I recently attended a stage production for a Christian theatre company. All of the presentations were unique and fun to watch, but there were a couple of dancers in the company who had every one's attention, not because of their skill alone, but because of their ability to engage the audience in what they were doing onstage, better known as stage presence. Somehow in the sacred arts community, stage presence is something that is frequently overlooked, or even seen as being prideful. But...the truth is, without it, no one will pay attention to what you have to offer, no matter how anointed or it may be, how much time you put into your presentation, or how beautiful your garments are.

     Stage presence is the ability to command an audience with an impressive style or manner. It has very little to do with skill or knowledge, and everything to do with how you feel about yourself and what you are doing. It's not about trying to impress or entertain, but is about presenting the message that you have with confidence, believing that what God has given you to say through your ministry is good enough to offer.

     How many times have your heard someone say any of these things before they sing, speak, dance or read in front of an audience:
  • "Please pray for me as I attempt to sing this song"
  • "I'm really not prepared...so pray my strength"
  • "I'm really nervous"
  • "I didn't know I was going to be called on so I don't know how this will go"
...And the list goes on. Sometimes people make these statements because they don't want to appear prideful, but in reality there is either a false humility that is behind what they are saying, or they may actually be unprepared. BUT---in either case it's never appropriate to say anything that will cause people to not want to hear or see what you are doing before you even get started. If your song or dance is so bad, why are you doing it? When you say these things, you are giving people permission to walk out on your performance/ministry because it's not worth their time.  And what about dancers who have absolutely no facial expression at all when they dance? There is an erroneous teaching going around the dance ministry community stating that you should never smile when you dance unless you are in the spirit, but we could take that a step further and say, that since ministry starts long before you step in front of a group. If you are prepared to minister, you will have a full emotional range that will show on your face. Jocelyn Richard, Director and Owner of Visual Praise Dance Studio in Augusta, GA, says this about facial expressions in dance ministry:

"When you dance, your face must say the same thing as your movement and music. Your face should express the glory of God. It is important that the face reflect what the choreography is saying. God’s presence should be shown on your face. Facial expressions can show reverence for God and adoration inviting others to join in worshiping and praising the King of Kings." *

     Sometimes dancers lack expression because of self-consciousness, shyness, insecurity or stage fright. There are many ways to solve this, such as relaxing, practicing facial expressions in the mirror, feeling comfortable enough with the dance or drama to enjoy doing it as if no one is watching, and just be a worshiper! In theatre, it's always taught that the way to overcome nervousness on stage is to focus on the task at hand and not the action of doing the task, becoming so at-one with the character that all people see is the character. We can turn this around and say: Become so Christ-focused that you are so completely absorbed in Him that His glory radiates from your face! When you focus on Christ, there is no room for nervousness, insecurity, or excuses. You have a message to deliver to someone who needs it, and it needs to be clear.

     Other tips for powerful stage presence include:
  • Commanding your space in the room, entering and exiting with confidence
  • Project your performance beyond the room that you are in. Make your presentation mentally extend past the four walls of the building. Don't just "sell it to the front row".
  • Practice "over the top", in other words, practice your dance/drama to the fullest, even to the extreme. When you get in front of a group, it will be exactly where it needs to be because performances always lose a small amount of drive when they get onstage.
  • Keep your eyes up, focus on a spot just above the heads of the people. It will look like you are looking straight ahead. People will look where you are looking and if you look down, they will, too.
  • Be aware of habits like lip-folding or fidgeting while you are waiting for the music to start. Relax...inhale through your nose and out through your mouth. Don't withdraw! You have something to offer.
     Find time to invest in dance or acting classes to work on these areas. If God has called you to present His Word through dance or drama, then it's worth investing in your ministry to present the best that you can offer at your highest level of excellence. He gave His Best for us, shouldn't we do the same for Him?

     Enjoy this video by Jocelyn Richard: