Creating a Small Stage Performance

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Tutor:  Eva Harley (EvaHarley Resident)
Last updated: 9/22/2018

Workshop Summary:

Small stage performances are not just for the small stage!  By using panels to reduce the size of your dance area, you can create smaller, more intimate, and creative performances where you become the central focus – and still perform anywhere!  Without the need to create a large set and with just a minimal use of movers, you can focus your effort and creativity, showcasing your choreography and style.   Creating a small stage performance is also ideal for the new choreographer and we’ll explore why.

Workshop Notes:

During this workshop we will be reviewing the benefits and considerations in creating a small stage performance, the difference in choosing props, costumes, and effects, and how creating for the small stage can provide additional creative opportunities for dance either as a solo or for a small number of dancers.  We will also review how to adapt your small stage set to fit in a standard sized venue.


  • Brief demonstration of a small stage performance
  • What is a small stage performance
  • Benefits and considerations
  • Activity – rez your own pre-textured small stage, assigned randomly
  • Choreography and movement within your small stage
  • Choosing props, costumes, and effects for the small stage
  • Sharing ideas, inspiration, and suggestions
  • How to adapt your small set to fit in a standard sized venue

What is a small stage performance?

The simple answer?  A performance created to fill a smaller space.  This could be for small stage venues, outdoor theatres, or a small stage inset you create and surround with panels to fit for a larger stage area.  The set set itself is smaller, allowing for a smaller dancing and focus area.

What are the benefits of a smaller stage set?

  • The audience eye is immediately drawn to you, your costume, your choreography. Emotion can be conveyed with these two things alone.
  • It can be a more “personal” or “intimate” experience for the audience compared to a full stage dance where the audience has more to focus on.
  • they tend to convey a single emotion – from sexy striptease, to a comedic dance, to something dramatic.

The Basics:

  • Generally a smaller number of dancers – 1 to 3 recommended so as not to overwhelm the dance are
  • There are generally few, if any, movements using movers.  The dance animations convey movement withing the set space.
  • With the smaller space, props are generally minimal, have a purpose, and are generally striking.  What you choose will make more of an impact because of the scale difference compared to a full-sized stage.

Opportunity for Creativity:

  • Sets can be very simple, just a well textured and lighted stage, or more complex with animated props and select effects.
  • Using a single prop can be very dramatic – an aerial hoop, a pedestal, a UFO. Effects such as fire batons, hand particle ribbons on a black backdrop.
  • Creation is generally “easier”. With fewer waypoints, smaller set, fewer dancers, attention can be focused on costume, choreography, and effects if you use them.
  • Entrance – jump up or down through a rabbit hole, a pond, drive on in a car, fall from the sky. Filler/small stage dances lend themselves to a different type of focused creativity.
  • Emotion can be more easily conveyed – fun/comedic, sexy, erotic, longing, sweet, anger, power, dramatic, sad, magical/whimsical. The audience is cammed in tighter and will generally notice more nuances in animations.
  • A smaller stage is sometimes more appropriate for a dance, where a solo dancer might be “lost” within a large space.

Where to Start:

  • Start with a template.  You can use the template of a smaller stage venue, like Inanna, or create your own.  If you are creating your own to perform on a full size stage (like Elysium), you can adjust your size while creating if needed.
  • How many dancers will you have?  No more than 3 is generally recommended – but it’s your creation.  Don’t overwhelm your small set by filling the space with dancers, there needs to be space for your dance to “breathe”, for the audience to take in the contrast between the dancers and the stage (white space).
  • Listen to your music and brainstorm ideas:
    • what emotion would you like to convey?
    • what colors do you see being most prominent?
    • Does the music inspire any images in your mind?  Costume style?  Movement?
    • Does it inspire the use of lighting or limited but very special effects?
  • I would recommend considering your costume first.  The costume is a key focus of the dance and in some ways, a prop of it’s own.
  • For this type of set, there are generally very few props – if any.  The audience eye will be drawn to any prop(s) you use, so they should generally be striking and well designed/textured.
  • Consider the texture of your set.  The audience will be focused on this small stage space, making the textures you use critical.  You could use a black stage, and striking light/bright colored props, or you can use a texture that conveys the emotion of the dance.  I recommend “art” type backgrounds generally.
  • After creating your base set and your choreography, is any additional movement needed using movers?  Keep this minimal.  Too much movement using movers could be distracting for the audience and detract from the performance instead of enhancing it.  Movements should generally be subtle or very dramatic (like a jump onto a prop).
  • Lighting.  You will want to make sure you and your dancers have the proper lighting.  This could be simple prim lights or a spotlight/other type of lighting object.
  • Effects.  Are any effects needed to enhance and punctuate your dance?  Be very selective.  You have the audience attention and they will notice.

Additional thoughts:

  • At times, I’m inspired by a single prop which becomes the focus of the dance.  This could also be a texture or a costume.  You may wish to find or already have a single inspiration item for your dance. Let your creativity flow around this inspiration item for your dance.
  • Strive for a cohesive performance – where everything comes together as a whole.  The music, the choreography, the movement, the set, the lighting and effects if you have any.

Frequently asked questions:

  • Can I perform this dance at a large stage venue?  Absolutely!  Create side panels to hide the extra space.  I generally use black to keep the focus on my dance area, but you can choose to texture of course.

Key Things to Remember!

Do not overwhelm your small stage!  Be selective with props, lighting, and effects.

Pay attention to detail!  The audience will notice the details of your performance, if your walls don’t line up, if your texture is fuzzy, etc.

Be creative!  This is a great opportunity to try something different!  Unusual!  Stretch your comfort zone!