How Dance, Drama and Kinesics Awareness Connect

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

As we continue our journey of understanding dance and drama, I would like to draw your attention
to kinesics awareness. What is kinesics awareness? How important is kinesics awareness to a dancer
or an actor? Kinesics, dance and drama is a triad of three fields of study engaging in how the body of
the dancer or actor communicates, receives and sends messages.

What is the correlation between dance, drama and kinesics? Kinesics awareness is the ability to
understand the body of the dancer or actor, the messages that is sent and perceived or received by
the dancer or actor. Kinesics can be used as a dominant code to reveal messages in dance and drama
which are communicated through creative expression, highly stylised movements, body postures,
specific gestures, facial expression and proxemics.

As an engaged dancer or actor, one must have kinesics awareness of:
i) The body/bodies
ii) Gestures
iii) Movements and techniques
iv) Space
v) Music, sounds or voices
vi) Plot or story
vii) Emotions and facial expressions
viii) Cultural framework or genres

All these elements above set the dance or drama into organised arrangements to present an idea,
thought, movement or story. A dancer or an actor should understand the capacity of her body and
her relationship with other dancer or actors. This enables the dancer to move in the techniques that
the body is fully trained, make sensible gestures that she is familiar with and helps her to be engaged
with the bodies and movements of other dancers and actors.

As the dancer or actor begins to move, she is aware of her individual space and the common spaces
between the other dancers. Space is an integral element in dance and drama as it determines roles,
creates shapes and gives a sense of ownership to the dancer/actor as to why she is there in the

Music sets the mood of the story and the story in return gives purpose to the characters and the
roles that the dancer or actor plays. The performer now fully understanding her role, goes on to
explore her emotions which she expresses from internal to external not only through the face but
also the dynamics of the entire body movement.

In Bharatanatyam, there are eight bhavas (emotions) which are fear, happy, anger, sadness, surprise,
disgust, love and heroic. Western dramatists have added interest, shame and guilt. As the actors
dancer begins to peel the layers, expose raw emotions, she not only communicates the dance or
drama, she becomes the very central point of the dance communication itself.

Hence, when one is applying kinesics awareness and actively involving it in drama or dance, you will
begin to see a true performance come alive and it is an enjoyable and beautiful process to watch!