on preparing

on preparing

“.. it demanded an assessment of what kind of physical extreme my body was ready for to warm it and to push it into freedom…

Then it required an odd other thing I look at now as a sharpening of wit so I was ready to pick up on a space, the audience, the demands of the moment.”

JENNIFER MASCALL

DARCY

This blog is an interesting start. It seems to me to shift from ‘how does one prepare for rehearsal’, into broaching the subject of what is a dancer, a collaborator and a choreographer? How do these dynamics work? How do ideas come about? What variables create a piece? These are interesting questions that can and should be explored in more detail and focus.

SUSAN

They’re all interlinked – great questions.

DARCY
Is this BLOG for dancers? Or for broadening general awareness? Or simply to elicit discussion within the community?

JENNIFER

For me, the BLOG is for dancers.

I feel dancers need to take hold of their own training now in a much more strident way than when I was initially trained in the 70’s. I think discussing our thoughts on training will shed light for us and others on what how and where to go.
I think secondarily the discussion will be of interest to parents (we often have parents of dancers on our board) service organizations, teachers and dance writers.

DARCY

In terms of “training” or “how might a dancer prepare for a rehearsal’ or perhaps even a performance”, what are some ideas of long term/life training versus a daily practice?

JENNIFER

For a specific topic, I think how to prepare for a rehearsal or a performance would be really interesting. Here goes:

When I toured as a solo improviser, I developed a way of preparing for performance because I had to. It was a kind of assessment of where I was , who I was on the particular performance day, and then I’d do what that needed. Sometimes it was being in the theatre all day. Usually it meant a lot of time alone. Sometime it was a long jog — it demanded an assessment of what kind of physical extreme my body was ready for to warm it and to push it into freedom.

SUSAN

Amelia Itcush – legendary performer – told me during a period of her time with Toronto Dance Theatre she’d warm up by spending herself totally – to extremest possible muscular exhaustion – before performing, that way she shed all muscular excess and would dance with total economy – boundary breaking and focus – in one memorable Graham stag leap in performance she flew past stage edge right into the (orchestra) pit.

JENNIFER

Then it required an odd other thing I look at now as a sharpening of wit so I was ready to pick up on a space, the audience, the demands of the moment.

I remember one performance that wasn’t solo in the north of Finland. As only one of the 6 performers spoke English I asked that we all spend the entire day together so I could feel the others when we got to the performance.

SUSAN

Yes, it definitely involved intuiting what was required – a balance of elements. And it was also really different balancing situations where I was both director and performer, than when I was dancer. You had to avoid giving the dancer short shrift.

I needed alone time to move past nervous jangle, and used repetitive functional tasks to center me .. I picked up on knitting backstage from noticing Peggy (Baker) doing it back in the 70s – when you were with others knitting you could be connected to the group energy but subtly apart – the feeling of the wool and the rhythm slows your heart rate like a purring cat on your chest.

When solo touring, I learned to use the epic ironing of a solo costume made of 40 yards of silk a few hours before – why not use it, there was no one else to do it – it was a good period of shelter after the tech was done, from the public requirements when you are both dancer and director.

Functional repetition, exacting – a focussed threshold score that was sensually satisfying; I would shift my eye focus and breath over the yards of smoothed silk. Drift between absentness and razor focus. It was getting equipment ” just right” ready for the race. Sore feet and lower back from the long time ironing – but it primed me perfectly to release into a physical state with an appetite to move, and warm up my body without vagueness, assembling energy to be ready.

DARCY

It is interesting that you both comment on the desire or need to be alone pre-show. I believe this is an unspoken rule amongst performers, on show days – a stage full of people warming up, in their own space- it’s different than other days. Space needs to be given for each to find this heightened level of functioning.

SUSAN

I found myself always doing internal/external focussing. I’d lurk in the wings – or some other area alone -secretly toy with shadow, warm up the moving between being invisible and sending out/drawing toward intensity. I think this is probably somewhere in the interesting part – what Jennifer calls now “the sharpening of wit” comes in here – tuning the inside out and the outside in at very precise levels. Tuning the dancers’ Stradivarius involves this

DARCY

Lately, before performing, I’ve been playing with moments of solitude/introspection combined with precise physical focus, then interspersed with social and supportive energy, I find the combination actually encourages me to be more present when i step on stage and not get too nervous.

SUSAN

It’s a long day, performance days, if there’s also rehearsal and/or tech, life demands – etc. That changes the balance.

DARCY

My ideal is to indulge on a performance day and allot Bath Time! My thoughts are of the food I choose, when and how I move. I love to have some movement structure earlier in the day -a class of some sort- and then pre-show, while warming up, I am able to easily call upon the warmth and articulation my body had earlier in the day.