How Opening Your Teeth Brightens Your Stage Presence

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I can't wake up in the dark. Rising before dawn is impossible, but even just waking up with the blinds closed feels like pulling teeth. And since I can't sleep with the bright streetlights outside my window, that makes for some zombie-like mornings. The only way I can feel even remotely human is to open the blinds at dawn, so the rising sunshine can wake me up.

A closed expression may be shuttering your stage presence, and preventing it from shining on your audience.

Why Is An Open Expression So Important?

Belly dance is personal. You aren't playing the snow queen or a body moving in space. You are a real person with a relationship to the audience. An important part of the belly dance esthetic is to share the joy and inner light that bursts out of you.

A closed face shutters your light. And yet many of us wear closed expressions, even when we’re smiling.

How Do I Open My Expression?

Cracking the blinds on your light is shockingly simple: separate your teeth.

Really. Just open up your jaw enough to fit the tip of your thumb between your front teeth.

But I Don't Want to Smile Through My Whole Show

This technique is not just for smiling. Separating your teeth will make any of your expressions more accessible and inviting to your audience:

  • Your smiles will seem happier and more welcoming

  • Mysterious or smoky expressions will be more enthralling; it invites them to guess your secret

  • Sad expressions will lay your heart bare and invite them to share in your heartbreak

But It'll Look Fake!

Separating your teeth may feel awkward or fake at first, especially if you usually keep your teeth clamped together in your day-to-day life.

But remember that being a performer means being larger than life. Your costume, the music, and even just standing on the stage or dance floor creates a larger scale. Scaling your expression up to performance proportions is fitting, not fake. Your audience is more likely to notice an expression that is too small, rather than one that is too big.

Dos and Don'ts

Here are a few tips to help you make this technique work for you:

  • Do: Breathe

  • It keeps the expression alive.

  • Don't: Freeze your expression.

  • It's common to tense up while you get used to the mechanics of holding your teeth apart.
  • Do: Try laughing.

  • That instantly relaxes and opens up your face. And you can't say "ha ha ha" with your teeth clamped together.
  • Don't: Be a cartoon.

  • We're not making faces; we're just opening up your natural expressions.


An open face makes your stage presence shine. This makes any type of expression - happy, sad, mysterious - more inviting and accessible to your audience.

You can accomplish this just by separating your teeth. Relaxing, breathing, and laughing can make this feel more natural. Just beware of making faces; you want to open up your natural expressions, not create false new ones.

How To Get Started

Make separated teeth a new requirement for your practice routine. Resolve to keep your teeth apart during classroom and video drills. If you make it part of your practice routine, it will become second nature, so you won't have to think about it during performance.

With that habit, you'll throw open the shutters on your stage presence, so the audience can bask in your light.


Linda Hinds said...

great tip, thanks, i'll be sure to try to work the open jaw into my practice

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