How to Bow (And What Your Bow Says About You)

Written by Pandora Scooter

August 3, 2017

Recently, I’ve noticed that a lot of young actors and dancers could use some help bowing. As a performer, bowing is a necessity after every show, and it’s a tradition that actors and dancers take a bow or a curtsey, so why not learn? Bowing is the way that the performer has to acknowledge the support, validation, love, adoration, celebration, and/or praise from the audience with humility and grace!

Bowing is essentially accepting the applause and whatever else the audience is offering to you as praise (flowers, gift cards to Cracker Barrel) — and you are responding by bowing.  It’s a conversation with the audience, and you must be present for it. Don’t know how to bow? Here’s how!

Simple bow.

Stand in neutral, hands at your sides, feet shoulder width apart, then take in the audience’s applause for a few beats and as if saying in response, “Thank YOU!” bend at the hips til your back is parallel with the stage and your arms are at your sides.  Hold for a beat or two and then stand back up.  If warranted, go to another part of the stage and repeat.

Alternative:  Some people like to bow at the hips until their hands fall onto their feet.  I think this looks more like a stretching exercise than a bow, but it is some people’s preference.

Dip Curtsey

Curtsies are hardly used these days, but it’s good to know how to do them either for fun or for serious. To do a dip curtsey, from a standing position, place your feet at a 90 degree angle with one foot’s heel meeting the other foot’s arch.  Lower your head and bend your knees while holding your skirt (or pants) out for the bow.  This is usually done as a quick dip.

Full Court Curtsey

From a standing position, place one foot at a 90 degree angle behind the front foot, (the heel of the front foot should be touching the arch of the back foot).  Then, lift the gown (or pants, if you’re making a joke) and bring the back foot forward to a point directly in front of you.  Swing the pointed foot around in a full circle and bend your knee until your shin is behind you on the ground.  Lower your torso and bow your head.  Do the movements in opposite order to stand up.

Pandora Scooter is a national touring performer.  She’s written and performed 13 solo shows. Most recently, she wrote, produced and starred in a feminist punk rock musical called wRETCH as part of the Fresh Fruit Festival.  On the faculty of the esteemed Terry Knickerbocker studio, she has developed a methodology to script analysis about which she has written a book.  She is a native of Washington DC and lives with her fiance and daughter in central New Jersey.
Thumbnail: Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash