Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Talking Your Dance

I've heard people say you can't teach stage presence (or learn it).  I'm inclined to disagree.  Not only because I teach it, and have seen and heard about the successful results firsthand on hundreds of students, but I believe it to be something different than an "it" factor*.  Stage presence, in my opinion, is about being able to not only own the stage, but to be able to also successfully engage your audience and hold their attention.  Essentially it is a technique, a skill that needs to be developed and practiced. 

I believe that learning and performing dance is like learning and speaking a language.  The individual movements are the words, the posture and attitude the grammar and punctuation, and the music dictates how the sentences are put together and form paragraphs.  You put it all together with something to say, and you have dance.  Some folks get hung up on just doing the moves, so their dance becomes a string all nouns or verbs. Others are just able to do the expression, so it's like screaming but without any real content to it. Others haven't heard the music fully, so it's like a poor translation. No one starts out speaking the dance fluently, but with focus, it becomes clearer and stronger, more comfortable - going from basic complete sentences to vivid poetry. And with fusion, you're mixing languages, so you have to be mindful of how they come together - some words can be appropriated smoothly, and others lose meaning. 

When it comes to putting all of this on stage, you're essentially having a conversation with the audience - and the best performances are not one-sided, but dynamically engage the audience.  As we all know, good conversation is not one-sided, it involves both speaking and listening, and there must be a desire to share something interesting.  It's this ability to speak clearly to your audience, and acknowledge them, that makes for great stage presence.  If you're just up there to talk to yourself, then you're missing the point.

So, once again (because I say this in nearly every workshop), I ask you, what are you saying with your dance? What do you want to say?

*(The "it" factor being the phenomenon where someone just seems to have everything together, no matter what they do - it's a combination of elements that just seem to make a magic mix of goodness seemingly without effort... )


  1. I love the "speaking dance" analogy. I am going to have to steal that ( giving you credit , of course). :)