Tips For Better Storytelling Through Dance

February 10, 2021

4 Ways To Make Your Dancers Better Storytellers

The aim of a performance is to take the audience on a journey, to capture their imagination and transport them from their current reality to a whole different world. In dance, a performer must do that without saying a word.

Technique is a crucial part of a dance performance, but telling a visual story takes more than just precise movement. A dancer’s ability to infuse every step and gesture with meaning is what makes them an exceptional performer.

How can a dance educator mould their students into better storytellers, when teaching technique takes so much time and energy? Read on for a few helpful tips.

Flesh It Out

Devote a portion of class, or even an entire class, to character development. Open up a discussion: Who are your dancers trying to portray? What are each character’s defining characteristics? What are their motivations? What struggles or challenges does each character face? Have students create storyboards for their character, adding any images or words they think help to flesh out the character’s personality and story arc.


Once you’ve clearly established who a character is and what he or she is trying to say in the performance, think about what accessories or props you can use to complement your costume and get your point across. Not only will these accoutrements help an audience to visualize a story, they can help the performer really immerse themselves in the character and feel the story they’re telling.

Get your creative juices flowing by checking out Costume Gallery’s “Tips For Accessorizing Dance Costumes.”

Compete — And Repeat!

As we explored in last month’s blog post, dancing for judges at a competition is a great way to develop better showmanship. Judges evaluate dancers on much more than just technique; they’re looking to see how effectively those dancers get into character, “sell” their story and connect with their audience. Therefore, competing on a regular basis and receiving specific feedback from professional judges will give dancers a wonderful blueprint for how to improve and grow as performers.

Attending competitions also gives dancers the opportunity to observe and learn from other dancers. How do they tell stories on stage?

Get In The Act

Experts commonly recommend that actors take some kind of dance classes to enhance their performance skills, so why shouldn’t dancers study acting? Acting classes can help young dancers build confidence, find their voice and acquire valuable tools that will help them at competitions and auditions in the future.

Encourage your students to seek acting training outside the studio. Organize studio outings to acting workshops in your area. You might even consider holding an in-house workshop with an acting coach or a dance teacher with experience in musical theater.

Dance Teacher Magazine recently took an in-depth look at the subject of storytelling in dance, highlighting a number of ways in which dance educators can teach performance skills along with technique in their classes. Check out their Feb. 3 article for more inspiration.

Choosing the right costume for a performance can make all the difference when it comes to effective visual storytelling. Art Stone has been outfitting elite performers for more than half a century, drawing inspiration from the bright lights of Broadway, as well as popular music, to create unique costumes that really help a dancer get into character.

Browse our website to explore our extensive collection of costumes for musical theater, ballet, jazz and funk, and much more! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram @artstonecostumes to stay in sync with everything Art Stone has to offer.