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Importance of Body Language in Acting

Acting is an art, in which an actor’s body is its instrument. Like any instrument, the body must be optimally tuned to give an effective performance. This is what my coach told me on my first day of acting class.

There are many factors that tune the body but most important of them is body language.

Why body language is important? Because of its proven fact that 55 percent of the communication between humans is through the body. Rest is voice tone (38 percent) and words (7 percent).

In my short career as an actor, I have learned one thing and that is our body shows what we think and feel. No matter how much you try to hide your feelings if you are feeling it, then your body is showing it.

Thus, the importance of body language in action becomes even greater. If you master body language, it could be the most effective tool in your armory as an actor.

Effects of body language in acting

Body language seems a good tool in acting but the bad thing is its hard to tame.

The big reason being, the body language you currently possess is the result of years and years of conditioning. Your surroundings, relationships, and events have shaped your current body language.

And in order to improve upon it, you will have to knows what’s a bad thing about your current body language.

What I mean by bad things is what negative signs your body shows. These negative signs are generally a turnoff for casting agents.

What are these negative signs that you need to be aware of?

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  • Crossed or joined hands are bad signs.
  • The shaking of legs is a bad sign.
  • If you keep looking away or down is a bag sign.
  • Drooped shoulders are a bad sign.
  • Breathing through the mouth is a bad sign.
  • A choked voice is a bad sign.
  • Playing with hair is a bad sign.

This all signs are a big hindrance to your performance. They do not allow you to be seen. If your audience is not able to see your feelings how do you expect them to like it?

If you want to see how these negative signs hinder your performance just try one.

Try doing a scene or dialogue with hands crossed.  And either do it in front of a mirror or shoot it. Then do the same scene with open hands.

You will immediately notice there is a big difference between the two scenes. If you can’t tell the difference, show it to your friends or family and ask which version they like.

I am sure they will tell you open hand one is more convincing.

You might argue if you are playing a character, then you will use a character’s physicality. Yes, for characters you might use different physicality but these signs are involuntary. You won’t even realize you are doing them.

Whatever amount time you spend on creating a completely different character, there will always be you in the character.

So, How You Deal With These Involuntary Bad Body Language Signals?

You have to understand that these signs won’t go away permanently. You will have to learn not to do them while you are acting. Many acting technique like stanislavsky acting technique has extensive exercises to control the body language. 

The trick is not to avoid them but to acknowledge them. Be aware of those signs. When you are aware of these body signals, you will be able to suppress them.

Best way to be aware of the signals is to see your own performance.

So, whenever you do monologues or practice acting, shoot it. And then check if there are these bad signals. If you can’t see for yourself, ask your friend actor.

Once you have a few videos you will know there are few signals that you are doing again and again. So next time when you perform be aware of those signals and do something different.

If you find your hands crossed or closed then maybe you can change the position of your hands. Maybe you can put them in your pocket or you can play with some object.

An important note doesn’t try to get rid of this bad signals from your personality. It’s all about just trying to keep them away when you are playing a different person on stage or in a scene.

How To Use Body Language in Acting?

As I told you earlier body language is a powerful tool for an actor. If used correctly it could create amazing performances.

Just look at yourself. You are a unique character.  You have your own body language.

The same way any character you play has their own unique body language.  All you have to do is determine what kind of body language your character could have.

In order to determine that you will have to know the character inside out.  When you read the script, you will get some idea about his or her body language.

If the script doesn’t offer many clues based on your analysis of character, create body language on your understanding of the character.  In order to understand the character better, get our worksheet of 100 questions to build character.

Body language is nothing but a mirror image of characters psychology. So once you understand the psychology of the character adds some quirks to him or her.

For example, if the character is shy in nature his or her body will be more closed. The character would keep his hands crossed. Even the chest will be in. Head would be always down.

This is just one example.  You would have to find the right body language for the character.

I would advise you to learn a few things about psychology and body language. Either get a book about it or enroll in a small course.

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