The act of listening: Gardzienice’s mutuality practice and The ACTing Voice – a multimodal presentation

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

Credits

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.

Reference

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.

Training Grounds Call for Postcards (TDPT Journal)

Amidst the current disruption the Training Grounds’ section of Theatre Dance and Performance Training Journal continues its search for responses to our regular themed Postcards feature. This regular feature attempts to collect different perspectives of training from a variety of people via short responses on a given theme. Our next theme (for the Winter 2020 issue) is:

Training and Buildings

Call out for TDPT’s regular, themed, Postcards feature. This regular feature attempts to collect different perspectives of training from a variety of people via short responses on a given theme.

We are interested in receiving responses from anyone engaged in thinking about/doing training for performance in all its myriad forms.

You could be a formal ‘Trainer’, a doer, a student, a practitioner, a provider, a supporter, or a thinker about training. You could work in theatre, dance, music, circus, live/performance arts, design or construction for performance, or any other connected discipline.

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Haptic possibilities: practising physical contact as part of online actor training

For the second post of this series and as UK drama schools started re-opening for in-person classes the week of March 8 2021, I thought it would be valid to acknowledge the online experience that dominated the past few months. The questions and the nature of the project remain the same, what changes is the context of the practice.

So here we are once again, scattered in the strange intimacy of our own spaces and the camera of our electronic devices. As I shared in an online event organised by the Healthy Conservatoires Network on February 10:

If I can narrow down the challenge [ … ] is crossing the first barrier of transitioning from the studio to moving in front of a screen. The barrier of accepting that yes it cannot be the same, yet it is still a space of relational possibilities. And of course this screen is attached to an actual space which may not be spacious, may be crowded and noisy, may hold memories and other relational dynamics outside the training context that may not be of help for the learning process.

My intention with this post in not to talk you through all the methods I have been developing towards productive online practice. Instead, I would like to welcome you to the intimacy and the atmosphere of an online class while inviting the continuation of your own ‘haptic practice’. To do so, I am using material from the first online class I offered the postgraduate actors in training of the MA Acting course at East 15 Acting School. It is how we began the second term of studies based on the skills developed through the in-person, yet physically-distanced, classes of the previous term.

I choose this class for several reasons. First, it carries my questioning of whether the boundary mentioned above would be crossed: will the actors manage to connect? Both electronically and with the taught material. It also offers a glimpse to how I have been playing around with technology adding the use of a second camera, combined with exploring ways to effectively disseminate the taught material through the screen. For instance, in the case of this class, I quickly share a ‘shape’ of the exercises’ structures before witnessing and facilitating the actors’ own studies.

From cellular contact to cellular text

The exercise from the class I introduce here is called Cellular Text and is inspired by the practice of cellular touch or contact at a cellular level in BMC® and IBMT somatic movement practices. It is part of my work with the actors on multiple ways towards the embodiment of text as part of their acting module on Shakespeare. Most importantly in relation to the project ‘From haptic deprivation to haptic possibilities’ discussed in these posts, the specific version of the exercise includes the study of what can arise when, due to the circumstances, partner work turns solo.

As you can read in this post in which I outline a brief workshop for the TaPRA 2016 conference: ‘The [Cellular Text] process is [normally] developed between the actor-mover and the actor-witness and it is an active dialogue that focuses on the support of the actor-mover’s exploration through the shared visualization of the cellular metaphor’. The basic quality of cellular contact is that it does not intend to change, to guide, to direct, to press or push; it is simply a membrane to membrane contact that aims at ‘listening’.  

And it turns out that when this subtle ‘listening’ through points of contact practice is modified as solo work some new exciting observations can emerge. Apart from managing to cross the screen boundary, actors noticed they could develop fuller agency of their physical expressions, awareness of embodied gesturing when moving with the text and solutions to the ongoing acting question ‘what do I do with my hands?’.  

In my witnessing and reflections as an educator, I find the necessary alteration of the practice due to the online context very insightful when it comes to the questions around negotiating and learning through/from touch included in the end of the first post of this series. So I am wondering: what if this self-practising contact remains as the first stage of the exercise even when the physical distancing guidelines are lifted? Could this introductory shift offer a productive preparation towards more aware partner work and collaboration?   

For your practice

In order for you to develop your own practice and insights regarding these questions, this time I use a video (5:31) and an audio file (7:50), both with added captions if your click on the CC option on YouTube.

The video is a brief introduction to the structure of the Cellular Text exercise and the audio moves on to my verbal witnessing of the actors’ diverse work. Both files come from the Zoom recording of the same class and for reasons that have to do with the sensitivity of the context they focus on my input to the process instead of the dynamic interaction with the actors in training. Nevertheless, I have not edited the files and I am choosing to use these instead of recording separate material for this post to maintain an alternative documentation of the educator-learners dynamics.

Acknowledging that in comparison to the synchronous class I cannot respond to your own experiences through my active witnessing, here is how I would invite the development of your own Cellular Text practice.  

Step 1: Choose a piece of text you would like to study in an embodied manner. It may be an acting monologue, a poem or a song. For my quick sharing of the exercise’s fluid structure in Step 4, I use extracts from the Nurse’s prologue in Euripides’ Medea as translated by James Morwood (1998).

Step 2: Designate your movement space and clear it up from any clutter. Choose where you can put your device so you stay connected with the material without losing your comfort. If needed, you may wish to have a copy of your text available nearby, maybe on the floor or somewhere you can reach it with ease.

Step 3: Arrive to a state of present attention by using the connection to your breath and the ‘brushing’ of your skin, as given in the first four paragraphs of The study section in the previous post.   

Step 4: When ready, click on the video below. Feel free to respond to the way you are receiving most helpfully the offered information. You may wish to start developing the exercise as I am sharing its ‘shape’ or you may observe how it comes up in my expression before focusing on your own study. As I tend to repeat, please bear in mind that I am only sharing the fluid structure of the exercise, not how it should come up for each one of you. I am using the term fluid structure to highlight that each actor-mover’s expression of the exploration can be and, in a way, should be different.

In the video you may have noticed how I move quickly through the stages of the exercise, how I maintain throughout the awareness of the learners, how the quality of my voice shifts from the attention of the practice to the attention of ‘explaining’ the nature of the study, how I am louder than needed as I am afraid that I may not be heard, how mistakes organically come up as my primary concern is not to take up the learners’ time, particularly within the revisited duration of the online class (1 hour and 30 minutes instead of the normal 1 hour and 50 minutes).

Transitioning to the screen of my laptop I continue with my verbal witnessing included in Step 5 as an audio file. By listening to my input, you can observe once again shifts to my witnessing voice, how I develop my responses in relation to the actors’ explorations, how I allow moments of silent witnessing wishing to support each actor’s fuller ‘self-listening’, how I genuinely motivate the actors praising changes in their physical expressions, how I offer individual input. I should add that for practical purposes the microphones of the actors are muted during the study. Yet, I manage to follow the unfolding of their work attuning to the qualities of their physicalities.

Step 5: Listening to my input, check if it is possible for you to become part of the narrative of the class (please note there is a change in the background noise when I switch to the microphone of my laptop at 1:34). Notice if you could stay connected during the silent pauses, the moments of exciting praising or when I am offering individual notes. Most importantly, feel free to stay at each stage of the exercise as much as you can and wish to, following your curiosity beyond the duration of the audio. The overall sequencing is I touch-I move-I sound/voice-I speak. And by recognizing that you are not really part of the class’s structure and educational intentions, feel free to move from the one stage to the other only when and if it becomes available.

Step 6: When your study comes to a conclusion, as suggested in the end of the audio, the final invitation is reflection. If written, allow the words to come up freely through the attention to your senses. Trust that they will ‘make sense’ and, as always, I would be very excited to go through your observations leaving a reply to the post at the bottom of this page.  

Many thanks for your time and practice!   

LIST OF WORKS

Euripides (1998) Medea and Other Plays. Translated and edited by James Morwood. Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics.

Training as Vocal Archaeology

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?’

Over the last decade, I have been developing the project Listening Back: Towards a Vocal Archaeology of Greek Theatre. The project seeks to uncover the materiality of the voice in 5th century BCE theatre and to design a methodology for conducting vocal archaeology.[i] From oratory to musical competitions and from symposia to religious ceremony, voice was practised, conceptualised and trained in plural ways in 5th century BCE Athens. Foundational ideas around selfhood and citizenship that emerged in classical antiquity and still resonate today centre on voice: the inner voice of conscience, the voice of the people, God’s voice, the voice of the Law. Theatre played out, reflected and debated these ideas through a wide range of vocal performances. Yet, in discussions of Greek classical theatre, voice is routinely considered irretrievably lost and most research focuses on the surviving literature or visual depictions instead.[ii]

Listening Back: Towards an Archaeology of Greek Theatre tackles the challenge of upturning such established attitudes and asks: 

  • Which social, political, philosophical and aesthetic trainings shaped the production and reception of theatre voice in the 5th century BCE? 
  • How can the sound qualities of the performed voice be retraced through pioneering methodologies? 
  • Can we listen back to such on-stage voices not only through the philological, visual and musical evidence but also through the work of theatre practitioners engaged in reconstructing the classical voice? 
  • How can this ‘listening-back’ lead to new understandings and performances of the links between voice, self and collectivity? 
  • How can we examine, more broadly, the embodied sound of voices past? 
  • Which approaches can be pioneered to overturn the widely-circulated assumption that such voices have been irrevocably lost?

In response to this set of questions, the project proposes a conceptual shift and a new methodology. Rather than considering vocal practice from the past as irretrievable, this research advances an understanding of voice as an in-between not exclusively defined by either production (speaking/singing) or reception (listening). In this sense, voice is jointly constructed by aesthetic production and ideological environment, and voice training is a process that materializes both at a bodily level. To deploy an example perhaps more immediately graspable: the emergence of the operatic voice was the outcome of the increase in size of accompanying orchestras and the construction of larger auditoria (vocal volume), neoclassical aesthetics (appoggio breathing and the immobile torso of the ‘noble posture’), the use of colour in 17th- and 18th-century painting and first experiments in photography (chiaroscuro vocal onset), the scientific examination of vocal physiology (Garcia created both the laryngoscope and techniques for operatic training) and the genesis of the Romantic individual (notion of the operatic feat through melismas, pitch and duration). Even if operatic vocal performance was not an unbroken tradition, researching the music and texts it performed, the spaces in which it sounded and the aesthetics or ideas privileged at the time, alongside testing ways of voicing the repertoire within these spaces, could generate strong indications, if not certainties, about how the operatic voice functioned. 

To return to 5th century BCE, this project radically departs from previous studies in suggesting that, although Greek vocal performance is not an uninterrupted tradition, if voice is examined as an in-between, then its material practice must not be treated as irreversibly vanished. Gathering information about how voice was perceived and aesthetically appreciated, the texts which it communicated and the spaces within which it reverberated can generate information about specific ways and techniques of voicing. Reversely, experimenting with vocal practice within the sites of its original production and using texts in the original, while receiving consultation from experts in 5th century antiquity, can unearth novel findings about embodied vocality in Greek theatre from the past.

In this sense, voice pedagogy can act as a practice-research methodology of primary importance for understanding the bodily processes through which aesthetic modes of voicing instantiate, amplify or contest ideological discourses on vocality. To this day, my PaR has taken the form of:

(1) performance ethnography: this included training with (a) theatre and music practitioners that reconstruct and perform Greek texts, including Polish company Gardzienice (2009, 2011) and actor-musician Anna-Helena McLean(2010) (see Thomaidis 2014); and (b) directors-researchers that have developed unique methodologies of actor training also concerned with the sounding body and/or the aural qualities of surviving texts (ATTIS Theatre/Theodoros Terzopoulos, 2017; National Theatre of Greece Lab/Mikhail Marmarinos, 2017, 2019);

(2) upon conducting transdisciplinary readings (from poetics, politics, anthropology, psychology, drama, archaeology, sound studies, music, physiology, architecture, rhetoric, philosophy) and analysis of non-textual evidence (music fragments, visual archive), teaching ancient Greek text and existing musical fragments in the original (BA Vocal and Choral Studies, University of Winchester, UK, 2012-2013; MA Physical Theatre, Estonian Academy of Music and Drama, Estonia, 2017; BA Drama, University of Exeter, UK, 2016-2020);

(3) acting as voice consultant and sound dramaturg for the development of professional Greek theatre productions (Trackers by Sophocles, Epidaurus, 2020/21; Ajax by Sophocles, Athens Festival 2021);

(4) leading embodied experimentation with professional actors in an archaeological theatre site based on vocal techniques I developed (Ancient Theatre of Dodoni/Therino Manteio Workshop, 2018 & 2019). This stage was particularly concerned with a concept I created around voice as cognitive space: voice encapsulates ideological and aesthetic spaces, materially resounds in given architectures, and brings forth imagined spatialities/social and political spaces-yet-to-be. In this light, I reworked findings from previous stages of this artistic research to investigate vocal directionality, physio-vocal proxemics, emergent vocal relationalities, and the co-devising of voice quality by bodies, props and sites.

Voice as Cognitive Space explorations, Therino Manteio Workshop, 2018 & 2019,
photos by (and courtesy of) Aristoula Beti and Katerina Kourou.

This summer I enter a new phase of the project (further fieldwork with artists working with reconstruction and re-enactment; transdisciplinary collaborations with archaeologists, philologists, musicians and mask-makers; systematization, documentation and dissemination of the training). The hope is to dismantle the belief that voices from the distant past remain essentially unknowable, to challenge the presentist views of predominant voice trainings, and to reclaim vocal practice as central to an epistemic move beyond a (conceptual, archival, logocentric) voice historiography and towards an (embodied, material, sonorous) vocal archaeology.

References

Butler, Shane. 2015. The Ancient Phonograph. New York: Zone Books.

Comotti, Giovanni. 1991. Music in Greek and Roman Culture. Trans. Rosaria V. Munson. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

D’Angour, Armand. 2017. Rediscovering Ancient Greek Musichttps://youtu.be/4hOK7bU0S1Y.

Hall, Edith. 2002. ‘The Singing Actors of Antiquity,’ Pat Easterling and Edith Hall, eds, Greek and Roman Actors: Aspects of an Ancient Profession. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 3-38.

Havelock, Eric. 1963. Preface to Plato. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Ley, Graham. 2015. Acting Greek Tragedy. Exeter: University of Exeter Press.

Pöhlmann, Egert, and Martin L. West. 2001. Documents of Ancient Greek Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thomaidis, Konstantinos. 2018a. ‘Voice, Sound, Music & Theatre, A Provocation: Common Assumptions in Performance Studies’. Inaugural Meeting of the ‘Sound, Voice & Music’ working group, Theatre & Performance Research Association Annual Conference, Aberystwyth, UK.

— 2018b. ‘Listening Back: Towards a Vocal Archaeology of Greek Theatre’. Pre-Sessional Conference, Drama Department, University of Exeter.

— 2015. ‘What is Voice Studies? Konstantinos Thomaidis’, in K. Thomaidis and B. Macpherson (eds), Voice Studies: Critical Approaches to Process, Performance and Experience. London and New York: Routledge, 214-16.

—. 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, 242-58.

Vovolis, Thanos. 2009. Prosopon: The Acoustical Mask in Greek Tragedy and in Contemporary Theatre. Stockholm: Dramatiska Institutet.

West, Martin. 1992. Ancient Greek Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wiles, David. 2000. Greek Theatre Performance: An Introduction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Bio

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), Theatre & Voice (Palgrave Macmillan 2017) and Time and Performer Training (Routledge 2019, with Mark Evans and Libby Worth). 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.


[i] I first proposed the term ‘vocal archaeology’ in Thomaidis 2015: 215 and outlined it as a methodology in Thomaidis 2018a and 2018b.

[ii] Localized studies in classics and musicology have illuminated aspects of vocal phenomena in antiquity but without a sustained focus on vocal practice or, more specifically, the aural aspects of theatre performance. Comotti (1991), West (1992), Pöhlmann (2001) and D’Angour (2017), among others, have provided close insights into the modes, melodies, rhythms and instruments used in Greek music from the period. Hall (2002) has gleaned information from classical and Hellenistic literature about singing in antiquity, and Vovolis (2009) has drawn on vase iconography to construct masks similar to those worn by performers at the time. Within studies about performance in antiquity, the general problem of lacking immediate access to theatre voices from pre-technological eras has led to the exclusion of vocal production from analyses of Greek theatre (Wiles 2001), to emphasizing subsequent periods and other genres (Butler 2015) or to redirecting attention towards contemporary speaking and voicing of this repertoire (Ley 2015). In many ways, Greek theatre vocal practice in 5th century BCE is a problem yet to be explored.

CfP: Proposals for the Performer Training Working Group, TaPRA, 2021

We would like to announce the call for proposals for the Performer Training Working Group of the Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA) Annual Conference : 6-10 Sept, online & co-hosted by Liverpool Hope University.

The Performer Training Working Group’s theme is Training and Agency.

For full details of the call, details concerning submission, costs and bursaries, please visit our TaPRA page:

http://tapra.org/call-participation/tapra-2021-performer-training-working-group-cfp-training-and-agency/http://tapra.org/call-participation/tapra-2021-performer-training-working-group-cfp-training-and-agency/

Please do share to anyone else who you think would be interested in joining us.

Please note, deadline for submitting proposal is Friday, April 9th.

In addition, look out for an additional email call to an exciting online interim event that we are putting together and will share with you in a couple of week’s time.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us (the Working Group convenors: Sarah Weston (S.Weston2@bolton.ac.uk), James McLaughlin (j.a.mclaughlin@gre.ac.uk) and Jane Turner (J.C.Turner@mmu.ac.uk) should you have any queries/questions.

TDPT Issue 12.1 Published

This new issue of the journal is international in scope with rich contributions from around the globe including articles on indigenous theatre in New Zealand, explorations of planetary performance pedagogy from practitioner scholars in Singapore, USA and Australia, training histories in Australia and in the former Yugoslavia, and a collated series of conversations on theatre pedagogy from Drama School Mumbai. Contributions include short essais, postcards and reviews as well as articles, several of which respond to creative responses to being in the midst of a pandemic.

It’s always a delight to see how submissions to one of the open issues of TDPT reveal new debates simply by sitting side by side with each other. In 12.1 a prominent theme that emerges is that of tracing past training practices and examining how they link with or challenge contemporary training experiences. One way of exploring this, beyond the pages of the issue, is to read the essai on Peter Hulton’s pioneering work on Arts Archive that links perfectly with Hulton’s offer here in the blog to make a wide range of training workshops available to explore.  .

Contents

Editorial
Libby Worth, Jonathan Pitches, Chris Hay and Aiden Condron

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CfP: TDPT Special Issue: Martial Arts Re-Visited

Special issue: Martial Arts Re-Visited to be published in September 2022
Call for contributions, ideas, proposals and dialogue with the editors

Guest editors:
Prof. Paul Allain, University of Kent, Canterbury (P.A.Allain@kent.ac.uk)
and Prof. Grzegorz Ziółkowski, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań (grzeg@amu.edu.pl).
Training Grounds Editor: Thomas Wilson, Rose Bruford College, London (Thomas.Wilson@bruford.ac.uk).

Martial Arts Re-Visited (Issue 13.3)

This special issue wishes to reinvigorate discussion about the applicability and usefulness of martial arts in actor, dancer and performer training. It opens the door particularly wide to contributions which intend to critically re-evaluate and re-examine martial arts’ role and place in performing arts training approaches and schemes.

Following in the footsteps of proponents of the newly established scholarly discipline of martial arts studies, such as Paul Bowman, Benjamin Judkins and Sixt Wetzler, we see the widely used and discursively constructed notion of “martial arts” as inclusive rather than exclusive, embracing traditional martial arts, competitive combat sports, military and civilian self-defence systems, as well as many activities straddling the boundaries between these. Moreover, for us the term “martial arts” denotes not only those practices and techniques which when skilfully executed may prove effective in physical struggle/contests, but also a vast pool of adjunct activities related to health, wellbeing, meditation and performance broadly construed that have their roots in or are connected with combat methods. Borrowing from Wetzler, we advocate that “martial arts” activate several dimensions which often interrelate and intersect, including: (a) physical and psychological preparation for confrontation with violence, usually carried out according to systematic and reproducible protocols and schemes, (b) combat competition adhering to set rules and frameworks, performed for fun or to determine a prize winner, (c) the display of martial skills and techniques in front of others, (e) pursuit of transcendent goals, consisting of cherishing specific philosophies and worldviews as well as character formation, (f) therapies and illness prevention. Furthermore, we note that martial arts cannot be reduced to their Asian or – more narrowly – East Asian incarnations since the phenomenon pertains to every corner of the world and as such strongly questions the dominant East-West axis, just as it unsettles the South-North axis too, with highly influential forms such as capoeira practised worldwide.

We are therefore open to proposals which confront not only the practices most commonly associated with martial arts and most frequently employed in performer training contexts, such as Japanese aikido and Chinese taijiquan, but also lesser known styles and schools as well as other non-obvious manifestations of martial arts’ approaches, attitudes, ideas and techniques.

In the turbulent 1960s, with a hunger for alternative models of organizing socio-political realities and related fascination with Eastern philosophies and practices of bodymind cultivation, elements of various (mainly East Asian) martial arts started to populate various Western actor, dancer and performer training programmes and regimes carried out both in academia and professional studios. Over time, as Robert Dillon observed in 1999, “the notion of ‘martial arts for actors’ has gone from being alternative in every sense of the word to being mainstream” and presently martial arts are a well-established component of many theatre, dance, circus or performance training routines, often part of a larger programme of psychophysical activities and approaches. Different artists, practitioners and scholars (sometimes in one body, as in the case of theatre scholar and practitioner Phillip B. Zarrilli) have listed the numerous physical and/or psychological benefits of employing martial arts in the formation of performance artists. The most often cited examples include: (a) heightening psychophysical awareness, sharpening perception and a sense of being here and now (presence), (b) cultivation of bodily and mental flexibility, (c) integration of body and mind, (d) development of focus, rootedness, balance and a sense of timing, (e) elaboration of respect for discipline, (f) improvement in terms of stamina and movement capacities, etc. This long list of advantages, however, does not dispel doubts which arise when considering the presence of martial arts in performer training and should not make us overlook related questions. These dilemmas comprise, for example, risk of injury, the presence of violence (even in a nascent form) and the subjugation of critical thought in confrontation with (often mythologized) practices and attitudes enshrined in (often esoteric) traditions. In an age when hierarchies are being acutely questioned and overturned, in life as much as in the training studio or classroom, when inclusivity and equality determine our every move, how do the structured forms of martial arts and their related pedagogical or dissemination models speak to such concerns? Can they only reinforce authority, or can they overcome such binary models? How might martial arts help shape the performance revolution that is yet to come? And how do martial arts impact on wider notions and practices of gender and sexuality? Are they purely conformist, homogenizing, or can they offer possibilities for transgression and transformation? We are convinced that these problems and issues deserve attention and careful scrutiny.

We would also like to highlight the following questions to be – potentially – tackled by contributors to the special issue:
• Are martial arts in performer training gender, race, class, age, (dis)ability determined? If they are, how does this manifest itself and what are the implications of this?
• How do cultural, political and social contexts play out in martial arts as part of performer training? Amateur and youth involvement in martial arts is extensive; how does this feed into performer training?
• How do social distancing and isolation as consequences of the global pandemic affect martial arts’ presence in performer training curricula?
• Which style(s) or school(s) are better/worse suited for performer training? Are any not suited at all? If so, why?
• Are martial arts primarily used as a movement training substitute? Are other dimensions of martial arts, such as meditation, work with energy, ethical dimension, etc., included in performer training regimes as well? How might work on martial arts support vocal practices and training?

Other important problems which we think could be addressed in this issue include:
• Strategies, consequences and risks of adaptation of martial arts or their elements for performance training needs;
• Interrelations between martial arts and other training systems within one curriculum (the problem of syncretism);
• Martial arts in training for a specific performance type in terms of aesthetics and/or philosophy;
• Martial arts’ performance pedagogy and its organizational milieus: drama school, university, studio theatre, workshops, etc.
• Usefulness of the martial arts’ pedagogic strategy of dialectics of form and improvisation in performing arts training contexts; issues around imitation, form and discipline in martial arts – how do these aspects prepare performers for rehearsal and creative processes, if they indeed do? 

We welcome submissions from authors both inside and outside academic institutions, from professional practitioners and those who are currently undergoing training or who have experiences to tell from their training histories. To signal your intention to make a contribution to this special issue in any one of the ways identified above please email an abstract (max 250 words) to Paul Allain and Grzegorz Ziółkowski at: P.A.Allain@kent.ac.uk and grzeg@amu.edu.pl. Training Grounds proposals are to be made to Thomas Wilson (Thomas.Wilson@bruford.ac.uk), copied to Paul and Grzegorz.

Our deadline for these abstracts is 16th June 2021.

Theatre, Dance and Performance Training has three sections:

  • Articles” features contributions in a range of critical and scholarly formats (approx. 5,000-7,000 words)
  • “Sources” provides an outlet for the documentation and analysis of primary materials of performer training. We are particularly keen to receive material that documents the histories and contemporary practices associated with the issue’s theme.
  • Training Grounds” hosts shorter pieces, which are not peer reviewed, including essais, postcards, visual essays, speaking image (short text responding to a photo, drawing, visual score, etc.) and book or event reviews. We welcome a wide range of different proposals for contributions including edited interviews and previously unpublished archive or source material. We also welcome suggestions for recent books on the theme to be reviewed; or for foundational texts to be re-reviewed.

Innovative cross-over print/digital formats are possible, including the submission of audiovisual training materials, which can be housed on the online interactive Theatre, Dance and Performance Training journal blog: http://theatredanceperformancetraining.org/.

About Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT)

Special Issues of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT) are an essential part of its offer and complement the open issues in each volume. TDPT is an international academic journal devoted to all aspects of ‘training’ (broadly defined) within the performing arts. It was founded in 2010 and launched its own blog in 2015. Our target readership comprises scholars and the many varieties of professional performers, makers, choreographers, directors, dramaturgs and composers working in theatre, dance, performance and live art who have an interest in the practices of training. TDPT’s co-editors are Jonathan Pitches (University of Leeds) and Libby Worth (Royal Holloway, University of London).

Issue Schedule

  • 16th June 2021: 250 word proposals to be submitted to Paul Allain and Grzegorz Ziółkowski at: P.A.Allain@kent.ac.uk and grzeg@amu.edu.pl.
  • Early July 2021: Response from editors and, if successful, invitation to submit contribution.
  • Early July 2021 to end October 2021: Writing/preparation period and submission of first drafts.
  • End October-End of December 2021: Peer review period.
  • January 2022: Author revisions, post peer review.
  • September 2022: publication as Vol. 13, Issue 3.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Call for TDPT Co-editor

Journal of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT), Routledge.

The two editors of the international journal, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, Professor Jonathan Pitches (University of Leeds) and Dr Libby Worth (Royal Holloway, University of London), are seeking to recruit a coeditor to join them on this very successful journal, published by Routledge.  Now in its 12th year, the journal has just moved to publishing 4 issues annually and attracts contributions from scholars and practitioners across the globe. It has a very active blog site, hosting multi-media content.

As the journal has grown in stature and in size, the editorial team has expanded, and we now have a group of associate editors and blog editors numbering over twenty individuals. True to our ethos of publishing and practising training, we seek someone who might be an ‘editor in waiting’, not necessarily fully versed in all the details of journal publication but with a deep-seated interest in performance training and with some experience of editing others’ work and engagement with academic journals.

While you may not be a fully fledged editor, you will need to bring strategic ambition and vision to the journal, helping us take TDPT into the next decade of its development with energy and imagination. Working on TDPT will offer you unique insights into academic publication and provide you with opportunities to expand your own networks with scholars and practitioners. You will be a key contributor, helping steer the journal’s direction and ensuring it keeps up to date and responsive to current ideas and movements in performance training.

You should be:

  • Invested in contemporary debates in training and performance and committed to the principles of ethical research.
  • Visionary and creative with clear ideas about how the journal can continue to develop and prosper.
  • Highly organised and efficient with excellent communication skills.
  • At your best when working in a tight-knit, collegiate team of editors and associate editors.

Editor’s responsibilities include:

  • Working with the other two co-editors of TDPT to set the strategic direction of the journal.
  • Upholding the highest levels of integrity in dealing with the journal’s contributors and content.
  • Liaising with the journal’s publishers, Routledge.
  • Collaborating with the TDPT extended team of associate editors (including blog and Training Grounds editors)
  • Sourcing (and liaising with) peer reviewers.
  • Becoming familiar with the the submission of manuscripts through the web-based peer review tool ScholarOne and the production platform CATS.
  • Commissioning and responding to proposals for Special Issues.
  • Sharing the writing of TDPT Editorials with the other editors.
  • Attending and helping to organise the Assistant Editors’ AGM and annual Training Grounds team meetings.
  • Supporting launch events for Special Issues and actively disseminating news about TDPT through social media.
  • Acting as an advocate for the journal at conferences and symposia.

TDPT is committed to fostering a culture of inclusion, respect and equality of opportunity for all. We will select candidates on the basis of merit, and ability and aspire to further diversifying our community. We particularly welcome and encourage applications from candidates who have historically been under-represented in our journal including, but not limited to: Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people; gender non-binary, transgender or gender fluid people; and people with disabilities. 

To apply please send a maximum two-page statement identifying how you see the journal developing over the next five years, plus an up-to-date CV. You may also want to include an assessment of your skills and interests along with a statement of what you would like to learn from working as co-editor. These can be sent directly to Jonathan Pitches and Libby Worth (details below).

For more information and an informal discussion please contact: Jonathan Pitches j.pitches@leeds.ac.uk and/or Libby Worth libby.worth@rhul.ac.uk.  Our consultant editor Simon Murray is also available for advice simon.murray@glasgow.ac.uk.  Finally, please feel free to contact any one of our international editorial board members, who can offer a more distanced but invested perspective on the journal’s culture and operation.

The post is unpaid but all expenses incurred in working for the journal are covered.

Deadline for applications

March 31st 2021

Interviews will be held in April

Call for Associate Editor (Peer review) for TDPT

Journal of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT), Routledge.

TDPT has an international profile and wide remit covering a range of arts training. For instance recent special issues have expanded to include training for: Popular Performance, Voice, Live and Performance Art, Immersive Performance, Independent Dance and focus on training places such as Dartington College of Arts. Current political and cultural issues that impact on, and that are generated by, training for performance, are regularly addressed in both open submissions and Special Issues such as ‘Training Politics and Ideology’, ‘Intercultural Acting and Actor/Performer Training’ and most recently ‘Against the Canon’.

As the journal has expanded over the years to full quarterly status in 2020, the number of submissions to both the Special and open issues has risen substantially. This welcome enthusiasm for writing on and from performance training comes with additional demands on the peer review process. The journal operates a single blind anonymous review process (i.e. reviewer’s name is not revealed to the author) with two reviews for each article. Given this growing need, the TDPT editors see that there is an opportunity for a new role within the journal for an Associate Editor (Peer Review), to lead on the journal’s strategy for peer review and to help us ensure its continuing rigour and supportiveness.

The Role

As this is a new editorial position, we invite you to contribute to its development and shaping. We expect that you will gain valuable experience in editorial processes within a highly respected and lively journal. Contact with a wide range of peer reviewers will increase your network substantially and has the potential for you to offer mentoring. Given both the numerical increase in submissions and expansion of fields of interest we envisage the role as follows:

  • Researching internationally for appropriate reviewers for the wide range of articles submitted.
  • Expanding the pool of peer reviewers the journal can draw upon and developing a clear system for access.
  • Encouraging new scholars and practitioners unfamiliar with the reviewing process to contribute. This is an extension of our current practice in mentoring practitioners and new writers to submit to the journal and the blog.
  • To contribute to actions and discussion on peer reviewing that support the further diversifying of our contributor base. In particular it is important to invite engagement from those who have historically been under-represented in our journal.
  • To reach out and engage with related journal editors in the current lively debates on the ethics, challenges and potential of the peer reviewing process.
  • To work closely with the editorial team and with Routledge.

   You should be:

  • Interested and fully engaged in many aspects of performer training.
  • Very well organised with strengths in preparing spreadsheets or similar for easy retrieval of information.
  • Keen to participate as part of a close team and excellent at communication.
  • Interested and able to contribute within the wider related scholarly/artistic community on peer reviewing.
  • Eager to learn or develop your skills in editorial work within TDPT.

TDPT is committed to fostering a culture of inclusion, respect and equality of opportunity for all. We will select candidates on the basis of merit, and ability and aspire to further diversifying our community. We particularly welcome and encourage applications from candidates who have historically been under-represented in our journal including, but not limited to: Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people; gender non-binary, transgender or gender fluid people; and people with disabilities.

To apply please send a maximum one-page statement identifying how you see the journal’s approach to Peer Review developing over the next couple of years, plus an up-to-date CV. You may also want to include an assessment of your skills and interests along with a statement of what you would like to learn from working as an Associate Editor. These can be sent directly to Jonathan Pitches and Libby Worth (details below).

For more information and an informal discussion please contact: Jonathan Pitches j.pitches@leeds.ac.uk  and/or Libby Worth libby.worth@rhul.ac.uk.  Our consultant editor Simon Murray is also available for advice simon.murray@glasgow.ac.uk.   Finally, please feel free to contact any one of our international editorial board members, who can offer a more distanced but invested perspective on the journal’s culture and operation.

The post is unpaid but all expenses incurred in working for the journal are covered.

Deadline for applications

March 31st 2021

Interviews will be held in April

Voicing Across Distance

by Masi Asare

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?’

As part of the act of commemorating and reanimating this exciting special issue on voice training, I am honored to share some notes on the voice study I am presently undertaking.

In the early weeks of the pandemic, isolating alone in my home in Chicago, I faced the challenge of pivoting from swiftly-cancelled plans for the rehearsal and production of a musical for which I am a co-author to diving headlong into my scholarly work on race, musical theatre, and voice—which suddenly felt arbitrary and removed from the specifics of a sharply reconfigured world. In April 2020, in response to these circumstances, I launched Voicing Across Distance, a new podcast on listening for voices and vocal sound in our historical moment, across social distance. Bringing together voice scholars and practitioners, I settled into a rhythm of structuring each episode in three parts—a reading from a theoretical text on voice, a conversation with a scholar on voices in our time of Covid19, and a practical vocal exercise from an expert. Reflections of my own are also woven throughout.

Voicing Across Distance episode 4 promotional image. 7 May 2020, Episode 4. Headshot photos of guests Dr. Shana Redmond and Robert Sussuma, plus host Masi Asare with microphone, in color-block rectangular pattern.

Across its 11 episodes to date, guest scholars have included musicologists Nina Sun Eidsheim, Katherine Meizel, Shana Redmond, Ryan Dohoney, and Dylan Robinson, media scholar Neil Verma, sociolinguist Anne Charity-Hudley, and theatre and performance studies scholars Donatella Galella, Elena Elías Krell, and Katelyn Hale Wood. Practitioners have ranged from virtuosic experimental singers Joan La Barbara and Abigail Bengson to theatre voice and speech educators Stan Brown, Julie Foh, Linda Gates, and Jonathan Hart Makwaia, Feldenkrais practitioner and voice teacher Robert Sussuma, musical theatre voice professor Jeremy Ryan Mossman, choral director Derrick Fox, and sound designer Andy Evan Cohen.

How might these episodes be useful for voice training? The vocal exercises are generative and wide-ranging, from Jonathan Hart Makwaia calling for “following the voice” beyond where the voicer can exert control (Episode 8), to Andy Evan Cohen coaching listeners on how to optimize Zoom settings for voice practice (Episode 9), to Robert Sussuma leading a meditative vocal experiment in pharyngeal ventriloquism (Episode 4). The theoretical contributions of guest scholars are also stunning, lucid, and timely, from Neil Verma connecting the kaleidosonic aims of 1930s and 1940s nationalist radio performance to Zoomboxed vocal performances of unity (Episode 2), to Katherine Meizel reflecting on what it means to understand voices as virus-aerosolizing agents of danger (Episode 6), to Anne Charity-Hudley inviting theatre educators to attend to language attitudes—racially-inflected beliefs about which kinds of voices are beautiful or strong, and why (Episode 10).

How does these sessions offer something new for voice training and study? I have found that they allow space for thinkers and voicers to grapple with what it means to do our work—and why it still has value—in the new and previously unimaginable circumstances of the pandemic and amid the full-throated, international outcry against racism. Whether figured as dangerous, Zoomboxed, or socially distanced, vocal sound still resounds. Voicing Across Distance is a love letter to ongoing practice and study of the voice, and to voices firmly situated in an ethical relationship to our historical moment.

MASI ASARE is Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies at Northwestern University. As a composer and writer, she holds commissions from Broadway producers and Marvel, and is a lyricist for Monsoon Wedding the musical; her voice students have appeared on Broadway and in international tours. Masi’s scholarly book project examines the impact of blues singers on Broadway belting and makes the case for the need to feel the racial history in contemporary musical theatre performance. She holds degrees from Harvard and New York University, and has published with Samuel French, The Dramatist, and Journal of Popular Music Studies,with forthcoming writing in Performance Matters, TDR, and Studies in Musical Theatre.

Who’s talking

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?

References

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.

Bio

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.

Pansori & New Technologies: An Interview with Chan E. Park

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. Park is 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)

The following interview took place in June 2019, within the context of developing the article ‘Between preservation and renewal: reconsidering technology in contemporary pansori training’ (Thomaidis 2019)—and we invite you to read this entry alongside that piece.

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?

CP: Both.

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.

References

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.

Biogs

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 Hawaii (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.

Further Links:

https://deall.osu.edu/people/park.2274

https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/beyond-time-capsule-chan-park/e/10.4324/9781351180368-18

https://www.uhpress.hawaii.edu/title/voices-from-the-straw-mat-toward-an-ethnography-of-korean-story-singing/

‘Humanimal’ voice pedagogy

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?

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’.

A ‘humanimal’ vocal attunement and imitation exercise from the first workshop. Photo courtesy of the author.

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?  

References

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.

Haraway, Donna. (2013). ‘Donna Haraway on the ‘humanimal’’. YouTube (March 8). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUA_hRJU8J4 [Accessed: 26.12.2020].

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. 

Biography

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.

TDPT Issue 11.4 Published

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?

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Contents

Editorial

Editorial: dedicated to the memory of Alison Hodge (1959–2019)
Jonathan Pitches, Libby Worth, Thomas Wilson & Roanna Mitchell

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Haptic possibilities: practising physical contact as part of physically-distanced actor training

Video still from the video documentation of the discussed introductory study of touch. It aims at suggesting movement through points of contact.

Introducing the project

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’.[1] 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.  

  

Continue reading

Arts Archives and Theatre Papers

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.  

https://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/drama/research/projects/eda/

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 

Peter Hulton  

P.R.Hulton@exeter.ac.uk 

Call for Papers: Laban for Actors and in Acting Online Conference

Athens, 8-10 January 2021

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:

https://themakingsactor.com/

The Performative Power of Vocality, Book Launch.

Free online book launch event for the monograph The Performative Power of Vocality by Virginie Magnat, published by Routledge in 2020 (https://virginiemagnat.space/the-performative-power-of-vocality).

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.

Please register in advance for this meeting:

https://ubc.zoom.us/meeting/register/u5Yrf-yqqzgvGdJQO0gN-a0j3_05EN7FuJx-

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Call for Papers: TDPT 13.2 Special Issue on Performance Training and Well-Being.

Image: Arvin Singh Uzonov Dang, July 29, 2020.
Performance: Magnat, V. (2020). ’alhut (Hul’q’umi’num’ word meaning to honor, to look after, to be very careful with, to restore).

An Embodied Land Acknowledgement honoring the Sc’ianew First Nation’s traditional, ancestral and unceded territory (V. Magnat, 2020).

Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT)

Special issue Performance Training and Well-Being to be published June 2022

Call for contributions, ideas, proposals and dialogue with the editors

Guest editors: Dr. Virginie Magnat, University of British Columbia, Canada (virginie.magnat@ubc.ca) and Dr. Nathalie Gauthard, Université d’Artois, France (ngauthard@orange.fr).

Performance Training and Well-Being (Issue 13.2)

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:

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Virtual book launch for Somatic Voices in Performance Research and Beyond

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!

Christina

Acknowledgements

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.    

References 

Kapadocha, C. (2021) Introduction: Somatic voice studies in Somatic Voices in Performance Research and Beyond. Oxon and New York: Routledge. 

Teaching with the special issue: ‘Against the Canon’

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.

Before beginning…

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.

Photo: Gender carnival at Embodied Poetics, © Amy Russell.

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?

Task students with reviewing well-established online resources: Getty Images, Digital Theatre, Drama Online, Routledge Performance Archive, National Theatre’s online video resources and NTLive (UK), Frantic Assembly Digital (UK), Independent Dance (UK), National Resource Centre for Dance (UK), Candoco (UK) and the performance work made available through live stream during the Covid-19 lockdown period. How are key practitioners and practices profiled? Who presents the work – what gender, class or ethnicity/race are they? Is ownership and collaboration examined in any detail? How are women and global majorities profiled within the work? Where is good practice and how easy is it to find?

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.

Reject…

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.

Celebrate…

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

Feminist canon

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1HwAHAwU83bW_jSzxbMrqWyyuAYmsOWtqK-7HxKA9yek/edit

Discuss with colleagues and students how to construct an inclusive and radical canon.

Studying Disability Arts and Culture: An introduction by Petra Kuppers https://www.macmillanihe.com/page/detail/studying-disability-arts-and-culture-petra-kuppers/?sf1=barcode&st1=9781137413437

Suggested reading on disability, arts and education.

For white people considering anti-racism, when your Black friends and colleagues have had enough by Alanah Nichole

White Academia: Do Better by Jasmine Roberts

Contacting-Improvising by Adesola-Akinleye

https://www.independentdance.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Essay-by-Dr-Adesola-Akinleye-contacting-improvising.pdf

Dancing, dance training and race.

Decolonising the Curriculum by Advance HE

https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/news-and-views/decolonisation-curriculum-conversation

Being Black by Jane Elliott

How would white academics and students feel about being black?

We Shall Not Be Removed

Josette Bushell-Mingo

White supremacy culture characteristics

https://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/white-supremacy-culture-characteristics.html

Consider the extent to which any of these are relevant to classroom situations and teaching strategies, and if so how they might be addressed.

Taking up space: The Black Girl’s Manifesto for Change by Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiyi (Merky books). https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/111/1117762/taking-up-space/9781529118544.html

Theatre and Class

https://www.theskinny.co.uk/festivals/edinburgh-fringe/theatre/is-theatre-accessible-to-working-class-artists

‘Power has to be grasped’: British theatre is battling its class problem – Catherine Love

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2018/mar/13/british-theatre-class-problem

Examine ways in which class discrimination operates within theatre – how does that impact on training?

Tonic Theatre Company (UK)

A Practical Guide to Achieving Gender Equality in Theatre by Lucy Kerbel

Also, Empower project: https://www.tonictheatre.co.uk/work/empower/

How can we combat sexism and gender discrimination with the performing arts?

Deborah Dean No Human Resource is an Island: Gendered, Racialized Access to Work as a Performer First published: 31 January 2008. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.1468-0432.2007.00389.x

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.

Remember…

  • 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?

TDPT 11.3 Against the Canon

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.

Contents

Editorial

Mark Evans, Cass Fleming & Sara Reed

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SHIFT Dance toolkit – Developing new teaching practice for dancers with additional learning support needs

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: His Intercultural and Psychophysical Actor Training

Fig 1. Phillip Zarrilli (1947 – 2020)
Photo: courtesy of the Phillip Zarrilli estate

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.

Fig 2. The Tyn-y-parc CVN kalari/studio: the puttara where the guardian deity of the kalari resides, incense burner, oil lamp, and pitham where past gurus sit, with the flowers as an offering freshly picked by Zarrilli from his garden. Photo by Jeungsook Yoo.

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Tributes for Ali Hodge (1959 – 2019)

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’.

These tributes for Ali sit together with an appreciation of her life written for the journal by Katie Normington.  

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. 

Fig 1. Ali in Poland, photographer unknown.
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TDPT 11.2. Training for Performance Art and Live Art

We are delighted to announce the publication of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training 11.2, Training for Performance Art and Live Art, guest edited by Heike Roms (University of Exeter).

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.

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Technology & Performer Training (Online Event)

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)

Sign up:  https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/mmd-seminar-series-2019-2020-tickets-75128977795

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)

For further details, please visit: https://mmd.research.southwales.ac.uk/news-and-events/events/technology-performer-training/

‘Seen But Not Heard’: Some thoughts on the actor’s aesthetic labour six years on

MA Physical Acting improvisation, University of Kent (2019)

This is a 2020 response to my article ‘Seen But Not Heard: An embodied account of the (student) actor’s aesthetic labour’ (Mitchell, 2014), made available as open access as part of TDPT’s 10 year anniversary celebrations.

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)[1].

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:

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10 Free-to-Access Articles to Celebrate 10 Years of TDPT

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’.

By Jonathan Pitches

A number of the authors of these articles are writing reflections on their work from their current perspective. These will be posted on this Blog in the coming weeks. The first of these is Roanna Mitchell’s reflection on her 2014 article, ‘Seen But Not Heard’, ”Seen But Not Heard’: Some thoughts on the actor’s aesthetic labour six years on.’

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Digital Revisions & Disciplinary Crises

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

Embodied Learning Online

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 clusters.

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 learning experience

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.

Young 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.