Thursday, September 27, 2012

Summer is over.

It’s the first day of Movement Class.

by Philip Cuomo

This is a big day. First year students are especially amped as this is the first class of the year and their first class ever at PAC. Their excitement is palpable. Little do they know I will soon make them stand in place still for an uncomfortably long time.

Before we start we identify the four movement descriptors defined by Rudolph Laban as space, weight, time and flow. They are similar to Mary Overlie’s Six Viewpoints and the nine Viewpoints Anne Bogart expanded them into. Space, weight, time and flow are incorporated into the Viewpoints and I use the word descriptor to simplify the concept and not to confuse the students. They are a given vocabulary from which to talk about how the body moves, as the Veiwpoints are ways to talk about physical action in space. Both amazing complements to the way in which Stanislavksi defines physical action in psychological terms.

But I am super excited to make the students stand still in movement class. I love the irony.

We start with a subtle energy exercise of rolling up and down the spine. I learned this from Kristan Linklater’s work in voice class. It is an exercise repeated infinitely by many teachers and executed by my students until they are sick of it.

Of course we also do several aggressive energy exercises in and around stillness. Heart-pumping sweat-inducing exercises based on the work of Jacques Lecoq. I call one of my favorites the sway. Seemingly natural, yet surprisingly calculated students begin to move very specifically from their hips side to side.

The other exercise I call the Effort Flower. Lecoq referred to  it as the Effort Rose but I have slammed and squished it and when I watch the move I see a daisy so I renamed it. The movement starts in the actor’s core and flows out the arms. If you were to draw semis circles around the extended hands you would see flower petals. The core of the actor’s body is the pistol, or is it stamen? When I do the movement it is a pistol: when my teaching assistant Sascha does it is a stamen. Of course, if you were French you might see a rose, but I see a daisy. Hence the change of name from Effort Rose to Effort Flower. The audience determines the specific reference.

The audience is inspired by the actors work: a great first lesson for the students on their first day.