Exploring Character and Mood through Dance

Dance is a language of the body that allows us to communicate emotions, tell stories, and express our innermost thoughts. By experimenting with the Elements of Dance, Elementary/Primary students can delve deeper into the world of character and mood as a part of building choreographic and literacy skills.

Exploring character and mood

Through developing choreographic and expressive skills in dance, children can discover new ways to convey meaning and evoke powerful emotions. Here are some ways to embark on a journey of exploration using dance to shape character and mood.

 The Language of the Body: what does it say about a character?

The body is a powerful tool for communication. Encourage children to experiment with different body postures, gestures, and movements to create distinct characters.

How does a confident character stand and move?

How might a timid character express themselves physically?

Explore various movements and postures to embody different emotions and personalities.  Keep in mind that the posture of a character may be hiding something they do not want to expose about themselves. Sometimes what is not shown is as powerful as what is overt.

Exploring character and mood

Movement Quality – Dynamics

The way dancers move can convey a wealth of information about a character’s personality or the overall mood of a piece. By experimenting with movement qualities such as sharpness, fluidity, heaviness, or lightness, dancers can create distinct characters or evoke different moods.

For example, sharp and precise movements might portray a powerful and determined character, while fluid and flowing movements can evoke a sense of calmness or sensuality.

By consciously exploring and manipulating movement qualities, dancers can bring characters and moods to life on the stage.


The relationship between Tempo and Dynamics

Tempo and dynamics refer to the speed, energy, and intensity of movement.

Experimenting with different tempos can alter the dynamics of the movement to reflect the mood of your dance piece.

Does a fast and energetic movement convey excitement or joy?

Does a slow and sustained movement evoke a sense of calm or melancholy?

Explore the range from soft to sharp, gentle to powerful, and experiment with varying rhythms and accents to express the nuances of your characters and the emotional landscape of your dance.

Exploring character and mood

Music and Sound

Music and sound play a vital role in dance, influencing the mood of a performance. Experiment with different genres of music to evoke different emotions and create contrasting characters.

Consider the tempo, rhythm, and melody of the music and how it can inform your movements and expressions. Explore the use of silence or unconventional sound elements to enhance the atmosphere and bring depth to your dance piece.

Using of the Element of Space

 The way we navigate and occupy space can significantly influence how characters are constructed within a dance piece.

Experiment with different spatial arrangements and movements. Consider how a character’s movement through space can reflect their confidence or vulnerability.

Does a character take up a lot of space, or do they move in a more contained manner?

For instance, expansive movements and covering a large area might convey a sense of freedom or grandeur.  Alternatively, confined or restricted movements in a small space can evoke feelings of constraint or tension. By consciously utilizing space, children can add depth and dimension to their choreography.

Play with levels, directions, and pathways to create a unique choreographic language that communicates character and mood.

Exploring character and mood

Relationships, groupings, and interactions

In dance, character and mood can be explored through the dynamic interplay of group formations. By incorporating relationships within the group, dancers can create compelling narratives, evoke powerful emotions, and deepen the understanding of their characters.

Shape, Form, and Spatial Relationships

By experimenting with different arrangements and patterns, dancers can evoke a variety of moods and character dynamics. For example, a tight and constricted formation might signify a sense of unity or alternatively, confinement.  While an open and expansive formation can convey freedom or individuality.

Experimenting with proximity, distance, and levels can reveal hierarchies, conflicts, or harmonious connections. For instance, a close-knit formation might suggest intimacy or camaraderie, while scattered and distant formations might represent isolation or detachment.

Exploring character and mood

By consciously manipulating spatial relationships, dancers can convey the intricacies and complexities of character dynamics.  The spatial relationships between dancers within a group can communicate the dynamics of their characters and their relationship to each other.

Interaction and Connectivity

Group formations provide opportunities for dancers to interact and connect with one another, revealing the relationships between characters. Experimenting with touch, gestures, and mirroring movements can depict alliances, conflicts, or emotional bonds.

For example, synchronized movements within the group might signify unity or cooperation, while contrasting movements might indicate tension or contrasting personalities.

By exploring different forms of interaction, dancers can deepen the emotional resonance and authenticity of their performances.

In addition, experimenting with transitions, entrances, and exits within the group can enhance the storytelling aspect of the performance, allowing the characters and their relationships to unfold organically.

Timing and Dynamics

Once again, the use of time and dynamics in group movements are essential in portraying character and mood. Experimenting with unison, canon, or counterpoint movements within the group can create a powerful impact.

For example, synchronized movements might convey a sense of unity or shared emotion, while staggered movements can portray individuality or contrasting perspectives.

By playing with Time and Dynamics, dancers can heighten the emotional intensity and narrative complexity within the group formations.

Symbolism and Metaphor

Year 5 & 6’s and older students may use group formations symbolically to represent broader concepts or metaphors within a performance. Experimenting with shapes, patterns, and movements can evoke symbolism that adds layers of meaning to the character and the overall narrative.

For instance, a circular formation might represent unity or continuity, while fragmented formations might suggest disconnection or fragmentation of relationships.

By incorporating symbolic group formations, dancers can convey abstract ideas about a character and engage the audience on a deeper level.

Additional thoughts on character and mood development in dance

Obviously, it’s not only the Elements of Dance that are crucial to creating character and mood in dance.  Here are some other components that will affect the mood or tone of your dance.

Facial Expressions

Our faces are incredibly expressive, and the subtlest changes in facial expressions can convey a wide range of emotions. This goes beyond the idea of just smiling or frowning.

Experiment with facial expressions to reflect the mood and character you want to portray.

How does a happy character smile? Is this a different smile than if they are smug?

How does a sad character show their emotions through their eyes?

Practicing expressing different emotions in pairs mirroring activities encourages movements to be amplified and enriched by the emotions you are trying to convey.

Exploring character and mood in dance

 Costume and Props

Costumes and props can visually enhance and support the character and mood you want to portray. Experiment with different costume choices and accessories to create a visual representation of your character’s personality or the mood you want to convey.

Consider how colours, textures, and shapes can contribute to the overall aesthetic and evoke specific emotions.

Exploring character and emotions in dance

Remember, the beauty of dance lies in its ability to communicate and evoke emotions. As children experiment with the Elements of Dance to explore character and mood, support them to embrace their creativity and allow them to take risks.

Through exploration, observation, and reflection, students discover new ways to tell stories, touch hearts, and captivate audiences with the powerful language of dance. They embrace more diverse ways of making meaning and how they view their world.

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