And so has begun the Frantic assembly Intensive. I am currently sitting in Waterloo Action Centre in London on the floor of a rehearsal space writing and warming up before our last day of workshops and talks for this week. We are all required to be in the space half an hour before we begin. This is to center and focus on the day and also connect with everyone in the room as a unit. I think this is a fantastic practice, one that I am familiar with from dance experience. It means you are ready and warmed up when class starts, there is no room for injury, and gives you time to have completed any little tasks that need to be achieved after you arrived (i.e bathroom breaks, changing clothes).
Throughout this week I have realized the importance a group warmup is for Frantic Assembly. They have many more reasons than I currently hold for this practice, aside from the usual preparation for the day, it is imperative to establish a group connection. This means for everyone to be present in the room and as Scott says ‘sweating together’. It is a lovely mentality to have, I felt supported from my other colleagues and naturally felt the need to work harder than I would have if I had done the exercise on my own. In that same token you develop a pack mentality and become very protective of others. If they are struggling you jump in to give a helping hand. These warmups consisted of circuit training, multiple spots in the room with its on exercise and everyone pairs up to perform one minute of each task. Along with excellent music, your mind always stays involved due to the changes in movement and you can give helping shouts of encouragement to anyone who needs it. Another group warmup that I found to be an excellent group motivator was a four-minute routine that performs four separate movements for eight counts each. The steps are:
- Two step, shifting your weight from one foot to the other bouncing on the beat.
- Twist, holding your hands in front of your sternum with elbows lifted and twisting your hip from left to right, still bouncing on the beat.
- Star Jumps, legs jump from a wide stance to land together, the arms swing up to meet one another and back down to the side of the body.
- Running man, Legs alternate from in front of the body and one behind and the arms do the same, while also bouncing on the beat.
This was an excellent routine to track our improvement; The same song is used every time so you can trace how much easier the exercise becomes. This is very good for ones own confidence to easily see that improvement is very possible. This could also be extended further to a longer track and from there see where your progress continues.
The one question I held through out this week is, what if someone could not participate in the warmups? If they physically could not join in on the activities? Would they miss out on the act of bonding and connecting with the rest of the group, or would there be no difference between them and me? How would this affect them throughout the rest of the day?
The first few days of this week we focused on partnering, and contact. Playing with lifts and the first steps at creating movement. We began with exercises like Hymns hands, which requires two people to have one hand over the another in front of each other as one leads the other around the space just from the information given through that contact. This is fantastic to start with, as it introduces everyone to rely on someone for movement, and releasing control.
We then moved into simple lifts, for example a swing that requires two people to stand beside one another and one simply lifts the other by shifting their weight and their partners so that they are suspended on the hip. As much as this is a starting point to partnering it is also a difficult task, as it is all reliant on finding the correct weight placement of both you and your partner. This also showed that it is imperative for the lifted person to also do just as much work by pushing down on the shoulders of their partner, this releases quite a bit of weight from the their own centre to the person lifting. This very skill follows through to every possible lift and was incredibly interesting to go back and explore again. It is a simple thing to miss, however if the person being lifted does not contribute by helping with height placement and pushing weight when needed then a lift can not be done to its optimum level. However it was lovely to see everyone in the room jump on board and excel in these tasks. I learnt that partnering is for everyone and can be an uplifting experience when facilitated correctly.
The first creation task we worked on this week began by three simple commands, By, Through, Twist. In partners each person had to create three movements around someone else based on those directions. Ending with a phrase of six movements, it was time to play and see what could come from manipulating this task. These layers were:
- Play with the movements so it flows from one into the other.
- Eye contact, what happens if we add or take away.
- If the phrase is performed as close as possible to one another.
- If one person stops doing their phrase how does the power change?
- Finding lifts when the opportunity presents itself.
This eventually resulted in a smooth sequence of steps and lifts that later in no way resembled the very first task.
This I discovered is a fantastic exercise to create choreography. It really opened my eyes to how important it is to start from a very basic place and layer on. Dancers have a tendency to become lost in large impressive movements, and often hit a block when generating work because they are always beginning from the exact same point. This task is also relevant for actors beginning movement creation, as it is a simple task that can be built and layered while also allowing moments to surprise people as to what they are capable of.I would be interested to see how this task would work on dancers and whether this would relieve some of the pressure of immediately creating interesting movement.
Scott presented an interesting idea when looking at a movement sequence. It was the idea that every moment in time is its own universe and within that everyone creates a presumption about what that particular moment means. Two people standing in space and looking at one another already creates a presumption depending on the circumstances of their environment. The distance they are apart can create ideas of what if possibly going on, if they are close it is quite an intimate moment. However if they begin farther apart there is much more of a separated possibly less familiar undertone. Even without movement, immediately a subtext is created. Scott went on to explain, if just from stillness there is so much energy, imagine how intricate movement can become. Eye contact, whether someone chooses to invite or deny contact can speak a plethora of hidden messages.I had never approached movement in this way, I found it so incredibly interesting. To focus on stripping back all the presumptions I naturally create, it opens up a world of possibilities that are outside my own possible universe.
This also presents an opportunity to explore every avenue that is presented. That I know a move is meant to come next is a presumption, that the walls only serve as things to define the space is a presumption. Everything I assume can be discarded and analyzed, to treat every moment and resource as a precious commodity. I would love to play with this task in a space and explore a particular assumption we have made, for example the chairs in the room are there to be sat on. Play with what potential they could have if we strip that assumption.
I have had a very exhausting and exhilarating week of workshops, I am so ready for week two and what it has