30 May 2010

smile, honey

Yes, I know. As women we have heard this over and over again:
"You are prettier when you smile." But you know what, you are prettier when you smile. You know why? Because it makes the recipient feel better about the communication. Why does this matter as a performer? Because as humans we are tuned to look at the face for initial communication. If the face keeps changing expression, we will continue to monitor it until we hit stasis. So, if your performer face is flashing between smile, no smile, smirk*, laugh, frown..it keeps the audience looking at your face-and not seeing you dance. Worse yet, not seeing the group dance.
That's the reason for the "pleasant neutral" face in ATS. We are asking the audience to see us as collective group, not individuals.
So, the very thing you are fearing..."They are all staring at me!", is the very thing that you are cementing when you don't smile (or just hold a pleasant neutral face.)
When you and your group can maintain a consistent, positive expression the audience will start to explore the whole of you dancing together-and all those expensive costume pieces you want to show off.
*Interesting enough, when you smile demurely-gazing down and smiling through closed lips-you give the effect of a grimace or smirk. Try it now-go look in the mirror and see if I'm right.
...
OK, see what I mean? What you want to come across as humility is coming across as 'bored teenager.' Ugh.
I have lots more on this topic but it's late and I want to hear what you have to say.
Until tomorrow... :)

(smiley face pun!)

12 comments:

Shimmydancer said...

I find this a very interesting read actually and would like to know more about your views on this. Reason why is that I've always been told to smile when I perform. I get flack every time I don't have a huge smile but rather a neutral face on.

I can understand where you are coming at when saying that facial features are distracting, but could it mean that too many changes in facial features is what causes it not just facial features itself?

Elizabeth said...

I do see what you mean that a smile draws the audience to the individual, instead of the group. For me, it's really hard not to walk on stage with a big smile, not because I'm trying to smile but just because dancing makes me so happy. What's a girl to do?

Carolena Nericcio said...

For Shimmydancer, not sure exactly what you mean about "facial features"? I think you mean "facial expressions." So yes, facial expressions are distracting if they are changing all the time. It signals to the viewer that a message is being conveyed and they have to keep watching the face until the messaging is complete-thereby missing the purpose of you being on stage-what is happening with the body.
Of course, for a soloist this is what one wants, but for a group it is distracting in a bad way.
Also, for a group, you have to all decide on what the expression is going to be, because if everyone has a different expression..distraction again.

Carolena Nericcio said...

For Elizabeth, I think it's great to walk on stage with a big, sincere smile-that's the best!

wicked wicked me said...

Hi, Carolena
I just found these amazing notepage of yours. Posts ago you where asking about ideas and decided to post mine here because is less crowded ;p
I felt inspired by the one of your dad and the ancestor altar. My dad passed away 2 years ago when i was pregnant. We use to have a difficult but rich relationship. We used to argue a lot. Too much words, too much ego.
He died of cancer and on his last 10 days on Earth he couldn't speak. I was 6 months pregnant and decided to took care of him. It was a blessing and an honor to love him and served him without meaningless discussions.
I'm telling you this, because in my history, my dance, my ideas, my "alternative" way of leaving, he's with me, even if he didn't understood my trip :)
I wish you could write about your life, your love ones, the meaning of the messages our family carries with them, in our blood. The story of your dad.
I thing ATS, your creation, is merely yours. You shared it with us and it's great! but everybody should find there one way of feeling blessed and inspired. So, I prefer to know about you and read between lines how something so brilliant as ATS came along.
Sorry for the extension of the text.
Blessings,
Bella Kala

Mariana Quadros said...

Wow, I'd never read or heard anything about facial expressions in ATS before, and I find it very interesting knowing your personal view on this. All this makes a lot of sense to me, especially the part where too much going on with the expression takes away from the dance, even more so with a group. And to see myself smiling with closed lips on videos looks really weird most of the times!

jennifer said...

Thanks so much for posting this. My issue is WAY too much expression. I have been able to tone it down over the years, working with that calm, neutral face, but I often "react" to a moment of great improv, or piece of music. The idea of this being a distraction to the audience will help, I really want them to enjoy the dance!

Britta Bandit said...

I think I often do the smirk face or no smile at all, mostly because I'm horribly self-conscious about my teeth and I don't like to show teeth when I smile. Is it better then, do you think, to not smile at all?

Carolena Nericcio said...

for Britta, I think it's better to smile, regardless of your teeth. From a distance people are reading your expression, without looking at the dental details.

Amy said...

It's funny, in order to achieve pleasant neutral face I have to smile. I have a naturally down turned mouth, so I have to "do more" to hit that neutral zone. I've also found I have to get my face into it's dance posture as much as my body: instead of letting everything slump I make sure everything is engaged. One thing I can't, and won't, get rid of is a big smile for my troupe mates when we're dancing facing each other.

pippistrella said...

This is so timely for me. I am conflicted between connecting with the audience and connecting with my dance sisters. I go from a smiling face (so happy to dance ATS with my friends and for my family) to a smiling neutral face. The latter seems distant, aloof--regal at best and arrogant at worst. What should we be thinking about as we perform?

elley said...

This is gold. I shared it with my whole tribe.