Knowing How to End a Performance

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Leyla Najmas Belly Dance Blog, Know How To End a Performance

Most of the time when music ends, it’s easy to know how to end a performance but in saying this, one must know how to hear music especially if it’s composed and based on various cultures esthetics, traditions and past history. There have been articles in magazines regarding how to approach a stage, where to position yourself and what kind of lights to use but for me I always wanted to know where and how to end. And I use to wonder, was there a protocol to ending a performance. It seemed like standing there at the end and bowing never seemed to be enough and yet I have ended this way with various performances.

Sometimes allowing the lights and sound to slowly fade away gives the performance more ambiance and meaning to an audience. It’s obvious that there can be more to invoking a response out of people so lights along with sound are a good match. But understanding what kind of lights to use can be confusing especially for the beginner performer. I think with choreography, it’s important to know the ending of a specific song so that an idea can come into fruition. I like turning my back to the audience with the lights slowly fading out. Sometimes I’ve done dramatic drops with a blackout as soon as I hit the floor. One performance I walked off the stage slowly but I didn’t feel comfortable doing this and only did it once but it was good to try it out. It just didn’t feel like me. I guess I’m just one of those choreographers who likes to figure out how to end in a way that lets the audience know, it’s the end of the story. Sometimes people can get really confused if they don’t know an entertainer is at the end of her performance.

Years ago I can remember an early bird show during the afternoon which featured up and coming dancers and first time performers. I really enjoy dance debuts because there is always something so raw about a first performance. I loved when the débuting dancers would end; the smile of triumph always captivated the audience. The ending always justified the means but then there were performances that I never knew when the ending was near especially if they used modern music that didn’t have a traditional ending. I have always felt that if the audience has to work to know when to applaud than the choreographer has slightly missed the boat. There should be no doubt in anybodies mind, the performance has ended.

When I worked on productions, they were a treasure trove of information because dance plays have to signal to the audience that the scene is finished. I remember one gaffe that we had in a scene where we had a live singer come in and sing acapella (without instrumental accompaniment) and because we didn’t do the lighting correctly, the audience didn’t know to applaud for her. The next scene came and she was left with an awkward silence. I always felt like that was one of the main blunders of my learning experience regarding lights and scene changes. There is so much at our fingertips with lights and dance that creating the ambiance, can be like taking the audiences mood, guiding them into a spiral of emotions, accents, with slow paced introverted movements than exploding into a fast paced momentum of turns and hip undulations.

Lights and dance together bring a production into a different category because the audience can pace themselves according to the direction of the ambiance the movements articulate within each choreographed piece. The choreographer whether performing for dramatic theater or dance plays and let’s face it even restaurant performing has to consider the lighting. I think this is fundamental in the entertainment business. Now ending a performance does have a lot to do with this because there usually is a method or idea within the choreography. The space or theme can really bring out elements that help out in knowing how to leave the stage but if lighting is available, it is the icing on the cake. One rule of thumb is to always ask what kind of lighting you will be exposed to and if they will have someone working the lights. Also know what colors are best for you on stage.

Years ago I remember watching an early bird workshop show entitled the stars of tomorrow including dance débuts. I loved watching first time performers because at the end of their performances, their smiles of triumph always brought the crowd to an uproariously enthusiastic applause. It was at this particular show that I saw for the first time a performance that had virtually no ending so as the dancer stood there waiting for her applause, nobody applauded because no one knew she was finished. She had to bow in order for everyone to understand she was done. I saw the embarrassment on her face and I really think that she thought many of the people in the audience would know her music. Which brings to mind, don’t ever think people in the audience even if they are dancers will know your music. I have heard many songs in shows that I knew but when you look at individual choreographies, they tend to give a particular song a different flavor. I learned early on that from beginning to end, the choreography has to include everything so that all the audience has to do is just sit back and enjoy the show.

Something else that comes to mind is how many dancers stay long enough on stage to really enjoy the applause? Sometimes right after a performance, as quickly as I can, I run off stage. How long do we stay on stage? I wouldn’t want to be on stage after everyone applauds so that’s why I think I run off. But it’s important to look out at the audience and with a big smile say thank you. If anything, the audience will remember the dancer who entertained them and thanked them.


Leyla Najma's Divine Unrest on Amazon KindleRemember the Holidays this year especially since it’s the year of new beginnings since the Mayan Calendar is ending. I believe wonderful things are going to happen and so I am excited for the coming New Year. In Celebration my book The Divine Unrest  would be a great gift  to buy a friend or a special someone who loves dance or is a dance enthusiast.

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About Leyla Najma

Lifelong professional Belly Dancer dedicated to providing “Belly Dance Instruction That Is Easy To Understand And Learn That Connects The Dots”


8 Responses to “Knowing How to End a Performance”
  1. catherina says:

    I love all of your articles, they are true to life and very informative. Commenting on your article ” Knowing how to end a performance”.
    In my opinion, the ending is very important.. Performing is like telling a beautiful story on the dance floor, stage, or where ever you are performing. And you take your audience on a journey with you, from the very begging to the end.You have worked hard on your choreography, so its very important to have a good ending.
    In summary, you have the intro or begging of your dance, the body(middle) of your dance to follow with an ending.
    The ending of a performance is just as important, if not more, as the begging.. Very important here..
    When you first enter the room, this is the first time the audience is seeing you and making observations.
    The audience may or may not remember, the begging,or even the middle or body of your performance, but they most definitely will remember the ending. You need to be precise here, and nail it at the end!
    In short, know your music, musicality matters. Plan an outline to your Intro, and ending. Most importantly, be the beautiful, and talented person you are, no matter what. Just smile and enjoy yourself, the audience will pick up on your positive energy and enjoy the journey with you.
    Happy Dancing!
    With love Catherina!

    • Leyla Najma says:

      Wow Catherina…you obviously know how to end a performance!!
      Thank you so much for sharing your eloquent advice and experience. I whole heartedly agree with you that it is very important to nail it and I also think there should be classes given on this very important part of a choreography! Energy is a good one, I didn’t mention it so thanks for adding that in too. Awesome input!

      Hugs and Thanks,


  2. Good one, Leyla! Endings are as important as “goodbye” when you leave someone! And should be practised along with the dancing – it’s amazing how many dancers look wonderful until they’re finished, then they become quite awkward!
    Unfortunately the endings that have stuck in my mind through the years are the wrong kind… the dancer who was great until she just ‘shlepped’ off the stage like she was walking down the street. Or sadly, more than one “tribal fusion”(?) dancers I’ve seen obviously decided the NON-ending was how they wanted to finish – just turning and leaving with no acknowledgement of the applause – which almost seems rude to me.
    Anyway thanks for bringing up the importance of The End!

    • Leyla Najma says:

      Hello Anthea,

      It’s always great to hear from you or I should say see that you have left a comment! I am so glad that you feel the same way regarding endings. I think the ending is the finishing touche of any choreography. That’s the one thing I remember from being in Egypt, all the dancers had great endings and the bands always worked with the dancers to get this message across. Even if it’s recorded music, the finale should have the same impact.

      If you have any suggestions, I bet the gals here would love to read them! Thanks again for taking the time to give us your amazing input!



  3. allison says:

    Good Morning Ladies!

    When it comes to choreography everything has to be strong and well thought out from beginning to end. I think as dancers we sometimes forget and do not put as much thought or effort and take it for granted that the audience will know we are done because the music has stopped and we have stopped dancing. This is not true because the audience could think it is a pause in the music or the music is changing. You have to let the audience know I am done and thank you for watching. A while back I held an event and there was a dancer who did not end her performance. The dancer danced very beautifully, but when it came time for the ending the music just stopped in mid air and she stopped. She had to tell us that she was done. We did not realize her piece had ended and didnt clap until she told us that was it. The dancer handled it well by telling that was all she had and a little humor but several days had gone by and she was still hurt that no one clapped for her. She emailed a few of us and told us that she has never had that happen where no one clapped and we gently explained to her that we did not know she was done and it was in no way our intention not to clapp for her. We helped her through it and told her what she could do next time. So we have to remember that when we are dancing for other dancers the ending still has to be strong. We all learned a lesson that night!

    • Leyla Najma says:

      Hello Allison,

      Great story to share and one that everyone should read. The different aspects of a choreography make it a complete piece of work. Imagine if an artist didn’t put details in a painting to make it come alive or a sculpture that never showed the features of a face. In all art, it has to be thought out completely from beginning to end so that the end result is pure enjoyment and beauty for the viewer. Dance is no exception to this rule and I’m sure that the dancer will never do that again because if an audience of dancers can’t figure it out, an audience of dance enthusiasts definitely won’t get it. Great example and thanks so much for commenting in…you know I love it when you do!!



  4. Morwenna says:

    Hey Leyla,

    Loved this piece. You know how to hit home and make people aware. I have some wars stories too. So wonderful to look back and know that w all learned and most of us the hard way as we had few mentors to show us everything. You are doing a great job. Enjoyed our chat the other day and love you much.


    • Leyla Najma says:

      Hello Morwenna,

      I know I am not the only one who would love to read a story or two so please if you feel like sharing, we would all love it! Thanks for commenting in…I consider you a soul sister so the love is mutual!!

      Hugs and Love,