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Q&A: How to smile in performance.

posted in: performance, questions, tips | 0

Q. So, I was watching Kami Liddle’s Tribal Fest 8 performance again today…one of the (many) things I have always liked about this performance, and her performances in general, is her lovely smile! It looks so wonderful!

How do I get that (or any) smile? Yes, I do smile when I perform and practice, but it looks nothing like that. When I ask a friend after I am through with a performance, “did I smile?” Their response is typically a variation of “Yes, you had this cute little smirk smile.” What? I was smiling! I felt my face moving and forming smile-type pose. And when I look at a performance on video, I see that, indeed, it is more of a “smirk”. So, I then go “drill” a smile in front of the mirror. But I don’t like the way I look….

Any tips for working on a better smile?

A. Smiling in performance is just one facet of “emoting”–a difficult but valuable skill. And yes, you can learn it!

For one, don’t expect your smile to look like anyone else’s. That will bum you out in the long run. But more importantly…


Actors know this–to convey an emotion with the body/face for a performance takes work!  It seems like it should be so “natural”, but more often than not it ain’t. It feels really goofy to smile in a mirror, but it helps you learn how it looks. Then try the same thing away from a mirror and feel how that FEELS. Keep working back and forth between mirrors and feeling it. Then try performing for video with that same smile and see how it looks and feels.

Another consideration: don’t just smile. Think of things that make you feel like smiling.
A fake smile looks fake. A genuine smile radiates beyond where you think you could possibly reach.
Genuine smiles come from genuine emotion, and not from “poses”. So when you practice your faces, and practice dancing, bring joyful thoughts to your mind which induce genuine smiles, and the audience will not only see it, but *feel* it.

Follow Shay:

Shay Moore is the director and primary instructor at Deep Roots Dance in Seattle, WA. She loves writing, movies, costuming, knitting, cooking, and bellydance to the moon and back again; and loves her amazing husband and doggies even more than that.

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