How actors can remove body tension

Problem: you’re restricted

  • Your body is paralyzed, cautious or tentative
  • Your breath is tight and shallow
  • Your voice is tight and weak

Solutions: exercises to free up your body

Stretching: literally open yourself up while singing. Take the restrictive energy that is pulling you inward into yourself, and counteract it by stretching your body in large, bold, sweeping motions while you sing your piece. Perform stretches similar to what you’d do in a dance or fitness setting, including nice large lunges, leg and hip stretches on the floor, arm and chest stretches, and any yoga poses that open you up such as camel or warrior one. While you stretch and sing, keep your attention on enjoying how great it feels to open your body up, and let the music fade into the background. *Note: also see our post on progressive muscle relaxation to get yourself relaxed and limber, ready to stretch and prepare for these exercises.

Be a bad actor: have a little fun while you explore the outer limits of movement. Sing or speak your piece while using the biggest, worst, most ridiculous gestures you can imagine, whatever you’d consider “bad,” overdone acting. Just have fun and enjoy the freedom you rarely give yourself to be bad, and watch as your breath, voice and expression naturally open up with the permission you’ve given yourself. If completed in a class setting, asking the class to give you (or your student) feedback usually reveals that stage behavior can be much larger than it seems from the inside looking out. If you’re alone, try videoing yourself and do the same.

Get physical: similar to the stretching exercise, find a way to get your blood pumping that’s more aerobic, such as jumping jacks, jumping rope, lifting boxes, or jogging, and sing or speak your piece while doing so. This activates the breath and lively energy within your body. Listen to how your voice changes throughout the exercise, due to increased breathing patterns.

Want more tips on freedom and movement?  Pick up our eBook dedicated entirely to acting techniques for musical theatre performers.

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