Thinking Emotions

On one hand, I believe in the importance of having a panel of movement tools that we’ve learned or researched, in order to be able to express ourselves with our dance. But I’m also critical or skeptical about how dancers express emotions. How much of sincerity there is in a movement that we pretend to be expressing a certain emotion. Instead, aren’t we just repeating movements we’ve learned, adapting them into a way of moving that we think will transcript the emotion we want to express.

I have the biggest problem when I am asked to work based on an emotion. I think, from the moment the emotion is named, we start to think about how this emotion can be displayed, influenced by the collective subconscious of how this emotion is recognizable by others. We are then more in the brain than in the body, more in the thoughts than in the real emotion. Studies show that overthinking can cut us completely from what our body knows and feels and make us loose the wisdom of our emotional response.


Rolf Dobelli wrote, based on the scientific researches he read:
“Essentially, if you think too much, you cut off your mind from the wisdom of your feelings. Emotions, just as thoughts, form on the brain. They are merely a different form of information processing. Sometimes they provide a wiser counsel” *


The link between the brain and the emotions is very interesting, as emotions are formed in the brain, that gives signals to the body which provokes a physiological reaction.
But the thoughts and the emotions are two different things, and working with one or the other will give different outcomes. That’s why I believe that from the moment we name an emotion, we might start working with it intellectually and not emotionally, which makes me question the genuineness of the response we’ll give. We can trick ourselves and others, in “representing” an emotion rather than really feeling it. Like an actor, who knows exactly how to behave and how he must transform his face in order to make us believe in the emotion. He has to tap into what he knows from the emotion, he has to remember feeling it in particular circumstances and reenact this feeling. He is performing an emotion.

So when dancing, where is the line between feeling the emotion and performing the emotion? Where does the movement really come from, how honest can we be in our intention and our movement response?

I believe in working intuitively. I believe that if I don’t choose actively to display an emotion but start working with sensibility and intuition, stronger emotions will emanate from my dance. But working on a topic or a concept, I start thinking about the topic, dancing on a different level of connection with myself. Struggling, wondering if I am being honest with the topic, or if I am just trying to depict it through movement. Or, starting with an emotion that I may genuinely feel, how do I keep the link to its feeling while dancing, without being carried away by the movement itself, the music, the thoughts coming…


*In The Art of Thinking Clearly, chapter Overthinking, p.275

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