals Ready foundation, Bobbi Brown contour, and then the “Balm Jovi” palette from theBalm.  I’m using the pink “Pop Pop! Don’t You Want Me?” blush from this palette.


After applying the foundation with a heavy hand, the contour goes right under my cheekbones, under my jaw, and around the hairline.  YouTube has lots of tutorials if you need help figuring out where everything goes. Soften this up a little bit and blend.


Blush goes on the cheekbones.  I forgot to grab a photo of contour + blush.  You’ll see it in later photos.

2. Apply eyeshadow.
I like to think about eyeshadow in three colors: the very dark (usually black, even for a paleface like me), the medium, and the very light.  The more contrast you can get here, the better.

Tonight, I’m using the white (“Sassy”) and black (“Serious”) from theBalm’s Nude’tude palette, shown below.  Those will be my light and dark, respectively.


The medium I’m using tonight is “Fringe,” which is a dark teal from the new Electric palette by Urban Decay.  It’s the one in the top right.


Apply medium color all over lid.  Then dark color on the outside crease and just under the eye, and then light color on the interior, sweeping up above where you’ve placed the dark color.


Then, just for kicks, I applied “Revolt” — silver metallic from the Electric palette — on top of the white.


Now, blend the hell out of it!  I like to blend from inside to outside with a wide flat brush, and then use the flat part of the brush to subtly wing the eyeshadow out in a line.  Here’s the blended look:



3. Lashes!
Yes, you do need to wear lashes. They just make everything better. And besides, they’re darned fun.  Here’s some tricks to make application easier.

You’ll need lashes (go big or go home!), eyelash glue, mascara if you want, liquid black liner, pencil black liner, and optionally this little spring-loaded tool that I found in the Japanese dollar store for a buck.


This little tool is the best thing ever.  It holds the lashes while the glue gets tacky, and then helps you put them on your face.  You can definitely put on lashes without this tool, but it’s so much easier if you can get your hands on one.


First, apply a thin line of glue to the base of the lash.  Then, wait for the glue to get tacky – at least 30 seconds.  Put on a coat of mascara while you wait.

If you have a lash tool, you can just let it sit like this while the glue gets tacky.


Now, put the eyelash on your face.  Again, the tool is helpful here!

I like to position the lash so the inside is just a little bit away from where the inside of my eye is.  This makes it a lot less pokey when I try to blink.

If using the tool, stick the middle part of the lash to the skin of your eyelid, then unclamp the tool and secure the ends with your fingers.  If you’re just using your fingers or tweezers, put the ends on first and then secure the middle.


I like to put my bindi on at this point too, since I’ve got the eyelash glue out.

Get out your black liquid eyeliner (I’m in love with the Illamasqua line – doesn’t budge) and fill in the space between the inside corner of the lash and the inside corner of your eye.  You can extend this line onto the side of your nose if you like.

Since you have the liquid eyeliner out, now is also a good time to put on any tribal markings, if that’s a thing you like to do.


Now is also the perfect time to fill in and darken your eyebrows to create contrast if you haven’t done it already, especially if you have light eyebrows.  And use the black pencil to line the bottom of your eyes, as you like.  Tonight I went about halfway from the outside corners.

4. Highlight.
I like to do this for club gigs, since I never know what the lighting situation will be like. I’m using the highlighter from the Balm Jovi palette shown above, and I’ve put highlighter just under my eyebrows, above my lip, and on my cheekbones.



5. Lips!
Start with your lip liner – a nice true red, or a darker red than your lipstick if you like.  Line the outside of your lips, and fill in.


Next, lipstick.  My current favorite is MAC Viva Glam III, which is a rich burgundy that looks great on my skin tone.  Do that “apply, blot, apply” trick that we all learned from girl magazines in middle school.



I like to highlight the pout (middle of bottom lip) with some shiny stuff.  It’s pretty, and if you want to add glitter to the pout later, this helps the glitter stick better.  I’m using Lipglass by MAC.



… and with a fingerful of that same silver eyeshadow on top of the pout:


And voila, my friends.  Here’s the finished look.  If you have some finishing spray, like Urban Decay All-Nighter, give yourself a spritz or two to help everything stick while you sweat on the dance floor.


Have fun!  Go out there and play!  And stay tuned for more ideas.

BONUS:  Want to know how to take all of this stuff off quickly at the end of the night?  This stuff below – “Just Release Me” from Philosophy, available at Sephora – is magical.  It’s a two-phase makeup remover.  You shake it up, saturate a cotton pad with it, and everything just comes right off, including your eyelashes, minimal pulling or tugging required.  It’s incredibly gentle, too, and doesn’t smell bad.



Turbo-Speed Tribal: Prep for a gig in less than an hour

I know dancers who take two hours or more to get ready for a gig.  I understand wanting to take time for yourself, to get the makeup just right, to get all the stuff in your hair.  And I know it takes time to pick out the costume – and goodness knows, sometimes just putting on the jewelry takes ten minutes or more.

But here’s the problem: sometimes the gig itself is ten minutes of actual dancing. And for me, that ratio of getting ready to actual performance time just seems ridiculous.  Or maybe you’re coming from your day job and you just don’t have the time.  Or maybe it’s a morning gig, and you are prioritizing having a slow morning with a cup of coffee and your Facebook feed.

Ladies (and gents), consider this my call to streamline. Here’s how to do it.

1. Make a checklist.
I make my checklists from bottom to top, in three layers.  It helps me stay organized, and keeps me from forgetting anything (like that one time when I forgot a belt, and luckily a fellow dancer had brought an extra)!  It could be a mental checklist, or you could actually write it out. I break it down in the following layers:

Base costume – footwear if applicable, pantaloons, skirts, choli

Second-layer costume – this includes hip wear such as shawls, saye goshe, tassel belt, etc.  This also includes my coin bra, if I’m wearing it, and a formal cover-up.

Jewelry – I don’t write out every bangle, but I want to give myself an overall idea for the look.  Again, bottom to top – so the belly chain comes first, and earrings come last.

I keep my performance jewelry in little hand-decorated and labelled bags that hang from a hook board. My beloved gave me this for Christmas last year. It’s incredibly thoughtful and ridiculously functional.

Hook board for jewelry.  Some bags have rings or necklaces; some are labelled specifically, like the one with the Talakhimt necklace).  My CholiDeco lives in the bag with the bronze circles. The colorful red bag houses my Diva Dreads and hair flowers. Many of these bags are empty because I just had a gig and haven't put all my things away yet.  Note the extra markers for when I want to label more things!

Hook board for jewelry. Some bags have rings or necklaces; some are labelled specifically, like the one with the Talakhimt necklace. My CholiDeco lives in the bag with the bronze circles. The colorful red bag houses my Diva Dreads and hair flowers. Many of these bags are empty because I just had a gig and haven’t put all my things away yet. Note the extra markers for when I want to label more things!

Here’s what a sample list might look like.

Sample gig checklist.

Sample gig checklist.

2. Put on the first layer.
Here’s a tip: If you’re wearing two skirts, put the outside skirt on FIRST, and slide the underskirt on underneath.  Much easier that way!

3. Prep the gig bag.
Put the following into a sturdy, large, presentable tote bag:

  • Second-layer costume
  • Jewelry
  • Your other essentials: pins, eyelash glue, lipstick, hand mirror, zills. Include the set list or CD if you are the person responsible for it.
My new favorite gig bag, from the Something Tribal This Way Comes festival in St. Paul, Minnesota. It's a good size, sturdy, and thematic! And if I have to put it on the ground, I can wash it later.

My new favorite gig bag, from the Something Tribal This Way Comes festival in St. Paul, Minnesota. It’s a good size, sturdy, and thematic! And if I have to put it on the ground, I can wash it later.

4. Do your makeup.
There is a lot to this step, and this part will be an entire blog post just by itself. Suffice to say that yes, even when I’m rushed, I still wear false eyelashes.   Such a difference.

I do, however, limit myself to fifteen minutes.  Maybe twenty. Time is of the essence here, and unless you’re doing a photoshoot, it’s okay if it’s not perfect.  You just need to be seen.

I don’t bother with fancy lips at this point – just enough to make the costume look complete as I’m walking into the venue.

5. Do your hair.
For me, with my pixie cut, I have two options: I either do a casual headwrap, or I wear my Diva Dreads.  But if I’m rushed, there is no two ways about it – it’s Team Headwrap all the way.

I think this step would take me a lot longer if I had a lot more hair. We shall see!

6. Put on your “travel” coverup.
For me, this is usually my FCBD® hoodie.  It’s a little more casual and covered than the formal coverup.

With the beautiful Sofia and Jesse. Photo courtesy Don Labit Design.

With the beautiful Sofia and Jesse. Photo courtesy Don Labit Design. OG represent!

7. Get to the gig before call time.
Just a few minutes will do. You don’t want to be stressed out, and you have more work to do!  And now you don’t have to occupy your brain with anxiety about being late.

Once you arrive, put on the rest of your costume.  If there is a green room, great!  If not, find a restroom or unobtrusive corner to continue adorning yourself.

8. Dance your set!
This is the best part.  And remember – this is supposed to be fun.