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Cassida’s Make-Up Notes for the Stage


Don't waste time with theatrical make-up - it's really too heavy and difficult to apply if you're not used to it. However under stage lights you do need to use something to even out your skin tone and to stop your face from disappearing completely. Ideally this will be foundation (oil-free is best since you're going to get really hot under the lights) or you can use a liquid to powder formula which is pretty fool-proof to use. It comes with a sponge applicator and you just dab it on all over your face. It will give you a nice, matte look.

If you really can't stand the thought of wearing foundation, then you can try a bronzer. This will stop you from looking completely washed out under the lights. Pick a colour that is a shade darker than your natural skin tone. If this sounds complicated, match it to the skin on the back of your hand and it should be just fine.

My preferred method of application is to do my eyes first and then do foundation. The reason for this is that if you get a lot of 'snow' from applying eye shadow, smudges etc., you can clean it up before you apply your foundation.

Before you apply foundation make sure your skin is well prepped. If you run to oily skin look for a mattifying lotion to apply beforehand. If your skin is dry make sure it is well moisturized otherwise your foundation will look cakey. When you apply foundation, make sure that you don't end at your jaw line but blend it down your neck. Otherwise you will end up with a mask-like effect because the lights tend to hit hard around that area.


This is one of those things that terrify most people, but you do need it to add depth to your face on stage. You can use bronzer to help define your cheekbones, but you also need to add some colour because the lights take the colour out of your face. You want to emulate the natural colour in your cheeks, so go for a pinky tone. One of the best and easiest to use is Covergirl's Natural Glow.

Apply to the apples of your cheeks (the fleshiest bit) and blend upwards towards your hairline. Another way of figuring this out is to draw an imaginary line down from your pupil and across from the tip of your nose. Where the two lines intersect is where you should start your blush. Whether using a cream or powder, use a circular movement.


Your eyes are the 'windows to your soul' and are an intrinsic part of the beauty of belly dance. Therefore, you really want to play up your eyes as much as possible. Put simply, it is very hard to overdo eye make-up for the stage. The key is to blend well so that you don't end up with obvious lines. If you're not sure what colours to use, earth tones are a really good starting point, and then use the colour of your costume as an accent.

Using a white/pearly highlighter under your brow bone will really make your eyes pop. You can also use it on the inner corner of your upper lid for extra emphasis.

Eyeliner for good belly dance eyes is very important. The key thing to remember here is that the audience is going to be a good 15 feet away from you so you don't have to obsess about getting a line perfectly straight. Waterproof liquid liner is really the best thing to use because it won't run if your eyes water under the lights (which they probably will) and its colour goes on pure. However, I prefer pencils because they give a softer line and it's easier to build up the colour gradually. Try to avoid the temptation to use liner over your entire eye. On stage it will just make your eyes look smaller. Instead, use the liner on the outer third of your upper and lower lashes and extend it out slightly beyond your corner lashes. This can then be smudged slightly with a brush/Q tip and thickened until you get the desired effect.

If you feel comfortable with them, false eyelashes are great! The glue is very safe, so there's no need to worry about it causing problems with your skin or eyes. Most of them will need contouring slightly before you apply them, otherwise they will end up looking cartoony. They need to be shorter towards your inner eye and longer towards the corners. They should be applied last, after all your other eye makeup has been done.

Don't forget about your eyebrows, since they frame your eyes and can make or break your look. How you wear your eyebrows is up to you, but a really good way to keep them in line is to put a dab of hairspray or gel on an old toothbrush and then comb them in the shape you want. It just tidies everything up.


Choose something that compliments the colour of your costume. You will need to use something because otherwise no-one in the audience will see your lovely smile! Something rosy pink or orangey red is a good choice - bluey reds can sometimes end up looking brown or black under gel lights. It does not have to be the same colour as everyone else in the troupe - that's a little too showgirl. Most people do not like using lip pencils to outline their lips but on stage it does help to define your mouth. Just pick a lip pencil that is the same shade or lighter than your lipstick, not darker, otherwise you will end up with porn-star lips!

A word of caution about lip-gloss: it can look lovely and really accentuate your mouth, but if you use it all over your lips it is a dancer's worst enemy. The first time you toss your head to one side your hair will get stuck to your mouth and you will spend the rest of the performance trying to get those annoying hairs off your lips. Try using just a touch of gloss on the center of your mouth, or a lipstick with some shimmer in it.

Body Shimmer

Shimmer lotions on shoulders, chest, and stomach look lovely and can draw attention away from areas you're not so fond of, especially if you use a bronzed shimmer. You can also use a bronzer to contour your body and give the illusion of amazing abs (they do it all the time for celebrity photo shoots). Shimmer is also good on your cheekbones, just above where your blush is. Use sparingly anywhere else on your face because otherwise you could end up looking hot and sweaty rather than radiant and glowy.

When you've applied your make-up and are dressed in your costume, get a friend to check you over - get her to stand a distance away from you at first to get the overall look. Then go and stand on the opposite side of the room to the mirror and look at yourself. This is how the audience will see you. You'll realize that instead of looking like something left over from Halloween you look absolutely fabulous, da-arling. Now go out and enjoy dancing!

Cassida's Make-up Must Haves

(I'm not sponsored by L'Oreal, honest!)

  • Oil-free foundation
    A shade darker than your skin tone. Something with a matte finish is good for stage.
  • Blush
    Covergirl's Natural Glow. You can't go wrong with it. I'm a big fan of L'Oreal's HIP range of products. They do a cream blush in a mixture of colours - it comes in a duo with a darker contour shade and a lighter highlighter.
  • Eyeliner
    A must for any dancer! Look for waterproof liquid liner if you like a strongly defined line, otherwise choose a soft pencil - L'Oreal's are really nice.
  • Eye shadow
    Use earth tones to contour and emphasize your eyes and colour as an accent.
  • Highlighter
    Uunder the brow bone to make them pop
  • Mascara
    For stage I recommend waterproof. If your lashes are fair, go for brown, if you are darker, go for black
  • False eyelashes
    To bring out your inner goddess
  • Lipstick, pencil, gloss
    Rosy pink, coral or orangey red (to compliment your costume) are good choices. L'Oreal does a really good range that have enough shine without being too shiny. Be careful about lip-gloss. A little is OK, but look for a non-sticky formula!
  • Shimmer
    A dancer's staple. Avoid body glitter for stage and go for body shimmer instead.
  • Bronzer
    For contouring
  • Hairspray/gel and toothbrush
    To tame unruly eyebrows
  • A good quality eye makeup remover and lots of cotton balls/pads.
  • Q tips (or even better the ones from Sally's Beauty Supplies that are flat one end and pointed the other). They are great to fix eye makeup mishaps - just dip them in remover and take off the mistake without having to redo the entire eye.
  • Eye drops
  • Blotting papers to remove 'shine'