A Beautiful Display of How Nonverbal Emotion is Communicated through Dance!!

In the article “Development of the Movements Impressions Emotions Model: Evaluation of Movements and Impressions Related to the Perception of Emotions in Dance the authors “main purpose of the present study was to explore the relationships among these various components to understand more clearly how emotions displayed through dance are seen by observers. We developed an emotional model to show the relationships between impressions and expressive body movement characteristics that are evaluated by observers” (Shikanai, Sawada, & Ishii, 2013). Just as we are able to express our feelings through nonverbal communication dancers have the ability to express their temperaments through beautiful lines and a series of movements.

This research project used 192 (60 male and 132 female) normal everyday people with little or no professional dance experience with an average age of 21.4. The six female dancers at an average age of 23 with a little over 15 years of experience in modern dance and classical ballet. They were to perform three dances, one each of happy, sad, and angry using their entire bodies but with no facial expressions. Each dancer shot a total of 18 – 5 second dances in a 6.5 x 6.5 square dance floor. The dancers were then ask to view all 54 segments and pick the 18 that best portrayed the emotions of happy, sad, and angry. The participants then had two minutes to watch each segment over and over to determine the emotion identifications, impressions and evaluated movements. They were to score the emotion identifications on a scale of 1-5 (1 for not expressive and 5 for expressive). The impressions were rated “on a bipolar 5-point scale (1, 5 = expressive; 2, 4 = fairly expressive; 3 = neither) by the semantic differential method” (Osgood et al. 1957). The evaluated movements included 26 movements including walk, run, jump, lean sideways, body-bend forward and legs-extend. After the analysis was done “the results indicate that the observers accurately perceived the intended emotions behind the dancers’ expressions in this study”. (Shikanai, Sawada, & Ishii, 2013)

Dancing is a very passion driven art that uses total nonverbal communication to get the message across to the audience. According to our textbook “kinesics, or what is known in the popular vernacular as body language, refers to body movements that are used to convey messages. Included here are facial expressions, head movements, eye behavior, gestures, posture, and gait” (Burgoon, Guerrero & Floyd, 2010).  Also included would be the contact codes of haptics, which is the use of touch and proxemics the use of space and distance. Although any facial expressions were cut from these videos you can still see the emotion of being happy with leaping through the air as if you were flying with your arms up and swinging. Sadness is reflected by the head down, body folding over in a fetal position, arms swinging in a limp motion. Anger is the last emotion that was observed and it is very easy to see in someone’s dancing.  Laying on the floor and stomping your feet like in a temper tantrum, jumping up and down forcefully, arms folded and head bobbing.

The depth of this research was incredible with all the variables they used in their analyses. They used everything from their range of movement, the rate of which they moved, the velocity, dynamic and frequency of every motion to analyze their dances.  I believe the attached video portrays beautifully the use of nonverbal communication to express their deepest feelings, that it doesn’t matter if you are handicapped, you can still perform an amazing dance with very intense emotion. As I was watching this video I was so in tune to the dance and the exquisite way they were so emotionally involved with ever move that I totally forgot that had a disability.


Burgoon, J. K., Guerrero, L. K., & Floyd, K. (2009). Nonverbal Communications. Pearson.

Shikanai, N., Sawada, M., & Ishii, M. (2013). Development of the Movements Impressions Emotions Model: Evaluation of Movements and Impressions Related to the Perception of Emotions in Dance. Nonverbal Communication, 107-121.




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