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Stage makeup - purple eyeshadow Photo property of Pumpkincat210 on Flickr creative commons. View license here: http://bit.ly/2mQ1ph8.


It’s Stage Season!


You may be surprised to learn that most professional dancers do their own makeup, including even most Principal dancers. That means they spend hours before every show getting their stage looks, which involves layers of heavily set makeup to ensure their features can be seen on stage from where the audience are sitting!


You’re probably spending every spare moment this dance season in rehearsals for Christmas shows, so we thought we’d help save you time by putting together some stage makeup ideas. We’ve focused on looks inspired by our favourite dance shows this season, like The Little Mermaid and the New York Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular. Visit our Pinterest board “Stage Makeup” to see some makeup creations that you can incorporate into your stage makeup routine. 

Stage Makeup pinterest board

What are current stage show looks?

Northern Ballet’s The little mermaid 

The Nutcracker 

Swan Lake 

Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular 

Matthew Bourne’s The Sleeping Beauty


Which characters are we inspired by?

The Little Mermaid

The little mermaid

If you want to inject some colour into your show, this character is perfect for you! Start with a white base then build up areas of purple and blue iridescent eyeshadow for a magical underwater finish.


Lyr, Lord of the sea  

This character has green scales and black features around the lips and eyes to give an overall deep underwater look.


Christmas Spectacular


The rockettes truly do rock a number of different looks during the show, from Toy soldiers to reindeers! We’re giving you tips on two looks as they’re super festive and perfect for stage season. You could use these looks in any Christmas show.

“Twelve Days of Christmas”

Get the look! The rockettes’ costume is based on a candy cane! That means white face powder, glittery red lips, and natural eye.

“Sleigh Ride”

Be a reindeer on a budget! Get the Rockettes “Sleigh Ride” look for less by swapping costume for makeup. Some pins on our “Stage Makeup” board include cute ideas like putting your hair into two buns, or you can even be inspired to make your own antlers headband.


Swan Lake


You may feel like less is more when you’re dancing a more delicate character like Odette, but always remember that those bright stage lights will wash you out if you don’t enhance your features! Odette has pale white skin and blush lips, but a Nars makeup artist can show you exactly how to apply subtle makeup and still get that dramatic finish. 


The Nutcracker

Sugar Plum Fairy

This character is ethereal and dainty with her baby pink leotard. Complete the look with a white face base, blushed cheeks and rose coloured lips.

Read Elle’s behind the scenes feature on ballerinas’ makeup to get inspiration for this character, with tips on how to achieve other looks. Click here to read it. 


The Sleeping Beauty


It’s always fun playing a wicked character as it means heavier makeup and dark colours. Carabosse wears dark lips and eyes with a sharp browline to further sharpen the look.


What makeup is best for stage?


What you’ll be looking for is a foundation that’s oil free to keep your skin as matte as possible. Remember it’s hot on stage with the lighting, and you’ll be working up a sweat by dancing, so you’re going to want to use as little layers as possible to get the best effect. Likewise, because of those lights and the heat, certain parts of your face will hit the light first. That means avoid highlighting your forehead as the light will already be drawing attention to it.

Choose a contouring product that matches your character. So for Carabosse, we’d use a dark tan powder, but for the Sugar Plum Fairy, a pinker blush would be more true to her character. You’re going to want to use a lot to create a strong effect on stage! Don’t forget translucent powder to set the look.



Use a waterproof eyeliner to ensure that your makeup doesn’t sweat whilst you dance and ruin the look. When applying eyeshadow, be sure to catch any excess that may fall and spoil your base makeup.



A bold lip is always a winner on stage, but again must suit the character which you are dancing. Try pastel colours for a “good” character, and dark purples, greens, and browns for an “evil” character. Of course, sparkly Christmas lips are our favourite this time of year! When choosing lipstick, avoid sticky lip-gloss and go for a long-lasting product like a stain ‘stick instead.


What stage makeup brands do we recommend?

Nars, Mac and Ben Nye are popular brands used by professional ballet companies. Click here to read an article surmising the best stage makeup brands.

We recommend that you test a small area of your skin before using any makeup brand, even when you get a new product from the same brand that’s your favourite. Your goal is to create a strong look with stage makeup, so any redness from a reaction to makeup is going to hinder your stage presence. To counter any redness, you can use green pigmented concealer to balance your skin tone.

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