More Than a Smile

Showmanship is more than a great smile. It’s interpreting your music, connecting with the audience and conveying emotion through non-verbal expression. Here are some tips to get you started!

Dynamic Expressions

When using happy emotion, for example, a smile is a good start. But a plastered-on smile can turn into a grimace when the rest of your body isn’t supporting and expressing the same emotion. If the eyes look scared or the body stiff, it won’t be enough to connect with your audience.

Observe people when they’re happy, sad or angry. Watch how expression, breathing and posture change. Spend time in front of a mirror trying to replicate these emotions physically. With true emotion, facial expressions are dynamic. They change from one second to the next. Notice the importance of the depth and rate of breath to the expression, especially in sadness or anger. Try to avoid repetitive or unnatural “faces” that can distract from the overall performance.

Mirror, Mirror

It can be difficult to portray emotion without the energy of the audience. It can feel embarrassing or uncomfortable at first. The truth is, nothing is more embarrassing than giving a flat performance.

Begin working through your ideas for expression during your individual practice, so you’ll feel more comfortable during group rehearsals. After the first few days of rehearsing like you perform, the embarrassment will go away.

A Few More Notes

Stand up tall with your shoulders open as you spin. Master your routines, so you’re not looking around at teammates for counts and watch yourself on video to evaluate your efforts.

We often believe we are expressing a great deal of emotion in our performances when, in fact, the expression is not “reading” all the way to the top of the stands.

Ultimately, your performances will come alive as you fight past the fear. The response from your audience will let you know that the hard work was worth it!

About author

Catina Anderson

Catina Anderson has been involved in the marching arts for almost 30 years, first as a performer and then as an instructor. She is the founder/editor of, a website for color guard coaches. She earned a bachelor’s degree at Towson University and a master’s degree in education from Marymount University.

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