Conquering the Catwalk

By Pablo Bairan

One of the most distinct and difficult aspects of cosplay in the Philippines is the catwalk. For some, this nerve-wracking experience is often intimidating, and the possibility of embarrassment tends to dissuade beginners. There are, however, tips and tricks that a cosplayer can use in order to improve his or her performance on stage, as well as diminish the possibility of an untoward incident.

Research
Many novice cosplayers, in their excitement, often neglect this aspect. Being able to look like the character you are trying to portray is one thing, but acting and sounding like that character adds an extra layer of authenticity. All this is not possible, however, without adequate research.

Time constraints may prohibit you from watching the entire series or going through the entire game that features the character you want to cosplay, but often you can find key words or phrases that offer credibility to your portrayal. Study poses and facial expressions as well, and attempt to duplicate the nuances that give the character its uniqueness.

Planning and Rehearsal
Practice makes perfect, especially when you practice extensively. Review and replay in your mind over and over what you will attempt to do onstage. As much as possible, practice with the same prop that you plan to use on stage. If that part of the costume is still incomplete, use a proxy that is approximately the same weight and size as the finished product.

Test your props and costume. Often, a certain signature move might be restricted by your costume. You may need to make adjustments on the costume to provide you with the mobility to perform these moves. If this isn’t possible, consider revising the move to fit your costume. Although most people will recognize a signature move, they aren’t as likely to notice a slight deviation.

And finally, collect all the information you can about the cosplay event. Ask the organizers the exact duration that a catwalk participant is allotted, how big the stage is, what materials you are allowed to use (such as background music and special effects), and plan accordingly. If at all possible, inspect the premises beforehand so that you can get an idea of what you have to work with. Even the best choreography will be wasted if the venue or rules do not permit it. Planning will not only make the catwalk go smoother, it will also provide you with an additional confidence boost that will be critical to your performance.

Harness Your Nervous Energy
Stage fright or performance anxiety is very common, but varies in degrees based on different people. There are techniques, however, that will not only help you overcome stage fright, but will also help enhance your performance by harnessing that nervous energy.

First of all, it’s best to feel comfortable with your environment. Study the stage and the audience. If the audience feels intimidating, clear your mind and focus on your performance. When you finally do get on stage, avoid looking at the audience directly. Instead, try to focus on an object directly above the audience. If you have friends in the audience, you can also use them as a mental anchor. Think of the audience as nothing more than just an extension of that group of friends. It helps to visualize someone supportive cheering you on and wanting you to do your best.

The best remedy for stage fright, however, is simply to perform wherever and whenever possible. Even when mingling with the crowd, perform for the cameras and the onlookers. Have fun with the performance offstage, and you will likewise enjoy yourself just as much when you finally take to the stage. This also allows you to practice your moves over and over in front of an audience without it affecting your score.

Improvise
Despite all the preparations in the world, sometimes mistakes will happen. Perhaps you forgot your line in mid-sentence or perhaps you tripped on an exposed wire. Regardless of what happens, don’t fall into the trap of being frozen. If you forget your lines, make something up and try to infuse some humor into it. Some people might notice, but others will think it’s simply part of the performance.

If you do trip and fall, ham it up. Pretend that it was intentional and done for comic effect. Try to react to the fall as the character you are portraying would, and no matter how many times you fall, get back up again.

Creativity is a significant part of a good performance. It is important to inject your own personality into the character you are cosplaying. Make the character your own. If you’re good at pronouncing Japanese words, do so for effect, but if you’re not, simply translate them or make up your own words that will exemplify the theme of that character.

Have Fun
In the end, the best advice that anyone can give you is to simply have fun. Enjoy yourself as you perform, and place yourself in the shoes of the character you are cosplaying. Remember that you aren’t only mimicking that character; you are literally stepping into their shoes. Enjoy the fantasy while it lasts, and make every single cosplay you participate in a memorable one.