Smiling really shouldn't be an issue. If we love to dance, why wouldn't we be smiling? However nerves, anxiety and self-consciousness can easily result in pursed lips and even a frown and furrowed brow from concentrating. The most beautiful costume, the msot incredible make-up - it all amounts to nothing without a smile.
So what do we do? We train ourselves from the very beginning, using muscle memory. We build a smile into the basics of each move. When considering an Arabic for instance, we can think about the count, the movement of the chest lifting, the movement of the lower abs contracting, the movement of the lips smiling, the movement of the feet, etc. Notice how the smile wasn't an afterthought? It is just as important as any of the other muscle motions, and can be trained into our memory just as well.
The reason I bring this up is not because I'm a perfect smiler and everyone else is horrible. Oh goodness - far from it. It's because I struggle with it so much - and finally pictures have been taken that show my worried face! I love dancing. I do! However I am naturally quite shy and self-conscious - and this comes out very easily in my face! Here is my proof:
These pictures aren't the greatest quality, but you can still see exactly what I'm talking about: no smile! In the picture on the left it actually looks like I am biting my lip! *Palm to forehead.* Strange to see, because I was having such a great time! These weren't from a performance either, this is just dancing for fun at the Hafla!
*Sigh* now you have seen my smile-shame. Look at pictures and videos of yourself dancing, I hope you're not as bad as me but you might be just as surprised! There is almost always room for improvement. If anyone has any tips please post them in the comments section below as well!
One more thing - we should have a big smile on our face for dancing fast, of course. If we dance slow with that same smile though, we might look a little crazy. My dance teacher suggests a soft, close -mouthed smile. She says to think of a smell that you love, and imagine smelling it and smiling. It works very well when you remember to think about it! Popular ones in my class are vanilla, chocolate, coconut, bread baking, and flowers.
Hope that helps any of you that struggle as I do! Let's resolve to SMILE! :)
*Note: There may be some dance forms or performances that require a different look. What I have written above applies to general ATS performing.