Ask Amy: How Do I Make My Dancing More Expressive?

January 22, 2019

I’m at the point in my training where my teachers say that I have the steps down, but my dancing needs something more exciting. They especially tell me to use my face more, but I’m having trouble figuring out how to do that without just plastering on a smile. —Hannah

Being expressive doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Dancers can come across as tense, self-conscious or sullen when they’re too internalized. One of my teachers used to ask, “Amy, where are your diamonds?” whenever I had a blank stare. Imagining that I had a beautiful, sparkly necklace on helped draw my energy up and out—you may want to try it. After all, expressiveness involves not just your face but your whole body carriage.

A helpful way to add color to your dancing is to think about what the music is trying to convey. How does it make you feel, and how can you express that sentiment? That doesn’t mean slapping on a smile or furrowing your eyebrows in despair. Rather, try manifesting the music’s emotional cues in your movement. A soulful adagio will carry different feelings than a peppy petit allégro.

Focus also helps give your dancing more intention. Does your gaze stop at your reflection in the mirror or at the back of your classmate’s head during barre? If so, look out and beyond, whether it’s over your fingers in arabesque or projecting out to an imaginary audience.

As for your face, practice finding a pleasant, relaxed expression. Try opening your mouth a bit, as if taking in a breath, to help release tension in your jaw. This should feel more natural than a forced smile.

Have a question?
Send it to Pointe editor in chief and former dancer Amy Brandt at askamy@dancemedia.com.