Being a part of Settle/Unsettle has taught me a lot, but there would be something wrong with me if I walked away from this experience empty handed. It was unlike any other show or rehearsal process I’ve ever done, and I wrote about the creation process a few posts back.
A big part of the piece is all of the little moments and transitions, which is something I’ve always struggled with, most prominently in ballet. But it’s important to remember that every movement matters, not just the big jumps or the explosive and exciting dive rolls or lifts. At a certain point, really any dancer can execute any step. It’s not just the technique that sets people apart, especially when you get up to the advanced/professional level.
A few weeks before we left for NYC, nomadic dancer/choreographer Michael Schumacher came in to give us some feedback. I find great value in what he has to say; he is very experienced in not only performing but choreographing, and his mind works in a very interesting but honest way.
- He pointed out to us that I must release my neck to unbind. I felt like my energy was ending with my body instead of continuing past it. He pointed out that I was very stiff with my neck, and since I was holding energy and tension in it, there was nowhere else for it to go, even with my arms or legs.
- He told me to get lower to the ground. He explained that it was less about bending the knees and more about setting the sitz bones down and back. This may not seem like some great revelation to a bystander, but it helped me become more grounded during certain turns and jumps. Bending the knees can become a very passive movement that becomes useless, but shooting the sitz bones down and back grounds the body.
- Presence and projection – we all tend to go into “grand gesture pantomime ballet mode” when we are doing simple things like looking at our partners or out at the audience or up at the sky. He told us to “take off the mask of performance” and to just be. This doesn’t mean putting on a “casual mask” either; it means to really just be there and really just see your partners. Be a human onstage. This doesn’t mean letting one’s presence fall flat, though. One must remember that I exist beyond the parameters of this room.
- Let my arms (and all limbs) be heavier. I am not drawing with my arms. They have weight, and I’m allowed to show that my arms have weight and move like they are solid, heavy pieces of flesh and bone. The weight accomplishes the movement. The drawing is the framework that helps us first learn what to do with our limbs.
- The big, overarching piece of advice was to find my own movement fascinating. If I am fascinated with what I am doing, then the audience will be too. To really believe that every swing of weight of my body is an amazing thing that I marvel to witness will give the audience enjoyment. It is important to remember I find my movement fascinating.
This was a lot to take in, and it’s the sort of feedback that takes days, weeks, months to settle into the body. I am still working on all of it, but I know that these thoughts gave my movement a completely different quality than what it once had.