A definition of body language

Body language is communication by movement or position, particularly facial expressions, gestures and the relative positions of a speaker and listener. It may be the message being conveyed or it may add layers of meaning to the spoken words.

You may have come across body language being referred to as non-verbal communication. If you’re wondering how powerful body language can be, consider how often a text message or even a phone call is misunderstood. This is because the listener doesn’t see the facial expressions or body language which would convey the mood of the speaker.

Why describe body language?

There are three main situations when you’ll be interested in describing body language:

  • director’s notes - body language is an important part of the armoury that a director can use to help an actor reach the best performance
  • an actor may write about the body language they used and why in a self-evaluation
  • when analysing a performance, body language will be something that should be mentioned

You wouldn’t be expected to deal with every single movement or gesture, but rather to mention the significant moments and their impact and effectiveness in the context of the performance. For example, how did the actor portraying Lady Macbeth use body language to persuade Macbeth to commit murder?

Different kinds of body language

5 different types of body language: Dominance, Submission, Happiness, Sadness, Worry