November 29, 2021

Are You A Good Audience Member?

by Magna Gopal

When you attend a dance social with performances, what do you do when they say “It’s showtime!”?

Some people slowly mosey their way to the dance floor, satisfied to watch from wherever they are. I, on the other hand, usually make a dash to the front row.

Front Row Seats

There are 2 reasons I like to be in the front:

  1. I’m vertically challenged; the only way I can actually see the shows is if there’s no one in front of me.
  2. I want to be able to give something back to the performers.

As a performer myself, when I’m in the audience, I see my role as two-fold

  1. I am there as a spectator for the entertainment.
  2. I am there to show appreciation for the effort.

I’m not just talking about applauding at the end of a show. That should be a given even though some people could use a lesson or two on how to do that properly.

What I’m referring to, specifically, is the energy the audience projects during a show.  Have you heard the term RBF, “resting b**** face?” Well, I call this the RAF, “resting audience face.”

Watching a performance at a salsa social is not like watching a show in a blacked out theater where the performers can’t see anyone at all. In a salsa social, and at most dance events, the audience members and their RAFs are just as visible to performers as the performers are to the audience.

Are you bored?

I recently had a conversation with a performer backstage which encouraged me to address this issue.

I was wishing her good luck and told her I would be right in front with a big smile cheering her on. She said “Thank you for that. I will look for you. The hardest thing about performing is seeing people in the audience who look bored.”

close up photo of man yawning
Photo by cottonbro on

Maybe, when you’re watching a show, you’re not bored at all. Maybe you’re really enjoying the show.

But do you have any idea of how you actually look when you’re watching shows? Are you aware of the energy you’re transmitting, and the message you’re sending, through your facial expressions, your posture, your subtle gestures, or even blatant actions like checking your phone and having conversations during a performance? What about your RAF?

Maybe you think it doesn’t matter what you look like, personally, because you just blend in to the collective whole of an “audience.”

As a performer, I want you to know, that is not the case. When we scan the audience, we see you. We pick up on those details. And they have an impact on us, even if we are capable of dismissing them and giving our best, regardless. 

So, the next time you’re in the audience, especially if you’re in the first few rows, err on the side of camaraderie, assume the performers can see you clearly, and give them some positive energy!

Watching shows at a congress

How to be a better audience member

Maybe you’re already one of those people who watches shows with a huge smile and gleaming eyes. If so, you’re doing great! Keep it up.

If you’re not sure what you’re projecting, and would like to be a better audience member, here are a few suggestions:

  • Watch the show as if it’s your friend performing and you’re the only one in the audience.
  • Make sure your RAF is not an RBF.
  • If you like the show, smile because you like it.
  • If you don’t like the show, smile because you recognize the effort.
  • Try not to stand there with your arms crossed like a critical judge.
  • Have your conversations in between shows, not during.
  • If you’re not recording, leave your phone in your pocket. Your notifications will not disappear and an immediate reply is not as urgent as you think it is.
  • Think of what you can give back.
  • Be present.
  • Be encouraging.
  • Be appreciative.

Shows happen so quickly, but those 3 mins on stage require months of effort to prepare, rehearse and present. Your undivided attention and positive vibes mean a lot, and go a long way, in showing your appreciation for that effort.

If you can’t, or are unwilling to do that, please, don’t fight your way to the front. Leave those spaces for the audience members a performer desires and deserves.

Mpowered Reflections

  • Are you aware of your facial expressions, your posture, and your energy when you’re in the audience?
  • Do you think it matters what you look like as a spectator? Why or why not?
  • What do you believe is the role of an audience member?

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below. (Please scroll to the bottom)


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