Face-Off! 10 Tips to Control and Drill your Facial Expressions While Dancing

9:37 AM

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As you sit in the audience staring up at the stage, what do you see? A dancer gracefully floating, seamlessly completing her routine. The song is somber and slow. Her movements are practiced and perfected. But you notice that it is not just her body that enthralls you, her face tells a story too. You can see the deep connection she has with the song and dance through her thought-provoking facial expressions.

Dance judge and choreographer Eddie Strachan explains that facial expressions add another dimension to the performance, allowing the audience to connect on a deeper level.

Knowing this, let us step out of the audience members seat and into your dancing shoes. You, as the performer, must consider every muscle movement as you perform, including the 43 muscles in your face.

Here are 10 ways to control your facial expressions while dancing. Mastering these will greatly enhance your overall performance come showtime.

#1 - Use these four physical techniques to help your face become more engaged
  • Relax your jaw and tongue inside your mouth
  • Lift your eyebrows a little
  • Use your eyes! Real and sincere facial expressions have more to do with the eyes than the mouth.
  • Breathe in through your nose, and let the breath escape through your mouth which should be slightly opened already from relaxing your jaw.
#2 - Study the music! Understanding the song, it’s lyrics, it’s tone and it’s message will help you to feel the music as you perform with it. This will in turn allow you to move naturally with the beat and connect with the song. When you allow the face to naturally match the energy of the music and the movement, your own enthusiasm for the dance will shine through.

Photo credit Dubna Fantazia on Visual Hunt  CC BY

If you feel a real and raw emotion as you dance, do not try and conceal it. However, you cannot always rely on things happening perfectly during the one performance, so consider the next tip.

#3 - Practice your facial routine!
Just like you would practice your dance routine, you should also practice your facial expression routine. Muscle memory is achieved through repetition. Practice performing with your smile as you enjoy the dance, or with your sad eyes as you feel the dance. This will prove especially useful during a performance where you are nervous - which is totally natural - because the muscle memory can assist you.

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#4 - Start implementing facial exercises into your daily routine.
Just like you would work out to train and strengthen your body muscles, you can perform daily exercises that will help strengthen your facial muscles. Search for ‘face yoga’ or ‘face exercises’ that provide you with a number of exercises you can begin right away.

#5 - Try practicing different emotions. Knowing how to match the correct facial expression to the mood of the performance is a great skill to learn. Use a mirror to practice showing different emotions in your face.

Photo credit: Dr. Alexey Yakovlev on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND

#6 - Avoid looking in pain, or showing the ‘oops’ face. Having these new and strengthened facial muscles will assist you in schooling your features when you might experience discomfort or if you realise you did the wrong move. Remember, the audience doesn’t know your routine, so be confident and don’t let the mistake show on your face.

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7. Use eye contact. If looking at the audience and judges in their eyes proves difficult, then look just above their heads. They will be none the wiser and you will be creating a deeper connection with the audience.

Photo credit: jim.choate59 on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND

8. Record yourself. It’s important to know what you actually look like, not just what you think you look like. Record yourself and watch it back so you can personally critique yourself.

-Note from Miss Haley: this works so well! I did this all the time when I was training and it makes a huge difference! read more about this technique here. 

9. Ask for feedback. You’re not in this alone. Ask your fellow dancers or your teacher for their advice, they will be more than happy to watch and help you.

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10. Finally, Relax!
You are dancing after all! Enjoy your performance. Let it shine in your eyes, lift the corner of your mouth and smile. 


Miss Haley and the Australian Performing Arts Conservatory wish all of you the best of luck on your upcoming shows! 

About the Australian Performing Arts Conservatory -

The Australian Performing Arts Conservatory (APAC) is an accomplished performing arts educator located in Brisbane, Australia. APAC is dedicated to the core values of Excellence, Integrity, Industry Reliance, Inspiration, Innovation, and Challenge. Find out more about APAC here.

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