Expression in dance is one of my favorite things to talk about. Like artistry, expression brings movement to life. But what sets expression apart is that it makes the dancer human; it’s what truly allows the audience to connect with the experience, journey, or story of the piece. That’s why expression in dance is such an important skill to master. But HOW do you master or even practice this skill?
Everyone seems to have their own idea of where expression really comes from, whether that’s dynamics, weight, musicality, form, etc. But to truly utilize expression in dance, I’ve found that all of these qualities are integral to the most important concept of expression: emotion. Emotion allows audiences to feel empathy and share in the experience of the piece, and it’s influenced by nearly every quality of movement imaginable.
There are several different approaches to finding emotion and expression in dance. In my experience, the BEST way to find and express emotion is to understand the qualities of movement that communicate an emotion. Ultimately, each emotion influences the body’s movement differently, creating distinct qualities of movement that can be not only recognized, but FELT by an audience. As a performer, it’s up to you to research, practice, and discover how to communicate emotion through your movement. Above all, communicating emotion and expression in dance comes from being extremely specific in how you move; the more specific you can be about the quality of your movement, the more information you can give your audience, and the more they will be able to understand and connect with the experience.
Like anything worth mastering, emotional expression in dance takes a ton of practice, trial and error, mistakes, and hard work. But I can assure you that putting in the work to understand the qualities of movement that communicate an emotion will allow you to more accurately and consistently communicate with your audience. In its simplest form, dance can always be boiled down to the movement the body is making, and having a firm understanding of how to use that movement is the BEST way to ensure you can communicate with your audience.
Want to learn more about expression in dance? Check out this blog post on stage presence.