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Backstage Experts

How Acting on Instinct Leads to an Organic Physical Performance

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How Acting on Instinct Leads to an Organic Physical Performance

Physicality is only and always useful when it comes from impulse, making it essential. Otherwise, no hands please. 

Why do we spend so much time in our heads thinking about when and how to move our bodies? Magical, spontaneous impulses travel electrically through our neural pathways—our wires, if you will—to light up our lyrics and spoken text physically. What could possibly be more imperative than trusting this instinctual impulse to move?

Yet so often in our auditions we second guess our instincts, causing a traffic jam in our brains that results in labored, predictable, studied physical behavior devoid of justification, nuance, and humanity. And, the more we focus on the if, when, and how to move, the further away we go from our instincts and our story.

So, in theory, the answer to our dilemma is to stop focusing on the externals and reroute our focus onto the internals, that which we call our inner life, our emotional terrain. It is here, based on where and how the story hits us emotionally and how those emotions affect our choice of actions, that our physical impulses are born. Therefore, by and large, outwardly, mentally manufactured gestures are disconnected from our emotions and actions because they are not generated by them.

They are devoid of our electricity. And, it is our electricity that turns on the room. 

Simply, then, it is our responsibility to wait, trusting and confident that the spontaneous, electrical impulse will emerge based on our personal response to our story. We must get our intellect out of the way and invest in ourselves so that we and our story are authentic, specific, spontaneous, and human with our gestures flowing simply, organically, and intuitively, as does the electricity when the switch is flipped.

We fail ourselves when we do not wait for this electrical impulse but instead intellectually flip the switch causing instinct to derail and forced physicality to reign. Then we are quick to say how uncomfortable we were in our bodies in the room. 

Make no mistake, your humanity trumps any physical gesture you force upon your bodies because that gesture will not be attached to the spine of your story and your emotional connection to your story. 

Gesturing without electrical impulse is what the actor dresses up in to hide when he or she has not fully interpreted the story and invested in making it his or her own. This is acting in which we think our gestures convey our emotions and who we are in our story, but nothing is further from the truth. These superimposed movements actually rob us of our truth, our intimacy, and our emotional connection to the story because they are disconnected from us and it.

It takes courage to show up with all of our need and vulnerability. To wait, to listen, to find, to trust our personal truth inside of someone else’s story, to trust that our personal truth is desirable, and to trust that our personal truth is enough.

The real you will emerge victoriously when you choose to trust your truth and channel your truth into your story—breathing your life force into your story, making it a part of you and you a part of it. Then there will be no separation between you, your emotions, and your physical life. You will never have to manufacture another gesture, ever. Nor will you want to.

Remember we are always at a point of choice. Choose to use your personal truth to inhabit and invigorate your lyrics and spoken text, and your body, your voice, and all of your gestures will be an integral part of your storytelling—justified, electric, and profoundly yours! To your success!  

Like this advice? Check out more from our Backstage Experts!

Kimberly Vaughn is a performer, director, producer, writer, and Backstage Expert. For more information, check out Vaughn’s full bio!

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