General Dance Discussion > How do you convey emotion in dancing? Facial expressions etc

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by classy1, Nov 3, 2004.

  1. huey

    huey New Member

    Good to know I'm not alone. So what can we do to fix it?
  2. Lucretia

    Lucretia New Member

    Start up a "pseudo flirt" for 7 minutes is my suggestion!
    It always works.

  3. Rosa

    Rosa New Member

    Smile! :) :cool:

    Rosa :)
  4. mamboqueen

    mamboqueen Well-Known Member

    Are you talking social dancing or competitive? I think with social dancing you should be just trying to express whatever the music is making you feel (although I'll always add the caveat that rumba is especially tough -- maybe even moreso socially than competitively -- I just can't "love the one I'm with"!).

    Some of you probably know Helle Rusholt...she is a most wonderful pro dancer in the Boston area and as far as I am concerned, the Queen of facial expressions. I wish I could emulate her...but it's just not that easy to "lift" someone else's facial expressions. I remember the first time I saw her couldn't take my eyes off of her. She just oozes with feeling the dance and showing it facially.
  5. Twilight_Elena

    Twilight_Elena Well-Known Member

    Very good suggestion. You keep your mind focused on flirting, and many things get better.

    Twilight Elena
  6. saludas

    saludas New Member

    Ruude Vermmer, in his textbook on Latin, makes the excellent point that facial expressions are never appropriate unless they come from the 'moment'.

    Rehearsing a facial expression distorts the 'intent' of the dance. When facial expressions are separated from the music and the movement, they become farcial; and trying to rehearse facial expression a with movement b becomes painfully obvious to the observer, much the same as a bad actor who stands there staring at the protagonist, waiting for his turn to 'act'.
  7. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    I'm with you on that! One thing I can't stand is seeing a facial expression that never changes and is obviously "painted on". I really enjoy watching our instructor dance, and one reason is that she's always got a smile on her face -- and it's completely natural, because she loves what she's doing so much.

    A few suggestions from my own experience:

    1. Practice. If you are having to concentrate on your steps, you will inevitably have a "concentration face". (I tend to put my toungue between my teeth when I'm concentrating on something, which is obviously not a good idea when engaging in an activity where crashing is possible... :headwall: )

    2. Try to listen closely to the music and see what kinds of emotions it stirs within you. One mistake that I think a lot of people who do exhibition routines (particularly newcomers) make is that they let themselves get browbeaten into dancing to a piece of music chosen by a coach or choreographer, despite their not connecting to that music themselves. I can't tell you how many times I've asked a dancer about a routine and been told "I hate that rountine!", and the answer is usually that it's a crummy piece of music for them.

    3. Feel your partner. Okay, stop right there, I know what you're thinking... :rolleyes: What I mean by that is: really let yourself feel the contact. Feel it in your hands; feel the shape of your partner's back in your palm. What does his/her backbone feel like? What does the fabric feel like? What kind of contact do you have with your other hand? If you go to an apart position, what does it feel like when your fingertips are "latched" to your partner's? When you get your leg in between your partner's, what does that feel like on your leg? What does it feel like when you lead a cross-body lead and your partner's hair wisps by your face?

    My theory is: if you can put your head into the dance and the music, the facial expressions will take care of themselves.
  8. lolita

    lolita New Member

    from my point of view, i dont think it is possible to practise your facial expressions, maybe some of em come by time, when u get to be LOSE when u dance.
    for me if ur feeling the music and ur partner quiet well, if ur loving wut ur doing and doing it shows!! ur body movements and momentum as well , affects ur facial expressions.
    if ur dancing to a slow salsa romantica, then it just gives u the ease and the smooth expressions on your face .. , and if ur dancing to an energetic fast song..then no wonder people feel your energy too.

    thats all i got to say:rolleyes:
  9. Cobra Jazz Dance R

    Cobra Jazz Dance R New Member

    I'd chime in that natural and spontaneous are always best, if not always easy to achieve. I hate the detached and aloof look which some smooth ballroom dancers feel it necessary to adopt, with a frozen smile for the lady, reminds me of one of the parade queens on a float.:eek:
  10. Rosa

    Rosa New Member

    Yeah, I hate that, too. When I said "smile" I meant a genuine smile, just expressing your pleasure in what you're doing. :D (And if it's not giving you pleasure, why the heck are you doing it?)

    Having said that, I know what cornutt means by the "concentration face." But as he says, that's just a phase beginners tend to go through and most people soon get over it.

    Rosa :)
  11. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    Have fun.
    Smile because you're having fun.
    Laugh at your own mistakes.

    When I was about to start my very first dance lesson five years ago, I knew that I was going to be terribly incompetent and that I would make one big mistake after another. So I decided that I couldn't afford to take myself too seriously or else I would become frustrated and give up (and part of starting learning to dance was a rebellion against having been branded by my wife as being incapable of ever learning to dance). So I decided to laugh at myself and my own mistakes. It also makes dancing more fun.

    I have a reputation in my dance classes as the guy who's always smiling and laughing.

    I'm not the only one who uses this trick. An older more experienced dancer (f) who's always smiling explained to me that the more frustrated she gets, the bigger she smiles. Recently, I complimented her getting a particular step right with, "Good to see you're not smiling."

    The Lesson of the Steppenwolf:
    "Man muß lachen lernen." ("You have to learn to laugh.")
  12. Rosa

    Rosa New Member

    Couldn't agree more. Because you can't learn without making mistakes. Making mistakes proves that you're putting yourself out there, trying things out. It's the only way to learn. Man cannot learn by theory alone! :cool:

    So laugh and take pleasure in the fact that you're learning! :D

    Rosa :)
  13. huey

    huey New Member

    Happy New Year to everyone and thanks for the comments so far.

    Thinking about my problem, it´s something to do with the eye contact with my partner. When I dance on my own, or in a routine, I am happy with my face. But when I dance with a partner I put too much energy into looking at them, if that makes sense. The energy then comes out in all sorts of strange facial expressions. I want to know how to control this. One answer is to avoid eye contact altogether, but I don't think that would make for fun dances.
  14. Rosa

    Rosa New Member

    Happy New Year to you too, Huey! :D

    The only other thing I can say is, don't try too hard. (And believe me, I've learned that the hard way!) Just be yourself, keep on dancing and see what happens. :cool:

    Rosa :)
  15. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    You do need to maintain eye contact with your partner, but at the same time you must not over-do it, since excessive eye contact is universal inter-species metalanguage for aggressive intent (ie, staring at her will make her uncomfortable and weird her out). You need to find the happy medium, which will vary depending on your partner.

    I happened to have fallen into that happy medium. My wife would nag at me constantly to not stare (but then I never could do anything right for her). However, a friend this past year shared a rest-room conference with me when she told me that the other women in the class were complimenting me on keeping the right amount of eye contact while the other guys wouldn't even look at them. And in discussions either here or in a local swing-dance forum faulted a competitor who is a great dancer, but his downfall is that he doesn't look at his partner, which detracts greatly from the performance.

    So, the best that I can offer (not knowing what it is that I'm supposed to be doing right) is that you look at her and smile, glance around to check how the floor traffic is, look at her and smile, etc. When you hit a break, look at her with an appropriate look on your face (surprise, mischieviousness, whatever you're feeling). Gauge her responses and get a feel for her comfort level with what you're doing. At certain points in various moves, it's more appropriate to be looking at her; it seems to be more formalized in West Coast Swing, where I've been told as a general rule that you look at each other on the even counts (count 4 seems to be a biggy). The mood of the song may call for more or less eye contact; salsa feels to me like there should be more eye contact.

    I hope that made sense.
  16. Dancebug

    Dancebug Well-Known Member

    Here is a trick that my first dance instructor taught me for the kind of dilemma you have. He told me to look between his eye brows if I was not comfortable in looking into his eyes and dancing at the same time. He explained that I would feel obligated to smile or something and get distracted if I looked into his eyes but if I looked between his eye brows, I could feel more relaxed and dance better without any distraction. I never had a chance to try it myself because I soon found my own partner that I got too comfortable with too quickly.
  17. huey

    huey New Member

    Thanks Wise and bug,

    That's the sort of advice I was looking for.
  18. Shooshoo

    Shooshoo New Member

    There's a difference between facial expression while social dancing and while performing or in competition. On social dancing, I think you just show what you feel and don't think about it. If you don't enjoy the person you're dancing with it might as well show so you don't dance with them again.
    If you're performing or in competition, I think it is expected to show facial expressions related to the song or if you're trying to act a scene. It's like performing or acting.
    I have found that when I know the steps better and dance easier, then I have time and effort to look at the partner. But when I'm practicing the step, I just concentrate to get it right and then I have a very serious look.
    So I guess if you're performing or competing, after one excels in the step, then I'm sure one will be able to feel the music/scene more.
  19. mamboqueen

    mamboqueen Well-Known Member

    You're right on. If you don't have to focus so much on steps/technique, it opens up "brain space" to emote the music. Which is why I have no real problem with swing.
  20. swingdancer

    swingdancer New Member

    If you're worried about facial expressions for social dancing...stop it, just enjoy the dance, that will end up emoting on your face and make the dance that much better.

    If it's competition or performance related, try taking an acting class. The music is the third partner in a dance, you're movements are trying to emulate what the music has to could fake the emotions but that tends to come out and results in a contrieved and rehearsed expression. Like the rest of the dance, you want your face to look natural despite all the practice.

    An acting class will help you learn to tap into motivation and give you exercises for practicing certain expressions. Like dance steps they can be put into muscle memory.

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