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  1. #11
    Moderator Yshka's Avatar
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    Long post alert.
    very interesting topic. I was like that too and still am sometimes. I don't really know how to explain how I am getting over this but I'll share my experiences nevertheless.
    I've always been quite shy and being bullied for years as a child taught me to very well hide my emotions and not express any kind of thing to not stand out. When I started dancing this wasn't a problem yet, but it hit me when my first student performance came up and my teacher told me I should show some more expression while dancing. I was afraid as hell to show any emotion, but for this one time it was ok to plaster on a fake smile. I found I couldn't even fake it since I thought my face looked awful like that and was afraid others would notice that, too.

    I'd been struggling with it, but started trying looking at myself in the mirror just making faces, all kinds of faces from genuine emotion to just rediculous faces, trying to get myself to adjust to the way my face looks when I do not look serious (I also am naturally a serious person so I tend to frown when doing serious things, like people asked me why I looked angry while taking a math exam?? I was thinking and concentrating lol).

    It cost me a lot of time to actually get used to looking at my own face in other ways then serious-old-me. I did get used to it by keeping on trying. A few people have told me to just express whatever I feel to certain songs without thinking it would look weird, but then a drama teacher once told me to smile on stage in a way that I thought would look too big or almost rediculous. She said nobody would notice. I tried this one time and it worked out. Not because it was rediculous or big, but because faking a smile seems to make our brain think we're actually happy. The natural smile popped up after a short while. I had trouble (again) getting used to this natural smile too, but trying to do this more often and trying also to smile in real life (because I too am not all smiley by nature) really helped me out. Thinking positive things and/or trying to smile more often may make a difference.

    When it came to also being able to show other emotions than a smile the learning to make faces without being embarassed helped though sometimes it remains difficult for me.
    For dancing and emoting to music, getting to know the lyrics of songs I'd dance to helped a lot. Connecting the mood of the lyrics to the sound of the song to get used to the way certain emotions are put to music in Arabic, Egyptian and Turkish music, like certain sounds or certain ways of singing might have to do with certain emotions. Also I'd try to connect this mood and lyrics to things I have felt myself, so I woulnd't completely have to tap into something that is too far away from me if that makes any sense. I started this when a Turkish girl in that same first student performance said one time when listening to a piece of music "oh my, that such a sad melody". She understood this because she knew the music and had been brought up with it, she understood how the music conveyed certain emotions as some of us just KNOW in Western or Russian or Chinese music when something sounds sad or happy (being used to it all your life). At that time being a baby dancer I just thought that piece sounded mysterious and foreign, and I wasn't quite able to make out why it sounded sad. Only listening to lots of songs with different emotions, different lyrics, different sounds but underlying similarities that one can only start to hear when studying certain music over and over, has helped me to really understand what the nature of a song might be and how it makes me respond, though it's still difficult sometimes.

    Getting to know the music and now being able to dare and express myself, responding naturally with my own expressions and my own face helps me in just letting go when I am on stage, I now have the courage to just show what I'm feeling in the moment. This was not a case of learning how to act for me, but more of personal, even emotional boundaries that had to be crossed so to speak.
    Last edited by Yshka; 11-26-2007 at 01:43 AM.

  2. #12
    V.I.P. karena's Avatar
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    Long response alert - I've been thinking...

    Thank-you so much everyone. It is great to know I am not alone. I did perform on Sunday (it's only a low level thing), and was pleased to see in the photos there was sometimes a vague smile. Ironically (probably fairly predicatably too) when we are all on stage at the end for an informal finale thing I could smile more. Still a struggle though. I was going to sing along to the lyrics and forgot , and the audience was pretty much entirely dark. We did get some good energy going in the group first which I think helped. I didn't feel so stressed.

    I think maybe I had a similar thing, Yshka, but in a smaller way. I do remember as child smiling for photos and being told to show my teeth (I was smiling with my mouth closed). I remember being really confused as I thought I had misunderstood what a smile was, and so putting my teeth together and drawing apart my lips in a strange grimace, whilst also trying to curve my mouth (try it!). There are lots of photos of me as a child like this. I think this maybe made me think that serious was the best face as I knew how to do that, and it wasn't confusing. And I am naturally pretty serious anyway. I also struggle to pull other faces in a mirror; I tried smiling yesterday and thought I looked so ridiculous I had to stop. I know I can smile naturally, but it's hard to ever catch yourself in a mirror then. I know I also struggle to show other emotion in dance too - there are some Arabic songs which I find very sad, and as emotional as sad western ones, but I always say in my head that dancing to something as emotional as that is beyond me. I suppose putting up my own barriers again (and I am a new dancer so they may be appropriate barriers for a public performance). I think getting to know the music is a good idea - I listen to Arabic music alot, but I do tend to veer mostly to shaabi, I suppose it seems more accessible, so I shall diversify.

    Thanks I will try that exercise, Salome. It looks like it will also help with improvising - it links to an exercise my teacher gave us with improvising. I used also to be able to struggle to improvise, but am getting better. I think that is also to do with opening up; I worry about doing something wrong. But I'm not really at the stage where people are going to condemn me for that anyway.

    Acting workshop sounds good Kashmir. I will have to see what I can sort out. Have been racking my brains to think if I know anyone but have drawn a blank at the moment. I think it is true that it is the expressing emotion thing rather than the multi-tasking thing.

    And poker sounds like a good move for me too Shanazel! I am also good at glaring looks (unintentionally) when people do something socially 'unacceptable' eg dropping litter. Has anyone ever read the Midwich Cuckoos? That's me! I could hire myself out to the local council and glare at wrong doers

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by A'isha Azar View Post
    We need to lose the phony ubiquitous smile and let our face dance, too.
    Regards,
    A'isha
    Face dancing...don't know that I ever thought of it that way but I like it.

    But the discussion does make me wonder about my facial expressions. I've been seeing a counselor and she mentioned to me about in life in general I should be aware of my facial expressions because I tend to look uncomfortable...I don't think too much about my expressions because I've only been involved in two actual performances so far and the rest of the time it's "just practice"...ocassionally I'll "practice" my expressions. It has never felt fake when I have done it...but I think perhaps I've been making a mistake by saying it's just practice.

  4. #14
    Member Chani's Avatar
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    This thread has been very helpful to read.

    I have my dance debut coming up and I wondered what to do about this also. I am not a smiler generally. As a very beginner I have to concentrate hard (although I am trying to relax more) and I look so very serious and almost like I am in pain when I catch myself in the mirror at practice. When I try to smile in the mirror it's not a happy look - more like strained.

    I'm not happy with my teeth for one thing - although they aren't terrible to look at I've had a lot of dental work - braces as a kid for many years and then a series of root canals as an adult again spread out over many years. It's made me not so much friends with my mouth as I used to be and I virtually stopped smiling with my mouth and began smiling mostly with my eyes. Now that everything is in order I must try to make an effort to smile more all the time and, of course, when performing. The other thing is that my teeth stain easily so even when I do smile it's with my lips closed. To give myself more confidence I'm having them whitened.

    The music I am dancing to does make me feel really happy and relaxed inside so after reading these posts I am going to try to make my face mirror what I feel inside rather than try to create a performance face like I had been previously attempting to do.

    Chani

  5. #15
    Member Makeda Maysa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Salome View Post
    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.
    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...
    Those are great exercises, Salome. I once took a workshop where were instructed to close our eyes and dance our feelings and it just clicked with me. I've not had the same problem with appropriate facial expressions since. I now dance what I feel and my face follows, rather than focusing on making my face "look appropriate."

  6. #16
    Member Mandii's Avatar
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    The one feedback that has been costant through my belly dancing has been that I have great facial expressions. Its all about relaxing and having fun. Just RELAX!!!!!!! IT helps a great deal!!! Good Luck!

  7. #17
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    This is a very interesting discussion! Some hints about the topic can be found from Shira's site: Dear Shira: Expression and Sensuality
    I have always had very expressive face (and hands ) but I still have to practice facial expression and it is great to hear some tips. One thing that I have realized is that learning to be expressive is hard and sometimes frustrating work. I have not peformed as a belly dancer yet (though I have done so as a singer) but I anyway try to practice facial expressions.

    I practice for example by listening to music and sitting in front of a mirror while trying to react to the music with my face only - or better said, I'm trying to put my soul to the music and express with my face how I feel. If my feelings seem too mild to make my face react, I try to search more extreme emotions: very sad - very happy.

    I am a quite smiley person, but when it comes to performing arts, I have always found myself to be more home with sad/dramatic pieces than with humorous/joyful ones, so for me it has been quite difficult to learn to smile while performing

  8. #18
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    Default facial expressions breakdown video



    Finally a talkie on facial expressions for bellydance lol. Kind of thoroughly explains facial expressions...works for me
    Ive seen other dances having facial expressions...but i never quite knew bellydance can haf expressions too, i see most dancers smiling
    Last edited by mickeyxena; 08-11-2008 at 10:55 AM.

  9. #19
    V.I.P. karena's Avatar
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    Thanks for taking the time to post that mickeyxena

  10. #20
    Member Bellydance Oz's Avatar
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    I think the biggest secret to having good facial expressions is to remember that your "muscle memory" extends to your face.

    You practice and practice your routine so the pattern of movements becomes automatic. If you do it with your eyes downcast, or with a frown of concentration, that becomes part of the pattern.

    If you then go on stage and try to look up at the audience, or add a smile, that disrupts the pattern - you immediately feel uncomfortable, or make mistakes.

    Remember that your facial muscles are like any other muscle, so when you're putting your routine together, you must always dance it like you would on stage, including your face, right from when you start learning it.

    I don't like dancing in front of mirrors for that very reason - because I find looking in the mirror all the time distracting, I tend to look down or away. Then I find that I do the same when I'm performing, which means I'm not looking up and engaging the audience.

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