Welcome to the Theatre, Dance and Performance Training Journal blog! Our online, interactive presence is designed to encourage a growing community of artists, academics, practitioners and researchers to share practice and debate issues that are currently alive within the disciplines of theatre, dance and performance training. Our blog engages a new audience for the TDPT journal, creating an online space that promotes spontaneous and productive conversation and debate. As we grow further it it will represent a productive and discursive teaching ‘tool’ – or forum – within all levels of education and training preoccupied with dance, performance and theatre. Please explore our site. “The Studio” space is specifically designed for sharing of audiovisual training materials while our “Comeback” section invites previous contributors to return or “comeback” to an idea they discussed in a TDPT article and new contributors to respond to an idea. “My Training” is a space where individuals can reflect on their own personal experiences of training. The “Home” blog page publishes any other contributions that people wish to offer. Please share the blog link with anyone you feel may find it useful as we continue to develop an engaged and active community over the next months and years. We hope you enjoy the blog and many thanks to the artists, academics, and practitioners who have contributed their work already in the first year of its life. We appreciate your willingness to be at the forefront of TDPT’s digital emergence. We post material at regular intervals so please do register with us on the blog and check our social media apps for regular updates.
We are delighted to share that the Theatre, Dance and Performance Training blog has now surpassed 20,000 views. Whilst this is only one measure we hope this is indicative of the many fine posts and comments being contributed to our site and we thank all the contributors who have made content for us so far.
To add to our growing community we have been supporting a handful of contributors through our Artist Awards. This week sees a new post by The Wardrobe Ensemble, our first Artist Awards recipient and the first post by Asha Jennings-Grant, who received the third Award.
The Artist Awards were conceived to highlight and support the most innovative creative practice in the field of performance training. Accordingly, we are excited to share Wardrobe’s reflections on the work that Complicite say, ‘fills us with joy and reminds us of why we love working in theatre.’
The two posts from The Wardrobe Ensemble trace two weeks in the development of their most recent show, Education, Education, Education, and the way training informs their remarkable ensemble dynamic.
Our second Blog Artist Award takes us to a territory that has remained relatively uncharted in the field of performer training. Please join dance artist Marie Andersen on a series of posts on Motherhood in/as training exploring a number of perspectives, including female artistic identity and embodiment, training beyond disciplinary boundaries, and training when there is no time.
Marie has currently posted two of a series of three posts that combine creative video and reflective writing in an innovative approach to this neglected topic. The two posts published have already elicited stream of comment and discussion.
Finally, Asha, in her first post introduced the work she is developing on movement training for Motion Capture and will continue to post in the next coming months on the workshops she will be leading.
Visit the TDPT blog to follow this and other engaging threads, join the conversation by commenting on any of the posts, or even submit your own piece of writing to the blog to share your own practice.
Also look out for a series of reviews of the meeting of the Performer Training Working Group at the TaPRA Conference (Theatre and Performance Research Association) in Salford in September 2017.
The TDPT blog was launched in November 2015 to encourage a growing community of artists, academics, practitioners and researchers to share practice and debate issues that are currently alive within the disciplines of theatre, dance and performance training. One of our aims was to engage a new audience for the TDPT journal while also creating an online space that encourages spontaneous and productive conversation and debate. With one milestone reached, these aims are becoming a reality and we hope that the TDPT blog is achieving its aim of offering a vibrant and engaging hub for discussion of the leading edge of theatre, dance and performance training.
The title “Motion Capture” suggests there’s importance placed on the motion of the performing body.
In the beginning…
This post discusses my initial interest in Motion Capture leading to the creation of a series of workshops that I have called – Embodying Your Mocap.
My interest in “mocap” began to take form whilst studying at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama for a Masters in Movement: Directing and Teaching (previously Movement Studies). I had initially expressed this interest to my fellow classmates and tutors and in time I had come across a past student’s dissertation on the subject surrounding the actor’s preparation for work with mocap technology. At this point it was evident that there was awareness, however small it was, that actors had to enter this particular field with a slightly different approach than when working in film or theatre and that movement training could be beneficial to mocap performance.
Andy Serkis was, and still is in some respects, the face of motion and performance capture and although his performances are fascinating, I was hoping to find examples of a deeper analysis of his physical work. Looking on YouTube, I found that many clips of motion capture performances featured scenes from Avatar and Lord of the Rings discussing the relationship between performance and animation but not an in depth examination of the aspects of the performance from a physical perspective. There was no real acknowledgement that there might be a different approach to working with mocap, that actors would need to consider how their performance was being perceived or “captured” and how this would affect them creatively. The title – Motion Capture – suggests that there is significance placed in the actor’s movements (motion) and the process of how this data is collected (capture). However, I felt that there was more emphasis on the capturing of the actor’s motion rather than the actual performance itself. I had discovered that during a typical shoot for a video game, it was most likely that any suggestions on the performance would come from the animator/supervisor who would be commenting from a technical perspective. Furthermore, there definitely was not a movement director present in the studio. This was something I had to investigate further and over the next few years I took part in various workshops and intensive courses that allowed me to get a deeper insight into the actor’s performance and what would be required due to the nature of this very unique industry.
Developing the Workshops
The inspiration behind the Embodying Your Mocap workshop series came from the need to create a regular movement training opportunity that concentrated on motion capture performance. Solely the physical performance. With this specific focus, there would be a natural separation from the specialized skills that are usually associated with motion capture in film and video games such as martial arts, stage combat, sword fighting and animal work. I wanted to delve deeper into the aspects of the actor’s physical work regarding the moving, performing body and how this could be utilized to create characters and enhance the general performance. Much like the way I’d approach a regular movement class, I wanted to explore the similarities between actor movement for theatre and motion capture performance. I also wanted to discover if the specific demands of the technology would make an impact on the performance.
As well as researching the more technical side and working procedures of a typical mocap shoot, I began a line of enquiry by sending out a questionnaire to whom I identified as my “mocap contacts”. This consisted mainly of actors who had either experienced a professional shoot or those who were aspiring to enter this industry. The questions were based around the level of experience, what training they were currently doing to prepare themselves for work and the reasons why they felt movement sessions could benefit their on-going training. The response I received was very insightful. The more experienced actors noted the importance of the creative aspects of their work such as the creating of characters, imagining environments and ultimately their physical acting performance skills as a whole. Generally, I learnt that actors wanted specificity regarding the technical requirements of the movements that were captured. They craved opportunities that would allow them to engage in created environments with various characterisations that encouraged full immersion into virtual world scenarios physically and psychologically. Some actors also wanted opportunities that would prepare them for working with physical obstacles such as suits/markers, camera angle awareness, props etc.
On the basis of these responses, I decided that multiple workshops could be more beneficial than trying to squeeze all the material in one session. Only 3-4 sessions, mind you, but nevertheless each one covering a particular area in a fruitful and productive way. These would include exploring movement components such as weight, space and body shape in performance, character types and imagining virtual environments. Thenceforth the Embodying Your Mocap workshop series was created with the taster workshop being launched on 21st May 2017. Within the taster, I wanted to create movement exercises that were influenced and informed by particular mocap procedures so that the material had noticeable reference points. For example, I used the process of ROMs* to create the basis of the warm up, highlighting areas of the body (mobilising joints/strengthening muscles) that would be in use within the work that we’d continue to explore. For instance, lubricating the ankle joint and engaging with the soles of the feet informed the movement seen in the picture below where the participant is jumping during a travelling exercise. The main aim was to release the body, opening the ‘backspace’ and using the floor for take off and landing.
I had also used the T-Pose** (as seen in the picture below), as a way of connecting the participants with the sensations of their movement and drawing attention to the surfaces and core structure of their body.
The overall content of the workshop was based on movement components that I felt were the main factors of a well executed motion capture performance. This included the awareness of the space surrounding the body and performing 3-dimensional organic movement. Using an analytical approach in these explorations, I wanted to provide a space for the participants to investigate their own natural movement to understand how this can be applied to performance and character work in Motion Capture.
Reflections and Future endeavours
The Motion Capture industry is not as accessible as other art forms and because of this, artists and performers are intrigued to know ‘how does it work?’ and specifically ‘how does it work in relation to my work?’ My intention is to develop an accessible approach to motion capture performance and thus, by giving a little insight into the world of mocap, allow performers to stretch their physical performance skills to a new dimension.
My ultimate aim with the Embodying Your Mocap series is to provide a seamless merging of technical knowledge with movement exploration and self-discovery. This then allows the participants to inform their performance through a clear understanding of what the technology requires of their physical work. Furthermore, I am using these workshops as a way to formalise a method to approach motion capture performance that considers significant technical factors which could have an impact on the performance quality. The next workshop I will be running will be looking at using some of the tools introduced in the first session to explore virtual environments and creating in-game content and procedures linked to video games. The blog post will be another sharing of my reflections on the workshop and its outcome. Overall I hope to use these blogs as a platform to start a dialogue with others interested in Motion Capture, actor performance and movement training.
Photo credit: Chloe Knott
Workshop Venue: Fourth Monkey Actor Training Company
* ROM stands for Range Of Motion where the actor moves each body part for the animator to track the markers on the body and see how they move in relation to the rest of the body.
** A T-Pose is the position the actor stands in for the animator to locate the markers on the body in order to create a digital skeleton.
We are delighted to announce that the latest special issue for TDPT has just been published online: Training the Popular Performer.
TDPT 8.2 offers a fantastic line up of essays curated by Adam Ainsworth, Oliver Double & Louise Peacock, with Training Grounds materials edited by Kate Craddock.
We hope you like it!
Further to the very successful Practice, Reflect and Share day at Rose Bruford, TDPT would like to offer a bespoke call for practitioner-researchers interested in capturing the work of significant practitioners and teachers who have had a demonstrable influence both personally and in the training sector. The urgency to record some of this work we think might profitably be met by considering the section we call Sources in the TDPT journal:
In its Sources section TDPT provides an outlet for the documentation and analysis of primary materials of performer training, whilst the Articles section allows for discursive contributions in a range of critical and creative formats, including visual essays.
Sources are normally between 5500 and 6500 words and are treated in the same way as discursive article with full peer view by two experts. Our full submission directions are here:
http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/rtdp (click on the ‘submit an article’):
Submissions are through our peer review portal, Scholar 1:
You may also of course want to consider publishing to this blog space for the journal – either in association with a Source or separately. We also offer a platform for video materials on this blog if you have appropriate materials:
Help and support in the development of these papers is available and we are keen to offer a mentoring service for those new to academic publishing. For further details please contact David Shirley (D.G.Shirley@mmu.ac.uk) or speak to any of us below.
We hope to hear from you soon.
Jonathan Pitches, Libby Worth, David Shirley and Paul Allain
There are still places available to attend the School in Athens THIS YEAR. Ten weeks of intensive professional training in one of the world’s great cities!
We will NOT be running the DUENDE School in Europe in 2018. We are exploring the possibility of running outside Europe next year, and if that does not prove possible, we will take a year off!
We hope to bring the School back to Europe in 2019. A full update on plans for 2018 will be available in the Autumn.
This means that if you want to attend the School in Greece, you should consider applying for one of this year’s remaining places.
John Britton (Director): firstname.lastname@example.org
Eva Tsourou (Administrator): administration@duende-ensemble
Upcoming Workshop Dates:
June 27th – July 11th: Residential Workshop, Lesvos, Greece.
September 18th – November 24th: The DUENDE School of Ensemble Physical Theatre, Athens, Greece
I am delighted to announce that, after five years of work, Stanislavsky in the World: The System and its Transformation across Continents, has just been published, co-edited with Dr Stefan Aquilina of the University of Malta.
More information can be found by following this link: http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/stanislavsky-in-the-world-9781472587886
The book maps the movement of Stanislavsky’s system across five continents, revealing undiscovered paths of transmission and examining wider questions of embodied history and tradition building. To make its point, it focuses on practices beyond Russia and the US – for too long accepted blindly as the two most-developed seats of Stanislavskian practice – and introduces readers and practitioners to new routes in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australasia and South (Latin) America. We were joined by an internationally broad network of 18 scholars and practitioners to take on some knotty and current questions – of transformation, translation, appropriation and resistance. The book will undoubtedly make a significant contribution to Stanislavsky studies but recent research on theatre and interculturalism, globalisation, and postcolonialism will also be boosted by these findings.
- Marie-ChristineAutant-Mathieu’s discussion of selected affinities between Stanislavsky and the French Theatre Tradition;
- Franco Ruffini’s detailed account of the 1960 court case in Bari that questioned the reach of Elizabeth Reynolds’ copyright claims on Stanislavsky’s books;
- Stefan Aquilina’s exposition of how the System was processed in the amateur theatre context of Malta;
- Ina Pukelytė’s discussion on a heavily institutionalised reading of Stanislavsky in Lithuania;
- Maria Gaitanidi’s elaboration of Stanislavsky’s impact on both modern theatre and contemporary actor training in Greece;
- Siyuan Liu’s analysis of Stanislavsky’s impact on a Chinese School of Performance and Directing;
- Raúl Serrano’s teacher-perspective on current Stanislavskian teaching at the Escuela de Teatro de Buenos Aires inArgentina;
- Kene Igweonu’s exposition on Stanislavsky’s interaction with the Nigerian cultural environment as a series of convergences and counterpoints;
- Hilary Halba’s account on the System experienced through the Maori World in New Zealand;
- Syed Jamil Ahmed’s articulation of the System as postcolonial appropriation and assimilation in Bangladesh.
The book’s official launch will be held as follows:
Date: 5th June 2017
Venue: Alec Clegg Studio, stage@leeds building, University of Leeds
Remembering Edward Braun
Whilst at Drama School in 1994, during rehearsals for Nikolai Erdman’s The Suicide, I read Meyerhold on Theatre. At that point in time I had never heard of Vsevelod Meyerhold or Theatrical Biomechanics but that book was to be the start of a fascination with Russian Theatre, Meyerhold and in particular his actor training system Biomechanics, which has continued to this day. Little did I know back then, that some 20 years later I would be delivering a workshop and a paper on Meyerhold’s Biomechanics at Hull University in the presence of the book’s author Edward Braun.
I was a little nervous when I heard that Edward Braun would be there. After the presentation I was introduced to Edward (Ted) and much to my relief, he had some very kind things to say about the workshop. He talked about the time he spent in Russia in the 1960’s and how he had met Meyerhold’s daughter. Some weeks later we were hosting a series of workshops at the University of Central Lancashire with the world’s leading exponent in Theatrical Biomechanics, Gennady Bogdanov. I asked Ted if he would like to meet Gennady and he accepted the invitation.
Ted sat for several hours totally absorbed in the work. As he watched, I was acutely aware it was highly likely that he had seen Meyerhold’s daughter perform the same exercises some forty years earlier. We spent the evening in an Italian restaurant talking about Russia, Communism, Meyerhold, Biomechanics and….life. So, for a brief moment in our lives serendipity had brought us together; Gennady my teacher, his interpreter Svetlana, Edward Braun and I. I felt very privileged and quite humbled just being there. As the evening drew to a close and we walked Ted back to his hotel, I was struck by the fact that, had it not been for him, the four of us would never have met and I for one would certainly not be doing what I do today.
On hearing the sad news that Ted had died, I recalled the time I had spent in his company in 2015. He was extremely generous, courteous, erudite, enthusiastic, warm, and witty.
Listening to Jonathan Pitches last interview with Ted, as he talked about Biomechanics, I was quite surprised and rather moved to hear Ted talk about “being in Preston with Terence and Gennady.” It was as if he had known us for years and in a way, via Mr. Meyerhold……. I suppose he had. Although I only met Ted briefly; I will always remember him. RIP Ted.
Terence Mann (Chapman) is Senior Lecturer and Course Leader for BA Acting at UCLAN. He has worked with some of the most innovative theatre companies and directors in Europe and is regarded as one of the country’s leading practitioners in Meyerhold’s Theatrical Biomechanics.
We’ve extended the deadline to Friday 7 April for proposals for the TaPRA Performer Training Working Group Interim Event. Please send your abstract through if this area is of interest to your research. You are also very welcome to attend, without presenting a paper. The event is free, but you need to be a TaPRA member.
TaPRA Performer Training Working Group
Monday 22 May 2017, 11am – 6pm
University of York
Performer Training and Media Ecologies
Please find all the details of this exciting call for TDPT Vol 10.2 (2019) as a PDF in the link below
Guest coedited by Professor Paul Allain (University of Kent), Stacie Lee Bennett (University of Kent and freelance film-maker) and Professor Frank Camilleri (University of Malta) with blog and Training Grounds editor James McLaughlin.
To signal your interest and intention to make a contribution to this special issue please contact Paul Allain for an initial exchange of ideas/thoughts or email an abstract or proposal (max 300 words) to Paul Allain: email@example.com. Questions about purely digital propositions can be sent to Stacie Lee Bennett: firstname.lastname@example.org. Ideas for the blog and/or Training Grounds can be sent to James McLaughlin: email@example.com. Firm proposals across all areas must be received by Paul Allain by 30 November 2017 at the latest.
Below is a transcription and the audio files of the interview I conducted with Edward Braun in March 2015 at his home, as the new edition of the enormously influential Meyerhold on Theatre was being prepared. Ted died a few days ago and this is posted with his wife Sarah’s blessing, to celebrate his brilliance as an academic and his generosity as a human being.
Below is the pdf of the transcribed interview and the audio files. Please share this widely and feel free to use any of the material if it is of use to your research.
Part 1: How was Meyerhold on Theatre conceived and put together?
Part 2: What binds the writings of Meyerhold on Theatre together?
Part 3: What are Edward Braun’s favourite, or most significant, sections?
Thanks for listening
You are warmly invited to the next School of Performance and Cultural Industries research seminar –
Tools and Material(itie)s
Dr Scott McLaughlin (School of Music), Dr Maria Kapsali (School of PCI), Dr Joslin Mckinney (School of PCI)
Tuesday 7th March 5pm-7pm
Lecture Theatre 2, School of Music, University of Leeds
Please book a place with Linda Watson firstname.lastname@example.org – All Welcome
The three papers in this seminar aim at highlighting the way in which theories and discourses on tools and material(itie)s inform practice and thinking in music, somatic work and scenography. Apart from positioning the overall enquiry in relation to specific disciplines, this research seminar also aims to put forward a set of questions that deal with wider, cross-disciplinary themes: In what ways do theories of materiality shed light on artistic processes? What is the relationship between tool and tool user? How does a non-anthropocentric view inform understanding of experience and perception?
Readers of this blog are warmly invited to submit proposals and/or participate in the following upcoming events, both of which seek to develop a new territory of embodied research that overlaps significantly with theatre, dance and performance training.
Call for Proposals: 5 February 2017 (extended deadline)
Embodied Research Working Group
International Federation for Theatre Research
Annual conference in São Paulo, 10-14 July 2017
more details | WG info | abstract submission
Hoping to see you there!
We are very pleased to announce the following call for contributions for a special issue of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, focusing on Dartington College of Arts.
Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT)
Special issue on Training Places: Dartington College of Arts to be published October 2018. Call for contributions, ideas, proposals and dialogue with the editors.
Guest editors: Dr Bryan Brown, University of Exeter, Dr Libby Worth, Royal Holloway, University of London, and Editorial Consultant Professor Ric Allsopp, Joint Editor Performance Research
The Training Grounds section of the issue (see below) will be guest edited by Dr Simon Murray, University of Glasgow and Dr Dick McCaw, Royal Holloway, University of London
Background and context
This will be the ninth Special Issue of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT) following issues on sport, Michael Chekhov, politics, Feldenkrais, showing/writing training, interculturalism, popular performance and immersive, interactive and participatory performance. TDPT is an international journal devoted to all aspects of ‘training’ (broadly defined) within the performing arts. The journal was founded in 2010 and launched its own blog in 2015. Our target readership is both academic and the many varieties of professional performers, makers, choreographers, directors, dramaturgs and composers working in theatre, dance and live art who have an interest in and curiosity for reflecting on their practices and their training. TDPT’s co-editors are Jonathan Pitches (University of Leeds) and Libby Worth (Royal Holloway, University of London).
Dartington College of Arts: pedagogies, contexts, people, performances and experimentations.
This is the first time that a place of performance training has been taken as the subject of a TDPT special issue and although it and other centres of performance training have been addressed in specific articles, this singular focus for a whole issue calls for some explanation.
Why Dartington and why now?
Over the near 5 decades of its history, Dartington College of Arts, established an international reputation for innovation in performance making, spawning new directions in dance, theatre, devising, music and visual performance that continue to influence current artists and scholars. Based on an 800-acre estate on the River Dart near Totnes in rural Devon, its staff and students explored ways of working that emphasised learning through doing and questioning, working across arts disciplines, paying attention to the social impact and context of their artistic output and encouraging robust and engaging international contacts and exchanges.
The publication date for this special issue (2018), marks ten years since the college merged with Falmouth University, resulting eventually in a controversial move from the Dartington Hall estate to a purpose built complex at what was then University College Falmouth in 2010. This, perhaps, is a good time therefore to re-examine Dartington’s ecology, its people, its sites and its continuing influence within the arts world. In the current national and international climate with political uncertainties, the rise of nationalism and the new right, and the steady undermining of the arts in UK educational curriculum, it could be the appropriate moment to re-assess what Dartington College offered and its legacy continues to offer. Those who participated in the life of Dartington College of Arts are active internationally and continue to develop new working practices inspired and influenced by the “Dartington ethos”. Articulating how places inform training (pedagogy, practice, conversations, ways of being) through the fostering of a complex ecology and ethos is what this special issue aims to attempt.
Echoing Dartington’s fluid approach to training that positively encouraged experimentation in form/structure to better reflect artistic concepts and practices, this issue welcomes a variety of ways of responding to the call and actively encourages co-authoring, embedding of images, diagrams, drawings within critical articles. These could include offering additional visual/audio media on the TDPT blog or directly linked to an article. The issue aims to include writing/images representative of all the College’s training disciplines (theatre, dance/choreography, music, performance writing and visual performance) and of its different eras.
We are particularly interested in (but not limited by) responses to the following set of questions:
- How did the social/political context of each of the College’s eras contribute to the training ethos?
- In what ways did the college ascribe to a form of ‘un-training’ or ‘de-training’ and how was this structured? What did it generate?
- How might have the environment of diverse buildings and countryside influenced the type of training that happened at Dartington College of Arts? And how did this geographically isolated experience sit with student international placements and commitment to international artists’ residencies?
- What were significant strands in Dartington Hall’s history that contributed to the philosophy and practical components of the College programmes?
- What was left out in the training offered at the College and why?
- What remains important of the mystiques, fantasies, hauntings and residues triggered over the life of the college?
- What was shared within the training processes but not articulated?
- What has gone missing that matters outside of this community?
- If Dartington College is seen as an ecology and not merely a place, how is this still growing?
- What roles did Dartington College take in nurturing innovative practices – New Dance for instance?
- What sources from the college’s history might be timely to reprint in order to generate contemporary responses?
- What were the cultural, economic, pedagogical, political and psychological circumstances of the College’s closure in Devon and the merger with University College Falmouth in Cornwall?
- What are the legacies and implications of the DCA educational experience for other performance training ecologies?
We welcome submissions from potential contributors, both inside and outside academic institutions, who may have been students, academic and non-academic staff, and visiting artists/tutors at the College over its 50 year history in Devon. Equally, we welcome potential contributions from anyone associated with Dartington or who has been influenced by its history in one way or another.
To signal your interest and intention to make a contribution to this special issue in any one of the ways identified above please contact Bryan and Libby for an initial exchange of ideas/thoughts, or email an abstract (max 250 words) to: Bryan Brown at email@example.com and Libby Worth at firstname.lastname@example.org Our first deadline for these is 20th April 2017.
Training Grounds sections for Dartington College of Arts special issue.
Training Grounds (TG) is, and has always been, an alternative space within the journal to encourage contributors to use the kind of languages and forms that seem most appropriate to their own practice. It is a space for shorter contributions which may experiment with different writing registers, and be passionate, provocative, poetic or rhetorical. A space for lists, for saying awkward things and offering up difficult and perhaps unfashionable ideas. A place, nonetheless, for generosity and big-heartedness. TG editors for this special issue are Simon Murray (Simon.Murray@glasgow.ac.uk) and Dick McCaw (Dick.McCaw@rhul.ac.uk).
For this special issue we are looking for contributions to cover all the Dartington fields (Music, Theatre, Visual Arts, Performance Writing, Choreography/Dance, and Cultural Management) within each of the following categories:
1/ POSTCARDS 1: A description of a startling/challenging/rewarding moment of teaching or learning from your Dartington experience. Possibly, a Eureka type moment, or one of clarity, astonishment, insight or understanding. A sense perhaps of the feelings generated by the experience. 125 words or image/graphics to fit into a postcard size space.
2/ POSTCARDS 2: A contribution which succinctly describes (without comment, analysis or evaluation) a particular teaching exercise you used or experienced. 125 words or image/graphics to fit into a postcard size space.
3/ ANSWER THE QUESTION (ATQ): For this area we are suggesting either of two (inter-related) questions.
Question 1 (for ex-Dartington teachers and other staff): What was Dartington training or educating for?
Question 2: (for ex-students of Dartington): What in retrospect do you feel the Dartington experience trained you for and what did it leave out?
With these two ATQs we would aim to carry 4 or 5 examples for each question and as far as possible these would reflect the different subject areas and timelines over the College’s history. You could either send us a draft of your response to one of these questions, or arrange for a conversation with either Dick McCaw or Simon Murray. This might be in person or via Skype or phone. We would transcribe and edit your responses and agree any text with you before publishing. Responses to ATQs should be between 500 and 750 words (max).
4/ IMAGES: We are planning to carry at least one photo-essay and will be commissioning this for Training Grounds. However, we would welcome other photo images, sketches, paintings and drawings from contributors. In the first instance please contact either Simon or Dick, briefly describing the image(s) you are proposing. If you have enough to constitute an interesting and revealing photo essay please do write to us and we will have a conversation with you. All images must be at the appropriate resolution: 1200 dpi for line art, 600 dpi for grayscale and 300 dpi for colour.
Please contact Simon Murray (Simon.Murray@glasgow.ac.uk) and Dick McCaw (Dick.McCaw@rhul.ac.uk) if you wish to contribute to this section or have other ideas and suggestions. Either of us will then discuss your possible contribution as we begin to curate Training Grounds. The final deadline for this initial conversation is August 30th 2017, but let’s start the exchange going as soon as possible please. Some materials and contributions may be more appropriate for the TDPT blog and we will encourage these to be developed for the lead up to the special issue as well. The deadline for final delivery of all TG materials is January 31 2018.
Approximate timelines for this issue
January 2017: Call for papers published
20th April 2017: Abstracts and proposals sent to Bryan Brown and Libby Worth
End June 2017: Response from editor and, if successful, invitation to submit contribution
July to mid December 2017: writing/preparation period for writers, artists etc.
August 30th 2017 – deadline for discussing TG contributions with Dick and Simon
Early December to Early Feb 2017: peer review period
January 31 2018 – deadline for submission of all TG material to Simon and Dick
Mid Feb – end April 2018: author revisions post peer review
End April to June 2018: All main articles into production with Routledge
Early July 2018: Training Grounds articles into production
July to September 2018: typesetting, proofing, revises, editorial etc.
October 2018: publication as Issue 9.3.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Ric Allsopp, Bryan Brown, Dick McCaw, Simon Murray & Libby Worth
Symposium: On Showing and Writing Training
London, 30th November 2016, 2 – 5 pm
This blog post captures in a series of audio files the symposium that launched the special issue ‘On Showing and Writing Training’ of the Theatre, Dance and Performance Training Journal. It brought together writing, improvisation, experimentation and images to explore how performance is made manifest, represented and reproduced through training.
Image: from ‘I Set My Foot Upon the Air’ by Elke Mark
Next to each of the contributors names in the programme below you can click on the audio file to hear their talk. The talks are mainly around ten minutes, while the introductory responses to the journal special issue by artist Karen Christopher and writer John Hall a little longer. Under each contributor’s name there is also a link to the abstract of the essay they contributed to the special issue.
A pilot has been launched by Profs Paul Allain and Frank Camilleri which promises to be a rich resource of training with a nice balance of student, teacher, trainee voices. To feedback on its development go to:
Their full message is below:
A ‘provocation’ presented at the Future of Performer Arts Training symposium, Coventry University, UK, 4-5 November 2016.
Paul Kleiman is Senior Consultant (Higher Education) at Ciel Associates, and Visiting Professor at the School of Media and Performing Arts, Middlesex University and Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance.
In the process of thinking about this and putting it together, it appeared increasingly like one of those fiendish jigsaws, in which there are not only loads of pieces, but there are several possibilities, it’s not even certain if all the pieces fit together, as some are located in the past, some in the present and some in the future. In the end I gave up trying to weave a compelling linear narrative and accepted the fractured, uncertain nature of what I was confronting….what we are confronting.
So, what I have are just three of the pieces, which I’ll present in the form of three different narratives: two short ones – one from the past and one from the present – and a longer one from the future, in the hope that some connections and sense might be made.
Preparing for the Future of Performer Training symposium, I stumbled across this fascinating glimpse into the creation of ‘digital humans’.
The question: “What will happen to actors?” is posed and answered at 9.44 minutes in.
Please join us for an afternoon of discussions and ideas to celebrate the launch of a special issue of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training ‘On Showing and Writing Training’.
- What is the difference between what you do and how you talk about what you do?
- What remains unsaid? What remains undone? What gets undone?
- What is impossible to explain?
- Who do you think you’re talking to?
The issue brings together writing, improvisation, experimentation and images to explore how performance is made, represented and reproduced through training. In doing so, it addresses wider questions about pedagogy, the live and the remembered in relation to the practices of art.
This symposium will feature an artist’s response from the performer Karen Christopher, as well as talks and provocations from contributors Katrina Brown, Paola Crespi, Franc Chamberlain, Emma Cocker, Ysabel Clare, Joa Hug, Ben Spatz and John Hall.
‘On Showing and Writing Training’ was edited by Dick McCaw and guest-editor Mary Paterson.
Wednesday 30th November, 2 to 5 pm
University of London, Senate House, Malet Street , London, WC1E 7HU
Tickets are free. Reserve them via ShowingWritingTraining.eventbrite.co.uk
Any queries please contact: Libby.Worth@rhul.ac.uk
The editors of TDPT and of this special issue on intercultural training (7.3) are delighted to announce that it is now available online. Check it out here:
If you don’t have institutional access the articles by Electa Behrens and Tara McAlister-Viel will be free-to-access very soon. In the meantime, the editorial by Phillip Zarrilli, T Sasitharan and Anuradha Kapur and the Training Grounds editorial by Royona Mitra are free-to-access permanently.
Please do let us know what you think.
[Editors Note: Initially believed to be evidence of an attack on the TDPT website by Russian hackers, it was later translated from the original German, subjected to an electronic jigglebath, and identified as an assemblage of texts and precepts developed in Los Angeles and North Carolina (US) for training in the creation of and performance in devised theatre. The many hyperlinks take the reader to the “Borrowed Things” of texts, videos, songs, and non-sequiturs.]
The New Thing (Third Manifesto)
In principle, I am against manifestos.
As a way to try to name an ethic of making work, a mode of collaboration, an animating spirit of contestation, etc., the term The New Thing is borrowed from Free Jazz musicians who knew that jazz had become what Ornette Coleman called a conventional thing, ruined in no small part by white critics. The New Thing names some of Free Jazz’s key characteristics: horizontality of organization (of the ensemble), challenging the primacy of melody, the veneration of improvisation, the valuing of chance and composition, the potentiality of performance as a means of creation not just exhibition, and putting all of these artistic practices in the service of challenging white supremacy and capitalist exploitation. Just as white folks attempted to, as Amiri Baraka said, change swing from a verb to a noun, The New Thing enacts a continual return from noun to verb.
- The New Thing is necessarily a radical gesture performed in confrontation with totalitarian desire. It is at war with Trumpism, corporatism and the erosion of human dignity they produce. The New Thing must always and persistently resist the pull towards the romance of self-assuredness and self-righteousness. As the embrace of totalitarian was a logical realization of Futurism, we must constantly check ourselves to ensure that we do not do the same.
- In response to the notion that “I, and I alone can fix it,” The New Thing becomes a machine that kills fascists.
- Trumpism is the same old thing, but with more casinos.
- The New Boss is the same as The Old Boss. The New Thing is against bosses.
- The New Thing is in this way a process – it is the perpetual event of materialization, of reification, which must then be continually revivified/re-enlivened/re-newed. The New Thing is the ongoing and heightened dialectical process of being both new-ed as well as being thing-ed.
- The concept of reification in The New Thing moves from Marx to Mary Overlie: the formation of language … reifying is an act of creating a progression of understanding our own existence. There is no product as such, there is only the search conducted on the edge of our knowing of the unknown.
- A thing is not a thing … that is, not until the thing has been thing-ified. The thing is produced through reification. It is not a preexisting material object, creature, body, being, product. It is making something concrete, which is to say, material, which is to say, real. But, due to its condition as having been made to be real, it is not actually real in any absolute sense. #pinocchio
- A performance cannot be created that is essentially new. Yet, it cannot not be. The contingency of time, space, body, words do not allow for replication. The New Thing calls the artist’s attention to this fact, thus making that newness part of the substance of making.
- Thus, the newness of The New Thing is also reified into a thing, thus putting its status of being new in perpetual jeopardy.
- Make it new. — Ezra Pound
- The general use of Make It New as the slogan for this kind of radical novelty turns out to be a misunderstanding and misapplication of the phrase.
- The New Thing is not a new thing. That is to say, it is not the pursuit of a thing that is new like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (though I’ll accept one if offered). Rather, the new must be constantly discovered in each and every thing that constitutes the theatrical event.
- If we start to examine the laws of perception, we see that as perception becomes habitual, it becomes automatic. […] Habitualization devours works, clothes, furniture, one’s wife [sic], and the fear of war. […] And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things; to make the stone stony. The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known.
- The New Thing is modernism after postmodernism (didn’t) happen. That is, it is a veneration of newness (as immanence & materialization), with an awareness that said newness cannot be absolute. It is both necessary and inevitable that every new act has a history and is constructed. And vice versa. It reckons with the “pre-modern,” “anti-modern,” and alternative modernities that (post)modernism has destroyed, suppressed through the mechanisms of colonialism and neoliberalism.
- Pound, again (that anti-Semite): EVERY CONCEPT, EVERY EMOTION PRESENTS ITSELF TO THE VIVID CONSCIOUSNESS IN SOME PRIMARY FORM. IT BELONGS TO THE ART OF THIS FORM. IF SOUND, TO MUSIC; IF FORMED WORDS, TO LITERATURE; THE IMAGE, TO POETRY; FORM, TO DESIGN; COLOUR IN POSITION, TO PAINTING; FORM OR DESIGN IN THREE PLANES, to SCULPTURE; MOVEMENT TO THE DANCE OR TO THE RHYTHM OF MUSIC OR OF VERSES
- It would be downright silly to think that The New Thing’s minimalism is a search for pure form. As a phenomenological practice, it brackets meaning to allow the perception of the thing in its thingness.
- It’s more like Coltrane: structure upon structure upon structure.
- Pursuit of The New Thing as if hunting a white whale will inevitably disappoint. It will keep you from seeing the flying seahorses that already surround you if only you will see them. The latter encounter is The New Thing.
- The New Thing is in a battle to the death with the new thing (whatever it is today), which is the commodification and spectacularization of experience in the service of capital.
- In opposition to consumerism’s new things and in the war against cliché, The New Thing follows Ornette Coleman’s lead and does Something Else!!!!
- The New Thing can also be understood as My Thang, which the Godfather describes as being perpetually regenerated by a brand new funk. This is to say, that if we can understand the thing in question – the thing that you should Get Up Offa – to be a porous container, a diaphanous bag, then Papa’s Got a Brand New. In these ways, The New Thing enacts both The New Funk and The New Bag; it ain’t too hip, but is rather in the swing.
- If the The New Thing is a container it is only porous because of the resistance of that which is (not) contained. If The New Thing has any value, it is because of its fugitivity. So, it resists containment and capture as a political and aesthetic act of ungraspability. That ungraspability of the The New Thing is the resistance of the object. Fred Moten: Fugitivity is immanent to the thing but is manifest transversally.
- The New Thing is a fugitive gesture, a movement of movements.
- This fugitivity is produced by the radical, political production of collectivity to be found in the performance of ensemble. The New Thing’s participatory, collective ensemble performs the movement of movements, which can be felt and touched and exists in language and in fantasy it is flight, it is motion, it is fugitivity itself.
- All that is to say after Boots Riley, We Takin Everythang.
- The New Thing is for the abolition of prisons – those that enforce the tyranny of capitalism and those that enforce the tyranny of meaning.
- Emerson: Poetry must be new as foam, and as old as the rock.
- Emerson: “I hate quotation.”
- The New Thing tilts at windmills.
- The New Thing is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. The New Thing is mashed-up, cut-up, and détourned. You don’t make The New Thing, you find it or it finds you. It can only be produced through the admixture of improvisation, chance, structure, play, repetition, failure, repetition, juxtaposition, continuity, rupture, and the breaking of expectations. If it is even possible, then The New Thing can only be discovered by making it, which is also to say by being made by it.
- The New Thing is a performance of possibilities that is the dynamic encounter with the interrogative field.
- The New Thing performs political possibilities: social experiments, revolutions, and utopian schemes.
- The New Thing is almost impossible, gives an instance of the practicality of the impossible.
- The performance of possibilities specializes in the wholly impossible.
- So sayeth Sun Ra, The possible has been tried and failed; now I want to try the impossible.
- The “new thing” is not a thing, nor can it ever be a thing. [Me— and yet it must be!] Our compulsion to try to make it a thing, though, is exactly what makes “the new thing” a performance method.
- The New Thing is against method and is also against the instrumentalization of art. Once sedimented in the fixity of a defined system, such art could be useful, but it would cease being The New Thing.
The New Thing is constituted by (and through) attending to these practices:
- BRACKETING OF MEANING
- DISTILLATION OF EXPERIENCE
- DREAM LOGIC
- FORM AS CONTENT
- CONTENT AS FORM
The New Thing is generated by and dependent upon paradoxical principles:
- It is alternately minimalist (in its commitment to the phenomenal encounter with materiality) and maximalist (in its production of an excess of things).
- Or, another way to put this is that The New Thing is material substance that could not be any other way, even as it haunted and taunted by the many other ways is could be.
- It contends that
- Real and Fake are categories that are hopelessly (and hopefully) saturated by each other.
- The presence of presence must be enacted even as we have no access to anything like pure presence.
- The New Thing is beautiful when it is ugly and ugly when it is beautiful.
- The New Thing is urgent as it enacts rupture and does the unnecessary.
- Doing The New Thing is almost invariably a bad idea. It is goaded into being by Imp of the Perverse.
- Working in and through these paradoxes should be confounding. Confusion is a gift, I have always thought. That is the reason for the smile. The eruption of that particular smile is The New Thing’s performance on, in, through, and of the body. In confrontation with paradoxes, The New Thing is picking blackberries.
- And the public will believe in the theatre’s dreams on condition that it take them for true dreams and not for a servile copy of reality. Antonin Artaud
- The New Thing is an increasingly common practice known as hypothetical mining, also known as weird farming.
- The Buzzcocks’ Strange Thing makes you face new directions / get new expectations. But is it really so strange?
- The New Thing asks the audience, “What’s the matter?” because it is the matter of performance (time, space, bodies, etc.) that matters.
- Working with and being worked on by matter that matters invests in the somatic and the haptic, not just the good idea. In fact, when bad ideas produce a failure, the reveling in (im)possibility that failure as a failure is the matter that matters.
- The New Thing knows that Samuel Beckett is of little use as a tennis coach. While the new thing attempts to fail better, it cannot recuperate failure by turning it into a success. Rather it is to become better at failing.
- Ideas alone are not worth the paper their written on. Including this one. Confronted with The New Thing, Manuscripts (don’t) Burn. Not satisfied with an ideational concept of the new that emerges from brainstorming with those burning texts, The New Thing requires the corporealizing of sharing and colliding texts through BodyStorming. The ecology of The New Thing tells us that proliferation and increasingly destructiveness of BodyStorms is attributable to the (revolt against) climate change produced by industrial capitalism.
- The New Thing does not make statements. As a practice of collaborative questioning, it lives in the interrogative mood. Of the audience (and itself) The New Thing always and continually (re-)asks:
What is this?
What is it now?
Can you help me construct a better question?
- Even still, in the context of injustice fomented by capital and other practices of exploitation and violence, we may confront the audience with a list of demands. The New Thing presents itself to the public to allow itself to be seen. But it always and necessarily demands to be reckoned with.
- Anarchism is the heart of The New Thing, its soul; the source of most of what’s new and hopeful about it.
- The New Thing is Thomas Pynchon’s Anarchist Miracle: another world’s intrusion into this one. [… ] Where revolutions break out spontaneous and leaderless, and the soul’s talent for consensus allows the masses to work together without effort, automatic as the body itself.
- The New Thing chases down the frenzied disappearing really really Real real. And it fails every goddamn time.
- The New Thing is impossible. And we do it anyway.
 Long thought to be an elaborate hoax, some contend that the 1st Manifesto and 2nd Manifesto of The New Thing disappeared alongside Scene 4 of Frederico García Lorca’s work of impossible theatre, El Publico. Like that play, the initial versions of the The New Thing Manifesto were partly written on hotel stationary under fascist rule while attempting to produce a Theatre Beneath the Sand.
 Larry Grossberg, Branislav Jakovljevic, D. Soyini Madison, Mary Overlie, and Hong-An Truong graciously read versions of this text and told me what I had right and wrong. Any errors of fact, conceptualization, and/or attribution, however, are entirely theirs, not mine.
Professor Paul Fryer FRSA, FHEA.
Associate Director of Research
Head of The Stanislavski Centre
Research Degrees Coordinator
Editor in Chief, Stanislavski Studies (Routledge/Taylor & Francis)
Thanks to those of you who have already answered the survey personally – and if you haven’t yet completed the survey, please do!
MICHA, the Michael Chekhov Association, Managing Director
…the unique speech experience of each individual is shaped and developed in continuous and constant interaction with others’ individual utterances. This experience can be characterized to some degree as the process of assimilation–more or less creative–of others’ words (and not the words of a language). Our speech, that is, all our utterances (including our creative works), is filled with others’ words, varying degrees of otherness or varying degrees of “our-own-ness” ….These words of others carry with them their own expression, their own evaluative tone, which we assimilate, rework, and re-accentuate.
I love this quote.
It comes from an essay by the Russian philosopher, Mikhail Bakhtin whose ideas and concepts formed the foundation for Julia Kristeva’s intertextual theory. At the 2016 annual TaPRA conference, I was addressing Kristeva and Bakhtin’s ideas concerning intertextuality and endeavouring to demonstrate how the theory can be used to deepen our understanding of the ways in which artists intersect with each other, with audiences, with the world, with the past.
I am particularly interested in artistic domains and performance territories. In my research I am exploring how performances act as sites that enable intersections of audience and artists asking: what do these intersections yield? I am looking at the performing artist as a kind of curator who, in creating or participating in a performance, chooses to reveal certain aspects of her individual history, experience, skills, and knowledge to enable dynamic and engaging intersections with audiences. Continue reading
With Dr Deborah Middleton (Huddersfield), Dr Maria Kapsali (Leeds) and Dr Bernadette Cronin (Cork)
Saturday 22nd October 2016, 0915 — 1715
There are a few places still available for this one-day event in which Bernadette Cronin, Maria Kapsali, and Deborah Middleton will each share their research into Yoga and its relationship with performance. The day will involve short positions statements, a workshop led by each practitioner, and time for sharing and discussion (and resting).
Contact: email@example.com for further details
I am an actress (Diploma GNT Drama School, MA East 15 Acting School) 
I am an actress, somatic movement educator (Cert IBMT, RSME)
I am an actress, somatic acting-movement educator and researcher (PaR PhD, RCSSD)
I am an actress, somatic acting-movement educator and researcher currently working within three major London-based actor-training institutions (East 15, Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, RCSSD)
Praxical research in conservatoire actor training
The above schematic identification of my professional background and identity reflects the underlying structure of my short introduction to the brief workshop I gave for the TaPRA Performer Training Working Group on the seventh of September 2016 at University of Bristol. The development of the aforementioned phrases does not aim only at summarizing a personal ongoing journey but also a contemporary phenomenon within modern UK actor-training conservatoire institutions. This phenomenon is the current increasing interest in the dynamic dialogue between academia and practice-based critical engagement, combined with the understanding of how the interrelation between various disciplines informs the shaping of contemporary actor-training pedagogies. In this brief reflection on my participation in TaPRA 2016 conference on the theme ‘Speech and Text in Performer Training’, I intend to communicate aspects of my present understanding of the dynamic integration between theory and practice in actor training through my own praxical research.
I started my engagement with praxis through a practice-as-research (PaR) doctorate thesis on my process of becoming an actor-trainer based on my experience as a conservatoire trained actress and my simultaneous development as somatic movement educator. I grounded my critical awareness as emerging trainer-witness upon the shaping of an original somatic actor-training and creative methodology inspired by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s developmental process of embodiment. I modified Cohen’s Body-Mind Centering® (BMC®) inetsrubjective narrative and principles as I practised them through Linda Hartley’s Integrative Bodywork & Movement Therapy (IBMT) training. The objective of my PhD research was a modern response towards scientifically-informed problematic binaries in actor-training discourses (including mind-body, inner-outer, self-other/s) as well as a common description of actors’ multiple embodied individualities as a single, universal and unchanged existence. I identified dualism and universalism in actor training within the general philosophical problem of logocentrism.
The TDPT blog was launched last year to encourage a growing community of artists, academics, practitioners and researchers to share practice and debate issues that are currently alive within the disciplines of theatre, dance and performance training. In November to mark the one year anniversary of the launch of the site we will be launching a series of blog posts supported by the new TDPT Blog Artist Awards.
One of our aims was to engage a new audience for the TDPT journal while also creating an online space that encourages spontaneous and productive conversation and debate. We are grateful to everyone who has posted their work on the site to date and we are looking to further grow our network of artists, researchers and performance-makers. The blog currently has around 1000 visitors a month from around the world.
We are keen to encourage artists, practitioners, students and freelance performance-makers to engage with the blog and are launching the TDPT Blog Artist Awards which aim to facilitate those not in full-time employment and students to be able to contribute to the site and the community. We have small pots of money (£50-150) to support artists who pitch an idea for a contribution to the site, either audio-visual, text-based or audio that disseminates an area of performer training that may be of interest to the wider community. To apply, please write a short proposal (no more than 300 words) outlining your suggested submission, format and any media you intend to use. You should also include in your statement how you intend to disseminate your post to your networks and help build new audiences for the blog. Please email proposals to the blog editors: Maria Kapsali M.Kapsali@leeds.ac.uk, Bryan Brown B.Brown@exeter.ac.uk and James McLaughlin firstname.lastname@example.org.
The special issue 7.2 of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training was themed on ‘showing and writing training.’ Edited by Mary Paterson (with Training Grounds contributions edited by Dick McCaw), this issue includes contributions that show themselves beyond the realm of the written page.
One of these contributions is Elke Mark’s paper, ‘A Moving-Thinking-Reading Practice.’ Mark describes her performance practice as a type of knowledge production that interweaves sensory experience, the potential for difference, and participatory relationships. Her practice therefore blurs the lines between academic thought and artistic training, suggesting they are collaborative elements in a holistic process of learning and discovery.
She describes her philosophy as follows:
The more I succeed in understanding plans, ideas and concepts that have been well thought through as a mere framework, in putting them aside when a performance begins, when I start to work intently, and to allow intuition and chance encounter to carry me along from one moment to the next, the closer I feel to unintended actions – a form of working that has scope for the unthought, scope for unfurling processes that evolve unpredictably, processes which I follow and accompany: a knowledge that opens itself up to anyone moving attentively, that finds potential in encounter. My horizons broaden, extend all around me, meet with points of intersection, resistance and centres of attraction in space and in my activities. If I succeed in following the rhythm, in finding the tune, in taking it up and developing it, a powerful coherence unfolds, one that both attracts and includes the viewer unintentionally.
Elke Mark, I Set My Foot Upon The Air Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, 7.2 pp. 216-230, p. 219
As part of her artistic and training practices, Mark’s writing expands beyond one medium. Her paper for the printed journal was also an installation, which required audience members to read and move in relation to its words. She describes the work as follows:
These images show part of an installation at the Künstlergut Prösitz in summer 2015, which was developed whilst I was participating in an Artist Residency for female artists with children. The pictures show an essay-installation, in which the essay appeared as one long, paper tape, installed inside the building and in the garden.
In order to read the text, the reader had to start outside, first winding round and round an empty potato sack. Then, she could follow the text line, to be guided step-by-step through the whole installation. The act of reading was therefore also an act of movement, making readers aware of the subtle differentiation in their attention between alertness and passivity, as experienced incidentally within their own bodies and in relation to other people’s moving-reading practice.
An edited version of this essay is printed in the special edition of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, ‘On Showing and Writing Training’ (7.2).
Photos (c) Elke Mark
Just back from the annual three day meeting of the TaPRA Performer Training Group and would like to capture some thoughts and reflections before they evaporate in the maze of the semester that lies ahead.
Before I do so, one note on the very activity of writing a blog post. This year’s executive curated panel was entitled ‘Digital Media and the Future of Theatre and Performance Research’ and set out to examine, amongst other things, whether ‘academic research [is] a rival to these [digital] forms of dissemination – [whether it is] a gold standard to maintain against wikiknowledge’ or whether academic research ‘will and should change to make use of these new technologies’ (TaPRA, Conference Programme 2016, np).
Undoubtedly there is a lot to be said about the different forms of knowledge that different forms of dissemination may produce, in terms of economy, pedagogy, cognition, cultural habits and power relations to say the least, but during the panel I started thinking, or perhaps paused to think, about labour. It is work, I thought to myself, to produce and disseminate research in the standard formats of journal articles and books. For a lot of theatre practitioners and researchers, this work can be understood both in terms of contractual employment (or as a move towards it) as well as in terms of the effort that goes in it (which does not exclude the pleasures of writing). It is also work to write a blog post. But here is an important difference: to write a blog post is work in terms of the effort exerted but not, at least not yet or not explicitly, in terms of contractual obligations.
Granted, this distinction is not clear cut (after all blogging does look good on a CV), but to me it feels important. Perhaps, because of the cultural tropes of playground and play with which the internet is often associated, perhaps because I hope that practices of peer-to-peer production and user-led creation will bring us closer to different paradigms of economic transaction and social relations, on the afternoon of the 6th of September 2016, I discovered, and very inarticulately tried to argue, that it is paramount that within the academy blogging remains a choice and that we actively make sure that it does so. That it remains an activity, a space, a zone that allows me to step out of the imperatives to produce research, and envisage first and foremost you, the readers, with me, around a table drinking wine, in a studio rolling on the floor, in a playground swinging from monkey bars.
For these reasons, I want to start by saying this: I chose to write this blog post.
The theme of the Working Group’s CfP for this year was Speech and Text in Performer Training, whereby ‘“text” is not meant to refer only to words in a printed play-text, but rather to the expansive range of sources in our work’. In particular, we invited delegates ‘to consider the link between the different notions of text and speech. What are the key interventions that are being made in these areas? How do we, from our different and overlapping disciplines, teach, train, and theoretically engage with text and speech in our work?’. Four intersecting areas were proposed as subthemes: The actor and the text; Dance and movement: the physical and verbal body; Text and Aurality; Intersections between text, speech, and technology.
The final programme consisted of a diverse set of papers, provocations, workshops and lecture demonstrations. Its actualisation over three days of panels, formal discussions and informal exchanges foregrounded a set of additional themes/observations, some of which I will try to capture here. In no particular order:
Interdisciplinarity and, after Pauliina Hulkko, multimodality
A lot of the trainings we experienced, heard and talked about this year had a pronounced interdisciplinary character, both in the combination of different performing arts disciplines, as well as in a very conscious, strategic choice of employing other art forms. David Wiles talked about and showed pictures of historical and idiosyncratic practices of scoring text dating from 17th and 18th c European theatre and oratic practice. Bryan Brown and Olya Petrakova examined the development of two frameworks they developed with ARTEL (American Russian Theatre Ensemble Laboratory). ‘Playstorming’ is a framework for working with playtexts through improvisation, whereas ‘Bodystorming’ seeks a way to develop on-the-spot responses to discursive text through movement and sound. Hannu Tuisku demonstrated an exercise on facial relaxation as an entry point to voice production, and Marie Hay demonstrated the simultaneous production and scoring of movement and speech/text. Debi Wong talked about the creation of operatic-dance-music productions and her aim to develop methods that enable the artists involved to penetrate and allow to be permeated by each other’s practice rather than working alongside one another. Christina Kapadocha shared through a practical workshop her own way of employing Body Mind Centering in movement and voice training/practice.
In the second category of working with practices beyond the performing arts, one could position Petronilla Whitfield’s sharing of her evolving method of working with dyslexic actor-students on Shakespeare’s text through movement, drawing and mark making as well as Goze Saner and Scott Robinson’s interactive installation on an ongoing research project towards the creation of a DIY toolkit that centres around the aural and oral transmission of different versions of an exercise – for want of better term – through acoustic technologies.
The conscious and strategic combination of art forms as training tools led to a recognition not only of the way other arts forms may deal with pedagogical problems, but also the emergence of new kinds of performers/artists that such trainings may render possible. It also raises questions about the role of the sensory modalities and hierarchies training pedagogies attempt to engage and pointed to a possible re-thinking of such hierarchies, in the light of the cultural, cognitive and embodied experience of individual students (as well as trainers).
It further allows performer trainers to think beyond their expertise and specialism and as Debi Wong remarked employ and ‘curate’ different aspects of their self, rather than remain within the limitations of a specific professional artistic identity.
There was no way of escaping the strong connections between voice and notions of being heard and having the right to speak. Diversity emerged as a theme in various ways and was considered from a number of lenses. I have already mentioned Whitfield’s conscious decision to explore ways of training that are better suited to the needs of dyslexic students. In a performative presentation that framed the working group as a new cohort of actor-students that have English as a Second Language, Evi Stamatiou communicated the sense of inadequacy that foreign speakers might be experiencing. By utilising her Greek accent in order to create the persona of a native speaker of imaginary, but canonical. Chesire-cat English, Stamatiou raised questions about who is in fact this ideal speaker and how he/she/the cat exercises power. Carol Fairlamb took us through her own personal journey of becoming aware of traits of ‘dysconscious racism’ in her teaching and received pedagogy as well as the active steps she took towards developing an approach that utilises the heritage of BAME actors in voice and speech training.
Pauliina Hulkko and Tiina Syrja talked about the merits of training actors to work in a language they do not speak and shared a recent project where Hulkko and Syrja travelled with Finnish students to Udmurtia, a Russian Federation, in order to stage a play in Udmurt, an Ungro-Finn endangered language. Their point about the possibility of a foreign language to defamiliarise the actor from her own phonetic and vocal habits was aptly communicated by allowing the group to taste the vowels and consonants of the Udmurt language in a short sentence. Withholding the meaning of the sentence until the very end of the exercise, also showed how sound and voice can set one free from – or indeed make one anxious about the loss of – meaning.
By being an inextricable physiological component of voicing, speaking, and generally staying alive, the training of breath offers immense possibilities not only towards the development of voice and speech, but also towards the actor’s relationship to text and character/dramatic situation. Dennis Lennon and Eric Hetzler in their respective ways looked at breath as a way of such training. Lennon brought attention to the position that breath holds within voice and speech training practices of acting and speaking Shakespeare and left us with the tantalising possibility that breath could become a catalyst towards apprehending rather than comprehending the Shakespearean text. Equally, Hetzler complemented a formal paper on the use of Alba Technique in theatre practice with instruction in two exercises that allowed the group to try out two of the breathing patterns.
Logocentrism and Au/Orality
By taking the work of Greek speech trainer Dimitris Vayas as a case in point, Konstantinos Thomaidis brought attention to the danger of treating voice in a logocentric manner, whereby the aim of training is to clear the voice of the cultural manifestations and biological imperfections of dialect, accent and tonality, in order to communicate text in a presumambly pristine way. Thomaidis, however, further problematized the way in which logo-centrism can be detected within a training practice and cautioned against a tendency to regard uncritically and at face value old-school approaches to voice training as logocentric. Complementing Thomaidis’s paper, Jane Boston offered an alternative to subjecting the voice to the service of idealist textual clarity by exploring the work of Alice Oswald, a poet who writes with the intention that her poems are read or recited aloud. Duly, Boston read and briefly cock-a-dooddle-dooed an extract from Oswald’s recent collection of poems.
Resistance to Training?
A resistance to training, a need and an urgency to re-think what training is and what it is for, underpinned a number of papers, but was most emphatically present in Mark Smith’s presentation on the work of Frantic Assembly. Smith reflected on the company’s founding members’ assertion that are ‘untrained’ as well as their conscious exclusion of vocal and speech training from their educational activities. Is it is because work with text could possibly alienate the teenage audience Frantic are trying to reach? Is it because, despite the interconnection of voice and movement, expertise is by definition a careful demarcation of a specific area of knowledge and needs to have identifiable boundaries? Is the exclusion of voice a manifestation of a historical moment during which, arguably, British theatre had enough with the word and concentrated on performance making through movement? And if this is the case, do we witness a new era, whereby word finds its place, as Marie Hay demonstrated, within movement practice?
Post-script: The Group is Open and Training is Ongoing
Delegates of all walks of lives, institutions, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientation, cultural affiliations, disciplinary expertise, and religious practice are welcome. But a toddler? Two-year old Mercan patiently sat through presentations and discussions, experienced the intermittent dislocation of her mum and dad’s attention away from her and towards the conference, even put up with her occasional removal from the room, and looked at the group and its individual members with eyes wide open. What do they know about training? I would wager that Mercan goes through intensive training the whole day every day. Imagine that she turns eighteen and following her parents’ steps decides to study theatre. She begins to train, whereby discovers that all the training she has been doing all these years not only is left untapped, but in some cases is considered to be out rightly wrong. If anything from the presentations stays with her, Mercan could potentially reply to anyone that tries to ‘correct’ her that yes, she would not mind trying out new ways (of sitting, standing, talking, looking, thinking) but training is also about honouring what she so painstakingly acquired through daily practice for the most part of her life. That her training, past and present, to borrow a metaphor that Carol Fairlamb used, is her home.
Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT)
Special issue entitled Training for Immersive, Interactive and Participatory Performance to be published July 2018
Call for contributions, ideas, proposals and dialogue with the editor
Guest editor: Dr Campbell Edinborough, University of Hull (email@example.com)
Background and context
This will be the eighth Special Issue of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT) following issues on sport, Michael Chekhov, politics, Feldenkrais, writing training, interculturalism and popular theatre. TDPT is an international journal devoted to all aspects of ‘training’ (broadly defined) within the performing arts. The journal was founded in 2010 and launched its own blog in 2015. Our target readership is both academic and the many varieties of professional performers, makers, choreographers, directors, dramaturgs and composers working in theatre, dance and live art who have an interest in and curiosity for reflecting on their practices and their training. TDPT’s co-editors are Jonathan Pitches (University of Leeds) and Libby Worth (Royal Holloway, University of London).
Training for Immersive, Interactive and Participatory Performance
The twenty-first century has seen a significant growth in the popularity of theatre forms that invite audiences to interact and participate with performers – often in unconventional performance contexts. This diversification within the landscape of contemporary performance has been accompanied by a blurring of traditional boundaries between theatre, cabaret, live art, installation and dance. This special issue of TDPT will question the impact of immersive, interactive and participatory forms of performance on training.
The special issue will:
- analyse innovations in the field of performance training with reference to the growing need for performers to work in immersive, interactive and participatory contexts.
- question how (and whether) historical training methods might be used and adapted within one-to-one performance, immersive theatre and participatory contexts.
- explore the value of ‘cross-training’ in different performance modalities.
- question whether existing training programmes should be developed to meet the evolving needs of contemporary performance culture.
Expressions of interest
We are particularly interested in (but are not limited to) submissions in the following areas:
- Articles that analyse and contextualise approaches to training developed by companies and practitioners working in immersive, interactive and participatory contexts.
- Articles that question how audience participation and interactivity reframe the performer’s role and, therefore, the training s/he requires.
- Analyses of existing and historical models of performance training in the light of the performer’s need to function in participatory/interactive/immersive contexts.
- Articles that reflect on how the creative and critical dialogue surrounding participatory aesthetics (seen in the critical writings of Rancière, Bourriaud, Bishop, White etc.) have led (or might lead) to new ways of thinking about performer training.
- Articles that explore training for one-to-one performance.
- Articles that explore training for improvisation in participatory/interactive/immersive theatre.
- Reflections on acquiring training/skills during the development of participatory/interactive/immersive performance.
- Analyses of primary source documents related to training in participatory, immersive and interactive contexts: manifestos, training regimes, archival gems, appropriately contextualised and analysed.
- Essays which use photos and video materials to examine participatory/ interactive/immersive theatre training, in tandem with the TDPT blog.
We welcome submissions from authors both inside and outside academic institutions and from those who are currently undergoing training or who have experiences to tell from their training histories. To signal your interest and intention to make a contribution to this special issue in any one of the ways identified above please email an abstract (max 250 words) to Campbell Edinborough at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Our first deadline for these is 30th November 2016.
Training Grounds: we will also be seeking contributions for the Training Grounds section of this special issue edited by this Special Issue’s Training Grounds editor, Thomas Wilson. Within TDPT, Training Grounds represents a playful space for shorter and perhaps more provocative and rhetorical contributions. Thus in our generic issues we have postcards (Training and …), responses to an ‘answer the question’, essais and reviews of events, workshops, conferences as well as books. Our Training Grounds section in special issues does not always follow this model so please contact Thomas Wilson (email@example.com) and Campbell Edinborough if you have ideas and suggestions.
Approximate timelines for this issue
Mid-September 2016: Call for papers published
30th November 2016: abstracts and proposals sent to Campbell Edinborough
February 2017: Response from editor and, if successful, invitation to submit contribution
March to mid September 2017: writing/preparation period for writers, artists etc.
Mid Sept to end October: peer review period
November 2017 – end January 2018: author revisions post peer review
End March 2018: All main articles into production with Routledge
Mid April 2018: Training Grounds articles into production
April- June 2018: typesetting, proofing, revises, editorial etc.
July 2018: publication as Issue 9.2.
We look forward to hearing from you.