Elysse Cheadle: daily reflections
Way Out West (WOW) is an annual intensive in Vancouver offering in-depth somatic study through daily classes based on the exploration of multiple physical systems, including technique, improvisation, experiential anatomy, performance, and yoga. WOW 2013 is in session this week, led by MascallDance Artistic Director Jennifer Mascall. We welcome four guest TALK contributors – Jennifer Hamman, Ashley Johnson, Elysse Cheadle and Rianne Svelnis, all currently in the WOW studio. Some fragments of WOW experience from actor Elysse Cheadle:
Different character bodies and intentions bubble to the surface with each new fluid system exploration.
Today was my first at WOW and what stood out the most to me was a moment in technique class when Jennifer described our internal bodies as landscapes and our movement as rivers flowing through those landscapes. She asked us to consider our limitations – injuries, tensions and so on- as stones in the river that we needn’t push against – that we can find ways to flow around. For me this was an extremely useful image.
I really enjoyed using the image of my lungs to help find three dimensional space in my body.
As a non-dancer, it doesn’t come easily to me to think of my side and back space. However, as an actor, using my lungs is something I’m very comfortable with.
With Jennifer’s guidance through the lung lobes I found ways to open up new spaces, and felt spiralling shapes in my body that I hadn’t found before.
I attended technique and experiential anatomy classes today. My thoughts are more scattered. Again, the technique class in particular was an amazing experience for me. The hour and a half that Jennifer has structured is so complete. And at the end of the class I feel so strong, focused, and THREE DIMENSIONAL!
It would work wonderfully well as vocal warm-up since so much of it is focused on opening up the ribs and torso. I can’t wait to share it with my fellow theatre students and am anxious not to forget the materials I’m picking up.
In one exercise this morning we found spiraling movement in the joints of the arms, using as little muscular tension as possible. I loved – well, first, that this exercise was insanely silly, but beyond that, I loved how it allowed me to find the relationship between my arms and the rest of my body in a new way. I’m often self-conscious about my arms, and after the exercise, I felt the spaces around the joints in my arms and shoulder blades; my arms felt very supported by the musculature of my back and abdomen, with little tension.
However, as I struggled through the steps I was struck by the importance of bringing humility into the room during a warm-up. I felt a lot more comfortable taking risks in the room after failing completely at following the steps – and that realization is something I am going to bring into warm-ups in the future with new ensembles: humility allows for trust and play. Additionally, the mental challenge the difficult choreography demanded of me really brought my mind into the room, and made me feel alert and detail-oriented.
So, while I wish I was better at picking up choreography so I’d feel the flow of the movement that Jennifer has created more, I find the challenge of the work for a non-dancer extremely valuable and enlightening.
I am looking forward to tomorrow.
The day sped by. My big question today is: as a non-dancer, how can I find a way to translate the choreography of other bodies onto my own when I do not know the language of the steps?
When observing choreography on other bodies, I witness fluidity and often a clear sense of push and pull that drives the movements. I struggle to find these patterns in my own body when simply trying to ‘imitate’ gestures I observe in class.
Perhaps I need to learn to witness differently … Would trying to observe which fluid systems are responsible for which moments of a choreographic sequence help me find those fluid pushes and pulls I so readily observe in the bodies of dancers in class?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the spaces BETWEEN since yesterday: between joints, between layers of tissues, between organs, between cells, between organs, inside cells. As somebody who often feels physically restrained in their movement, my curiousity is whetted to investigate ways that my new knowledge of these liminal spaces could open new movement pathways, and more room for expression in me.
As an actor, I am very curious to explore how focus on the different fluid systems could be used to help generate character – I feel different character bodies and intentions bubble to the surface with each new fluid system exploration. I am eager to see where these new ideas could lead…
Oh, yes – also, my shoulder girdle and ribs have never felt so released! How wonderful!
Join the conversation at WOW and stay tuned for more TALK from Elysse Cheadle and colleagues.