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Acting Tips for Dancers: 10 Ways to Enhance Your Performance Skills

December 29, 2020

Acting Tips for Dancers: 10 Ways to Enhance Your Performance Skills

By now, you’ve probably heard the term ‘triple threat’ used.  This title refers to performers who are excellent in not only one area of the arts, but several. For instance, a musical theater performer who is a killer dancer, singer and actor, is considered to be a triple threat. Certainly, not every performer has to achieve this status, however, acting plays a crucial role in every performing arts genre. Dancing, singing, acrobatics, figure skating — you name it, acting is 100% noticed. Especially in the theater and dance world, acting is important. If you consider yourself to be a ‘dancer first’, it is crucial that you are also a strong actor.  This way, each step is more meaningful.  Below are 10 acting tips for dancers that will help you become a stronger performer.  

1.) Watch the Best Dancers! 

There is no doubt that the best, most memorable dancers are also excellent actors. They use their faces just as much as their bodies when they dance. The story is told through their bodies so perfectly, that you sometimes forget that they are dancing!

Google some of your favorite dancers and watch them perform. This will give you some ideas of your own and inspire you all at the same time.  Try watching the same clip three different times— I bet you will notice something unique and different each time you watch it. Whether it’s a subtle wink to the dance partner, a flick of the wrist or a toss of the hair, these simple nuances make all of the difference in dance, and can get your noticed in a dance audition with hundreds of other dancers.  

2.) Practice Making Bold Choices. 

The best place to explore as a performer is in class! Practice making big, bold choices the next time you are doing plies and pirouettes.  You might be surprised that the less you focus on technique and the more you focus on telling a story, the better your dancing will become!

When we stop focussing on achieving technical perfection, we find excellence. In order to stand out in an audition, you have to make bold choices and follow through.  This means you can’t do anything half way.  If you are making a choice, make it and make it STRONG. Don’t be shy about these choices or they may not read to an audience.  

3.) Record Yourself 

A great way to get an idea of where you are with your acting is to record yourself. I know, I know, we hate watching ourselves as performers, but it really is the easiest way to gauge your skill levels.  Just remember that you are your own worst critic, and that you most likely will not love what you see. 

Don’t be hard on yourself. Instead make a list of three to five things you can do better. Take time for more practice, and then re-record yourself. Is there a difference? Really get to know yourself as a dancer and actor, this was you have a better idea of how others perceive you onstage and in the audition room. 

4.) Take Acting Class

There are so many wonderful acting classes out there. Don’t be afraid to start with a beginner course and go from there. Every little bit helps, and having someone to help guide you through your acting journey will be a game changer. 

5.) Read Books on Acting 

Go to your local library and take out a few books on acting that seem interesting to you. There are so many different acting techniques and styles, sometimes reading a book on them is the easiest and fastest way to digest them all and gain a better understanding quickly and efficiently. 

6.) Show a Range of Emotions 

It’s common to see dancers with a smile plastered on their faces. While this might be pretty to look at, no one smiles throughout every second of every day.  This can come off as seeming fake. Pick and choose where to smile in a piece of choreography.  You want to be able to show a whole range of emotions with your face.  

7.) Phone a Friend 

The performing arts industry is such a small world, odds are you have at least one actor friend. Call them up and suggest you do a coaching session – just the two of you. You can help them with their dancing and they can help you with your acting. This is a fun and affordable way to get a second set of eyes on your work in a comfortable and safe environment.  

8.) Dress the Part 

For auditions especially, dressing in a way that places you in the world of the show can be helpful from a casting perspective. 

Of course, don’t show up in full costume, but suggesting a time period, geographic location, etc. can help you feel more in tune with the production you’re auditioning for, which will in turn help make your acting seem more authentic. 

9.) Don’t Get Caught Up in the Technique 

As dancers, we want to make sure our bodies are always looking exactly right and moving perfectly.  This can seriously hinder your acting. People can see you focussing on yourself in the mirror. 

Instead of being so focussed on yourself and your own technique, try and make it about the world around you and about the other dancers (who are also your scene partners!).  It will be much more interesting to watch and take a lot of the pressure off of you! 

10.) Have Fun! 

Acting doesn’t have to be scary! Allow yourself to experiment, explore and be playful. By using these acting tips for dancers, you’ll let your creativity shine through, making you exciting to watch.  


Emily Meredith is a professional actress residing in New York City. She is a proud member of the Actor’s Equity Union and has performed in productions all across the country. An experienced acting, voice and dance teacher, Emily has worked with all grade and skill levels. Emily is extensively trained in voice, dance and acting, she attended Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Natick, MA -- where she majored in classical and musical theater and graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music with a BFA in Musical Theater. She has trained at various other prestigious institutions including Festival Ballet (Providence, RI), T. Schreiber Studio (NY,NY), HB Studio (NY,NY), Ballet Prestige (Providence, RI), Steps (NY, NY), and Broadway Dance Center (NY,NY) among many others. As a teacher, Emily strives to create a fun and relaxed learning environment where her students can grow in confidence and ability. In addition to private lessons, Emily currently teaches Theater Arts, Dance and yoga classes virtually for many studios including, Kids HeArt Yoga (Chicago, IL), The Starz Program (NY,NY), Medicine for the Soul Yoga (NY,NY) and Jolie Musique School of the Arts (Monmouth County, NJ) among others. Emily shares her passion for the arts with her students enthusiastically and with love and patience. Please visit for more information.

Emily Meredith