You’ve worked really hard to make sure every detail is perfect for this performance. The costuming and make-up, your song selection, the choreography… each took hours of careful planning, hard-earned sweat, and maybe even a few tears. Don’t let all your work go to waste, take the time to write a good stage introduction!
What is a stage introduction? The stage introduction, sometimes called the emcee notes or dancer’s bio, is how your routine is announced to the audience. It’s the ‘who you are and what you’re doing’ that may be read by a live MC, pre-recorded, or printed in the show program. If you’re dancing in an organized show, you’ll probably submit your introduction with your music and contact details. If you’re performing at a professional gig, you may be asked if you want anything announced before you enter.
Why is it important? The stage introduction is often your first impression on the audience. It’s a chance to get their attention, set the mood, and raise the level of anticipation.
So let’s walk through some important considerations before we begin. Then we’ll look at a few creative writing approaches, with examples of how each may by used. We’ll finish with some general tips on style.
- What’s the format? Will your intro be in a printed program, read by a live emcee, or both? If you know your intro is going to appear in print, then you can ask the show organizer if it would be okay to include a link to your website (or your teacher’s!) in your intro. It’s a great way to get free advertising. If your intro is being read by a live emcee, you may want to consider including a phonetic guide to pronouncing any difficult names.
- Who is your audience? The purpose of the intro is to provide context for your audience, to help them connect to you and your work. You’ll first have to understand who they are to be successful. Are the people in your audience traditional American, or do they generally belong to a particular ethnicity, culture, or other socioeconomic group? What is their level of experience with bellydance? Will this be their first time seeing a live bellydancer?
- What’s the venue? Is this a formal gathering, or something more casual? The tone of your writing should compliment the tone or mood of the event.
- Educational: Explaining a few of the historical or cultural background details related to your performance. This works great for audiences that are new to bellydancing, or for haflas where there are often students in the audience that are learning about different styles and traditions. It also works nicely for folkloric routines.
Ancient dancers in Egypt, Greece, and Turkey held percussive instruments in their hands during religious and secular ceremonies. These instruments would later come to resemble the modern belly dancer’s finger cymbals. Tonight, Ananke fuses the traditional playing of finger cymbals with New Age world music in a routine that features some jazzy rhythms.
- Translation: Summarizing a translation of the lyrics to set the mood or tone. This can add depth to your interpretation, especially when the singer relates an interesting story or parable. It also works well for traditional American audiences that may feel disconnected to foreign music.
Ananke interprets a Turkish pop song in which singer Tarkan pines for a woman that is a bit of a tease, and who also happens to be with another man.
- Dedication: Dedicating the performance to a teacher or inspirational figure, or to a friend or family member. This works well for emotive pieces, especially when the routine demonstrates a quality of the person you are celebrating or remembering.
Ananke dedicates this performance to her good friend Jeanine, who taught her that life’s most valuable lessons are those that are the most hard-won.
- Provide a setting: Using imagery to evoke a particular scene in space or time. This works well for non-traditional fusion pieces with a particular theme, as well as historic folkloric routines. Here’s one I used for a Halloween show:
On this moonless night you have been summoned to witness upon this stage a dark covenant. From the shadows emerge creatures who conjure around the ghostly flames and take pleasure in ghastly tricks and treats.
- Use humor: People have a good time when they laugh. Use a bit of humor to engage an audience before a light or playful routine.
Ananke will perform a sizzling drum solo, a traditional component of the Cabaret line-up involving precise isolations that require intense practice and drills. These shimmies are sure to leave you (and her!) breathless.
- Keep it short! Less than four sentences is great.
- Pick just one of the above approaches (or your own!) and do it well. Don’t overcomplicate the message.
- If you need to include biographical information (like how long you’ve been dancing, who you study from, etc.), then try to creatively weave it into your approach. Avoid sentences like, “Salimah has been dancing for three years.” when you could write, “In three years of dancing Salimah has learned that the most challenging pieces are easiest to interpret with a veil in her hands.”
- It is proper for student-level dancers to acknowledge their teachers, and to acknowledge the choreographer of the routine if it is not yours.
- Remember to write in the third person, “Ananke dances…”, instead of “I dance…”, so that it makes sense when the emcee reads it. And don’t forget to include your name somewhere!
- Use the present or future tense, “Ananke is performing…” or “Ananke will perform.”
- Try to use an active voice, it sounds much more powerful. “The routine features…” instead of “… is featured in the routine.”
- Save the introductions you write so that you can reference (and reuse!) them later.