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Develop your characters through dance

Thanks to Rhay Christou, author and writing teacher at, for introducing me to this short video below showing a fun and creative way to develop your characters.

Actor Kevin Cox offers advice to other actors that can be beneficial for writers, too. He says we should be able to express our character physically. He suggests dancing out your scenes—try different styles of dance like hip hop, ballet, tango, salsa, waltz, etc. Give your dance the attitudes of your character. This will help unlock your body and open up your potential to connect with your character. If you have two characters in a scene dance out one character’s part then dance out the other character’s part. How do they differ? What did you learn?

Once you’ve got the dancing down and you’re still in your character’s skin, close your eyes and ask some questions. What do they feel in the moment? How are they moving? What do they taste and hear and smell? If they opened their eyes right now, what would they see?

Watch this 3-minute video and then read on:

I just tried this (in my side yard where no neighbors could see me) and discovered the following:

* My protagonist feels heavy in her body when she’s with the antagonist she is attracted to (she’s not overweight so this is a reflection of her emotional state);

* She feels lighter in her body and soul when she’s with her ex-boyfriend who she is also attracted to.

* The difference is the antagonist leans in on her energy, he is trying to get something from her and wants to control her. Her ex-boyfriend wants her to be herself and to fulfill her potential but only so that it completes her and not him. Wow. Love it. And this is just the surface stuff…I bet if I dig deeper into the dance, I find more.

Try the exercise and tell us what you experienced in the comments below.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. I love it when ideas from one medium can be used as inspiration in another, so I went and tried this in my kitchen (that being the most out-of-sight place I could find). It was really fascinating. Dancing out things I already knew about my characters’ personalities helped to extend and expand upon those ideas. C is confident but watchful, aware of her grace and what others are doing around her. T throws himself wildly around, just enjoying the moment. M wishes he didn’t have to do this, that he wasn’t on display, which was unexpected and taught me something deep about where his troubles come from. S is pushing herself further with each step, eagerly learning from watching the dancers around her, unaware of the growing number of people watching her in admiration. All that in five minutes, and the most productive five minutes of character development I’ve had in months.

    Plus it was fun.

    July 2, 2014

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