Body Language: The Important Aspect of Human Communication

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Body language is one of the crucial means of modern theater performances, which has an essential impact on the quality of theatrical production. The movement of the body is one of the most powerful ways that could stimulate the human visual sense. It is not only because the evolutionary process of tens of thousands of years has given the human a unique spiritual charm; but also, because the human body can produce rich and varied moving expressions and body characteristics during the dynamic process. It can be seen that body language has a unique impact on spreading and developing diverse cultures. It is also an important way of displaying the inner feelings of the characters in the performance of theatrical art, which has an essential influence on the quality of the theatrical performance. The performances I have seen during this semester are very diverse in cultural backgrounds and languages corresponding with Europe, Africa, and the Americas. For example, All About Eve uses English, the Magic Flute uses several distinctive African tribal languages, and Swan Lake involves European English.

As a student whose native language is not English, it is a little bit difficult for me to exactly catch the meaning of the performance if the actors speak too fast or the accent is too heavy. However, I can combine the first and second half of the performances to capture the meaning as a whole most of the time. It implies that people could understand the performance without completely get the meaning of each small part, and it is not necessary for people to rely on the expression of language to perceive meaning. Body languages and facial expressions are more relevant to audiences. Therefore, we will explore how body language conveys information and whether the viewers could obtain the meaning of performance through body language if they do not master the different languages used in the show.

In the process of theatrical performance, the lines played a leading role. The wonderful lines can be said to be a boost to the performance of the show to make the performance achieve a better result. As we all know that theatrical drama is an art of performing on the stage, and it is also an art of action. It requires the actors to mobilize all the parts of their bodies to serve the character an image. However, drama performance does include not only lines but also other components, such as stage layout, body language, facial expression, different costumes, lighting design, etc. Among those elements, the actors' body language is the icing on the drama. In a performance, the actor not only relies on the dialogue of the lines to express the emotional state of the characters but also enables emotional communication through their body language. Through body language, the actors could express the emotional thoughts of the characters in a more intuitive, more concise, and natural way. It is through our physical movements that we can better understand the image of the characters and grasp the thoughts of the characters as a whole.

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A good actor will combine his lines with the body language when shaping a character to make the image more vibrant. Each body movement has its meaning and purpose, and it carries ideas and implications that conveyed to the audiences. For example, Swan Lake is a typical performance with fewer languages because there is only one actor who speaks as a narrator throughout the performance, and all the other actors perform and convey information through their body language. The four girls were trapped under a transparent and sealed plastic. They struggled and tried to spread out their arms and legs to breath and escape from it. Nevertheless, the harder they fought, the tighter the plastic. There is no use of language in the whole scene, but the air in the theater was filled with a strong sense of painful suffocating. As we all known, the scene could be illustrated directly by asking the narrator to tell that “four girls were turned into four swans,” but that is not what the audiences want to see obviously in a live performance, and the books could do so quickly. The point for coming to a live performance is to watch how the actors illustrate the play in their way, which is essentially their unique body language. Therefore, the critical role of body language in the process of performing is evident.

Outside the stage, body language is an important aspect of modern communication and interpersonal relationships. It could be divided in to two categories: facial expression and body movement. Jackson, an editor of newspaper, argues that 'Studies show that 87 percent of what goes into our brain goes in via the eyes, nine percent via the ears and four percent via the other senses. We are visual creatures, that's why we don't like those who talk too much nor do we absorb much through the ears only' (Jackson). Body language embodies communication through using body movements or gestures, subtle and unconscious movements such as blinking, eyebrows, and other facial expressions instead of spoken language. According to James Borg, a leading expert in body language, 'We go about our everyday lives unwittingly displaying our inner thoughts. But it's not through words that we give ourselves away. It is our dress, posture, facial expression, eye contact, hand, arm and leg movements, bodily tension, spatial distance, touch and voice that are all hugely telling' (Borg).

From the perspective of facial expression, our impression of a person is often formed from the first few minutes of the first meeting. As an associate professor Deepika Phutela at Tantia University demonstrated in her research that 'At the workplace, effective communication can be used to improve performance and to produce the desired results. Eye contact conveys honesty and sincerity; making eye contact is often an invitation to open communication and signifies the need for feedback. In contrast, avoiding eye contact signals distrust, suspicion, or lack of interest; similarly, prolonged eye contact or a stare signifies aggression or flirting.' (Phutela 46). In a communication, facial expressions constantly change and are constantly understood by the other person, such as a smile, frown, raise your eyebrows or sneer. The face is an indicator of the mind. No matter how hard you try, a person's hidden anger, fear, confusion, confusion, enthusiasm and joy are all on the facial expression. As Stephanie pointed out in her research that “’It is written all over your face’, is a clichéd expression for nonverbal expression of emotion. Nonverbal expressions signal to others your emotional state, such as anger, fear or aggression, without a need to understand the same spoken language” (Stephanie 5).

For example, during the interview, we can tell whether the interviewee is confident or nervous from a simple eye contact in the first several minutes. Facial expression conveys far more information than the spoken word. The attention people paid to observe other’s facial expression is not less than the spoken language in interpersonal communication. This kind of spontaneous and subtle movement is difficult to be noticed by the sender but has a significant influence on the recipient of the action. For example, if the interviewer nods toward the interviewee after listening to the answers during an interview. The interviewee, as the recipient of the body language, will consider the nod as a kind of affirmation and will talk more. In contrast, the interviewee will be more careful, cautious, and pay more attention to what he/she talks about later on if the interviewer frown and hesitated. It is also a reason why when analyzing a person from a psychological perspective, people often analyze the person's facial expression and body language instead of the spoken one because a person could tell a lie quickly, but in most cases, facial expression couldn't lie or be disguised easily.

For example, when the police interrogating a suspect, they will usually invite a psychologist to help observe the suspect and perform psychological analysis through body language and facial expression and other aspects. When necessary, they might consider the help of a polygraph to check whether the suspect is lying or not. It is because, in terms of human instinct, spoken language itself is easy to be deceptive, so the focus of the analysis should be moved to the subtle body movements.

Except for the facial expression, body movement is another component of nonverbal communication. Unlike the facial expression that could be easily understood since the human’s emotion expression through the face is the same universally, body movement is more related to different cultural backgrounds. With different cultures, the same body movement may have completely two different meanings, and sometimes specific movement is not acceptable in a country. For instance, as Lasky wrote in a business travel report that “In America, when you talk to someone on the street in the blaring sun it is perfectly acceptable to don your sunglasses while doing so. The rules change in South Korea and in Indonesia where it is totally unacceptable to wear sunglasses” (Lasky). Body movement is a highly culture-related symbol, and a shift in posture is parallel with spoken language. People will sometimes change their posture during a discussion. A shift of the entire body might imply a different opinion. As a reporter gives an example that “The North American finds two feet to be a comfortable distance during conversation; the South American likes to stand much closer. Extroverts need less elbow space than introverts” (Saga of Gesture).

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