Drama or dance?

By: Dr Mumtaz Aboo Backer, Dean of School of The Arts USM

If I were to choose either one, I would not be able to because both fields are in my blood. As I am acting, I am also in a way dancing and while I am dancing, I am also acting by pouring out my emotions. Both fields of performing arts are equally important. They complement each other very well and the beauty is, while each can stand on its own, they are also intertwined. Why do I say this? Trained as a dancer and an actor, I use my body and mind to express the emotions required either in the dance or the play while borrowing the skills and techniques from both disciplines.

Dancing or Acting the Scene

As an Indian classical Bharatanatyam dancer, I have been trained not only to dance the scene but to “act” the dance scene by applying the right bhavas (expression of mood, emotion and body) in order to heighten the audience’s feelings. I want to transport them to the world of emotions and aesthetics.  While I’m acting a scene in a play, I choose the best technique or method that suits me or the character to complement the genre, be it Stanislavsky’s “magic if”, Meissner’s technique or classical acting styles. But this is not enough! Dance further helps me to understand rhythm, pacing and speed. A good actor knows his or her rhythm, the pacing between lines, dialogues and speed in the action.

Why is dance important for an actor?

Dance is a systematic rhythmic movement technique designed to express the emotions of the performer physically, emotionally, mentally and in some forms, spiritually. Dance increases kinesics awareness by personally experiencing the endless possibilities of the body, gestures and facial expressions as a means of communication through various explorations of techniques, methods and improvisations.

How does dance help an actor to perform better? The performer in being trained to be aware of the body, role of the character, movement, gesture, space, relationship with other actors or performers; costume, props, storyline, music and cultural frame. In addition, dance is able to invoke the various emotions in a performer through facial expressions and dynamics of the body movement. The common denominators for a dancer and an actor are the body, mind, rhythm, speed, execution of movement and expression of emotions.