As actors it is our job to breath life into the characters that we bring onto the stage.
So, what happens when your character is a statue? How do you breath life into an inanimate object? The secret is the focus of energy. As our actors strike a pose they send energy throughout their bodies by focusing the brain.
Check out Maddie LaCroix (left) and Shannen Holohan (right) as they create a dynamic stillness by imagining movement throughout their bodies breathing life into an inanimate statue. The tension that they send down into their arms, legs, hands, and torso create the stillness but by actively sending the tension throughout their body they create a moving energy for their statue characters.
Next watch how we bring those statues to life!
A few years back Bradley Cooper appeared on the CBS Morning Show to promote the movie "Burnt". During his interview he defined the job of an actor as to "create these imaginary circumstances and to live within them and have an honest moment." It is our job as actors to create believable characters and their stories.
So what happens when you have to create an honest moment for a circumstance that you have never experienced or even imagined? For example, how do you create an honest moment as a statue that comes to life?
It is a fact that none of our actors have ever experienced being a statue coming to life but what have they experienced that could simulate that action? How about waking in the morning? So let's create that imaginary circumstance. Here are all of actors lying on the floor exactly as they would if they were sleeping in the exact position that they experience as they sleep each night.
Next they are asked to imagine waking from a deep sleep - wake your mind, wake your body - what does that look like? What does that feel like? How do you live that in this moment? If we do it honestly by imagining that we are living it then we will be true to Bradley Cooper's definition of an actor and a statue might just come to life.
So what does a toy soldier have in common with a chimney sweep? Nothing - unless, the chimney sweeps are dancing in "Step in Time". Nothing - unless the chimney sweeps dancing in "Step in Time" are rotating in a straight line. Nothing - unless they are dancing in "Step in Time" rotating in a straight line just like a Rockette dancing in the iconic "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers".
Moving in a straight line as a wooden soldier or a chimney sweep is definitely challenging. It begins with the correct positions of arms and no actual touching.
Each dancer must move individually but in direct line with the dancer on either side. So as our dancers move forward in a fully measured way they must also look side-to-side using their peripheral vision to keep that line straight and moving. It is sort of like patting your head while rubbing your tummy. Try it.
Now check out our kick line. - same basic theory. Our dancers begin with correct arm placement with no touching. Each dancer's movement needs to be fully supported and independent.. And honestly, the kick is more of a lift - no need for momentum here - just pure core strength. Add some peripheral vision and you have yourself a kick line. I have to admit - much tougher than it looks. Our dancers had fun giving it a shot - check it out.
A cast made up of actors with strength of character is key to the success of any musical production and I am not talking about the character that you find on the page of a script. I mean the character that begins with integrity and discipline, that understands the true meaning of commitment and sacrifice, and that leads to trust and confidence as a cast. Building character is a perk of performing. It requires time, work, and discipline. And often times it requires sacrifice. But when we are able to count on each other as a cast then there is no limit to what we can accomplish - together.
Here is Sarah Dobbin. You may remember her from our very first blog post.
She always comes prepared and ready to work. She gives her best at whatever is asked of her no matter the challenge. Her journey has not always been an easy one but she has always worked with determination and a touch of humor (that never hurts).
Sarah is a senior and has been accepted to her first choice college! Lucky school. Today she asked if she could miss a rehearsal next week. She made it clear that her commitment to our show is paramount but that she was invited to a special event at her college. And she asked if she could go. The answer was easy. Sarah is a young woman of character and she has earned my trust. We missed her but had a fabulous day at the college where she will spend the next four years of her life. It was thrilling to hear her tell about her day's visit. She was so excited and we will miss her.
Building strength of character is a perk but the payback is priceless.
Mirror - friend or foe? Well, for those of us who look in the mirror and see our mothers - foe. To dancers it can be a friend - a tool that comes with a warning label.
Warning - use with caution.
A wall full of floor-to-ceiling mirrors provides the perfect tool for dancers to learn choreography, to check alignment, and to adjust lines and spacing. But when a dancer gets lost in the mirror or depends too much on the mirror it can be a curse. Check out this March 2017 blog post from the Rockette Facebook page:
While almost every dance studio has one, facing your own reflected image is practically a given, and some even consider the dance mirror a necessary tool in dance training. Here are a few tips on how to use the studio mirrors to your advantage and how to avoid common reflection-gazing pitfalls:
• Watch yourself in the mirror occasionally to adjust your shape, line, alignment or spacing. Sometimes it helps to decide on one dance element you want to work on during class and use the mirror only to correct that one thing.
• Watch classmates only to learn from them and apply what they do well to your own dancing.
• Use the mirror to get an overall picture of what the choreography looks like, or to learn a phrase of movement more quickly.
• Constantly gazing at your own reflection causes you to rely on visual cues more than your proprioceptors, the sensors that provide awareness of where your body or its parts are in space. This can negatively affect your dance training. If you find you are having difficulty balancing or dancing without a mirror, these are signals to spend less time looking in the mirror in dance class:
• Shift your focus toward points relevant to the choreography or in the direction you are moving just as you would on stage.
• Intentionally stand in a part of the room that limits your use of the mirror.
Take class in a studio that covers or does not have wall-mounted mirrors.
Tonight we turn our cast around. Choreography has all been taught. No more mirror. Fourth wall here we come.
Choreography and music have been taught - check. Now we clean. Now we polish.
Now we add the finishing touches like transitions, style, precision, and character.
Now we create a performance. And let's see who has come to play.
Holly Anne Palmer is a successful director and producer. She has worked on Broadway and in regional theatre. She is currently the lead producer for "Wine Lovers the Musical" performed on Norwegian Cruise Ships around the world. A few years back Holly Anne came to BYPC to teach a workshop and one year later used Skype to teach our musical theatre class. Amongst her many pearls of wisdom were to get to class because training is key, to do your research, to always be prepared and on time, to conduct yourself professionally in a rehearsal or an audition, and to come ready to play.
So who is ready to play? At this stage of our rehearsal run our actors are deep in their heads remembering choreography, lines, music, and blocking. It is tough to let go at this stage. But, yet, there are some who just do. Today Allison Seidel, Jaime Setzler, Anna Whitney, and Hailey Moores did just that and it was so much fun to watch. It's playtime - watch as more of cast join in. Let the work of play begin!