‘Tail-Navel” – “Ready-steady-go”
VENUE : MUNDELEIN 520
During our brief encounter I will share my practical experiences with teaching students at the Drama School of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. AT is a compulsory 2-year course in their curriculum, with weekly group and individual lessons.
The following is a quote from the thank-you-speech to the AT teachers by our student Ms Teele Pärna on the 20th January 2018, when the event marking the birthday of F.M. took place for the 17th time in Estonia.
“It is said that when a conductor raises her hand, this gesture, called the upbeat, should already contain the whole piece — its tempo, dynamics, mood, everything — so the musicians can get a glimpse of the piece as a whole. They should get the hint of the direction in the pause right before the music starts. This upbeat reminds me of the technique. I need to raise my hand to drop it, I need to inhale to exhale, I need to stop to sense motion. But I am no musician, just an acting student, so I should probably stick to what I know. Stanislavski has the term “the given circumstances”. In order to play a character I have to know all the circumstances she is in. The better I know who she is, why she is like that, where she is, where she goes, where she comes from, the better I can live her life. But I think this applies to real life also — the better I know my given circumstances, the better I can live my life, and I think the technique is one of the best ways to get to know my given circumstances. During my practice I have discovered many circumstances and met quite a clumsy and a bad version of myself, but I believe that the moment I witness the bad version of myself I also witness the possibility of the best one.”In my daily work with performers I see more and more students with a poor use of the self, who have difficulty in coping with the more challenging basic exercises (movement, singing, diction). Over the years I have developed a particular approach to addressing these difficulties, based on conscious inhibition and directions.I have worked more than ten years with dance, music and actress students at Tallin University (Estonia) together with a Finish medical doctor, a senior physiotherapy lecturer Jouko Heiskanen. Jouko has specialized in musicians’ and dancers problems.We used realtime ultrasound (GE LOGIQ E9) as a biofeedback for muscle status and tonus evaluation as well as for teaching recruitment muscle activation. This realtime visualization (biofeedback) make it possible to follow on screen muscle inhibition, activation and fatigue of different muscles during physical exercise. We were mostly interested in functional stability and optimal mobility of middle body and cervical spine muscles which are important elements for artists.We found that dancers use in mostly superficial muscle layers and have insufficient conscious of inhibition. The movement involved was a simple lifting a leg, requiring stability of the pelvis. Either over- or underwork was evident, triggering a compensatory program elsewhere in the body. This made me think about how the tools of AT could help a dancer to receive adequate feedback and find an optimum tone of readiness.
I call it “tail-navel” – working with the centre; “ready – steady – go!” – the transition from being in a neutral axis to an active readiness without losing the back. This is the part of my work I would like to share.
We work on basic procedures with the students, the monkey position, lunge, squat, hands on the back of the chair, whispering ‘ah’.
You can only change a habit that you have discovered, only then there is a choice.
Having a choice means not only having the tools but also being decisive and motivated.
F.M. himself was extremely motivated to find this obstacle, as he wanted to be back on stage…. “There is no such thing as a right position, but there is such a thing as a right direction.” … What is the right direction? Is the Primary Control like Konstantin Stanislavski’s Super Objective?
In my daily work with actors I have often complemented the wording “be without doing” capturing the process of conscious inhibition with “be without knowing”.
The concept of “standing with one’s back to the event” in Stanislavski’s system describes the actors’ state of readiness where they know the chain of events about to happen, which their character could not possibly know. Serving the Super Objective unlocks the potential, enabling them to know and not know simultaneously.
A state of readiness is achieved when the tone of intrinsic muscles is at an optimum and when the best synergy exists between muscle groups. This allows the fine motor coordination to be at its best and a meaningful movement happens.
Without losing the entirety, the psycho-physical wholeness carries out a set task.
We can discover an obstacle by consciously inhibiting the reaction to the set task, the stimulus, and staying in the moment inhibition to become aware of what is triggered.
We can overcome an obstacle by using the primary direction, as activating and merging the opposing directions unites the entirety into obstacle-free readiness.