One of the most captivating parts of any performance is the dancer’s ability to convey emotions and make the audience feel the performance in the same way they do. Because of this, an understanding of the ways that emotion is injected into a performance is a valuable resource to any dancer and one that should be taught gently as often as possible.
Tap Into Real Experiences
Think about the emotions that should be portrayed in the performance you are working on with your students. Tell them to think of a time when they experienced that emotion and to keep that moment with them as they perform. For instance, if the piece they are dancing to has a moment of fear, ask students to think of a moment when they were afraid or to think of something they are afraid of. You do not need the students to tell you what they are afraid of or to describe the moment. They just need to connect the movements and feelings of the dance to emotions they are familiar with and have already experienced.
Don’t Forget the Face
When teaching dancers how to keep their hands graceful, you likely tell them to envision their hands as an extension of the arm, light and flowy. Teaching dancers to be conscious of their facial expression works in a similar way. Encourage dancers to picture their face as an extension of the movements of the rest of their body. It is a center where emotion can be read most easily and should be a point where all the emotion they are trying to convey in their other movements comes together.
See the Music as a Partner
It does not matter if you are working with students on a solo, duet, trio, or even a large group performance. Encourage your dancers to imagine that the music is their partner. They must work with it in movement, rhythm, and emotion. This does not mean that they should pretend they are dancing with an additional person. Instead, they should treat the music as they would a partner, working with it to enhance the power of the emotional value of the song’s movements and their own.