The following audiovisual documentation was taken during the ACT International Voice and Performance Residency in Centro Anidra, Italy (10-27 September 2018), directed by Anna-Helena McLean. Designed as a complement and integral partner to the essai ‘The act of listening: Gardzienice’s mutuality practice and The ACTing Voice,’ this multi-modal publication is an experiment, working within the form afforded by the TDPT special issue 10:3 ‘What is new in voice training?’ to seek new approaches to practice-based research.
You are invited to witness a series of brief encounters, spanning exercises in progress, actors in rehearsal and interviews with international workshop participants as well as McLean. The films on their own offer practice-based insights, and together with the essai gain epistemological contextualisation from McLean’s experiential standpoint as a musician, actor and researcher. The enquiry is centred around the way McLean has been evolving the practice she discovered as a principal member in Gardzienice (2000-2007). Now director of her own approach to music theatre and devising, called the ACT (Actor – Chorus – Text) Ensemble Practice, McLean’s text and film trace the development of the practice and its relevance to voice work, embodied voice and vocal extension through a ‘physiovocal’ approach (see Thomaidis 2014), based on McLean’s re-imagining of the core Gardzienice principles of mutuality and musicality. The films allude to new physiovocal exercises including the musicality of the spine, harmonics, interval modulation, body resonators and the physiovocal alphabet in the director’s drive to ‘listen to’, navigate and address the actors’ process in order to extend vocal possibilities and enable more nuance and sensitivity to text.
Clip 1 (Leading with) Mutuality
Clip 2 The act of listening
Clip 3 Extending the voice
Clip 4 Physiovocality
Clip 5 Body resonators
Clip 6 The acting voice
Clip 7 Physiovocal scoring
Research advisor/support: Demetris Zavros
Film: Federico Torre
Media editors: Jesse Embury and Sid Sawant
Collaborating actors and participants: Robert Schein Bogdanovic, Rosie Clark, Eleanor Debreu, Kaeridwyn Eftelya, Andrea Foa, Ola Forman, Caroline Gatt, Amelia Gibbs, Emily Jane Grant, Wanning Jen, Louise Parr, Dylan-Donovan Sebaoun, Susanna Wilson.
Location: Centro Anidra, Borzonasca, Genova, Italy.
Thomaidis, K. 2014 Singing from stones: physiovocality and Gardzienice’s theatre of musicality. In: D. Symonds and M. Taylor, eds. Gestures of music theater: the performativity of song and dance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 242-258.
Ed. Note: The following entry is part of a series of posts marking the 1-year anniversary of the Special Issue ‘What is New in Voice Training?’
The relationship between the voice and the body in the theatre has revealed that, through the latter, the voice subscribes the notion of presence within the spectator, while also, the paradox of dislocating itself from the body remains. The acousmatic turn—from which authors such as Michel Chion (1993) or the Chilean Andrés Grumann (2020), to name a few, have examined the hegemony of the body over the voice in contemporary theatre—has allowed to put into the debate of vocal pedagogy new ways of dealing with body/voice training and of challenging the installed anthropocentric logic of the voice as a production of the body.
In a general, the central concern of these authors has been to think about, and problematise, the paradox of a voice belonging to the wrong body and/or the dislocation of the body from which it emanates. This acousmatic split—between the presence of the body and the mediation of the voice in the theatre—has generated an auditory and visual enigma that has not yet been resolved by most theatre schools in Chile. With the appearance and incorporation of electroacoustic technologies, audiovisual devices and the diverse theoretical matrices from which the body has been studied, new forms of understanding and approaching the voice and the body in performance have been triggered. Therefore, the voice & body equation in vocal pedagogy demands a constant and synergistic dialogue with the becoming of stage practices.
Part of my doctoral research (PaR) centres around these issues and proposes that the voice, as a phenomenon and a force is not bound by delimitations and/or hierarchies but, rather, to strategies of associativity engaged in stage work. Thus, the associative conjunction ‘&’ operates as a portal for the various entrances of the vocal in the performative space. Likewise, it demolishes the need to annex voice to the body and language as the only source for its training and study.
In Sistema Sonoro (2020), the introductory project to my doctor PaR, I tried to echo such (and other) reflections and concerns:
Sistema Sonoro teaser
In this line of thought, the Argentinean Silvia Davini (2007) has established that, in light of the modern project and the expansion of the limits between the human and the non-human, the concept of body and instrument for the deployment of the voice in the performance scene has also been placed in the debate on vocal pedagogy. In a curious topology of the body, it has evolved from Cartesian automata to the virtual body, a body of multiple enjoyments, a multi-sexed body, a Cyberbody, among other categorisations. Here, the problem of voice attachment to these bodies is presented and revealed as a still unsolved issue.
How, then, is vocal pedagogy to face these other types of body? If every time we listen to a voice, it invokes and calls for a body (Lagaay 2011), then we should ask ourselves: what kind of body is this voice attached to, and what should be the strategies and approaches for teaching its applications in performance?
Chion, M. (1993). La Audiovisión: Introducción a un análisis conjunto de la imagen y el sonido (2ª edición al español). Barcelona, España: Paidós. Trans. Antonio López Ruiz.
Davini, S. (2007). Cartografías de la voz en el teatro contemporáneo, el caso de Buenos Aires Argentina. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Universidad de Quilmes.
Grumann, A. (2020). ‘Voces fuera de escena.El vocear tecno-mediatizado de la voz en el teatro’. (Artículo inédito). Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Facultad de Artes, Escuela de Teatro.
Lagaay, A. (2011). Towards a (Negative) Philosophy of Voice. In: Kendrick, L. & Roesner, D. (Eds) Theatre Noises: The Sound of Performance (pp. 57-69). Newcastle upon Tyme: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Luis Aros, an actor and voice studies practitioner/scholar, holds a MA Voice Studies from RCSSD and is the founder and director of the Nucleus of Vocal Research. Currently researching a Ph.D. in Arts / Practice and Theatre Studies, he is developing a PaR project on voice and performance.
Ed. Note: The following entry is part of a series of posts marking the 1-year anniversary of the Special Issue ‘What is New in Voice Training?‘ and was created by Chan E. Park and Konstantinos Thomaidis (due to technical issues, I as editor uploaded this content but am not the author).
Professor Chan E. Parkis an innovator of theatrical pansori for transnational audiences and the originator of bilingual pansori, a development and reworking of pansori storytelling that includes singing in Korean and delivery of narrative parts (aniri) in English and/or alongside English subtitles (for more information, see Park 2003: 245-272).
A first articulation of Park’s current thinking on the intersections of pansori and technology appeared in a section of her chapter ‘Beyond the “time capsule”: recreating Korean narrative temporalities in pansori singing’. It read:
“Today, I continue training with a set of my teacher’s recordings. And the thoughts and ideas from learning and practice substantiate my written research. I have taken part in several theatrical or musical productions of pansori as innovative adaptation, but my sense of innovation is discovery in my teacher’s recorded voice: if you can do a vocal doubling of a phrase you could not do yesterday, that is innovation for me. By engaging this partial archive of the work of an intangible cultural asset, I am able to renew my affiliations, albeit in a meditated way, with a pansori community, past, present and future.” (Park 2019: 176)
Konstantinos Thomaidis (KT):In what ways has the use of technology (for example, professional CDs or DVDs, amateur recordings, blogs, sur- or sub-titling, YouTube, websites etc) impacted contemporary pansori training?
Chan E. Park (CP): Recordings are essential tools for all learners. A learner makes own recordings of his or her teacher, during lessons.
From experience, professional CDs or DVDs, YouTube, should largely be for those amateur listeners not affiliated with teacher and school of learning, but take active interest as a fan, researcher, hobby, or self-study. And everyone seeking the professional field news or updates, or personal embellishments also browse on YouTube.
Blogs, I do not have, so am not qualified to speak about it. I tend to think, however, those younger generation practitioners perhaps use social media to exchange news and promote their own achievements rather than to enhance their training.
The concept of subtitling came into use in and around 1987, to the best of my knowledge. I happened to have provided the first English subtitles for the Song of Chunhyang produced by the National Changgeuk Company in 1987. Today, all professional singers making international appearances are aware of the critical importance of good subtitles to go with their presentations. For them, subtitles add to their presentation, rather than training.
KT: In what ways has such technology impacted contemporary pansori performance?
CP: Given the historical reality, without the advancements in recording technology (and consumption), pansori singing may not have survived as much as it has.
KT: Do you think that the use of technology for pedagogic purposes (voice training) is more suited towards preserving or renewing pansori?
Renewal of pansori must first start with preservation.
KT: Have you used such technology as a trainee? Or teacher? Or performer? If yes, could you describe a case of such use that exemplifies your approach?
CP: Yes, yes, and yes.
First, my teacher is no longer living, yet I have continuously been depending on his recordings to review and re-review, re-re-review, and further.
In essence, he lives to continue to teach me through his recordings.
Listening to them thousands of times, I cultivate closer listening of his artistry as structural entity, the understanding of which is mine to reproduce within the boundary of my own vocal expressiveness.
In repeated listening, the obscure and the unidentifiable textual and acoustic elements often become clearer, suddenly or gradually.
KT: In the past, the use of technology (for example, recordings) has been criticised as leading to mere imitation (‘photographic sound’/sajinsori) rather than creative mastery of the genre. Do you agree/disagree? Do you think such critique is fair or limited?
CP: True, and this was my own limited observation during the earlier stages of training. Outwardly, it does feel and look like you’re photocopying. But consider the process of learning a new language: it starts with sampling and ‘photocopying’ your teacher’s articulation and mannerism. The language one day becomes yours to use, and you speak, listen, write, and comprehend in your own way.
People who sees only the ‘photocopying’ need to go further into the process of training, continuously.
KT:Do you have any final thoughts to share on the issue of using technology in pansori training, either within or outside Korea?
CP: Recording technology, despite the loss of oral culture, is a saving grace when it comes to the pedagogical field of traditional singing.
Park, C.E. 2003. Voices from the Straw Mat: Toward and Ethnography of Korean Story Singing. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.
Park, C.E. 2019. Beyond the ‘time capsule’: recreating Korean narrative temporalities in pansori singing. In: M. Evans, K. Thomaidis and Libby Worth, eds., Time and Performer Training. London and New York: Routledge. 172-78.
Chan E. Park is the author of Voices from the Straw Mat: Toward an Ethnography of Korean Story Singing (University of Hawai’i Press 2003), and currently professor of Korean Literature and Performance at Ohio State University. Park has innovated numerous bilingual and theatrical pansori including: In 1903, Pak Hungbo Went to Hawai’i (2003); When Tiger Smoked His Pipe (2003); Shim Chong: A Korean Folktale (2003); Alaskan Pansori: Klanott and the Land Otter People (2005); Song of Everyday Chunhyang (2008); Hare Returns from the Underwater Palace (2013).
Konstantinos Thomaidis is Senior Lecturer in Drama, Theatre & Performance at the University of Exeter. His books include Voice Studies: Critical Approaches to Process, Performance and Experience (Routledge 2015, with Ben Macpherson) and Theatre & Voice (Palgrave Macmillan 2017). He co-founded the Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies, the Routledge Voice Studies book series, and the Sound, Voice & Music Working Group at TaPRA. He is Artistic Director of Adrift Performance Makers.
While the human voice mostly dominates the territory of voice training today, interspecies vocal performances like The Algae Opera (2012) and multispecies audiences like Laurie Anderson’s Concert for Dogs (2016) challenge the anthropocentric focus and open up for new experiences. Voice training can join in this venture by including more diverse pedagogies.
For some time now, animals have inspired western arts practitioners in performer training: from theatrical innovator Jacques Copeau’s animal improvisations (Evans 2006: 79-80), to singing philosopher Alfred Wolfsohn’s extended voice research (2012), to theatre director Jerzy Grotowski’s actor training exercises incorporating the vocalities of tigers, snakes, and bulls (1968: 180-82). The practices used in this longstanding tradition of seeking inspiration from other animals are still in many ways quite human-centred.
Part of my PhD project studies the Nordic herding-calling tradition Kulning, a practice of interspecies vocal attraction between herders and free-grazing cows, goats and sheep. As a vocal deviser, I am fascinated by how the herders vocally attract their cattle. While most herders today learn traditional calls of attraction through the (human-to-human) oral tradition, we can assume that in the very first training sessions, herders and cattle together co-devised these calls.
Learning vocal technique together with the cattle embraces a ‘humanimal’ voice pedagogy. Donna Haraway describes the ‘humanimal’ as the human and the animal coming ‘into each other’ (2013). Informed by ethnographic fieldwork that I conducted in the north of Sweden (July 2019), I devised four workshops on ‘humanimal’ voice pedagogy for arts practitioners. These workshops (held at the University of Exeter’s Drama Department, 2020) each involved a group of eleven participants.
The first workshop included exercises designed to explore elements to be considered when devising the calls of attraction in Kulning. In order to introduce participants to the vocal tradition and to serve as a stimulus in the exercises, I brought in footage and sound recordings of cattle from my fieldwork.
During my ethnographic study, it was suggested by the herders that I interviewed that vocal attunement and imitation of the recipient are key to the sonic dramaturgy of the calls of attraction. Thus, one of my exercises aimed to train workshop participants to vocally attune to and imitate cattle. After a series of ‘humanimal’ physiovocal warm-ups, I invited participants to close their eyes, to go down on ‘all fours’, and listen to recordings of cattle ‘feeling’ the cattle’s vocality resonate in their bodies. Inspired by Jane Bennett’s conception of a morphing creature ‘not necessarily divided equally’ (2001: 19-20), I led participants through a vocal journey exploring different degrees of mimesis (we explored moving from sounding 10% human-90% cow to 20%human-80% cow etc.). In this creative space, participants were encouraged to explore the freedom of the shapeshifting embedded in the ‘humanimal’.
By practising imitating the unique voices of each animal, this exercise also offered performers new models for voicing. All workshop exercises involved learning from the cattle’s vocality through listening, moving, and sounding-with audio recordings.
What possibilities may emerge if this kind of vocal training next takes place in nature together with cattle, allowing for a complete ‘humanimal’ vocal exchange? What possibilities may emerge when we broaden the anthropocentric paradigm of voice pedagogy, inviting more ways of voicing, listening, and relating? What performance possibilities may emerge with ‘humanimal’ voice training? Will such a training embrace further ‘humanimal’ audiences?
Anderson, Laurie. (2016). Concert for Dogs (January 4). Times Square, New York City.
Bennett, Jane. (2001). Cross-Species Encounters. In J. Bennett (ed) The Enchantment of Modern Life (pp. 17-32). Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Burton Nitta. (2012). The Algae Opera (September 22-23). Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Edlund, Sophia. (2020). Humanimal voice workshop on vocal attraction (February 15). Exeter Drama Department, Thornlea, Exeter.
Evans, Mark. (2006). Jacques Copeau. New York: Routledge.
Grotowski, Jerzy. (1968). Towards a Poor Theatre. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Wolfsohn, Alfred. (2012). Orpheus or the Way to a Mask (trans. M. Günther). Woodstock, Connecticut: Abraxas Publishing.
Sophia Edlund is a visual-vocal artist and a PhD candidate in Performance Practice at the University of Exeter. Her voice-based PhD examines different practices of voicing ‘thelxis’ (a Greek word for attraction/enchantment). Sophia’s studies include a BA in English Literature, an MA in Text and Performance, and an MSc in Performance Psychology. She is passionate about the health and wellbeing of singers and about raising awareness of singing as a means to promote health and wellbeing. Sophia is the current Reviews Editor for the Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies, where she has published on the topic of sirens.
We are delighted to announce issue 11.4 of TDPT. With this issue we are formally ‘a Quarterly’, both in the planning and the execution. As you will see, this is another very full issue, replete with six long-form articles, threaded through with postcards, a vibrant transcribed discussion, book and event reviews and a beautiful obituary, marking the passing of our dear friend Ali Hodge, and complementing a moving series of blog posts already published.
Look out for another innovation too: Speaking Image which takes forward – in microcosm – a key debate we have been having in the journal since its inception: how are embodied training practices communicated across media – and what does the interplay of image and word offer to this communication?
This post offers a first glimpse to a wider practice-research project I started developing since the beginning of the pandemic in the UK in March 2020 and the Covid-19 implemented physical distancing guidelines. It is the first in an intended series of posts on the project, under the umbrella title ‘From haptic deprivation to haptic possibilities’. This research looks at how we can compensate for the current inability to experience haptic interrelations within and beyond actor-training environments, including the exploration of wearable haptics towards tactile ‘translations’. Even though the specific investigations sprang out of the urgency of the current pandemic, it is already apparent that its findings and applications could have a clear impact post-pandemic as well.
The not-for-profit documentation project ARTS ARCHIVES and THEATRE PAPERS — a millennium compendium of performance practice research 1985–2015 — is closing and going into the British Library where it will sit alongside the International Workshop Festival collection. The material is also in the special collections at Exeter University as part of Exeter Digital Archives of performance research.
However, if anybody is interested in obtaining at cost a private copy of all the material – it has been placed onto one sd card — for their own research and teaching, could they please get in touch. You can see catalogues of the material at www.arts-archives.org
The Laban for Actors and in Acting is an International Conference held under the auspices of The Makings of the Actor, the Michael Cacoyiannis Foundation, the Labanarium and Hellinoekdotiki, organized by Post-doctoral Researcher Dr Kiki Selioni, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London.
The Makings of the Actoris organising a series of conferences based on books from international research practitioners discussing in theory and presenting in practice their works. Practitioner’s books are always a difficult task due to the struggle they have transferring practice into the written form of a book. Although there is always the possibility of recorded documentation with regards to practical work however this is unsatisfactory for practitioners to present their work in a complete way. Current practices like webinars offers a better understanding but still there is no immediate communication that can offer debates, questions and finally exchange of knowledge.
To submit a proposal, please visit the conference website:
This event will be hosted by the University of British Columbia Center for Mindful Engagement and Dr. Magnat will be joined by two special guests, Indigenous scholar Dr. Vicki Kelly and French scholar Dr. Nathalie Gauthard, who are members of the “Culture, Creativity, Health and Well-Being” Research Cluster that Dr. Magnat co-leads with Dr. Karen Ragoonaden (https://eminencecluster.weebly.com).
When: Dec 3, 2020 11:00 AM Vancouver – please see digital poster attached.
Conceived as a way of foregrounding the relevance of performance-based artistic practices in response to the current health crisis caused by the global pandemic, as well as a way of challenging neoliberal conceptions of creativity and performance as hallmarks of capitalist productivity, adaptability, and efficacy, this special issue will explore the relationship between performance training and the notion of well-being, broadly conceived, to reignite, reconfigure, revitalize, renew and/or reimagine their inter- and/or intra-action.
We seek contributions by performance and theatre studies scholar-practitioners, artists, educators, and activists committed to critically and reflexively investigating the cultural, social, political, ecological, and spiritual dimensions of performance training modalities that have the potential to promote, enhance, restore, and sustain the well-being of practitioners, audiences, and other/more-than-human participants and collaborators.
We are committed to integrating the perspectives of non-Western and Indigenous scholars and artists, and welcome contributions examining the ethical implications of conducting research on performance and well-being in the neoliberal academy, as well as decolonizing approaches to performance training that take into account the well-being of culturally diverse communities.
This special issue will therefore respond to the urgent need to acknowledge and to include multiple ways of knowing and being within Eurocentric paradigms that still inform dominant knowledge systems.
The contested term “well-being” is intended as a generative provocation. In this light, potential contributors are invited to engage with topics and questions such as:
This video wishes to offer an audiovisual introduction to the book Somatic Voices in Performance Research and Beyond (Kapadocha, 2021), released on October 22, 2020.
In response to the current circumstances, this alternative book launch is a compilation of material produced using easily available technological means. The intention is to warmly “welcome” the readers (listeners-viewers-movers-voicers) to the multi-experiential world of the book. This practice-research project sprang out of times without physical distancing and it is shared at a very critical moment which I would argue that for multiple reasons suggests a new “somatic turn” (Kapadocha, 2021, 2-3).
The reading experience of the book is complemented by a Routledge and a CHASE webpages.
Hope you will enjoy the project!
Thanks to the contributors who enthusiastically responded to this last invitation. Thanks to the current actors in training at East 15 Acting School (MA Acting), who gave me permission to use footage from our second physically-distanced class.
Kapadocha, C. (2021) Introduction: Somatic voice studies in Somatic Voices in Performance Research and Beyond. Oxon and New York: Routledge.
A collaborative document, with contributions from: Mark Evans, Cass Fleming, Rebecca Loukes, Sara Reed and Amy Russell.
This piece of writing aims to offer reflection and provocation on the ways that the TDPT Special Issue ‘Against the Canon’ might be used as part of teaching and learning activities within theatre, dance and performance courses and training programmes. We write this as academics and artists, aware of our position as white and privileged – and we invite critique, challenge and debate.
For work ‘against the canon’ to have continuing impact, it needs to reach out beyond the page of academic journals and start to affect the ways in which pedagogy operates and the ways in which teachers and students engage with canonical forms of training and canonical content. Editing the special issue has brought to the fore for us so many questions about deep assumptions underpinning much practice in Universities and conservatoires. The changes being wrought by #MeToo and by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) campaign also offer profound challenges to the ways in which training for performance is structured, taught, assessed and perceived. The suggestions and provocations outlined below are offered only as a number of possible starting points and are in no way definitive – they should themselves be open to challenge and critique. We suggest that those interested in this work should approach it collaboratively, as befits the subject matter, working in partnership with students, colleagues, industry partners and interested communities.
We post this in the midst of a global pandemic, which will hit hardest those who are traditionally marginalised. We acknowledge that in the context of this unprecedented situation, the start of a new academic year is difficult timing for people to engage with this blog, so we invite continuing debate and discussion when time and work allows.
Consider your own identity, where does it sit in the hierarchies of inclusion/exclusion, and the systems of power, privilege and ownership in the wider world, the cultural and arts sector and educational organisations – and perhaps self-assess and take a moment to dialogue with yourself (Daron Oram) – can you foreground and celebrate aspects of your identity (Kristine Landon-Smith), can you identify gaps in your knowledge about the lives and cultures of others (Kaja Dunn et al.), can you invite yourself to be curious and provocative?
Make an honest inventory of your objectives and motives on the one hand, and your hesitations, fears, and resistances if you experience any. For example, are you afraid of getting it wrong, or of letting something go that is important to you? Imagine having a conversation with one of your ancestors about this project of working against the canon. Are they for or against it? In what ways do you agree or disagree? Can you be curious about your own resistance if you experience any? Can you feel the excitement of change and enthusiasm at being part of it? If there is ambivalence or fear, how can you work with it?
Assess your own practices and the methodologies you draw on for your practice, teaching, scholarship and/or research. What are the implicit assumptions in those methods and whom do they exclude or marginalise? Do you feel empowered or disempowered by the methods you employ – why is this so? What techniques, terms and language do you use that require an element of transformation or critique – neutral, natural, trust, ideal, truth, authentic, cultural assumptions about ‘naturalistic’ acting, for example – and how might you adapt and/or critically situate them in your practice? Do you have aspects of your own cultural heritage and/or identity (in relation to race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, age, disability) that may be marginalised in theatre, dance and performance training – and can these be brought to the fore, celebrated and shared?
Consider the context within which your course(s) takes place: the diversity of those teaching and studying in terms of race, age, gender, sexuality, class and disability. How does this composition reflect the diversity of the wider community? Does it reflect the wider societal need to recognise the achievements of those who have been marginalised, oppressed or ignored in the past? It is important and valuable to name the issues that are in the room – they are not things that anyone should be afraid of dealing with. The starting point however has to be acknowledging that they are there. In order to challenge white, heterosexual, non-disabled male privilege, consider the importance of pushing against the canon even if your students happen to be all white/male/straight!
Do you share any of your students’ fears? If you share some of their concerns and fears, can this compassion provide insight into how to address what students may not be willing to reveal about themselves unless they feel safe?
Take critical note of the texts, workshops and performances that are recommended for reading or identified as essential for students to read to complete your module or course. Make sure that authorship is diverse – that may mean extra work to identify scholarship that is less well known. Can all your students see themselves in enough of the documents that they read, the plays they study or perform, and the performances that they watch? Is disability arts and performance included in your curriculum? Where diverse examples are not available ensure that teachers and students recognise that omission (and at times exclusion) and critique the reasons for it. Where canonical works are used, ensure that they are critiqued through study and through practice. How much do we rely on the legacy of the written word? Whose words remain and for whom do they speak? Remember the value of oral histories – where books and articles don’t exist for contemporary practice, there will be people’s memories and experiences. If you access these, how might they be shared in order to encourage others?
Don’t just decolonise the curriculum, decolonise the pedagogy.
Using the journal in the classroom:
As provocation – how does each contribution represent a provocation to question and challenge existing canons? What is the nature of each provocation? Is the form of each piece significant – why might a postcard, a conversation, diagram or a manifesto be provocative as a contribution to an academic journal? What is the purpose of provocation?
Look at the postcard pieces. Who would you ask to write a postcard and why? How might you curate such postcards? How can an image and a short piece of text work together – one counterpointing the other, one illustrating the other? Can an image work on its own? How might a series of postcards work – as a linear narrative, as a constellation of related ideas?
Create a board game that represents the ways in which privilege operates within the performing arts (historically and/or in the present) – a snakes and ladders or monopoly of opportunities and rejections. Could your students then create an alternative model or structure?
As model – Consider canonical practice not directly addressed in this special issue (Stanislavsky, Duncan, Graham, Brecht, Meyerhold, Cunningham, Brook, Grotowski, somatics etc.) – how might students use the journal contributions to construct challenges to such practice? What would they focus on? What models might they use – postcards and conversations are used in the special issue, are there other models (interviews, hot seating, letters/emails, cartoons, graffiti, vlogs, etc.)? Use images as the starting point for a critique of who is seen doing what – how is power preserved through images? Construct images that challenge this.
As dialogue – take an issue raised in ‘Against the Canon’ through one or more of the contributions, ask the students to formulate questions related to the issue and construct a formal debate around it. Ask students to construct arguments for and against, drawing on evidence they can find. Debate highlights difference and enables a multiplicity of viewpoints; various positions can be set up and defended – no position is established as definitive although it often creates a strong motivation for determining and arguing for what is ‘right’. In Russell et al. different views are expressed on whether there is such a thing as essential femininity and essential masculinity. The neutral mask used in Lecoq teaching is often gender binary. Your students could discuss this essentialism or debate it. If you can obtain even one neutral mask, you might consider using it “against the canon” as a way of eliciting conversation and awareness of gender performance. If this provokes a parodied use of the mask, refining the performance might raise interesting questions about gender fluidity and might serve to destabilize the reification of gender identities.
Encourage students to dialogue with practising artists – who should they contact (whose work is typically marginalised or under-recognised)? What contact might they have with them – perhaps via postcards they construct around themes, issues, questions? Would the artists be willing to construct postcards for the students? Ask students to construct dialogues between canonical figures and those who were marginalised within their practice – Brecht and his female collaborators, Stanislavski and his female students, Brook and theatre-makers from India and Africa – what would they say to each other? Where would they disagree and where might they agree? Consider ways in which conversations can be sexualised encounters – how might you queer a conversation? Use dialogue to question how and why terms such as energy, presence and character can become gendered and/or sexualised.
When using debate, discussion and role-playing consider how to create an open and supported space for students (for example, you can acknowledge that those who are asked to take an unpopular role or defend an unpopular position are doing something valuable for the overall debate). Ask students to play a role they don’t agree with, but are willing to give that role their best effort. If the dialogue or debate seems to veer at some point to students ‘calling each other out’, can you help to instil a culture of ‘calling in’ – where relationships are built rather than sacrificed, helping people to find their compassion for each other? This should not be about allowing people to hold on to prejudiced views, but about creating and sustaining a level of empathy with others that enables change to happen. With colleagues and students discuss how best to deal with problematic attitudes and difficult incidents (your institution may – or in some cases sadly may not – have useful guidance).
Challenge the sanctity of the clean document – take canonical text(s) and allow students to annotate and comment on them, encourage them to use images and illustrations to counterpoint text, making the unseen or unacknowledged visible.
How might a student construct a dialogue with themselves regarding their practice (Daron Oram) – what would they want to address in doing so? How could they record/document or share such a dialogue, and what would be the benefit of doing so?
Also consider this unique historical moment when institutions are moving from live teaching to online learning at lightning speed. What structures of power, inequality and accessibility need to be considered? In what ways might the shift to online pedagogies offer new opportunities in themselves to democratize or radically question existing methods?
Using the journal with online learning:
The web resources available are not neutral, and search engine algorithms prioritise what is established and popular. Task students with searching around key words, figures, training regimes and topics and ask them to review what comes up, what doesn’t and how difficult or easy it is to find alternatives. They might take one of the articles from the special issue and examine what results internet searches produce for different key people, practices and approaches within the article – how easy is it to find out about marginalised practitioners and practices? What does this tell students about internet resources and about the marginalisation of artists?
How might students create their own online resource for training? What materials and resources would they pull together? How would they operate together to realise collaboration as a way of working? What training exercises might they design and how might they present and share them?
Using the journal in the studio:
How might a student or group of students construct a series of postcards to represent their practice? How might image and text in this format work together? Who would the postcards be for – who would they be designed to be sent to (either living or dead)?
Use one of the contributions to provoke changes in how the students learn or how teachers teach. Make one issue a focus for a lesson and consider how teacher and student might reflect on a session (or sessions) in the light of these issues. Points of focus might include: the experience of disabled students, the experience of students from global majority backgrounds, the experience of privileged students, the experience of working-class students, the experience of older students, the experience of female students, the experience of transgendered students, the expectations teachers have of students, the possibility of meaningful failure. What assumptions are made within studio work: around acceptable forms of behaviour, around the limits and assumptions of touch and the direction of gaze, around the use of language, accent, body language, gesture and dialect? Who feels that they are allowed to ‘be themselves’ within the studio space – and what does that mean? What assumptions about wealth and privilege underpin most of our training intuitions and how do we make space for working class realities (Cornford).
How can students dialogue about their practice – talking to themselves (Oram), talking with others (Russell, Dunn), creating fictional dialogue (Cornford)? How about tasking students to construct a proposal for a blog entry for the TDPT blog – what would they write about? It could be a response to one of the articles in the special issue, or a proposal for a new contribution? What skills would they learn in doing this? Then encourage the students to post their blog on TDPT – their voices need to be heard!
Journal issues only ever include an edited selection of contributions. Ask students to consider what other issues might have been good to include in this special issue and how they might have tackled such issues. What might be hard about writing such pieces and why – where might obstacles, resistances or difficulties come from and how be overcome?
How might students create new representations of historical practice that deconstructs and challenges the narrative of the genius, the white male guru?
How might some of the content of the special issue work as provocations in relation to students practice? Who is their work for – who is able to engage with it? What do they want to say in their work? What training conventions are they taking for granted? Who takes responsibility for what within their group work – how is work apportioned, who leads, what voices are heard (or not)? What are the politics and ethics of these structures and relationships?
How might the practices of Bing, Boal, Brecht, Candoco, Gindler, Graeae, Henricks, Landon-Smith, Newson, Phoenix Dance, Talawa, Tamasha, WAC or others create models within which canonical practice and performance might be challenged, interrupted, disrupted, deconstructed, commented on and reveal those that the practice has historically marginalised or ignored? How do the practices themselves resist or activate resistance in the participants? What examples of such practices are available for students?
What does touch mean post #MeToo and the killing of George Floyd? Who owns space, how do we negotiate touch, what might touching signify, what can we learn from/through touch? Where are our embodied borders and what do they mean now for us and for others? How do assumptions around touch, weight and space play in to assumptions around gender, sexuality, disability and race/ethnicity?
The Language of the studio/practical class – discuss with students the impact of words and how choice of words can subtly delineated who is or isn’t included. What is implied by references to ‘guys and girls’ or ‘OK guys’? What is the effect of mispronouncing someone’s name? Work with students to be alert to assumptions within language about gender, class, disability and race/ethnicity. When asking students to write about practice, discuss with them the relevance of using alternative pronouns – he/she, s/he, they, she. Consider with all your students how being within the LGBTQI+ community may involve having very different impulses to those recognised by dominant heterosexist cultures and how this may/could/should impact on training performers (Lazlo Pearlman and Deirdre McLaughlin). Reviewing reading and resource lists for their course – encourage them to examine how often the actor is assumed as white, male, straight and/or non-disabled. Ask the students for suggestions and ideas.
Consider Landon-Smith’s article and discuss with students the ways in which they might bring their own cultures into the studio – through games, dances, songs, exercises, storytelling, patois/accent/dialect, postures and ways of sitting/standing, gestures and movements. Recognise that all cultures have these and be sure to reveal how these exist in straight, white, non-disabled culture even when they are ‘invisible’ in their ubiquity and dominance.
How can practical sessions be used to challenge canonical training practice? Change should not just be about making accommodation for difference, but about transformation and radical change. Be clear that inclusion is not just about ‘fitting in’ disabled, global majority or queer students, it is about celebrating their presence – what might that mean in terms of changes to studio practice, your work ideas and strategies?
Reflect on the practice that does not make it into the studio – why is it absent or excluded? Whose responsibility is it to find ways of including it? What ideas and approaches have our students contributed and how can we take this further in the future?
Open up discussions between staff and students around canonical practice and equality issues. This should not be threatening, but should enable multiple perspectives to enrich mutual understanding of the role and purpose of training and the ethical dimensions surrounding training practice.
White colleagues – Reject the assumption that you have to know everything about marginalised artists in order to teach about their practice. There is not time to wait for those books to be written. Invite the artists to be part of constructing the curriculum. Invite students to help create/curate the materials for learning. Don’t be afraid to start from a position of ignorance and learn with the students.
Reject the assumption that students have to learn about the canon in order to ‘really’ know their subject. The subject is the centre of the learning, the canonical figures are only a set of examples.
Reject the assumption that the canonical figures are all individual geniuses. What kind of mythologies, misunderstanding and ideologies are created by this assumption? Each one’s career involves multiple collaborations with forgotten or marginalised others. Recognising these others need not diminish the achievements of all involved, but does given recognition where it is due but not always given. It does no harm at all to recognise the value and success of collaboration and the ways in which artists work together. It does great harm to assume that the work of many can be understood as the achievements of only one.
Reject the assumption that marginalised work is somehow lower in quality, that it therefore deserves to be marginalised. Such an assumption does not recognise the ways in which value systems are socially and politically constructed and managed by those who hold power.
Reject the marginalisation of yourself or others in the field of work, study and practice because of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, age, class or disability. Reject being the token representative. Don’t allow that to happen to students either.
The diversity of your students – allow them to be themselves.
Your own identity, culture, history and experiences – they should inform your teaching without you being seen as exotic or a token member of staff. If that happens, complain.
Your own learning journey as a teacher and a person and those who you collaborated with within that journey.
The wonderful ways in which theatre, dance and performance enable us all to realise and challenge the ways in which our identities are created, policed and presented.
Reading/watching to help reflection and action – this list is not definitive!
An open letter to UK Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies
Look at work within the performing arts as an area of inequality and exclusion.
DV8 The Cost of Living (extracts)
Examine and explore representations of disability.
Calling In: A Quick Guide to When and How by Sian Ferguson
Reflect with students on when to call out and when to call in.
Change comes from action – so what will you do differently?
At Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, UK, the institution has set in motion a project to address issues of institutional racism through institutional review. You can see details at: https://www.cssd.ac.uk/repairing-curriculum. How might such a project relate to your own practice? What might you take from this at an individual level? What might you change, challenge or adapt? Should such a project be replicated in order to make provision for tackling issues around gender, sexuality, disability, age, class, etc.?
And then we have to make our intuitions follow through on agreed changes, actions and re-structures. What institutional support do you need in order to challenge the canon? What allies can help with this change – both from within and outside your institution?
You are not alone – who else can support you, share with you, join in conversations with you? What networks do you have or should you seek to establish that will support change? Who can you engage with as visiting professors, hourly paid lecturers, local/national/global professional contacts, audience/community members, students, campaigners and activists? How can you maintain pressure on your institution to recruit more diverse staff members as permanent members of staff and to remove the powerful glass ceilings to promotion that prevail in our sector?
We are delighted to announce the publication of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training 11.3, “Against the Canon”, guest edited by Mark Evans (Coventry University) and Cass Fleming (Goldsmiths University), with Training Grounds section edited by Sara Reed (Coventry University)
This special issue of Theatre, Dance and Performer Training addresses the forgotten and marginalised contributions made by various collaborative artists and practitioners to the development of performer training during the twentieth and twenty first centuries.
Many previous publications on training have tended to focus on canonical figures and the dominant historical performer-training narratives. Less attention has been paid to collaboration as an important characteristic of avant-garde performance training, and to the complex exchanges through which pedagogy and work has been developed and disseminated. This journal issue intentionally centralises these acts of cross-fertilisation and collaborative exchanges, thereby shifting the focus away from canonical individual figures and towards frequently overlooked or under-recognised practitioners and pedagogues. In doing so, we are aware that this special issue is not alone in advocating for such a shift of focus. In many respects we see this issue as one particular marking point in a turn away from a linear, white and patriarchal history of theatre, dance and performance training.
Our contributing authors challenge the manner in which traditional performer training histories often still seek to capture the ‘purity’ of established methods and to identify individual (often white male) owners of successful techniques. This issue will seek to challenge the ways in which practitioners such as Stanislavsky, Craig, Copeau, Laban, Lecoq, Chekhov and Meisner are often uncritically revered as ‘Master Teachers’ and the ways in which this obscures or negates the existence of wider networks of artists who contributed to the development of these training practices, many of whom were women. To this extent our authors are not looking simply to critique existing canonical figures, but to bring forward the work of those who are usually ignored.
Northern Ballet (UK), Misiconi Dance Company (Netherlands) and Psico Ballet Maite Leon (Spain) have developed a free online toolkit for teaching dancers with additional learning support needs, which enables them to fulfil their potential, and is underpinned by safe practice. Funded by Erasmus + with scientific guidance from the University of Edinburgh, the SHIFT Dance toolkit is the culmination of an 18-month research and development project.
The SHIFT Dance toolkit has been launched to share the practices developed during the project more widely whilst raising the profile and skills of dancers with additional learning support needs across Europe. Available in English, Dutch and Spanish, the toolkit is free to access for all but will be particularly useful for dance practitioners at community, educational and professional level. It can be accessed at the SHIFT Dance website www.shiftdance.eu
Phillip Zarrilli was a theatre scholar, teacher, actor trainer, actor, director and dramatist with particular specialisations in intercultural performance, actor training and contemporary acting. His life-long work took many different shapes as he wrote, taught and created work extensively around the world until his final days.
Zarrilli went to India initially to research about kathakali dance-drama in 1976, and between 1976 and 1993, he lived there for a total of seven years during which he trained in yoga and kalarippayattu. Under the guidance of Gurukkal Govindankutty Nayar of the CVN kalari, Zarrilli was the first non-Indian to receive the traditional pitham representing mastery in kalarippayattu and was given the official status of gurukkal. In 2000, Zarrilli opened the Tyn-y-parc in Llanarth, Wales, the first kalari outside of India, where he held annual intensive Summer training until 2019. When he was invited to take over the Asian-Experimental Theatre Programme at University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1979, Zarrilli learnt taiqiquan from his predecessor A.C. Scott. Putting together yoga, taiqiquan and kalarippayattu, Zarrilli shaped a psychophysical training for contemporary actors.
Zarrilli’s training and theatre practice was intercultural and psychophysical in nature. The rich diversity in nationalities, cultures and generations are not only inherent in the make-up of the training but also evident in the international community cultivated by his work and generosity. In this tribute, we would like to reflect on what we learnt as Zarrilli’s students and collaborators focusing on the training as we experienced it.
Ali was a long term and loyal supporter of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training and, as an innovative and rigorous advocate of the importance of research in performer training, a significant presence on the editorial board. There is little question that Ali’s texts such as Twentieth Century Actor Training (Routledge, 1999) and the second edition Actor Training (Routledge, 2010) were acclaimed when first published and remain valued and important resources for theatre artists and researchers. So too, her work with Wlodzimierz Staniewski, Hidden Territories: The Theatres of Gardzienice (with DVD, Routledge 2003) provide detailed analyses of the Polish company’s training and performance making processes, whilst Core Training for the Relational Actor (with DVD, Routledge, 2013) revealed much about her decades long development of directorial work with her company The Quick and the Dead. However, the following series of reminiscences open up a different kind of space in which to celebrate and reflect on Ali’s lifelong journey in theatre practice, together with the impact she had on those she met. The voices of some of those who worked and lived most closely with Ali, over different periods of her life, speak out in their own manner about what was distinctive and important to each of them in their contact with her. Each emphasises the essential connection between the personal and the professional in her work, her humour, courage, generosity, insight and rigour. The series of recollections, grouped very roughly around the place, company or type of work she undertook, opens with Chris Hurford’s, Ali’s husband, invocation of her passionate drive to ensure that theatre, through its performers, communicated meaningfully and compassionately. And they end with Ruth Way’s memory of Ali’s joy in her ‘incredible vegetable patch’.
Reading through these recollections reminded me of one of the aspects I found most compelling when working with Ali during her time at Royal Holloway This was her capacity to step back from an assessment or directing moment and pause before offering penetrating questions. Her own spaciousness in allowing time for the response process to happen, encouraged those she worked with the same freedom — to take time, to think, to reflect and importantly to gain perspective on even the most challenging, emotionally charged movement and vocal work.
Ali’s husband, Chris Hurford (who’s reflection is immediately below), has just completed work on www.alihodge.com, a website dedicated to Ali’s work. It is primarily intended as a resource and a portal for students, practitioners and academics — as many have already expressed an interest in such a site. For those who knew Ali it also is a great reminder of her extraordinary achievements.
Please feel free to comment below or contact the Blog editors to submit a post if you wish to add your thoughts, this is the beauty of a blog space.
Libby Worth Reader in Contemporary Performance Practices, Royal Holloway and Co-editor with Jonathan Pitches, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training.
The view that one can only practice and not practice for performance art and live art has persisted since the emergence of time-, body-, and action-based performance artworks in the 1960s. After all, to speak of ‘training’ evokes ideas of technique, mastery or tradition, ideas that the artists engaged in performance art and live art have frequently sought to challenge or altogether abandon. However, many of the artists who have shaped the history of performance art and live art have also been committed teachers; pedagogical approaches to performance practices emerged at the same time as the practices themselves; educational institutions have frequently offered material support for the making of performance works and provided a living for artists; and artist-led, non-institutional training spaces have adopted events and publications as alternative forms of curricula. Acknowledging the importance of training not just in the formation of a performance artist but as part of their continuing practice also means to value experience, expertise and professional standing as part of the work of performance art and live art.
This special issue brings together contributions that address the theme of training for performance art and live art in reference to different histories (covering the 1960s and 1970s as well as the recent present); diverse geographies (examining developments in the UK and in Portugal); institutions and anti-institutions (covering art schools, summer schools, festivals and workshop programmes); and varied approaches to teaching and training as a performative inter-generational transaction.
Gavin Butt’s ‘Without Walls: Performance Art and Pedagogy at the “Bauhaus of the North”’ traces the impact of libertarian teaching in the 1970s at arguably the most influential teaching institutions for the history of performance art in the UK, Leeds Polytechnic. In ‘Lessons from Outside the Classroom: Performance Pedagogies in Portugal, 1970-1980’, Cláudia Madeira and Fernando Matos Oliveira recount approaches to performance training as they developed in Portugal in the wake of the 1974 revolution outside of formal institutions.
Deirdre Heddon’s ‘Professional Development for Live Artists: Doing it Yourself’ explores the history of the DIY professional development scheme as an example for how training practices are being reimagined as live art practices in themselves. In ‘Training for Live Art: Process Pedagogies and New Moves International’s Winter Schools’, Stephen Greer examines the New Moves International (NMI)’s winter school as another key example for an artist-led scheme that made productive live art’s resistant relationship to established forms of performer training.
In ‘“I’ve been as intimate with him as I have been with anybody”: Queer Approaches, Encounters and Exchanges as Live Art Performer Training’, Kieran Sellars identifies in the cross-generational performance collaboration between Sheree Rose and Martin O’Brien a form of queer embodied discipline that draws on BDSM as well as Live Art lineages. And in ‘Curious Methods–Pedagogy Through Performance’, Leslie Hill and Helen Paris document the close ways in which their training methods have reflected on and contributed to their creation of live performance work.
The Training Grounds section (edited by Bryan Brown) supplements this with a collection of shorter essais, postcards, and a book review (edited by Chris Hays). Will Dickie’s expanded essai (accompanied by videos available here on the TDPT blog) investigates the application of psychophysical actor training to live art. In the issue’s second essai, a trio of practitioners (Áine Phillips, Dominic Thorpe and Tara Carroll) offer insight into three generations of Irish live art practice by detailing transformative encounters with their teachers. The two postcards for this special issue (by Sara Zaltash and N. Eda Erçin) wrestle with the entanglements of live art practice, life and communities. And Campbell Edinborough’s review of Marina Abramović’s memoir Walk Through Walls furthers the discussion of how a live artist’s work is their life while querying the ability to turn that life into a method.
Join us online on Monday 18 May, 2-4pm UK time for the next Media Music Drama (MMD) research seminar on Technology & Performer Training with Dr Sarah Crews, Dr Christina Papagiannouli, and guest speaker Dr Maria Kapsali. For updates and announcements on how to access the online event, please register on Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/mmd-seminar-series-2019-2020-tickets-75128977795
MMD Research Seminar: Technology & Performer Training
Monday 18 May 2020, 2 – 4pm (UK time), Online (University of South Wales – Blackboard Collaborate)
Guest speaker: Dr Maria Kapsali (University of Leeds)
14:00 – 14:10 Welcome 14:10 – 14:30 Session 1: InstaStan – FaceBrook – Brecht+: A performer training methodology for the Age of the Internet, Dr Sarah Crews and Dr Christina Papagiannouli (USW) 14:30 – 15:15 Session 2: Preparing Our Selves: Performer Training and Technology, Guest speaker: Dr Maria Kapsali (University of Leeds) 15:30 – 16:00 Panel and Q&A: Technology & Performer Training Chair: Denis Cryer-Lennon (USW)
Six years after this article was first published, the thing that strikes me is what I find in the title. ‘Seen but not heard’ was my effort to create something brief and memorable for the potential reader, and in choosing it of course I was thinking about all the ways in which an actor’s body is put to work (and put at risk), in a tension between business, art and the personal which we often see but rarely discuss.
What I didn’t reflect on so much at the time was where that phrase comes from: the old saying, ‘Children should be seen and not heard’. This English proverb dates from the 15thcentury, where it was originally directed primarily at young women: ‘A mayde schuld be seen, but not herd’ (John Mirk, ca. 1403).
This opens up a couple of things for me that I don’t discuss in the article, but which I think continue to be important:
In the middle of last year when we were considering how best to celebrate 10 years of TDPT, we focused in on the idea of 10 free-to-access articles representing the last decade of the journal’s activity: A Desert Island Discs, or Training Top Ten.
That was before the profound changes brought about by the global pandemic, an event which seems to have carved history into two: BEFORE and AFTER. Then, in the blissful period of BEFORE, we had no idea how precious online resources would be, how far the digital space would become home for so many of us, so quickly and involuntarily.
Now in the deeply unsettling and unknown period of AFTER, this selective retrospective of the Journal’s activity since 2010, joins an unprecedented landscape of free digital resources and innovative online endeavour gifted to the world. In our selection, editors, Libby and Jonathan have tried to represent the international and intellectual diversity which has characterised contributions to TDPT from the very beginning. In doing so, we have had to leave out the vast majority of the excellent contributions we have published over the years. What we offer here, then, is a snapshot of TDPT’s sizeable intervention into the field of Performer Training, one produced in what now seems a different world. If you can, please read every one of the free to access articles, and engage with us and the authors, in the comments box on the blog. Why not start, where it all began in 2010, with Marijke Hoogenboom’s, ‘Building with Blocks’ article? Her final words, turning Kafka on its head, are more pertinent than ever: ‘We are here, so there is hope’.
While this post aims to contribute to the conversation provoked by Jonathan Pitches’ ‘Embodied Learning Online‘, it is primarily a sharing of thoughts that emerge in light of the current climate caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and has been informed by two years of research on online, remote, and collaborative teaching conducted in collaboration with Hannah Schwadron (FSU, US) and Theron Schmidt (UNSW, Australia) under the title ‘Planetary Performance Pedagogies’. Hannah, Theron, and I are planning to launch a series of online seminars that build on this discussion by mid-May. If you would like to learn more about that, feel free to drop me a line at felipe.cervera[at]lasalle.edu.sg.
Like many practitioners, educators and scholars, I have been involved in developing and implementing online strategies for theatre and performance-based courses over the last few months. Additionally, I have had the benefit of thinking through this ‘digital transition’ with various friends and colleagues while trying to figure out how theatre and performance should respond to the moment. In digesting these conversations, my first coherent thought about the current situation is that we are facing a disciplinary crisis. This crisis is visible in the various ways in which theatre and performance makers and especially educators are trying to “move online”. However, these efforts — besides not being *really* online but rather emergency reactions — are symptoms of a deeper problem surfaced by the pandemic.
The actual crisis that we face is the crisis of performance knowledge and its systematization into a structure of transferable skills or their display. This is a crisis in the foundational arguments that dance, theatre, and performance made to academia in their fight to legitimize their knowledge(s) as distinct from, and not a subsection of, literature or history (for discipline and degree specialization). It is also a crisis that unsettles the argument that they made to the contemporary economy on their value and specificity concerning other media. Of course, the issue stems from the dislocation of face-to-face teaching and presenting, which by extension, questions too the irreplaceability of tacit and embodied knowledge as being the ontological condition to performance pedagogy. The problem lies slightly beyond the classic debates on liveness and media. It cuts to the core of the specificity of performance knowledge and how it is organised, transferred, and shared.
We are not *really* teaching online, but adjusting to an emergency. This is a pivotal point to have in mind. The situation we face will teach us more about how to teach theatre and performance (and their study) remotely, digitally, and online. But what we are actually doing right now, for the most part, is fumbling to adjust tacit and embodied knowledge into a medium of teaching that we have made sure to pose as its contrary. And we made this point in the pursuit of validating the specificity of live, synchronous, and face to face performance as a legitimate, award-granting medium of instruction and proper academic object of knowledge. In dealing with the current situation, many of us have had to promise our institutions and our students, explicitly or not, that our programmes can and will continue *online* (of course, when online is even an option). As we begin to realize that we are likely to have to adjust or even redesign the curriculum to fit the emergency’s aftermath, it is also important to bear in mind the ways in which the boundaries of our discipline will bend, and maybe even break. That bending/breaking will be a fight for the institutional survival of our field, for sure. Yet, at the same time, it will teach us a thing or two about performance, epistemology, and their interaction. It will show us what performance can do when assemblies are illegal or not allowed. And it will also teach us a lesson to care for our less/non-institutionalized colleagues and our less/non-digital students.
The pandemic has already taught dance, theatre, and performance that remoteness is compatible with learning, teaching, and collaboration. Physical distance does not mean social distance. The situation, thus, invites collaborative efforts, both in proximity and remoteness, to address the disciplinary crisis we face. In the conversations that I have had with friends and colleagues in Singapore and elsewhere on this matter during the last two months, the debate has tended to ask whether what we have done (moving online) is good or bad for the protection of our discipline; or whether we should “go back” to embodiment as a way to retain what is properly ours, or whether university-based dance, theatre, and performance disciplines have finally met their end; or whether we should activate the politics of performance studies and its adisciplinarity to safeguard our future in the post-pandemic university. These are all debates that exceed my contribution to this post, but I remain open to continue to unpack.
Looking at the pattern, however, my instinct is that the actual task at hand might be to spend valuable time re-evaluating the ancillary arguments that hold dance, theatre, and performance together as academic disciplines, and that in doing so we should be ready to unlearn. I also suspect that at the same time, we need to be ready to defend performance knowledge now more than ever, both within higher education and outside of it, and that maintaining the cliché binary of live/online will do us no good in that fight. Multimedia epistemes and pedagogies have been around for a long while, after all.
Felipe Cervera is a Lecturer in Theatre at LASALLE College of the Arts (Singapore) and holds a status-only appointment at the Centre for Drama, Theatre, & Performance Studies of the University of Toronto. His research focuses on collaborative academia (teaching and research), and in the interplays between performance, science, and technology. He serves as associated editor of Performance Research and Global Performance Studies.
As we enter a near global shelter at home response to the COVID-19 pandemic, performance practitioners and educators are rapidly shifting to virtual online resources for their training. Institutions are shuttering but our practice and educational work continues. Unlike the plagues of previous centuries, our contemporary technology allows us to converse, move and share knowledge despite the suspension of face-to-face encounter. However, virtual and online learning has been critiqued extensively as a platform for embodied transmission.
The following post by Jonathan Pitches aims to dispel some of the critiques of online learning as being insufficient for embodied practice and learning. We hope it’s a useful provocation for our readers to explore more digital learning and to comeback to the blog with their own posts to add to the conversation.
Embodied learning – a guide to moving online
A few days ago thousands congregated in the UK to show their appreciation of the health workers on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic, a mass gathering of isolates facilitated by social media, recorded on our phones and re-distributed online. The #clapforourcarers national event echoed those held all over the world, bringing together communities in unprepared isolation to make a simple gesture of respect and humility to the doctors, nurses, and care-workers working in the health system.
In the last few weeks there have been seismic movements in the relationship between online and off-line activity: myriad examples, like the #clapforourcarers initiative, of creative people taking their skills online to encourage others to explore new activities in their homes. Pub quizzes, fitness sessions, cookery classes: all are upscaling to national dimensions to keep countries sane, not to mention an entire education system (from nursery to PhD) which has converted to online teaching and learning overnight.
In this definitive digital moment,
what are the things to look out for as beacons of good practice for online embodied
learning? What can be achieved? I write from the perspective of a Lead Educator
and designer of a FutureLearn course, Exploring
Physical Theatre, a Massive Open Online Course which five years ago was
groundbreaking, heretical even – at least for Russian theatre training purists.
In just a few days, online specialist training has become the new normal but carefully
crafted and insightful embodied practices delivered digitally remain rare. Here
are some of my reflections derived from teaching nearly 30,000 students techniques
of Russian actor training. I have arranged them as an acrostic.
Experience is key
Even in the asynchronous world of
an online course, key events structured into the learning can be galvanising
for students – the promise, for instance, of moving from theoretical ideas to practical
investigation at the beginning of a new week.
Massive cohorts can work
Some online courses have been
critiqued for being mechanistic and non-interactive, but if care is taken large
groups of students can have a bespoke experience – moderators can support lead
educators to reply to comments and students support one another in self-organising
Bodies change online
Teaching a very precise, physical
form, using video tutorials, enables an educator to gauge how deeply the
students are embodying the principles of the training. Students who upload
examples of their training can be given precise feedback, in ways which are
very similar to studio training.
Organisation of resources is vital
Online courses, just as with face-to-face
modules, construct a journey of learning. It is this level of organisation and
curation which distinguishes them from more piecemeal online offerings.
Digital artefacts can be key to the
Gauging Learning can be challenging
when your students are all over the world or silent in comment threads. Asking
for the uploading of a digital artefact, capturing their learning, appeals to
different learning styles and creates a gallery for others to comment on.
and old will engage
Theatre studios tend to be
populated by young fit people. An online space brings a much wider demographic
of learners together and some of the typical hierarchies experienced by
trainees can be dismantled.
Jonathan Pitches is Professor of Theatre and Performance at the University of Leeds, UK and a FutureLearn lead educator. He has trained with Russian masters in Vsevolod Meyerhold’s system of ‘biomechanics’ and has been teaching students these principles since 1995.
We are delighted to flag up the publication of 11.1 – the open issue of TDPT and the one that marks the completion of 10 years of the journal. It was disappointing to have to postpone TDPT birthday celebrations, due to Covid-19, planned for Leeds earlier in the month. However, the flood of appreciative emails that came in marking the 10th Birthday were heart-warming and inspiration for the next decade.
When you have had a chance to look through the contents do feel free to respond in our Comeback pages of the blog. We’d love to hear reactions to this diverse and lively collection of contributions.
Volume 11 Issue, 1 March 2020
Editorial Libby Worth, Jonathan Pitches and Thomas Wilson
Jonathan Pitches is
Professor of Theatre and Performance at the University of Leeds in the School
of Performance and Cultural Industries. He specialises in the study of
performer training and has wider interests in intercultural performance,
environmental performance and blended learning. He is founding co-editor of
the TDPT and has published several books in this area: Vsevolod
Meyerhold (2003), Science and the Stanislavsky Tradition of
Acting (2006/9), Russians in Britain (2012) and, Stanislavsky
in the World (with Dr Stefan Aquilina 2017). His most recent
publications are: Great Stage Directors Vol 3: Komisarjevsky, Copeau,
Guthrie (Sole editor, 2018) and the monograph, Performing
Landscapes: Mountains (2019).
Libby Worth is Reader in Contemporary
Performance Practices, Royal Holloway, University of London. She is a movement
practitioner with research interests in the Feldenkrais Method, physical theatres,
site-based performance and in folk/traditional and amateur dance. Performances
include co-devised duets; Step Feather Stitch (2012)and dance film Passing Between Folds (2017).She is co-editor of TDPT and
published texts include Anna
Halprin (2004, co-authored),
Ninette de Valois: Adventurous
Traditionalist (2012, co-edited),
Jasmin Vardimon’s Dance Theatre:
Movement, Memory and Metaphor (2016).
Chapter contributions include on clog and sword dancing for Time and Performer Training (2019, she co-edited) and ‘Improvisation in
Dance and the Movement of Everyday Life’ for the Oxford Handbook of Dance Improvisation (2019).
Training grounds editors
Aiden Condron has been an actor, performance maker and actor trainer for over
twenty-five years working across the UK, Europe and the US. He is a Lecturer in
Acting at The Institute of the Arts Barcelona (IAB). Aiden was founding
artistic director of Nervousystem,
a Dublin-based international performance laboratory from 2002–2012. Recent
theatre work includes performances in a number of works by Samuel Beckett
including Westward Ho, Ohio Impromptu and That Time, performed in Japan and Russia. Aiden’s
current teaching and research activity investigates processes and practices of
actor and performer training within the domain of presence, play and action,
examining the actor’s dramaturgy as a field of autonomous creation.
Chris Hay is Lecturer in Drama in the School of Communication & Arts at the
University of Queensland, Australia. Prior to this position, he held
appointments at the University of New England, the National Institute of
Dramatic Art (NIDA), and the University of Sydney, where he completed his PhD
in Theatre & Performance Studies in 2014. He has published on Australian
theatre history and creative arts pedagogy, including his book Creativity, Knowledge & Failure: a
new pedagogical framework for creative arts (2016). His current research projects examine the origins of Australian
government arts funding, and Australia’s participation in the Eurovision Song
Thomas J. M. Wilson is a Module/Year Coordinator for BA (Hons) European Theatre Arts at
Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance, and a Fellow of the Higher
Education Academy. Initially training in Equestrian Vaulting he competed at
European-level in the mid-1990s. Subsequently he has engaged in practices
rooted in the intersection between dance and theatre methodologies, working as
both a performer and director/choreographer in a range of contexts. Thomas
served on Oxford Dance Forum’s Steering Group (2008–10) and has regularly
contributed to Total Theatre Magazine since 2001. He is an Associate of
Gandini Juggling working as their Archivist and Publications Author. He is the
author of Juggling Trajectories:
Gandini Juggling 1991–2015, which
was shortlisted for The Society of Theatre Research Book Prize 2016.
The Contributors for 11.1
Dr Peta Blevins is a sessional academic at the Western Australian Academy of Performing
Arts and works as a freelance dance educator, researcher, and performance
consultant specialising in dance and performance psychology, safe dance
practice, and mindfulness skills for performance. Her research interests
include enhancing psychological recovery in dance, mindfulness and performance,
and health and wellbeing in the performing arts. Peta is a member of the
International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, and is currently a
National Executive Committee Member of the Australian Society of Performing
Frank Camilleri is Associate Professor
in Theatre Studies at the University of Malta where he also directs the School
of Performing Arts’ research group for 21st Century Studies in Performance. He
is Artistic Director and founder of Icarus Performance Project, which serves as
the main platform of his practice as research (www.icarusproject.info). He has
performed and given workshops since 1989, and has published various texts on
performer training, theatre as a laboratory, and practice as research. He is
the author of Performer Training
Reconfigured: Post-psychophysical Perspectives for the Twenty-first Century
(Methuen Drama 2019).
Tine Damborg (DK), graduated
as a Master of Fine Arts in Movement: Teaching & Directing, from Royal Central School
of Speech and Drama (2016-2018). She holds the equivalent to a BA in
Contemporary Dance from The Danish School of Performing Arts (1992-1995) and has worked as a freelance
dancer and performer in dance shows, performances, rock-musicals, touring
children’s theatre, and site specific works. In 2005 she began to
develop her dance, movement and
practice. In 2005 she founded the Danish youth contemporary dance company, “U-kompagniet” and
a movement specialist at
The Danish School of Performing Arts, Acting department in Odense.
(EDITED BY EN)
Dr Shona Erskine is a registered psychologist in
private practice and an Adjunct Lecturer at the Western Australian Academy of
Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University. Dr Erskine has an expertise in
delivering psychology for performing artists through professional companies,
universities, and in private practice. Dr Erskine has developed curriculum in
areas of mental wellbeing and creativity with an interest in disseminating best
practice models to performing artist, teachers, and directors.
Dr Luke Hopper is a lecturer and Director of the Dance Research Group at the Western
Australian Academy of Performing Arts. Dr Hopper has published over 20 papers
in the field of performing arts health in collaboration with major ballet
companies and industry partners. In the interests of disseminating of health
evidence which prevents injury and illness in performing artists, Dr Hopper has
served on the Board of Directors (2014-2016) of the International Association
of Dance Medicine and Science and as President of the Australian Society for
Performing Arts Healthcare.
FRSA is Emeritus Professor of Theatre, University of the Arts London. Trained on the Directors Course at Drama
Centre London, he has directed over 50 productions in the UK as well as
internationally and has taught and directed in most leading drama schools in
the UK. He was Director of the School of
Performance at Rose Bruford College, Vice-Principal and Director of Drama at
the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Principal of Drama Centre London and
Director of Development and Research Leader, Drama and Performance, Central
Saint Martins. He is currently the Chair of the Directors Guild of Great
Britain Trust and of the Directors Charitable Foundation.
Professor Gene Moyle is a graduate from the Australian Ballet School and QUT Dance,
retraining as a sport and exercise psychologist following a brief career as a
professional dancer. Gene has focused upon both the application and research of
performance psychology and performance enhancement, particularly within the
performing arts and has significant experience in working with and leading
multidisciplinary teams within high performance settings (i.e., Olympic
programs). She possesses specific expertise in the area of career development
and transition in both elite sport and the performing arts, and contributes
regularly to the literature on the ethical considerations of sport, exercise
and performance psychology practice.
Edward C. Warburton is Professor of Dance at the
University of California, Santa Cruz. Warburton received early training at the
(U)North Carolina School of the Arts and danced professionally with American
Ballet Theater II, Houston Ballet and Boston Ballet. His interest in cognitive
dance studies began when studying for a doctorate in human development and
psychology at Harvard University. A widely published author, his research
explores the relational practices and cognitive processes that support (or
undermine) the doing, making, and viewing of dance. Warburton is the recipient
of several awards including UCSC’s Excellence
in Research (2012), the U.S. National Dance Education Organization’s Outstanding Dance Researcher (2016), and
Teachers College’s Sachs Distinguished
Lecturer at Columbia University, New York City, NY (2017).
is a postgraduate researcher in the School of Performance and Cultural
Industries at University of Leeds. A practising lighting designer, she is also
a non-executive director of the Association of Lighting Designers and editor of
its bi-monthly magazine, Focus. Her
research interests include theatre lighting education, creative collaboration,
early lighting designers in the UK (1950s to 1960s), trans-languaging and
code-switching, and interactional sociolinguistics.
Given the Covid-19 dramatic changes to life over the last weeks, we have extended the deadline for proposal submissions to the guest editors for the special issue of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training on ‘Independent dance and movement training to 24th April 2020.
Please would you circulate widely amongst Independent Dance and Movement academics and practitioners?
Special issue on Performer Training in Australia to be published as TDPT Vol 12.3 (September 2021)
Call for contributions, ideas, proposals and dialogue with the editors
Guest editors: Dr Chris Hay, University of Queensland (email@example.com) Professor David Shirley, Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University (firstname.lastname@example.org) Dr Sarah Peters, Flinders University (email@example.com) Training Grounds editor: Dr Soseh Yekanians, Charles Sturt University (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Conjoined with blood and tears, the axiomatic price of supreme rigour and achievement. Sweat (water, ammonia, salt, sugar) is deemed a noble and miraculous secretion, yet we habitually strive to disguise it. […] In the unapologetic seclusion of the training space, it becomes the proof of our proud status as grafters, as corporeal, visceral, present, working.
As described in Theatre, Dance and Performance Training’s “A Lexicon of Training Terms” (3.1), sweat is a constituent part of training — a synecdoche for the tension and effort that underpin it. Sweat is also a precondition of living and training in Australia, from our corporeal engagement with a heating continent to the metaphorical ‘she’ll be right, mate’. This no sweat, laissez-faire acceptance of the status quo finds its way into training through “a willingness to ‘have a go’; a refusal to be cowed by received authority […] a characteristically Australian suspicion of influence” (Maxwell 2017, p. 326).
The image of sweat also brings with it metaphors of fear, tension and anxiety, often drawn out or extended. This sense of determination over time pushes back against a conception of Australia as the rushed continent, whose artists seek to take short cuts to success. Hugh Hunt, the inaugural director of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, cautioned as much in a 1959 public lecture:
We sometimes expect theatre to be made too quickly. Australians are impatient people, who would like their theatre to be made as quickly as wool grows on a sheep’s back. It takes many years to make it; it takes time to train and develop actors and producers. (Hunt 1960, p. 4)
What has changed since Hunt’s proclamations? What is the labour of training in Australia, and how do we train an “impatient people”? In a country where sweat comes easily, do we mistake the by-product of hard work for the work itself? Hunt, like many others in Australian performance history, speaks only for white Australians: how do (or might?) the distinctive temporalities, collaborative modalities, and lineages of practice of First Nations training and performance inflect performer training in Australia?
Despite the diversity and range of its performance ecology and the prestige in which its major training institutions are held, Australia’s influence in and contribution to key debates has, until fairly recently, remained surprisingly marginal. While much doctoral-level work has considered training in Australia, there is no authoritative, published history of Australian performer training. The history of training is thus another iteration of what Ian Maxwell terms “Australian theatrical bricolage” (2017, p. 338), its history an assemblage of sometimes contradictory facts, uncertain pathways, and unsubstantiated anecdote. In this special issue of TDPT, we endeavour to provide an update to Meredith Rogers and Elizabeth Schafer’s special issue of Australasian Drama Studies “Lineages, Techniques, Training and Tradition” (vol. 53, 2008). We also seek to curate a companion to the roundtable discussion “Training in a Cold Climate”, published in Theatre, Dance and Performance Training 5.2, by considering training in a hot climate.
Reflections on the 2020 International Platform for Performer Training
For three days in January 2020, the University of Kent’s
drama department hosted the 7th edition of the International
Platform for Performer Training with a focus on how words operate in
performer training. The platform was organised and led by Paul Allain,
Professor of Theatre and Performance, Stacie Lee Bennett-Worth, PhD
candidate at De Montfort University and Honorary Research Associate at Kent,
Alicja Bral, PhD candidate at Kent, and Dr Roanna Mitchell, Lecturer in Drama
and Theatre also at Kent. The event involved some 50 participants, mostly from
across Europe, in a lively mixture of short workshops, presentations, talks and
Sessions focused on community-based applications of
training, voice and text work, languages used in training pedagogies, speaking
dreams and inhabiting avatars, verse-speaking and the breath, ideas drawn from
Russian and Polish theatre and Grotowski especially, using film for training
and how circus tends to ignore the voice. The journal Theatre Dance and Performance Training had a continual presence at
the platform, offering itself and this blog as spaces for continuing our
physical and vocal dialogues. Here we take up this challenge.
Bennett-Worth created this collage to visually and textually though silently activate some of the energy, ideas and words circulating during the platform, also depicting many of the people involved.
Please click the image below to open in a new window which will allow you to zoom in.
Join co-editors Libby Worth and Jonathan Pitches for the joint celebration of TDPT’s 10th birthday and our newly awarded quarterly status. We will spend time reflecting on the high points of the last ten years, with guest speakers, an open mike and a characteristic sense of fun and mischief. We will also have a session taking ideas from the floor about potential developments for TDPT, Special Issue suggestions, future articles and shorter formats.
Come and meet the journal team, including our publishers Routledge, the editors and those who work behind the scenes on our blog. Hear about our past and help us strategise into the future. And don’t forget to have some free nibbles and drinks as well!
Prof. Jonathan Pitches (University of Leeds) and Dr Stefan Aquilina (University of Malta) are delighted to invite proposals for a planned companion volume to the work, interpretation, and heritage of Vsevolod Meyerhold (1874-1940). The volume has already been discussed with Ben Piggott of Routledge who has expressed a strong interest in the project.
The volume seeks to determine the current state of Meyerhold studies and practice. While past scholarship has done much to place Meyerhold’s name as a hallmark of modernism, there still remains a plethora of material waiting to be discovered and analysed. With this in mind, and even at this early stage, the volume is promising a marked expansion of our knowledge of Meyerhold as it is seen today. It will be structured in four parts. Part 1 (Histories and Contexts) will enhance understanding of Meyerhold’s many histories, expanding beyond conventional subjects like the grotesque and biomechanics, to contexts which have been overlooked within scholarship on Meyerhold (his work in the provinces for instance, and with female collaborators). Part 2 (Sources) will equally engage with previously untapped material in Meyerhold’s oeuvre, this time by reproducing and contextualising previously untranslated primary and secondary sources on his work. Part 3 (International Transmission) will radically extend geographical understandings of Meyerhold’s practice by mapping routes of migration across continents, with planned contributions including entries on South Asia and the Middle East. Part 4 (Applications) will look into ways in which Meyerhold’s work is being applied in a number of contemporary scenarios, in health, in education and/or technology, for example. Practice Research investigations are particularly encouraged for this Part.
The editors are therefore particularly interested in an expansion of these themes through topics that include but are not limited to the following:
• Meyerhold and his overlooked contemporaries;
• Meyerhold as interdisciplinarian;
• Meyerhold and amateur practice;
• Meyerhold in the provinces;
• Meyerhold and opera;
• Meyerhold’s studios after the Revolution;
• Meyerhold’s migratory practices (beyond Russia);
• New sources on Meyerhold;
• Meyerhold and technology;
• Novel applications of Biomechanics today.
Prospective contributors are invited to join the core group of writers and scholars who have already expressed interest in submitting an essay to the project. These are:
• Dassia N. Posner (Northwestern University)
• Marie-Christine Autant-Mathieu (Sorbonne University)
• Donatella Gavrilovich (Università degli Studi di Roma “Tor Vergata”)
• Min Tian (University of Iowa)
• Bryan Brown and Olya Petrakova (University of Exeter)
• Rachel Hann (University of Surrey)
• Amy Skinner (University of Hull)
• Anna Kovalova (National Research University, Moscow)
• Teemu Paavolainen (Tampere University, Finland)
• Robert Leach (Retired Independent Researcher)
Abstracts of about 300 words should reach the two editors on email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org by not later than 1 March 2020. Kindly include a short bionote. A full book proposal will be submitted in May to Routledge, while a tentative deadline for writers to submit the essays is July 2021.
The issue, guest edited by Konstantinos Thomaidis, proposes a timely re-examination of voice in performer training. The literature on voice, theatre and pedagogy is, of course, vast. In the case of singing, it is largely dominated by paradigms appropriate for operatic and musical theatre performance. In the case of speech training, areas that have been systematically explored include the pedagogies developed by an influential generation of mid-twentieth-century, UK- and US-based speech trainers – and, to a lesser extent, the voice practices pertaining to (post)Grotowskian lineages or the integration of first-wave somatics into voice work. While drawing impetus from these significant insights, the purpose of this special issue has been to lend an attentive ear to the transformations such established pedagogies are currently undergoing as well as to less widely circulated and emergent methodologies.
In other words,
the issue asks: What is new in voice training?
Contributors to the issue shared their practice and research in a variety of formats (peer-reviewed articles, essais, visual essays, postcards, ATQs, blogs, reviews) and engaged with topics and sets of questions such as:
Renewing voice training: How are existing systems, exercises and practices reconfigured in new settings? How can we re-evaluate the foundational premises of voice training through recent discoveries in physiology and advances in critical theory? In what ways are such methods adapted, hybridised, repurposed, recycled, rethought?
New practices: Which are the new approaches to voice, speech and singing training currently in the making? How do they depart from or extend current conceptualisations of voicing? What performance contexts are they designed for? How are they taught, recorded, written about and transmitted?
New documents: Which practices of voice training have not been systematically documented and disseminated? Which practices have received less critical attention and how can new archives engage us in dialogue with them? What is the place of the ‘document’ in practice-as-research approaches to voice pedagogy?
The new voice coach: Which are the new exigencies placed on coaches today? What challenges do they face? Which methodologies have been developed in response? How is voice training conducted beyond the conservatoire studio?
New contexts: How is voice training taking into consideration gender, class and ethnic diversity? How is the pedagogy of speech and song responding to neurodiverse trainees? How are interdisciplinary performers trained in voice work? How is training originally developed for artistic performance adapted in other contexts and circumstances?
New criticalities: Which emergent critical methodologies can we deploy to critique voice training or to generate new approaches? How can voice training embrace ecocritical or new materialist strategies? What is the place of the expanding corpus of vocal philosophy in the studio?
New histories, new lineages: What does new archival research reveal about the lineages and historic practices of voice training? How is the history of voice training rewritten? How are premodern forms of voice training revitalised in contemporary performer training?
Emma Meehan: As a dance researcher, I have felt quite protective of somatic work and dance research methods. In health-led studies on somatics in chronic pain, often a practitioner has been brought in to deliver movement material rather than shape the research. This has left me wondering how to integrate dance and somatic researchers into the design of the study so it is collaboratively created. I have also queried why static measurements are taken of a complex movement process and what information is missing from this. However, being part of the network has made me see that health researchers face the same frustrations of wanting to do person-centred research, responding to traditional criteria and formats for credibility and ultimately to ensure that their findings get embedded in health institutions in the long term. I have learned the value of thinking through in a step by step manner some of the restrictions inherent within health settings and the need to make a clearer case for the work to be taken on board.
It has been much easier to engage dance artists and researchers in the network. Healthcare professionals can have last-minute work emergencies which means it can be difficult to commit. Somatic work can be hard to explain, so for those unfamiliar with it, it might seem like an unnecessary addition to an already full workload. At the same time, we have had a stable core group of health researchers and professionals, who are already curious or committed to the area. How do we bring in people who might be sceptical and challenge us? This has meant going into the healthcare setting, and adapting the material to time slots available, such as offering a pre-work morning session for staff at the Walton Centre Pain Management Programme in Liverpool. While there was interest, I realised that there is a need to match the somatic principles to the clinical needs in order for the approach to be better understood. The lived experience of people with pain is another important facet of the work but there are ethical issues when doing health research which need to be considered, such as the potential to do harm and expectations for recovery. We are developing ways to reach people living with pain for their viewpoints through a consultation process.
The main challenge of working across disciplines for me has been in describing and conveying the value of somatic practices to people who have not experienced it before. We have spent a lot of time with network members trying to define these practices, with some comments as follows:
An attempt to open up a conversation with a body (dancer)
Somatic Practices: Easy word + easy word = confusing phrase (writer)
Listening to and working with the whole person – being empathetic, giving time (dance artist)
A form of mindful movement that requires the person to focus on the movement and have an awareness of their body & the movement within the environment (nurse)
Allowing the body to move whilst experiencing the sensation of movement (physio)
Reinforcing the ‘wonderment’ of the body (physio)
Another concern for me is how this network can feed back to and support dance artists, whether they are working in health settings or supporting their own health. It became apparent during the course of the network workshops that chronic pain was a daily experience for many dance practitioners, and I hope the network has something to offer back to them.
Bernie Carter: Despite being published over 50 years ago, many healthcare professionals are familiar with McCaffery’s (1968) statement that “pain is whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever the experiencing person says it does.” However, familiarity with this person-centred statement does not mean that people living with chronic pain are universally believed. Outside of specialist centres or teams with expertise in chronic pain, there also remains a tendency towards a focus on the physical aspects of pain (intensity, duration, sensation). This network tries to bring in physical, emotional and social aspects of pain through dance and health approaches.
My engagement with the network has been a real journey of discovery; it’s been liberating, exciting, confusing, challenging and wonderful. When Emma first spoke to me about being a co-applicant, I was gently sinking under the workload associated with existing research and I was tentative about committing to anything else but I’m so glad I did. Emma has been a good teacher, guiding my early and still developing understanding of somatic practice and laying the foundations for me to learn from the other somatic practitioners I’ve engaged with during the workshops.
My initial reserve about being a non-dancer undertaking movement activities with dancers was overcome by their warmth and absolutely non-judgemental response to how I moved within the activities. My concern about whether I would be doing something right, perhaps reflects a very health-oriented concern. The people I have ‘moved with’ have always been more interested in that ‘we were moving’ and that ‘we were being and experiencing movement together’. It’s a beautiful and liberating thing to experience, and learning about attending to your body has been intriguing. I’ve become more curious about somatic practice and dance and how it can help people with pain. Like Emma, I would love to have had more health professionals attending the workshops but those who have attended have reflected on their practice and have shared their aspirations for enhancing how they care for and support people living with pain.
The physical environment we are in and the props we use shape the way we think and act. Reflecting on this has led me to explore the way in which movement is approached within health and somatic practice/dance. Within health settings, movement activities for pain are often led by physiotherapists who wear uniform and whose environment is typically something like a gym – a place to work out – whereas the somatic practitioners wear looser, less formal clothing and the studios we have used for our activities have been made comfortable with mats, cushions, and blankets with instructions to be comfortable. The difference is palpable.
Although I perhaps expected that tensions in thinking might arise between the two main ‘tribes’ (dancers and health professionals) it’s been fascinating to see the differences in thinking within the tribes (say between nursing and physiotherapy) and between members of these tribes (different somatic practitioners). Some physiotherapists’ focus may be solely on improving mobility and function in a specific part of the body, using a validated, structured and objective intervention for that ‘part’ of the body. Nurses may take a wider more person-centred approach acknowledging the person’s aspirations, goals and the challenges of pain and consider a broader way of working with the person. In terms of somatic practices, people work with a range of distinct methods and individual styles and can describe their work differently.
We would like to ask blog readers to respond through the ‘Comments’ below, describing their work across disciplines of performing arts and health: What have you learned and what has been difficult? How do you describe your work with dance and performer training techniques in health contexts? Finally, as a performing arts professional, have you experienced persistent pain and if so, have you worked with your theatre and dance training techniques to manage it?