What Actors Can Learn from Dancers!

As I watch my students develop their emotional involvement in a scene or in a song, I’ve noticed that those who dance are amazingly more expressive in their phrasing, gestures, and honesty.  We all know that body and mind are connected and our emotional state can trigger all kinds of physical responses.  Most beginners struggle with physical tension due to self consciousness. As performing artists we all have emotional baggage we bring to our work that either helps us connect with a lyric or script or can scare us from exploring possible choices. You can see it instantly by observing the body.

We communicate 80% or more with body language, tone of voice and facial expression.  Dance training teaches us about mastering and knowing our physical instrument.  How does your body move, what does your voice sound like, how do you respond to fellow actors in a scene?  What is going on with your breathing and heart rate?  Dance instruction, especially ballet and modern technique can make any movement look effortless.  Watch how simply a ballerina completes multiple spins around the stage or how figure skaters land a jump so lightly.  The unenlightened never realize how many hours of training it took to be in such control of every movement. They can make the technique behind it totally disappear.  Dancers have an edge over other performers because they are in total control of their bodies.  A triple threat performer allows the body to respond fully to emotional states without tension or artifice.

All of us should attend a ballet performance.  Watching performers tell a complete and emotional story totally through movement to music is inspiring. Ballet is a very disciplined art form and training never ends if a dancer is making it a career.  Only by working continuously on technique, strength training, rehearsals, daily stretching can a dancer forget it all when its time to just dance.

As a vocalist and actor, we can apply the same principals if we want to be totally expressive.  Along with voice and acting classes I encourage everyone to take a ballet class to find their physical and emotional center. Also, if we are to take on a period piece in a musical or drama we will be better able to tune in to the physicality, vitality and grace of these characters.  Even a stretch or yoga class can relieve tension and increase physical awareness.

Watch the singers and actors who really inhabit their “space” when performing.  You will see they are confident in their artistic choices and all gestures will be completely natural yet fully expressed.

See you in class!