Use Your Best Face Onstage

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Zaghareet! Magazine (Jan/Feb 2013)
by Anthea (Kawakib)

Your Dance Looks Good, But What About Your Face?

A recurring issue with new or inexperienced performers is the wrong expression. Yes, I said the “w” word - “wrong”! I know teachers dance around this word so we don’t hurt anyone’s feelings, but let’s just call a spade a spade. As I tell my students, the audience will spend more time looking at a performer’s face than anything else - it’s that important, so we have to get it right.

The face is a magnet for the eyes, and humans are programmed to tune into the expression we see on someone’s face and begin to resonate with the feelings being expressed. So even a beginner can put on a good show if the audience sees - by the dancer’s face - that she’s having fun and enjoying herself, whether that’s actually true or not!

To help student performers develop their “stage face” I’ve found it’s important to instruct them about two things:

  1.  how they should feel onstage
  2. and WHY they are performing in the first place

And if I don’t make a point to do that, then they only think about their moves, their choreography, keeping up with the music, whatever; which means they totally forget about their face. That’s when we see:

It’s not enough to say “Smile!” or “Look up!” Students have to understand WHY they’re onstage, what the impact of their performance will be not just for themselves, but for the audience. When they’re just told, “smile” with no explanation of what FEELING is backing it up, the smile comes and goes, there’s a disconnect between them and the audience, and it’s just not convincing.

Focus OUTWARD, Not Inward

Stop being so self-centered! Yes, that’s right. Shy people are self-centered. I was shy once myself, so I know. One of the reasons people are scared of performing in public is they’re afraid of WHAT OTHERS WILL THINK OF THEM. It’ reminds me of that joke, “Well, enough about me, let’s hear what YOU think of me!”

Recently I saw a pre-performance affirmation mentioned on Facebook, from a very good and well-known performer. Though the affirmations were positive, they were also totally self-centered. This focus is probably fine for a seasoned performer who is sure of her place onstage, but for a self-conscious newbie it is more like adding coals to the fire. Shy people think of themselves too much instead of thinking of others, so the cure is simple: stop thinking about yourself so much!

Performers who consider themselves to be “shy” need to COME OUT of themselves, not focus on themselves even more. They need an affirmation that brings them OUT of themselves to focus on what they can give to the audience.  An affirmation like “I love to entertain and give happiness to the audience” takes the performer OUT of themselves and focuses on what they can GIVE to the audience.

If you enjoy exploring more ideas on rehearsing and performing, see my article “Total Rehearsal Power” and also the article on Mental Preparation during rehearsal where I advise the use of visualization, and affirmations. These are powerful tools for the performer!

Take care and be aware of what you program into your brain!

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