Details are below of an event in September looking at wider applications of the Chekhov technique.
Contact Tom Cornford or Cass Fleming directly for more information
Details are below of an event in September looking at wider applications of the Chekhov technique.
Contact Tom Cornford or Cass Fleming directly for more information
Call for Editorial Assistant (s)
Journal of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT), Routledge
The editorial team of the international journal, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training is seeking to recruit at least one Editorial Assistant to work closely with our two Editors, Professor Jonathan Pitches (University of Leeds) and Dr Libby Worth (Royal Holloway, University of London) on this very successful journal, published by Routledge. Now in its seventh year, the journal runs to 3 issues annually and attracts contributions from scholars and practitioners across the globe.
Working on TDPT will offer you unique insights into academic publication and provide you with opportunities to develop your own networks with scholars and practitioners, as well as to contribute to discussions about the content and continued development of the journal. It will offer you good grounding for editorial projects you might want to take on in the future and help demystify the process of journal publication.
You should be:
Editorial Assistants’ responsibilities include:
Candidates with appropriate skills and interests may also offer assistance to the journal’s blog team led by Dr Laura Bissell (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland).
The post is unpaid but all travel and expenses will be paid.
To apply please send a one-page statement of your relevant skills, interests and aspirations for the journal with an accompanying CV to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deadline is 8th September 2016.
On 30 April 2016, Marcia Carr and I organised a conference at the University of West London entitled “Making the Impossible Possible”: The Feldenkrais Method in Music, Dance, Movement and the Creative Practice. Speakers came from around the world: from North and South America, Australia, Europe as well as some homegrown talent. This in itself was testament to the spread of Feldenkrais’s thought, but what was most pleasing, and what in many ways represents a great continuity of Feldenkraisian thought, was the welcome unorthodoxy of the approaches on show. This I think shows something profoundly potent about Feldenkrais’s thought: it is intellectually malleable, durable and that it is a hinge towards the advancement of thought and practice for the mutual benefit of these arenas.
In What a Body Can Do (Routledge 2015), I asked why there aren’t more functioning laboratories dedicated to exploring the intersection between martial arts and performer training. This interdisciplinary connection has been hugely productive in Europe throughout the twentieth century, not to mention the much longer-standing relationships between martial and performing arts found throughout Asia. But it is hard to think of even one institution in Europe or North America that aims explicitly to innovate theatre, dance and performance training practice by placing it in dialogue with martial arts and physical culture more generally. While many individual practitioners and scholars do excellent work in this area, institutions tend to be oriented towards one domain or the other. And we still tend to see martial arts as cultural entities rather than fields of knowledge.
What would a laboratory of martial and performing arts look like? In order to create substantive interdisciplinary interactions, care would have to be taken to create the kind of ‘third space’ described by Pil Hansen and Bruce Barton in their article on ‘Research-Based Practice’ (TDR 53.4, 2009): a space in which specific flows of martial and performing arts would collide without either one being subordinated to the other. BodyConstitution, a project developed by the Grotowski Institute in Poland and funded by major grants from EEA/Norway, is the closest I have seen to such a laboratory. The project is ‘programme of research in practice at the Grotowski Institute,’ which has involved numerous formats of exchange, including four annual seminars (2013-2016), each about a week long, drawing together a wide range of international performers, teachers, and participants. I was recently a guest at the final BodyConstitution seminar and want to use that experience as a starting point to highlight the value of the project as a whole. (For more details and reflections on the 2016 seminar, see Jen Parkin’s post below.)
I would like to draw your attention to the new publication initiatives spearheaded by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Voice Studies:
1) With the publication of its second issue, the Centre of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies is currently celebrating the first year of the Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies. You can find more information about the journal, including guidelines for submission and subscription, here. The first issue is freely available online while 1.2 is our first themed issue on the topic of ‘Voice and/as Devising.’
We would also like to draw your attention to the Call for Papers for issue 2.1 (Spring 2017):
Special Issue of the Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies
‘Voicing Belonging: Traditional Singing in a Globalized World’
Editors: Konstantinos Thomaidis and Virginie Magnat
The Stanislavski Centre and The University of California Riverside
in collaboration with The University of Westminster present
The S Word: Translating the Art/The Art of Translation
Wednesday 13th July, 10.00 to 16.00
@ Pushkin House, 5A Bloomsbury Square, London WC1A 2TA.
Geraldine Brodie (University College London) is a Lecturer in Translation Theory and Theatre Translation at University College London.
Mark Stevenson (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), actor, director and teacher.
Noah Birksted-Breen (Sputnik Theatre) is Artistic Director of Sputnik the only British theatre company dedicated to staging contemporary Russian plays for British audiences.
Alexa Alfer (University of Westminster) is Senior Lecturer in Translation at the University of Westminster, where she is Course leader for the MA in Specialised Translation, MA Translation and Interpreting, and MRes Translating Cultures.
Anna Shulgat is a theatre scholar and translator, and Research Associate at The Stanislavski Centre.
Morning session: presentations from three guest speakers who each have a different perspective on the task of translation. They will share their experiences and take questions on their work.
Afternoon session: an open forum/debate will address the many issues that face both the translators and those who use their translations: how has the role of translator changed in the digital age? Translator or co-author? How do we maintain the author’s original voice? Should the translator act as a kind of editor/censor when dealing with sensitive material?
Places for this event are limited: £30 (full), £25 (concessions – student, unwaged, retired), which includes tea, coffee and a sandwich lunch.
on-line booking is now available at:
For further details, please contact Prof. Paul Fryer (email@example.com)
9 days. 11 workshops and training sessions. 13 work demonstrations and screenings. 3 lectures. 4 discussions. 3 performances. 2 exhibitions.
This year’s BodyConstitution seminar, held in Wrocław on the 2nd-10th April, was the final event of the Grotowski Institute’s BodyConstitution project, which began in January 2014. The project brought together teachers, students, artists, and masters of movement techniques to explore the interaction of body practices and physical actor training, both in practical work and theoretical discussion. These included martial arts such as aikido, Capoeira, and kalarippayattu, theatrical techniques such as butoh and Body-Energy, and movement techniques such as l’Art Du Déplacement and somaesthetics. As befitting of the final event of the project, this year’s seminar was bigger than those held in 2014 and 2015, bringing together contributors from the previous years and new contributors, as well as students and artists who came to participate in the training available.
As his book on Nikolai Demidov is on the brink of publication, director-scholar Andrei Malaev-Babel visited the UK to share his revelatory practical and historical investigations into the long suppressed Russian master pedagogue. I don’t use the term revelatory lightly. Nikolai Demidov’s work radically challenges our conceptions of Stanislavsky and the creation of his System. A collaborator and provocateur of Stanislavsky’s, Demidov approached acting from within the rich milieu of spirituality, philosophy and science that was the Russian Silver Age.
As Malaev-Babel explained in a seminar at the University of Exeter, Demidov was a practitioner of yoga and his approach to acting is permeated with a sense of breath, of clearing the mind-body receptacle for inspiration, and what he termed a ‘culture of calm’. Despite all the hoopla about Sulerzhitsky and his time with the Doukhobors – a schismatic group of Christians that were purported to have taught Suler yoga – Demidov is clearly the person who introduced yoga to Stanislavsky. And not just the books by Ramacharaka (William Atkinson), but through first-hand experience.
Demidov was also a trained psychologist, and therefore the only acting teacher of the early twentieth century to have a certified medical insight into the psychophysical processes at work. In fact it was due to the efforts of medical specialists that Demidov’s book on acting was first published in Russia. As Malaev-Babel mentioned, this was because the scientific community believed Demidov was a man ahead of his time. What Demidov was researching with the many actors he worked with was a new understanding of the creative process, the foundations of a new creative psychology.
(photo of Nikolai Demidov with Konstantin Stanislavsky courtesy of Andrei Malaev-Babel)
It began with a disaster.
Confused, angry MBA students. Even some complaints to the module leader and the MBA Director, about yet another inappropriate, irrelevant teaching experiment, use of students by staff as ‘guinea pigs’, while paying expensive fees for the privilege.
Me: bruised, disappointed, humiliated….
After all that hard work… To secure a Westminster Business School (WBS) teaching and learning grant to buy masks from maskmaker Mike Chase. To research and carefully design the workshop for a professional development module for MBA students, using tried and tested theatrical maskwork techniques and exercises that I know from experience are useful for actors. Using Mike’s sets of masks based on ‘The Temperaments’ and ‘The Planets’, masks he has used in the past in workshops for therapeutic and leadership development purposes.
Coming out of the 2016 TaPRA Interim Event of the Performer Training Working Group, ‘Training to Give Evidence,’ gracefully organised by Kate Craddock and hosted by Northumbria University, certain provocations around the ethics of verbatim, documentary, and auto/biographical performance still resonate with me. To navigate such a rich landscape, I would briefly like to outline some thoughts in relation to voice.
Voice and vocal practices were, implicitly or explicitly, a recurrent trope in many of the papers and practical demonstrations. As part of his opening provocation on mimicry and impersonation in verbatim theatre, Tom Cantrell shared interviews with actors that have engaged with the genre. Ken Drury, in an attempt to distance his approach to acting from impersonation and the creation of exact copies, stated that he was mainly interested in the (real-life) person’s behaviour. By contrast, Jason Watkins started accessing his character through locating the accent and was mainly preoccupied with rhythm – not necessarily of words, he hastened to footnote, but rhythm of thinking. There is an intriguing underlying assumption perhaps emerging here; acting has to do with behaviours, actions, feelings and thoughts, but the role of vocality in training and performance is at best acknowledged when recast in the shadow of the above, or, at worst, implicitly equated with mimicry.
As a voice studies practitioner-scholar, I constantly come across deeply embedded assumptions about voice, and, when interacting with scholarly environments more closely affiliated with performance studies, sometimes these assumptions transform into a certain type of polemics. Bodies speak the truth; voices can hide it. Actors are trained into speaking classical/mainstream/canonical texts; performers/artists honour their own voice or prefer to work with the untrained or the amateur. Body-first approaches to text are (ideologically) valued more, and the trained actor as a ‘talking head’ has been criticised consistently by a lineage of influential practitioners and makers in the UK.
Here’s my (inevitably flawed and holey) summary of the fascinating day dedicated to training in verbatim practices, hosted by Kate Craddock as part of a TaPRA Performer Training interim event at Northumbria. Any confusions are all my own.
First Provocation from Tom Cantrell
Where does imitating end and performing begin? “Imitating is a less noble art than acting” But nevertheless close observation and mimicry is part of the craft of verbatim work and of faction. What terminology do we need to capture this strand of the work? And how do we manage the bias towards emotional, empathic acting (from Stanislavsky). What is our ‘craft terminology’ Cantrell asks?
Second Provocation from Lexi Strauss
Developing a growing discomfort about some of the ethical approaches in verbatim work. So how to use the same techniques in paint and fine art? A life time body of work might be the closest to a definitive self portrait? What’s the problem with recorded delivery verbatim then? Perhaps because the original ‘darkness’ of the material might not translate and might be reinterpreted by an audience. Perhaps because its claim to objectivity is specious. Lexi only interviews people with whom she has ‘a specific connection’. The result is a hybrid of the subject and the interviewer/artist. How would you describe your verbatim practice, Lexi asks, is it closer to the journalistic or the immersive – or something entirely different? Either way it needs to acknowledge its hybridity.
Third Provocation from Richard Gregory
How to show our hands? Questions from the work of Quarantine:
No such thing Buying people a free lunch in exchange for a conversation. (No documentation of any part of the conversation, no evaluation, no public airing). Monthly themes: on hope, on risk, on utopia, on what’s new. The work retains the ‘considered rigour’ of the more formal work of the company but invisibly. Dramaturgy based on Starters, Mains, Afters, Today’s special.
Wallflower: Can you remember all the dances you’ve ever danced? How do you develop the facility to be responsible for the dramaturgy and the whole mise-en-scene? All that is possible is to set ‘a delicate architecture’ and be alert to what the possibilities are. One of the biggest questions about training and preparation is ‘How do we know how we are being seen’ [by an audience]?
Summer, Autumn Winter, Spring: 7 hours, (Part 1 – Summer – 40 people on stage from across the age range, without experience, responding to questions and a projected score). As the questions are unseen how do you rehearse the performers? Feed them, make them familiar with the idea of responding to a structure – training for ‘becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable’ Continue reading
Training to give evidence: Performer training for verbatim, documentary, biographical and autobiographical performance practices
An interim TaPRA event of the Performer Training Working Group, hosted by Northumbria University, 11th May 2016, 11am – 6pm
Verbatim, documentary, biographical and autobiographical performance practices are prolific forms of theatre in the 21st Century. Hosted by Northumbria Performing Arts, ‘Training to Give Evidence’ is a one day event that seeks to explore the specific performer training processes that these various forms might require, and to map out commonalities and differences in diverse approaches. The event brings together practitioners with researchers and combines scholarly papers, with provocations, performances and demonstrations of practice.
Participants at the symposium are invited to use this blog throughout the day as a virtual ‘post it’ space in which to raise questions and offer responses to the presentations and conversations that they are engaging in. The idea behind this is to share the discussions taking place with a wider audience, extending and opening up the potential for dialogue. Delegates are also invited to tweet responses throughout the day, using the hashtag #trainingtogiveevidence
Please feel free to use this as a space to add to comments on the day as well as to keep conversations going beyond the day itself.
See Jonathan Pitches summary of the day here:
The 12th Annual TaPRA Conference will be co-hosted by University of Bristol, UK from 5th to 7th September 2016 (see: http://www.tapra.org/ )
The Performer Training Working Group has been meeting for eleven years and has produced several collaborative outputs, including a variety of contributions to the thrice-yearly journal, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, dedicated to training in all its manifestations, and the associated bloghttp://theatredanceperformancetraining.org.
Konstantinos, Maria and Tom, the working group co-convenors, are delighted to issue a call for contributions for the forthcoming 2016 TaPRA conference on the theme Speech and Text in Performer Training.
We are interested in a range of presentation formats including the following:
As I write this blog, my predominant emotion is curiosity: I am wondering how you feel as you read it. Specifically, I’m curious how you feel about Grotowski. He has always been a divisive figure in the world of theatre and performance, from his first days in the international spotlight in the early 1960’s. He seems to invoke either adulation, or outright rejection. Richard Shechner famously called him “shape-shifter, shaman, trickster, artist, adept, director, leader”. If you are willing to satisfy my curiosity, and tell me how you feel about Grotowski, then read on.
In the process of my own research and writing on this subject, I have been inviting participation and personal testimony from anyone who feels that some aspect of Grotowski’s work has had an impact on their own practice. If you would like to make contact and contribute, you can do that by emailing me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you a page of “prompt” questions. Alternatively, you can visit my Facebook page: Grotowski/Kumiega: Re-Write https://www.facebook.com/Grotowski.Kumiega/
My journey into theatre traditions started early. An intriguing new drama teacher arrived at my school at the age of eleven. She brought with her a dynamic and challenging way of creating theatre and I began to pay attention. I was subsequently a founder and for eight years a member of a most peculiar youth theatre. Our teacher turned director, Carran Waterfield, had been trained by Roberta Carreri of Odin Teatret and in the years that followed, I began to research the history and methodology of this now almost mythical theatre troupe and became fascinated by the writings of its director and founder, Eugenio Barba and by default, his mentor, Jerzy Grotowski. This early exposure to such an intense tradition created many difficulties and exhilarations for me in my youth. When other children were watching ‘Neighbours’ on TV in the 1990s, I was trying to do ‘training’ on a concrete floor in a cold church hall in Coventry.
Wroclaw has always been synonymous with the name of Grotowski. His Teatr Laboratorium 13 Rzędów (13 Row Laboratory Theatre) relocated here from Opole in 1965. The last time I visited Wroclaw was in October 2001 as an actor in the Polish premiere of Millennium Mysteries, a co-production by Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre and Poznan’s Teatr Biuro Podrozy, directed by Pawel Szkotak. It was also the year that I left life in the UK behind and joined Teatr Biuro Podrozy where I remained as an actor for three years.
So I found myself in Wroclaw (now the European City of Culture 2016) again, 15 years later and the location for the third session of the International Platform for Performer Training (IPPT). The IPPT was launched in Helsinki in 2014, its aim being to develop performer training on an international platform. It is a forum for theatre makers, pedagogues and academics involved in performer training within institutions offering higher education in the fields of performing arts. In Zurich last year the forum focused on the themes of Curriculum, Voice and Speech. This year, the subject of the session was Practicing Tradition in Performer Training. I have been out of theatre and academic circles for several years due to maternity leave, so the anticipation of witnessing presentations by and conversing with such an esteemed group of professionals from within my field, was immense.
TaPRA Interim Event, Wednesday 11th May 2016, Northumbria University Newcastle, 11am – 6pm
20th/21st Century Performer Training Working Group
Training to give evidence: Performer training for verbatim, documentary, biographical and autobiographical performance practices
Verbatim, documentary, biographical and autobiographical performance practices are prolific forms of theatre in the 21st Century. Hosted by Northumbria Performing Arts, Training to give evidence is a one day event that seeks to explore the specific performer training processes that these various forms might require, and to map out commonalities and differences in diverse approaches. The event will bring together practitioners with researchers and will combine scholarly papers with workshops, provocations, performances and demonstrations of practice.
Confirmed contributors include Alexander Kelly (Leeds Beckett University and Third Angel), Alison Forsyth (University of Aberystwyth), Lazlo Pearlman (Northumbria University) Tom Cantrell (University of York), Richard Gregory (Quarantine), and Steve Gilroy (Northumbria University) as well as panels of performers, directors and writers working in these forms.
Some of the questions we will be exploring on the day include:
– Is there a specific training methodology for verbatim, documentary, biographical or autobiographical theatre? If so, what does it/do they look like? What are the characteristics of these forms that call for a specific performer training?
– What are the ethical implications/considerations for a performer in training for one of these forms?
– What role does the ‘document’ play in training the performer? How much does the process of making, (e.g. archival research, interviewing, the interviewee themselves) influence a performer in training for verbatim, biographical or documentary theatre?
– In verbatim theatre, where does the interviewee end and the performer begin?
– What is the role of technology in the process of performer training for these forms?
If you would like to attend the event, please send an email off list directly to Kate Craddock by Friday 18th March at email@example.com
This event is open to TaPRA members only, and has a limited number of places available. If you would like to attend and are not a TaPRA member you can renew or buy a new membership here: http://tapra.org/membership/
Call for Bloggers
This event is being planned to work closely in conjunction with the blog.
We are keen to hear from delegates who are interested in contributing to the event by creating a series of short blog posts throughout the day, helping to give the event an immediate online presence, by taking on the role of ‘live blogger’.
Likewise, we are interested in hearing expressions of interest from delegates interested in producing writing for the blog that responds to the questions and ideas raised as a follow up to the event.
If you are interested in taking on the role of live blogger for the event, or would like to pitch an idea for a subsequent blog contribution, please send a short expression of interest off list directly to Kate Craddock by Friday 18th March at firstname.lastname@example.org
There are funds available for Postgraduate Working Group Members to apply for support towards the cost of travel in order to attend this event. If you are interested in applying for this support, please contact Kate Craddock at email@example.com
Many thanks, and look forward to welcoming you to Northumbria in May,
Kate (as host) and Working Group Convenors: Maria Kapsali, Tom Cantrell and Konstantinos Thomaidis
Click here to see the details of the 4th edition of Meyerhold on Theatre, edited by Edward Braun and with a new Introduction by TDPT editor, Jonathan Pitches.
We launched the TDPT blog two months ago and are keen to know what you think!
* What do you think of the overall look of the blog?
* What do you think of the content available?
* Would you use this as a teaching resource?
* What else would you like to see on the site?
* Any other feedback?
Reply to this post with feedback or contact the editors via our “Get in Touch” page. Many thanks.
Jen Harvie argues in Fair Play: “social, economic and political contexts, in England in particular but also more widely in the United Kingdom, are radically reconfiguring what an artist is expected to be and, in so doing, putting the value of being an artist at serious ideological risk” (Harvie, 2013:62). How can learning experiences which focus on creativity, community, and social engagement exist within a culture that “obliges art relentlessly to pursue productivity, permanent growth and profit”? (Harvie, 2013:63).
I am beginning to co-write an article about performance pedagogy and am interested in hearing from other arts educators about the following:
As the TDPT blog editor I am also keen for this site to generate discussion and debate over some of the issues facing practitioners and academics working in the field of theatre, dance and performance training so please do “reply” to share your responses.
My work is primarily site-specific and last month as part of a wider experiment (http://www.eyecontactexperiment.com) I stood on the high street of my relatively small commuter town in Hertfordshire with a cardboard sign which read, “Where has the human connection gone? Share one minute of eye contact to find out.”Although I didn’t have many takers (you can read all about the details of my experience here http://ant179.wix.com/newnessyoga#!Wheres-the-human-connection-gone/cz7q/5620fe590cf2c3576e616661); it was fundamentally an immediate, meaningful connection shared with others. From the perspective of performer (and specifically contemporary dancer) training my concern is the cultivation of human connection. My research to date has framed this connection within the idea of phenomenological intersubjectivity; but big words aside, what really matters in training to me is a way to get at the fleshy, immediate, shared, open experience of our human-ness.
By implementing core stability exercises in voice training, the actor not only obtains more awareness of their own bodies, they develop the important muscles needed for breath control and stability. Pilates has been embraced by dancers for many years, and, like the Alexander technique, Suzuki Actor Training Method and Feldenkrais, has been incorporated in many performing arts programs. Pilates has also been incorporated with other methods in movement training for the actor in order to ‘improve posture [and alignment, to] gain strength and avoid injury’. (Smith, Kelly & Monks 2004, p. 51) However, core stability training has been ignored in voice training. The method was created by Joseph Pilates (1880 – 1967), and since his death, many teachers have modified the 34 exercises and made them more accessible. It is now commonplace in most gymnasiums and health and fitness centres, and is now as popular as ever as an exercise method to tone and lengthen muscle, increase flexibility and improve general well being. The other crucial factor of Pilates work is breathing. ‘The most active part of the body as we vocalise is the breath system’ (Rodenburg 1997, p. 6) and without breath, we do not have the power to carry the sound through.
Pilates and other core stability exercises are usually taught in movement classes in a performing arts curriculum and are generally ignored in voice classes. Joan Melton, renowned practitioner of voice and movement integration and the Director of the One Voice Centre, believes that ‘communication among voice and movement specialists can be a critical factor is the success of [a] program’ (Melton 2001, p.2). The lack of communication creates confusion amongst the students’ as the specific technical methods of each discipline are in fact, contradictory. In relation to movement, order for the actor to maintain their alignment actors need to activate their ‘postural muscles, such as the deep abdominal muscle…the transverse abdominis’ (Smith, Kelly & Monks 2004, p.53) to support their lumbar and sacral spine in order to maintain stability. This core stability is crucial for basic movements such as running, throwing, bending down and walking. In voice work, this notion is dismissed. For example, in self breath observation when the actor is in a standing position, they may be encouraged to release the abdominal area and solely rely on the spine for alignment. If this is the notion, what is supporting the spine?
Welcome to the Theatre, Dance and Performance Training Journal blog! Our online, interactive presence is designed to encourage a growing community of artists, academics, practitioners and researchers to share practice and debate issues that are currently alive within the disciplines of theatre, dance and performance training. Our blog engages a new audience for the TDPT journal, creating an online space that promotes spontaneous and productive conversation and debate. As we grow further it it will represent a productive and discursive teaching ‘tool’ – or forum – within all levels of education and training preoccupied with dance, performance and theatre. Please explore our site. “The Studio” space is specifically designed for sharing of audiovisual training materials while our “Comeback” section invites previous contributors to return or “comeback” to an idea they discussed in a TDPT article and new contributors to respond to an idea. “My Training” is a space where individuals can reflect on their own personal experiences of training. The “Home” blog page publishes any other contributions that people wish to offer. Please share the blog link with anyone you feel may find it useful as we continue to develop an engaged and active community over the next months and years. We hope you enjoy the blog and many thanks to the artists, academics, and practitioners who have contributed their work already in the first year of its life. We appreciate your willingness to be at the forefront of TDPT’s digital emergence. We post material at regular intervals so please do register with us on the blog and check our social media apps for regular updates.
‘Performance’ is a ubiquitous term commandeered by and used in a range of academic disciplines and practical fields of human activity. It operates, more or less, as a semiotic tag within a set of conceptualisations that is part of a specific discipline and field of discourse, and functions as an epistemological frame within particular discursive practices. This tagging is discussed in six examples below, through the breadth of usage is far greater than is suggested in my exemplars.
First, in the academic discipline of performance studies, ‘performance’ is generally seen as a descriptive term encompassing complex representational embodiments that signify a range of meanings for observers or audiences, who become both interpretive aesthetic readers of such meaning and also engage with performance work affectively. These representational embodiments may refer to artistic endeavours, from music, dance and drama to installations, photography and art works; but the term’s usage can be broader than even these sets of specific creative phenomena, extending to everyday acts of social engagement, cultural exchange and sporting endeavour. As such, performance is constituted in what might be viewed as ordinariness as much as it is in specialisations of human activity and communication. Arguably, however, in this academic field the tag is especially, but not exclusively, about creative representation and embodied performance practices, as reflected in the work of scholars such as Richard Schechner and Victor Turner
I’d like with my first ever blog entry to offer a challenge to the field of performer training. Let’s face it the current state of secondary drama education is in crisis. Much quoted figures include a drop of 23% in GCSE numbers in Drama from 2003-13, an 8% drop in Drama teachers in schools since 2010 and a 23% drop where an arts subject has been withdrawn. All of us will have anecdotal evidence from our colleagues of falling numbers at A Level and of systematic closures of (very successful) courses. How are we to arrest what many have called an ideological attack on the creative arts through changes to education? How are we to respond to the assessment of the Chair of the Warwick commission’s report on cultural value, that: “not enough is being done to stimulate or realise the creative potential of individuals, or to maximise their cultural and economic value to society. Improvement requires a greater degree of investment, participation, education and digital access’ (2015: 9)?
In this context, my assessment is stark:
Performer training will not survive in any guise of inclusiveness unless it diversifies its infrastructure and fully embraces the rise of digital culture.
Let’s consider this statement by considering the development of Massive Open Online Course, and specifically, one I have recently run on Meyerhold’s Biomechanics.
Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs – short, free-to-access, learning modules, delivered entirely online – are particularly interesting in terms of their organisation of ‘studio’ time. MOOCS are first and foremost ‘an EVENT’ and yet they also endure in perpetuity, contributing to students’ lifelong learning. This interesting mixture of momentary eventness and longitudinal impact is one of a number of temporal idiosyncrasies associated with Massive Open Online learning or what I have called elsewhere digital training . These include
For now, let’s focus on points 3-6.
The eventness of MOOCS is created by the time-limited delivery of the courses – normally anywhere between 2 and 8 weeks, with specific content associated with each week. In some platforms this content is no longer available after the the course has concluded; in others, including the FutureLearn platform I used, the materials are available indefinitely – to review, download, rehash and reuse without restriction. The time-limited delivery of the course, allows for students to have a level of parallel experience, building to the same goals at the end of each week and opening up conversations about the same learning materials in the comment threads alongside materials:
My own practice is influenced by laboratory traditions, informed by contemporary performance and ‘devising’ methods. I am working with an emergent performance ensemble using task-based methods of training and performance.
An underlying dilemma that faces my practice is the process of taking work that has been formed in a closed environment into a wider and open context: making the private public.
Within my own practice I have been, as a member of the ensemble, working in a closed environment for an extended period of time. Until we held a participatory work demonstration, open to the public to enter and interact with both us and our work.
Within our closed environment we use objects such as paper, string and balloons. These objects are then utilised to create task-based fragments of performance, these tasks are detailed with complex and meticulous rules and sub-rules. One such task involved the use of homemade paper aeroplanes.
The ensemble are in the closed laboratory throwing the paper aeroplanes from one end of the room to the other whilst following complex and unnecessary rules and sub-rules detailed here:
When this task took place in the closed laboratory the ensemble became immersed in the task, following the rules and sub-rules. The ensemble were working interdependently, mutually dependent on each other to complete the overall task, whilst independently moving through their own stages of the task. During this task the ensemble demonstrated an intense and focused state, as their body(ies) repeatedly moved through the task concentrating on the task in the present moment. As a member of the ensemble, I was able to observe them loop though the repetition, continually throwing, aiming and repeating.
However, when this task was demonstrated in the open environment the ensemble’s approach and method for completing the task shifted unexpectedly.
It was noticeable that the ensemble were now individually driven to show their own skills, they were no longer moving through the task, they were performing rather than doing the task. Even breaking away from the task to explain the rules to the public, this direct interaction created a distinct division between the public and the ensemble and suggested that the rules and sub-rules had become fixed rather than remaining open.
This highlights that when in the closed environment, for me, the focus is on the functional actions, enabling the focus of the task to be on doing. The emphasis in the closed laboratory is on the process not the product and the act of creating one singular participatory work demonstration resulted in the process becoming a product. In order to make the sharing of work part of the process, we might be led to believe that this sharing should not take place in one go but use multiple platforms for continual sharing, never fully closing the laboratory (door?).