The Language of Performing Arts.
The Language of Performing Arts.
In our first term of performing arts, our aim was to create four separate performances in dance, drama and music and one that integrated all three art forms. To do this we firstly looked at different skills needed in each art form and experimented with these by doing different practical exercises. This helped us to build up the knowledge we needed to use improvisation, rehearsal and performance processes to devise our performances.
I began to devise my dance by choosing a stimulus (see picture below). I brainstormed words, which I imagined would associate with it. I eventually chose the words good and evil. The words complemented each other and gave most potential for creating contrasting movement. I therefore decided to do a thematic piece, about a person in limbo between the two concepts.
I started to develop the dance by creating a motif that represented good. This contained smooth flowing movements with triplets and turns. Then I created a motif that showed evil to contrast this; it contained more harsh striking actions, such as lunges and leaps. I created an alternative motif, to use as a bridge between good and evil, which contained spiralling movements. These spiralling movements were to show the confusion in the mind of the performer. Whilst rehearsing I developed my motifs further by looking at my use of space. I decided to use one corner of the room to represent good and the other evil. This was achieved by changing the floor pattern and by giving more emphasis using my gestures or eye focus towards the corners of the room.
I fitted the motifs together using a rondo form as follows:
Bridging motif, good motif, bridging motif, evil motif, bridging motif.
My final bridging motif ended in a position to create tension.
The music I used contrasted the work I had set however by slightly adjusting the dynamics of my dance the music and dance complimented each other. I did feel that the accents were an important part of the music so I slightly adjusted the dynamics of my dance so that the accents of the music and the dance complemented each other.
Whilst rehearsing I found being a solo performer had its advantages and its disadvantages. The thing I felt was most difficult was only having my own input and not having an outside eye to say what looked effective or not. Another disadvantage is that when only having one dancer on stage the performance can be enhanced by developing relationships between dancers. Through using choreographic devices such as unison and cannon, which often make the dance more effective.
The advantages of working as a solo performer were, I found it a lot easier to get my work done quicker as there were no lengthy discussions about decisions which needed to be made. I was able to effectively organise my rehearsal time because as there was only me to rehearse. I practised as much as possible, as I became aware that through rehearsal I was more confident with the performing my movements with clarity and precision.
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I believe that it is not just the actual dance that makes a performance, the main part of a performance is how the dancer presents his or her self and how they put emotion across to the audience, as does Alvin Ailey in the dance maker as this quote shows
‘You can do the steps with muscle memory, but once you get up on the stage, its not all about steps at all. You really have to reason why you’re doing it. You cant just go through the emotions it involves the whole self.’
The end of my rehearsal process and performance preparation mainly involved developing my ability to involve my ‘whole self’ in the performance. This involved being focused and committed to each section of the performance. I also marked out my dance in the performance area checking I was using the space effectively. When the time came to perform, I found focusing on the performance was harder than I first thought it would be as other aspects came into play such as nerves and how intimidating an audience can be. In future, I plan to perform in front of an audience more in rehearsals to build on my confidence and I will seek the advice of an outside eye.
Our drama piece was a section from the play ‘my mother said I never should’. It was a short piece about four children playing in a wasteground. My character was very shy and unsure of herself. To develop our characterisation we used various improvisation techniques. Firstly, we did a hotseating exercise. We had to get into our character with no preparation and then had questions fired at us about our character and their reactions. Through out this I discovered out a lot about how my character would feel and reacts to situations. It also helped me to think about the dialogue she would use and her physicality. I also observed the behaviour of my 7 year old cousin whilst he was playing with is friend. This gave me a lot of ideas about children’s physicality and how they relate to each other.
We then started to look at the script and began to put this into action. We began by having a few run-throughs to get us confident with the script, which enabled us to concentrate on how our characters would interpret the situation. We experimented voice patterns, to create the right tone of voice that would show the personality and emotions of the characters. My character had a quiet, slow voice pattern to show she was a shy person. To develop our emotion more we improvised a scene using mime which helped us concentrate on our facial expressions and body language. This again helped me to develop my characters physicality and the relationship with other characters.
Studying proxemics was also an important part of our devising process. We looked at how where we were sat or stood showed the relationship between the characters. Jackie was sat at one side of the stage with Rosie sat next to her, I was sat at the opposite side of the stage with Doris sat between Rosie and me. This was to show that Jackie was the leader Rosie was a close follower that was accepted be Jackie and Doris was also close to them but felt sorry for my character that was always looked down on by Jackie and Rosie.
Once we had looked at different possibilities we all came together and discussed what we thought looked effective and create the correct mood for the performance. We concentrated a lot on the beginning sequence because this set the scene for the piece so we wanted to be able to build tension. We wanted to show the sinister side of the end of the play and to introduce it by showing we were children playing together. We decided to do this by splitting the rhyme in two we all began facing away from each other at separate corners of the room and reciting the first two lines of the rhyme slowly and with no emotion in our voice. We then showed a quick change of mood by turning and singing the next part joyfully whilst skipping around in a circle.
Overall our performance went well. It think that it effected the audience in the way which we intended, for example the audience felt sympathy for the character which I played. I especially enjoyed performing the beginning sequence as I found that this the most challenging part to get right. When we performed the beginning sequence, I don’t feel we did as well as in rehearsal, but I still think it got across what we wanted to show.
For my first music piece, I knew that I was going to sing a song. Before I even considered what song to sing I researched different voice training techniques. I knew that if my voice wasn’t warmed up before I started to sing the song would sound ineffective. I did exercises that improved airflow and diaphragmatic support. I sang scales and concentrated a lot on my breathing.
I performed the song Torn by Natalie Imbruglia. I began by looking through a wide variety of backing tracks from the Internet. I chose three midi files to rehearse to so that I could see which one I liked and suited my voice the best. I took the songs Torn, You’ve got a friend by Carol King and What Can I Do? by the Corrs.
I researched the original songs so I could listen to their vocal styles and more specifically the tone quality of their voices and how they were used to create the emotion in the songs. I found that Torn showed the most emotion and had a wider range of dynamics so I chose to focus on rehearsing this song.
The song contains very powerful and also abstract lyrics. I spent a lot of time when rehearsing looking at lyrics and thinking about what they meant and how this could influence my performance. The song has many hidden meanings that come through because of the way it is sung. For example the line ‘lying naked on the floor’ this is a very visual way to show the vulnerability that is wanting to be expressed. I had to rehearse different ways in which to perform the melody so that these things could be expressed.
I also found when listening to the original version the voice performed the melody with an instrumental accompaniment (a homophonic texture). The voice carries the melody, against the background of guitars, which only repeat the same simple chords during the verse.
Most of all in rehearsal I had to try to become familiar with the lyrics so I felt confident whilst singing them, so I knew exactly what was coming next. When I had achieved this, I could think more about the dynamics and pitch of my voice. Whilst rehearsing I also had to look at my tone placement, I had to continually create a light bright timbre that carried well.
When I performed my piece, I had only a small audience of four people. I was very nervous because of who was in my audience, as I knew they would be very critical of my work. I felt that I didn’t perform the piece as well as I could have. In addition, I don’t think that the audience appreciated the time that I put into the rehearsal of the song. I could have improved my performance by spending more time doing voice training to work on thing such as vocal co-ordination, tone production and resonance.
For our combined piece, we decided to use the theme of war. We chose this concept over the others because we felt that this could be much more effectively used to create expressive effect. We used this idea to create the piece in a symbolic way. We made our performance have three clear sections to show different angles of war. We showed the effects war had on women, how many soldiers died during the war and how the media influenced the people of the times.
We opened our performance by reading a section from a letter written by a soldier to his wife. My character was a young emotional woman that was heartbroken when her husband was called up. She flipped through emotions as the speech went on. To develop characterisation we did various improvisation tasks experimenting with the dialogue and the physicality of that character.
The second section was choreographed using two different motifs, one based on movements that symbolised the confined space inside a coffin, and the other symbolised a dead body. We developed the dead body motif from a duet into a group movement, changing the spatial element of the choreography. Dancers stood at opposite sides of the stage and ran in using different floor patterns to help support the dead body. This section symbolised the women thinking about their husbands and the fact that many of them were already dead. The section ended in dynamic contrast with four of the dancers on the floor lying still, and one stood. This dancer, represented the character of the grim reaper, walking through a sea of bodies, creating an eerie tension due to the stillness of the bodies and the slow gliding movement created by the solo dancer. The dancers on the floor all rose from the ground in cannon this symbolised the departure of their souls from their body and stood facing the back. We intentionally emphasised the use of levels for example the floor work for the coffin dance and the raised person at the end looking over the bodies. We thought that the levels were very symbolic of the idea of death and how people are buried in the ground etc. it also showed the tenuous relationship between life and death.
The last section contrasted the first two. We had created some text to advertise the reasons why it was important for civilians to go to war. We took ideas from the World War II recruitment posters. This was done to create a different effect for the audience, as it showed hypocrisy of propaganda. It showed how the media were telling the people to fight for their country without showing the reality of the situation. Each performer took it in turn to deliver a line in a strong steady rhythm, using the same force and aggression. We used this piece to end our performance as a contrast to the eerie mood of the death scene, we also felt the strong dialogue would create tension, we though that this would leave the audience shocked.
We used the piece of music that we composed was used to accompany the middle section of our performance. We saved it for this part as we wanted to create eerieness at the beginning and end as can only be suggested by complete silence. We wanted to control the mood through out the performance. We chose to do this through music. We used silence to create a mood for most of the performance but for our dance we wanted to do something different, so we took sounds that had a dark timbre and that would create an eerie effect and mixed them together. We chose five different sounds that we though would create the effect we wanted. Each of us took a sound and on individual tracks. We individually began improvise on the keyboard. After each improvisation, we fitted the tracks together listening to the texture and the emotional effect the music. We experimented until we felt we had created the right mood. We did not think about having a set meter or rhythm we just improvised and played the notes when we felt the time was right,
When rehearsing we had to concentrate on aspects such as group awareness this was an essential factor especially in our dance as in our developed dead body motif. We all had to run off and on stage to support each dancers body we had to watch the other dancers and be careful on our timing so as no to let another dancer fall. For our actual performance we had to practise our projection of the voice for our first and last sections as if the audience could not hear us the performance would lose its effect. I think that we gave the opportunity to see a different way in which war effects people other than the usual story of the soldiers on the front line.
There were many last minute changes due to our in effective rehearsal planning, we coped with them very well and remembered all the things that we had to do. We prepared for our performance by marking in the space to make sure we knew all the changes.
By looking at improvising and rehearsal techniques and performing the four pieces, I have found there are definite links between art forms. For example when choreographing a dance the dancer must be aware of timing, rhythm and dynamics which are musical terms, and they may also need to be in character to show relationship and/or emotion in a dance. Combining the art forms also makes a piece of performance more visual for an audience and allows the performers to consider the most appropriate medium for creating a mood or idea.