In a dimly lit room full of whispering lips, a dancer enters. Quietly and gracefully she places herself stage left and smoothly melts to the ground. The music begins. Words encompass the theater with no accompaniment of instruments. The singer’s words are sad and lonely. The dancer’s gaze moves from her feet up to the audience. Tears are in her eyes. You can feel the abandonment this dancer feels. As an audience member, you are trapped. You can’t help but believe in this girls story.
Growing up, dance has been the way I tell my stories. There is a power that your body has that no other method of storytelling does. The body is honest, genuine, and has first-hand experience with emotions. As dancers, we are trained to put ourselves into the song. I have danced to songs about love, sorrow, abuse, and hatred. No matter what the song or what the story, I find it deep inside myself and show the audience how my body reacts.
A key component to storytelling is expressing emotions properly. A dancer only has 1.5 to 3 minutes to tell an entire story. No explaining. Just music and movement.
Here are a few ways dancers show their emotions:
When showing anger, the moves become sharp and quick. The dancers face becomes tense. The breath of the dancer tends to be short and dramatic.
A dancer portraying sadness will perform movements similar to anger, but they’ll draw them out. There tends to be more fluidity of the body, and an exploration of space.
Movements during this emotion are generally quick. It is a great combination of sad and angry.
Showing love (or loss of love) can be most difficult. This is one that is best done when there is true first-hand experience. Remembering how love or loss made you feel can shine through on stage, and it can be the most believable dance anyone has seen. Smiling, smirking, and showing remembrance is how this is best done.
(There are many more, but we would be here forever!)
Dance can be one of the most challenging forms of storytelling, but also the simplest. It takes practice and is something a dancer must care about and invest themselves in.
Dance is about exploring what is inside of you and sharing it with the audience. Make the audience live the story for the moments you’re on stage. Captivate them.
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Megan Marthens is my insanely talented niece. She’s a graduate of Grand Valley State University and now teaches dance in Michigan. She just started a blog about her experience as a teacher, and you should definitely check it out! Diaries of a Dance Teacher
If you are interested in having Megan write a guest post for YOUR blog, you can contact her at email@example.com