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  1. #1
    V.I.P. karena's Avatar
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    Default Performance facial expression

    Does anyone have any tips on how to not look like a startled rabbit /grimacing idiot when performing? I am new to performing and seriously struggle to even smile, let alone try any other emotion. My serious, concentrating face is just not helping the performance. It also extends to practising. Stupidly the only time I can smile is the point in a choreography where for the opening we are told to have a serious face (it's a dramatic bit), and then I can't help but smirk. Any tips?
    Many thanks

  2. #2
    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    You need to be comfortable with your dance - that is, not worried about what comes next (doesn't mean you need to know what you are going to do - just not panicking).

    For me, I next think about the music and what it says to me; I think about my body and how it is responding; I think about the audience (even if they aren't there) and how much they enjoy it. The last bit works like a feedback loop - you give to them so they do enjoy themselves (there's science behind this all about mirror neurons), their positive response then works on you etc.

    If something in your life isn't working out too well and leaking into your performance then you'll have to work hard to think of something that gives you pleasure.

    Finally, remember to breath as lack of oxygen can do things to your face! One way is to sing along (if there's no lyrics then sing scat).

  3. #3
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Default Facial expressions

    Dear Karena,
    There is, in reality, no such thing as belly dance "performance facial expressions". Authentic dancers let their faces respond to the music in the way that the music moves them. I have video of Nagwa Fouad, for example, with an absolute grimace on her face as she works a drum solo. I have video of Suheir Zaki frowning at one of her musicians, and I have seen Fifi turn look everything from solemn to insanely happy. Mouna usually just smiles slightly or looks REALLY sultry. The idea is to respond with honesty to the music and not try to control your face in the way that westerners often do. We need to lose the phony ubiquitous smile and let our face dance, too.
    Regards,
    A'isha
    Last edited by Aisha Azar; 11-25-2007 at 12:55 AM.

  4. #4
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    Default Don't panic!

    My dear Karena,
    It is really logical to feel nervous in the begining of ur career as a dancer..However,everything is in ur mind! First of all,before start dancing take a big breath & relax! The most importan thing is to feel comfortable with ur dance..Of course this will take a little time since now u feel u have to correspond to ur duty as better as u can.But things are simple!Dance for urself & only,and not for the audience..U're gonna have hundrents of shows in the future,so u'll get used to it! Enjoy what u're doing,try to love ur dance & time by time this confidence and feelings will be showed up to ur face
    Feelings have to come naturally,not intentionally..Don't push urself to smile,this will be fake! Just feel the rythm & have fun!
    hope i've helped u!
    Kisses from Greece
    Natasa

  5. #5
    V.I.P. Mya's Avatar
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    Karena, i understand how you feel, as i often feel that i have the same problem. I'm serious by nature and it shows on my face - i can't force a smile in real life any more than i can on a stage.
    I've come to realise that the music and even the response of the audience either makes you feel like smiling, or it doesn't! when it does, you won't be able to hold it back ( i experienced this for the first time recently while doing a bellygram) and when it doesn't - allow your dancing to express how you feel ; mournful, sultry or whathaveyou.
    i find that this helps me more than trying to plaster on an all-purpose smile. Hope it's of some help to you!

  6. #6
    V.I.P. karena's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone. Mya that's me too! I have a serious face most of the time, because I am serious most of the time, and struggle to be smiley even in normal life. And I think one of the reasons I am serious is thinking and analysing things, and of course I then analyse why I can't smile, so can't smile; viscous circle

    And I appreciate that there's more to it than just smiling. But alas serious face to a fun shaabi piece doesn't , in my view The dancers that I admire the performance of are those that are feeling the music, and expressing this, including beginners with little experience - they have inspired me too.

    I'll try not thinking about it and see what happens. It is also a group dance so I am trying to feed of the others.

    Thanks once again all

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    V.I.P. karena's Avatar
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    Sorry also meant to mention, in case my question was misleading, I'm not asking for all the different expressions to make, therefore not details of all the different performance expressions one can make. Thought from your response Aisha I might have worded it badly. It's more about the facial expression one has when one is performing, which everyone has (assuming their face is exposed, and I suppose they don't have that condition where you can't make facial expressions) and how to work on that part of my technique as much as any other. I don't want a plastered smile any more than a serious startled rabbit grimacing idiot face (now where's the smilie for that??). But I would like to be able to work on how to express emotion through my face, in the same way as I am learning to do so through the rest of my body. I suppose if you naturally do so, it may seem an odd question, but I naturally look mono-serious. Incidentally, I would like to also be able to do it in my everyday life. I have to work really hard to have 'encouraging' face when students are responding to questions in my lectures too. Again as I am thinking, I tend to look stoney serious, which is intimidating for the students. Anyway, I digress.

  8. #8
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    You don't digress at all, Karena. For those of us who were not born with naturally expressive faces and who don't have the status of Fifi and Nagwa that allows us to grimace at will, the whole facial expression thing is a problem. I once had someone ask me, "Why do you look so angry when you dance?" I wasn't angry- I was reacting naturally to dramatic music. Felt one with the music, looked pissed off at the world.

    Facial movements for some of us have to be as carefully practiced as dance movements, and by that I do not mean pasting on a fake smile. If you are born with a naturally expressive and/or pleasant face, count your blessings and give a break to those of us who have one more thing to practice.

    At least my face allows me to be a good poker player- no one can ever figure out if I am really upset about my hand or thrilled to death..

  9. #9
    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by karena View Post
    ). But I would like to be able to work on how to express emotion through my face, in the same way as I am learning to do so through the rest of my body. I suppose if you naturally do so, it may seem an odd question, but I naturally look mono-serious. Incidentally, I would like to also be able to do it in my everyday life. I have to work really hard to have 'encouraging' face when students are responding to questions in my lectures too. Again as I am thinking, I tend to look stoney serious, which is intimidating for the students. Anyway, I digress.
    Many years back I organized a local drama teacher to take a weekend workshop for dancers - just basic body language stuff. She got people to relax and approach this as a completely new set of skills. One interesting thing that came out was that many people who said they were unable to express emotion and dance at the same time actually were unable to express emotion even when they weren't dancing ie it was their acting ability that was the problem not multitasking.

  10. #10
    Administrator Salome's Avatar
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    This is a great topic. Take a (western) song you have a connection to. Maybe it is the song you and your significant other, past or present, shared. Maybe there was a time in your life when you felt depressed or sad and you listened to a particular song because it 'spoke' to you and how you were feeling then... When you are alone in your house or car... when that song comes on the radio - you immediately turn the volume up and all of the feeling and memories you associate with that song are accessible right away. You respond to it with a kind of openness and abandon. I know I do Those feelings, whatever they may be are stamped all over your face and behind your eyes. It's not a mental process. It's a visceral response. That's where you want to get with your dance music. It can be challenging because you probably didn't grow up with Arab and Turkish music with real life experiences and memories attached to certain songs.

    One of the homework assignments I give in a certain workshop is for the dancer to take a piece of music she wants to perform to and on her own time, preferably in private because people feel self conscious in front of others, listen to that piece of music and call up her own real life experiences where she felt the kind of feeling(s) the song is 'talking' about. Once you kind of get that, tap into it, and allow it to happen, then to accompany dancing to the feeling. In the beginning sometimes it can help to look at your face in the mirror - to have a kind of feedback. I think this process can be helpful for some initially. Over time you, hopefully, get to a different place with it in that you develop real life experiences to your dance music and too you don't have to work at it. When the song is burning with that unrequited love or mourning a heart break you are those feelings.

    I think the other challenge with performing/emotional expression is the vulnerability factor. When you openly experience the song emotionally it can be scary doing it in front of an audience that is most likely strangers.
    but I naturally look mono-serious. Incidentally, I would like to also be able to do it in my everyday life.
    I think you have discovered a great exercise for yourself. You could try being more emotionally open with your facial expression in day to day life. It's far less daunting than on stage. Gradually work up to a comfort level with it...

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