“What’s your favorite ice cream?” was recently the question posed at WHDTA’s dance studio in Old Industrial. It wasn’t an ice cream party, rather an exercise to help student’s improve their stage presence.

stage pres•ence: the ability to command the attention of a theater and audience by the impressiveness of one’s manner or appearance.

NYC-based performer Jaquelynn Collier began Tuesday’s “Stage Presence, Hair and Makeup!” class by relating her experience as a professional dancer of the audition process and sharing what it takes to stand out as a performer to both the casting director and later, the audience.

Three Essential Tips Crucial for a Commanding Stage Presence.

1.  Have Confidence

Take refuge in your instruction, the hours upon hours of practice and training, and your passion. Speak (or dance) loud and proud and show that you want and deserve to be there. However, as no one is perfect (and the director knows that), show that you’re willing to learn. Be attentive. Listen. Always give your best and show effort, no matter how big (or small) a role is.

2.  Personalize your performance

“Stage presence starts in the face,” Ms. Collier relays. When a dancer is too focused on technique, this can create a tension in the facial muscles, so it’s important to stay relaxed and engaged in the performance aspect. Find a way to personally connect to the show. Whether thinking about a personal happy moment during a lively scene, or a sad event during a darker moment, your state of mind will transform your body and relay to the audience – or your instructor!

3.  Be Yourself

Find what makes you unique and use it in your dance. If there is a dancer you admire, don’t try to emulate her/him, but find inspiration. How is she/he unique and how is that quality utilized to create something special and outstanding?

It is important to remind ourselves that it is natural to have fears and doubts, but perhaps even more so to remind ourselves that everyone else in the room does as well. So, the next time someone asks your favorite ice cream, don’t be shy if it happens to be pistachio, without nuts. Call it out, without reservations.

Ms. Jacquelynn Collier with students