Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Body Language

Beginning performers often ask, "What do I do with my hands?" They've suddenly become aware that they have a couple of appendages hanging off their arms, or tightly clutched in front of them.

I guide them through a few exercises until their hands are connected to their backs, at about waist level, where gesture naturally begins. "Now," I ask, "what do your hands want to say?"

Our bodies do want to get into the act, if we're connected to them. And if we're not restraining them with such mental projections as "I'll look foolish."

Physical communication is primal. Babies universally respond in the same way to outside stimuli with their bodies. They shudder, they spit out a nipple with disgust, their faces redden, their arms wave before they utter a sound. My grandson, three and a half years old when he was adopted from a Chinese orphanage, could not speak or understand oral language, but he'd created his own sign language.

So it's likely that humans developed sign language before spoken language. When Europeans first came to this country, Indian tribes were still using at least 65 different sign languages to trade and communicate with other tribes.

If communication is a human necessity, and if we are born with the means of physical communication, why don't we recognize the value of using our bodies to communicate when we become adults?


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