"Notes on Posture, Gesture,

Movement and Dance

in Storytelling",


"Dance-movement, Storytelling,

and Theatre Activities"


by Dr Eric Miller

April 2018




"Notes on Posture, Gesture,

Movement, and Dance

in Storytelling"


Storytelling involves bringing characters to life, so tellers and listeners can experience the emotions and thoughts of these characters.  Using movement, gesture, posture, and dance are excellent ways to bring characters and stories to life. 


Movement -- like voice -- can be an external manifestation of one's own, or of a character's, inner state.  Things, beings, and processes can be embodied, enacted, and expressed through movement.


Body movements can bring up memories.  One has a memory of the positions one's body has been in, and of what one was thinking and of how one was feeling when one was in those positions.


One might seek to be aware of, and at times to consciously create, "signature" body language (posture and gestures), stylised ways of moving, and types of quality of movement (slow or fast, smooth or jerky, curved or straight, meandering or intentional, etc) -- for oneself, for a narrator of a story, and/or for a story character.  Gesture can be used to illustrate (mime), to express feelings, to emphasise, etc.


As one breathes in -- the body expands (straightens). 

As one breathes out -- the body contracts (bends).


Movements can be pulsing, rhythmical, repetitive, and evolving.  This can become dance.   One can dance as, for, or about a character (including a character that is a personification of an emotion or idea).


Freeze -- strike a pose.  Individual and group body-sculptures can represent

characters at particular moments in stories.  Regarding group sculptures: session participants can walk around and enter a story scene -- this gives the scene a certain sense of reality.


A narrator or a character could Stretch, Extend, and Reach -- to express yearning for something one, or a story character, wants.





"Dance-movement, Storytelling,

and Theatre Activities"


These activities could be done in a number of contexts, including



Self-development (including self-exploration, self-expression, and development of imagination and creativity).




These are too many activities for a single session.  One could choose between them, and of course one could modify them as one might wish.






Warm-up activities --


Participants could be invited to find a partner and ask and tell,

1) What is your name?,

2) Where did you come from today to attend this Workshop?, and

3) Why are you attending this Workshop?  What do you hope to get out out of it? 


Participants could be invited

1) To walk around the space.

2) To walk as if one were going on a journey. 

3) To walk faster and slower. 

4) To make one's body seem smaller and larger. 

5) To walk alone, in pairs, and in groups. 

6) To imagine walking through various terrains and weather conditions.


Participants could be invited to stand in a circle. 


Participants could be invited to place one of their hands near their diaphragm muscle (above the stomach), and breathe in and out -- feeling one's body expanding and contracting.  Participants could follow the group leader in doing some vocalising and singing (vowel sounds with an "h" in front of them are recommended).  Participants could be asked to seek to produce richness of sound and resonance within the body, not loud volume.


Participants could be invited to bend, twist, and stretch their upper bodies.


Participants could be invited to say their names, and then express how they feel at that moment -- using posture and movement only.


Participants could do group "mirror" activities. 

(Participants could take turns being the leader.)

Using single or repetitive movements, participants could,

1) Imitate a leader's movements, and/or

2) Respond to a leader's movements.


Using words, non-verbal sounds, and/or gestures and facial expressions, participants could express various emotions, personality traits, and/or attitudes.  (Each behavior could be done once, or a number of times.) 


The emotions, traits, and attitudes could include:

1) The 9 Rasas -- Surprise, Laughter, Love, Disgust, Heroism, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Peacefulness. 

2) Depression, Anxiety, Introversion (Shyness), Extroversion (Boldness, Aggression), etc.


Group members could imitate and/or respond to what the leader does. 


Situations, relationships, and conversational exchanges could arise, such as,

"Let's go to the (fill in the blank)".  "Can I come?"  "Yes", "No".  If "No" -- "Why?"

"I feel sleepy".  "Why?"

"I feel full of energy".  "Why?"

These improvised scenes could develop into stories (composed and performed by a leader and the group members).






Participants could be invited to answer these questions with posture and movement only:

1) What emotion did you get up with this morning?

2) What is something you were doing in the last few hours?

3) How did you feel while doing this thing?


Participants could be invited to show through posture and movement some experience or situation in the last few days that has had a strong impact on them. 


If they might like, participants could express regarding these experiences or situations in metaphorical terms.  Examples of metaphors include: 

One could mime swimming in calm ocean water.

One could mime swimming in rough ocean water.   

One could mime an erupting volcano.


Participants could be invited to close their eyes and imagine they are in a place that makes them feel happy and safe. (These places could be in their memories or imaginations.)  Participants could then open their eyes and mime aspects of the place, how they got there, and/or their feelings once they would be in the place.


Participants could be invited to express with posture and movement a mood they have been in recently, or have been in for a long time.


Participants could be invited to respond (using posture and movement) to things the group leader might say.


If a participant might give permission, other participants could physically imitate, or respond to, some of the participant's postures and movements.






Participants could be invited to sit.  A leader could say to them:


Imagine a character.  This character could be you, a part of you, from a movie, someone you observed and/or interacted with recently, totally made-up, etc.  Using words, non-verbal sounds, and/or gestures and facial expressions (posture and quality of movement), communicate replies to these questions:


Who is this character?

Where is he/she? 

What is she wearing and holding? 

Visualise and portray her skin, hair, facial expressions, posture, and quality of movement.

How does she feel? 

Why does she feel this way? 

If you have recently felt this way, why did you do so?

When you have felt this way, what are some events that have brought this feeling on?

Where has she been recently?

Does she want to go someplace?  If yes, where?

Does she want anything?  If yes, what?

Does she want to do anything?  If yes, what?

Does she want to make anything?  If yes, what?

Does she want to meet anyone?  If yes, who?

Does she want to become someone or something?  If yes, who?


If she wants to do something --

What might she need to do, in order to do it? 

What obstacles might she need to overcome? 

How might she seek to do this? 

Who might assist her?  






A leader could tell a story (a folktale, a personal-experience story, etc). 


Participants could be invited to mime the story -- individually or in groups; while the story is being told, or after the story has been told.









Many thanks to Mike Clarke, Tripura Kashyap, Anshuma Kshetrapal, Anita Ratnam, Smita Rajan, and Mrinalini Sekar!  Elements of the above have been learned from these individuals.



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