Subtle Dances Behind the Podium

October 2, 2012

Will you be tuning in to the presidential debate tonight? While you’re listening to Obama and Romney verbally duke it out, don’t underestimate the significance of what you’re seeing—the gesturing of hands, the opening of arms, the tilting of heads, and other subtleties of movement, which (no news to dancers and choreographers) can communicate just as powerfully as words.


The candidates’ body language is the subject of this great New York Times interactive feature, in which Peggy Hackney, a former dancer and a veteran movement analyst working with the New York University Movement Lab, examines the politicians’ most frequently used gestures (both are fans of “the pointer”), their overriding qualities of movement (Obama: controlled; Romney: free-flowing), and the messages that their physicality conveys. For a mid-debate experiment/break, put the TV on mute and watch the political jousting as you would a dance.