Movement is core to storytelling. There is movement in telling, there is movement in listening and there is movement in story. Some of it is evident, part of it is more introvert by nature.
Storytellers move in various ways: our own unique body language, ritual movement for ritual texts, some of us bring in skilled movement we’ve developed somewhere else – dance, pantomime, acrobatics, martial-arts.
We use specific gestures we believe enhance the telling. We illustrate something – not by duplicating the text for it is usually a poor choice; we’d rather add meaning, extend or contradict the spoken.
From years of observation, I can see that when it comes to gesture, storytellers divide into two kinds of ‘movers’:
- Those who add movement from without
- Those who release movement from within
It might be that both kinds are needed and it might be they are different maturity stages on the same path. I’ll give you an example: in one of the stories I tell, a story several tellers over here tell too, the main character walks into the ‘eye’ of a sand-storm. After one of my tellings a storyteller came up and said, “most storytellers I’ve seen tell this story, craft the storm movement very dramatically. You – hardly moved, but I saw the most ferocious storm I’ve even seen while listening to this story. How come?”
It’s connected to releasing movement from within. Movement in this case is a response to a situation I can see very clearly. While telling I’m actually there, in the place the story describes, where the character is, I sense it fully. If I sense it fully, I react authentically. The audience sees my reaction and reacts upon, by completing what’s missing – the storm and it’s ‘eye’.
I’m not trying to illustrate a storm – which would be adding movement from without. I react to the storm – which is releasing movement from within. The text tells me about the storm, and it sends me to find-out more details in the narrative – what kind of sand-storms happen in that part of the world, what they look and feel like, what people who have encountered such storms said about the experience, etc. If I can physically experience such a storm – all the better. If not, I’ll research until I know with my senses what it is (from within).
Sometimes I do illustrate from without, but I’ll make such a choice only if it is necessary. For me, it’s the same consideration as in using props: does the audience need it? (from without)