Rise

On the 15th of March I went to the theatre with both Merel and Jessi to see a show by the Belgrade Youth Theatre Company called Rise. It was a decide your own ticket price event to contribute towards their company. I had never been to the local theatre before and was so pleasantly surprised by the little theatre this show was held in. A beautiful large bare back drop, with seats spanning all the way around to end above the stage. For a small space it did not have a cramped atmosphere, rather it was so open from the high ceiling giving space for the set on stage.

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This show was a great example to see as an opposite to A Winters Tale by Cheek By Jowl. I was watching for the potential for movement, and found examples of how not to use this technique, also provided gaps where that moment of suspense was definitely needed. I am aware this is not a professional production, and in no way can judge the quality of the show up against a company like Cheek by Jowl, however for the purpose of this exercise I would like to point attention to a few moments in Rise where the potential for movement was an important factor that was lacking and could have transformed that scene.

In the very beginning scene the all female cast make their way on stage in darkness and raise a little white light in the air. Slowly one at a time they swap positions with one another remaining in the dark with the lights raised. It was a lovely image with the potential to go somewhere quite meaningful, however the pace remained the same. No one walked faster or slower, there were no pauses in between and afterwards the lights came up and they left the stage. There was no build in tension, no reason for me to sit forward and analyse what I was seeing on stage. I am a big believer in transitions between movement, it is what happens in the travel from one moment to another that make or breaks the highlights. I find it is the same for stage direction, there needs to be a thought out transition that is so smooth that you do not realise they are there. If they are missing those points of transition it allows for dropped energy on stage. It only takes one second as an audience to fall out of the story and continue to remain outside looking in.

This is the same for the general pace of this show. Every scene ran at the same speed with a continual flowing pace. There were no moments of stillness or silence, nothing out of the ordinary that would push an audience to sit forward and think ‘what will happen next’? It is so important to offer a variety of theatrical moments, simply for that reason. I found myself being lulled into a numb state, of watching the action on stage without taking active involvement in the development of the story.

I am very glad to have seen this show as I never realised how important it was for me to see an example of the potential for movement that was either non existent, or did not serve the purpose it was meant to. Particularly as it became easier for me to find the reasons why each scene had missed the mark. As I have said before, this mentality of the potential is quite abstract, however having seen two ends of the spectrum it has become possible for me to visualise the specific needs required and now understand its importance in theatre.

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Merel and Jessi ready for the show!

Moving With Dancers

This past week I spent some time in the studio with some dancers from the undergraduate course at Coventry University. I wanted to explore the same sort of exercises I had done with my fellow actor colleagues to see how the outcome would differ with trained movers used to playing with their body. We did two exercises in the short time we had together the first was the same one I had done previously, ‘everyday hands’ (seen in previous post) finding common gestures they did everyday and distorting. The other was an exercise we had worked on in the intensive that I was excited to try, it is the connect, affect and disconnect, with someone in the centre.

We began with a short warmup in the style of Frantic Assembly’s Beautiful Burn out routine, repeating four different jumping moves for an entire 4 minute song. It gets the dancers ready and warmed up without wasting time teaching them difficult moves that will be hard to remember, particularly when time is so short.  And then we moved straight into the two exercises.

The everyday hands exercise began the same as I had done previously, finding four movements that you do everyday out of habit. They then learnt one move of each others to place in their own phrase, and had to loop it so it was a continuous stream of movements. After that, I gave them three words to apply to their phrase. Connect, heighten, and transform, they could interpret the words in any way that seemed best. Once they all had their phrases I asked them to speed up the pace to as fast as they could while also retaining the movement.

Here is the result of all three.

It is interesting to see that the detail is lost, as opposed to the original three small phrases I had seen. I have found that the words used to direct the manipulation of the movement is so important. Particularly when asking everyone to interpret those terms in their own way, you will always come out with something different from each person. This is great in some respects as it means you can utilise everyone’s imagination, but also it can mean when giving a direction like speeding up the movement certain detail is lost from the original task.

I can understand Frantic Assembly when they discuss the importance of layering, it is not possible to throw multiple directions onto someone and expect them to place every aspect of equal importance. This is the importance of muscle memory, giving the body a simple idea to settle and begin to add little bits at a time. This way you are retaining the important detail needed in movement while also being able to manipulate time, pace, speed, direction and any number of other possibilities of affecting the sequence.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the phrases once I asked them to speed it up. Mainly because they enjoyed what they were doing, and that as an audience it can really shine through the movement. The other, disregarding the loss of detail, the movements coming from all three girls were things that would not have come if we were creating from scratch. Sometimes it is nice to start from a ridiculous point to work your way back, find the extreme so there is an understanding of no limitations. I find creativity becomes free flowing once we release our inhibitions.

The next task we explored was the connect, affect, disconnect. I had each person connect to the central mover, affect them in some way, and disconnect from the body. It is a simple task requiring basic movements, the only important aspect is that all contact is genuine. To be affected in some way the body needs to authentically be moved, not to ‘pretend’ the hand has moved from the shoulder down to the hand.

Here is Connect, affect, disconnect.

This task moved quite quickly once we all had spent some time understanding how the task works. What took the most time, was making sure contact was genuine. It was easy after the first few rounds to move past the affect moments and onto the disconnect as it is an easier direction to follow. So we always had to step back and really investigate how you can affect or be affected by someone else. You can see in the video that the times when the affect movement is authentic they are the most interesting to watch. It allows for momentum and real stops, so they are reacting from one another not making shapes individually with their own body. It is interesting to see that the need to move past creative mind blocks is present with anyone whether they are movers or not. The dancers were just as quick to disregard a connection that is not authentic as with anyone else. It is a hard thing to be in the moment finding a connection and ‘generating’ the affects from nowhere, and so after multiple rounds of the same direction it becomes harder to find something new. Which is why it is so important to have someone on the outside to give direction when needed.

 

 

Provocation 5- Building Blocks

During the two week intensive with Frantic Assembly, we focused heavily on particular building blocks for devising movement specific to Scott Graham’s work processes. Many tasks were very similar to ones I had encountered in my dance work, but ultimately they served a different purpose, and that is how they differ.Most tasks began from a very simple place, and the mentality was always to always layer onto what you have. For example the connect, affect, disconnect task was to have one person in the centre of the space and one by one everyone has a turn to connect to the central person, affect them in some way, and disconnect after. They began as simple arm movements, and as everyone became a little more comfortable we started to experiment with how you could affect the body. By the end we had a phrase of movement that connected and flowed and eventually looped over and over. From that simple phrase we could then play with the task, with speed, pace, proximity, levels of movement. They would all add another layer of information to give the movement more detail.

It is at this point within my own dance practice that the movement would immediately take a much larger turn, to not resemble any natural human gesture. This is neither good nor bad, however I am simply pointing out the fact that I am realising there are many more options to play with movement that does not need to go straight to what looks like contemporary dance. There is a possibility to add intricate layers to a sequence, while keeping a real human tenderness that is vulnerable and real. Finding that middle ground can become something beautiful and I think Frantic have on a few occasions found that spark.

The most challenging aspect for me when working in this way, is when it is further on in the process and you have completed multiple tasks that it is harder and harder to find a new starting point for movement. Particularly as they all begin with the hands, I find myself repeating what I have done and constantly denying my next idea believing it to have already been explored. I know this comes from my own mind and not the task, this challenge is not new and can be very real when you are pushing for some new material. It is a fear that will never go away as it’s a part of the creative process and it’s important to push through these moments in order to find the little surprises.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have had the opportunity to go into a studio and play with a few little gems I picked up from the intensive. There were things that continued to pop up through my play in the studio. I have discovered the basic form of the body can be the most interesting place to play with. Breath, posture, pace, and speed, watching how the body responds to the information laid upon it, without consciously deciding those things beforehand. They are important and I have been so quick to discount the natural and unique patterns of the body.

 

Everyday Hands

 

Wednesday 15 March

I had a rehearsal with Merel, Jessie, and Fiona today for us all to get into the studio and focus on whatever ideas and thoughts that were niggling at us to explore.Within the rehearsal, I asked to play with a simple devising task that had come from the two week intensive with Frantic. It had stemmed from the task Scott had used giving various sign language movements and playing with them to create quite unique arm phrases. I wanted to explore this concept but play with another form of stimuli.I asked the girls to find four gestures they did everyday, that defined their movement language. As an example one was to twist your hair in your fingers, if this was a gesture that you naturally did on a daily. As they found four moves, I then asked them to play with the task by giving them three words of direction to follow and manipulate their phrase in whatever way those terms meant to them.

The directions were: Connect, transform, and heighten.

From this step it resulted in formed arm phrases that no longer really resembled the original four moves. I then asked for each of them to learn one or two moves from each others phrase. I wanted to see whether the difference in phrases could find a unifying moment by having one simple move pop up in each others sequence. I did not tweak or manipulate the moves as I wanted a completely natural and authentic pattern of movement that came from their bodies first.

Here are the set of three phrases:

 

I asked the girls to do their phrase together, to watch how the movement would work with one another.

 

The phrase together was lovely to see as there was one move with the arm outstretched that I was constantly looking for. It brought these three women together, all telling their own stories but having one shared experience. In an odd sense there was a nice canon of movement to this one gesture that could only have come from finding it through playing and not pre planning set rules.

It was interesting to watch, as this was a simple task that had no real intention behind the beginning direction, I could already clearly see and articulate subtexts within each person’s phrase that was not intended to be there. Simply because of the nature of their moves, the decision of their pace, pauses if added, and their eye line. For a task that came from movement that was already settled in their bodies, the girls finished with phrases that we could not have created from scratch without the initial elements. I was already brainstorming potential stories behind these phrases and how I could play with this movement to amplify those subtexts. I think the idea that if you begin from a movement that is natural to you, it is much easier to manipulate from there. As they all had a specific broken down understanding of their own created phrase, this laid a foundation to work and elaborate on.

This was something I did not understand until I had gone through this task with the girls. To be fair they were very quick and natural at this task as we had already explored this kind of devising in the intensive and so they were very comfortable to play. That said I believe it will be something I explore in the future when generating movement with people who are not necessarily comfortable with making movement from scratch.

The Winters Tale

On Wednesday night I attended a show at the Warwick Arts Centre with Jessi. It was a Shakespeare show of The Winters Tale by Cheek By Jowl. My initial intention to see this performance was to continue my research on the ‘potential for movement’ and I ended up coming out with so much more. It was a full show, with laughs, dramatic moments of heartache and a general jovial sense of play.

The beginning image as people are filing into the theatre is of a person seated centre stage with their back to us knitting. Automatically I thought the sense of suspense of revealing an image and allowing you to ponder and analyse what it could mean, what is going to happen, soon it pulls you right into the action. Slowly I began to involve myself into the story, and make my own conclusions as to who this person was and why they were sitting there. ‘The potential for movement’ was already revealing itself in more ways than one.

As the lights go out the performers switch to present two men in stillness.They slowly look at one another, there is nothing else happening in the entire room, as everyone watches the breathe and eye line of these two men. Tension builds again but you’re not sure whether it is positive or simply terrifying. Suddenly the two men break into a fit of laughter and general horse play as they run around the stage.This was a another fantastic example of playing with stillness, particularly at the very beginning of a story, the audience do not know the characters and so are completely dependent on the initial action to reveal the first little nuggets of information.

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The Entire Set (In a little box)

The last strong example of the play with stillness, was a scene where two performers were placed in the centre of the stage seated facing forward completely motionless. They had no expression, no form of personality to perform for the audience. There was action happening around them, great monologues of power and fierce movement. However I could not stop myself from watching the two still creatures in the centre of the action. There was a certain power in their stillness, of being outside the confrontation. They were encapsulating, I wasn’t sure whether I was waiting for them to move or that I just wanted to join them in this peaceful moment of peace away from the complicated emotion of human beings. It reminded me of a time lapse in film where they place a person out in public and have them still as they film around them and then speed it up. So you are left with a lone person motionless around the busy lives of everyone else. It is a strong image that I feel carries out into theatre. It was lovely to see that this idea of ‘The potential for movement’ is relevant in how you place people on stage. The simple act of stillness can allow the audience to become involved, and leaves room for the imagination, rather being spoon fed every little moment of subtext.

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Jessi waiting for the show to begin

 

Studio Play

This week, I began to research what the ‘potential for movement’ means within the context of theatre and the various forms it can take. After finding one example in Pina Bausch with The Fall Dance, I decided to play with the same idea. I created one simple arm task that involved moments of stillness that ‘fell’ into each movement.

Here is the original task:

(Sorry this URL will not allow you to view it on this site, just copy and paste to watch it on Vimeo)

I realised that breathe and pace played a large role in how the sequence would come across. Naturally I did not think about these two elements when creating the phrase and did what came instantly to me. The breathe fuels the movement, and can set a tone for the rest of the sequence. Incidentally it is the pace that created the breathe pattern in the first place. If the movements were performed any faster or slower, how I breathe would change drastically, which in turn affects my demeanour.

This version is done by taking out all of the pauses in the sequence, to see whether these ‘potential for movement’ moments were imperative to the overall context.

It was interesting to note that as I removed the pauses the sequence became faster and faster. Those moments of stillness I realised kept the pace, and also the detail of each movement. It gave a particular dynamic, and suddenly the sequence became something that was completely different to what I had created.

This next version is done while holding my breath. I wanted to see what would happen if I were to take an important aspect out of moving. Would the suspense of anticipating the next move be lost? Or would adding a layer of suspense by holding my breathe give a different connotation to the phrase?

After having Jessi film these sequences, she later expressed that she naturally held her breath when watching that previous version. A relaxation in the body is discarded when the most important function of the human body is taken away. And this I think can make people feel uncomfortable, it is something so understandable the concept of holding your breath and the fear of not being able to catch the next one. The sequence once again took on certain characteristics when I was not actively thinking of controlling them. Particularly the pace once again, now that a certain urgency affected the sequence, each movement was faster than the next to finish the exercise as quickly as possible.

The last version, I played with the pace of the initial movement out of the stillness. Usually when beginning a fall the first move is slower and like a roller coaster it speeds up as gravity takes the lead. Here I did the opposite and sped up the first movement before finishing off with a slower pace.

I found this sequence the most interesting to watch, possibly because when watching back I did not expect to see that dynamic, and its pleasantly surprising to watch. When a fast movement comes first, you naturally expect to see a ‘fast’ sequence to follow. My mind had more to say when thinking about subtext and what the sequence could mean.

I am glad I completed this task, as simple as it was, it allowed me to break down movement in a different way and analyse a sequence from the point of how it can effect someone when viewing it. As opposed to how it feels and whether it looks good. In its simplicity I could break down ‘dance’ moves and apply them into a ‘movement’ context allowing me to strip back habitual habits and create what is needed for the task, instead of creating what I know. However there are still simple elements of creating movement that I did not think to dissect until  watching them back on the video. Pace and breathe particularly are so important and I think are assumptions we make in the rehearsal space. Without looking at the nature of a movement, those two elements can dictate how an audience perceives the sequence.

 

 

 

Provocation 2 and Outline of Self Study Programme

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From the two week intensive with Frantic Assembly and the one on one tutorials with Simon, Scott, and Andrea I have now identified three areas I would like to focus and develop on over the next month. I will create a weekly list of tasks to complete and ultimately post onto this blog, to demonstrate my progress. There are many more things that I would like to continue looking into, however for now these are the important points that resonated with me.

The first is to do with directing, the intensive was highly focused on tasks that can be used to create movement, and interpreting how they come across from an outside directors perspective. I was very intrigued to find out more about the role a director. And am left with many questions. How do you facilitate a rehearsal? How much time is spent with the performers in the early stages of developing a work. Are they there from the beginning, or just for the practical aspect? How to develop a rehearsal schedule, that will be effective when put into practice. I understand everyone has a vastly different way of working, and I feel its important to branch out to find what might work best for me.

The other aspect I thoroughly enjoyed in the two weeks, was the collaborative nature of working with my colleagues. I so enjoyed creating and learning, particularly as most of the people were new to movement. It was fantastic to see that with the correct facilitation and movement tasks that anyone can create a phrase. I would like to focus on this further. By spending time with both dancers and actors, I would like to find out whether it is possible for me to create that same environment that is open and judgement free. Also to see whether I can get actors to find ways of moving they had not experienced, and for dancers to break some of their habitual ways of moving and approach creating from another perspective.

The last goal I have for myself, is actually a principle that Scott had discussed while breaking down a phrase someone had created. It is called ‘The potential for movement’. The idea that the moment before a movement of any sort be it small or large is what holds an audience, the special secret that holds the most potential for any possibility. I am going to look into this aspect of theatre, to see where it lies. Whether it can be found in other elements of theatre not just movement. I would also like to personally spend time finding where it does fit when creating movement.

 

These are the weekly tasks I have set up for myself. At the moment they are a broad example for every week, and will be broken down as specific events are organised.

Find three specific directing techniques for creating work that fit into my own practice.

  • Email artists to ask whether I can observe and discuss their personal ways of directing a show.
  • See some live shows and attend post show talks to find out more about their process.
  • Research and gain a greater understanding of preconceived structured directing roles. Where they come from? Practically how it works? Why it is an effective way of directing?

 

Develop my own experience within movement directing and experiment with a mixture of creatives who are and are not comfortable with movement.

  • Create a conversation with both the dance and drama department at Coventry University and see whether I can connect with some of their undergrad students to come together and create movement.
  • Build a personal warmup and movement devising plan to use within workshops.
  • Document any personal or group practical research, to keep track of development.

 

Research and analyse the idea of ‘potential for movement’.

  • Research shows that play with that moment, and analyse whether these moments are in fact important and if so how are they relevant.
  • Create weekly phrases from my own movement play or with others, document, and anaylse whether they were successful or not.
  • Create conversations with both dance and theatre practitioners, discussing this very aspect of movement creating.

The resources I will need for these activities mainly lay within Coventry Universities studios and technology. The city is close to both Birmingham and London, that have a plethora of shows and rehearsals to observe. I will also be in communication with both the theatre and dance department at Coventry University and also Frantic Assembly as a starting point for contacts.