The International Platform for Performer Training (IPPT) provides a safe and supportive space for performer trainers and academics to share their research and pedagogical practices. It is organised annually and each year hosted by a different institution. The IPPT 2018 took place in Ghent, and was hosted by the KASK/School of Arts Ghent (Belgium). The theme for this year was Movement, with particular interest in the exploration of movement that does not directly relate to or derive from the European physical theatre tradition. Attempting to widen our understanding of movement and its use in performer training, we gathered to ask questions such as: ‘how does movement stand to dance or choreography’ or ‘how does movement stand to (spoken) language’.
TaPRA Performer Training Working Group
University of Aberystwyth 5th – 7th September 2018
Performer Training Working Group
The Performer Training Working Group has been meeting for thirteen 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 blog https://theatredanceperformancetraining.org.
The working group co-convenors are delighted to issue a call for contributions for the forthcoming 2018 TaPRA conference.
We are interested in a range of presentation formats including the following:
- provocations or position statements (max 10 minutes)
- laboratory explorations rooted in practice research e.g. workshops, demonstrations, performance lectures or other appropriate formats (30-60 min)
- formal papers (max 20 minutes)
2018 Theme: “Who are we training for?”
This year we invite proposals that respond to a purposefully provocative, playful and open question that the WG Convenors have derived at to address a very particular set of current concerns and debates in our field.
As was experienced at the conference last year, in which ‘the end of training’ was explored, ‘training’ in itself remains an open, ambiguous and contentious term. Whatever form ‘training’ takes (i.e. however it is experienced or defined) it will not conform into one neat homogenous experience, nor should it. Indeed, training can be understood and experienced in numerous ways: as a self-practice; a collective endeavour; a means to an end; a means in itself; a discovery. It can be embarked upon to fulfil an ambition; to land a role; to develop a particular skill, craft, or discipline. However, something that remains unclear, yet applicable to all forms of training, is who the beneficiary of this endeavour is. Indeed, who or for whom are we training?
This question, and its series of sub-questions, call for equally urgent critically framed responses. This Call for Papers encourages contributions positioned, although not exclusively, in light of one or more of the following contexts:
Institutions and Pedagogical Approaches
Specifically with reference to the rapid decline of access to arts provision across core compulsory state education in the UK and the predicted knock on effect this will have on the viability and perceived value of ‘training’ in our field in Higher Education. (See numerous recent reports and studies based on Government and independent research, including for example: BBC, January 2018, which states nine in every ten schools has significantly cut back on its arts provision: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-42862996 and Arts Professional, June 2017 https://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/news/devastating-decline-arts-schools-surges)
Industry and Professional Organisations
Particularly in light of an industry that has been globally disgraced, outraged, and left searching for solidarity and solutions through committing to the mass movements and global campaigns of #Metoo and ‘Time’s Up’. (See, for example, numerous recent industry guidelines and statements by organisations including Society of London Theatre (SOLT); Equity; and many independent theatres)
With reference to agendas that demand trained graduates to be multi-faceted practitioners who can readily devise, perform, self-produce, fund and promote their own practice, as well as desperately seeking to improve and address diversity quotas and credentials. (See, for example, ‘Skills for Theatre: Developing the Pipeline of Talent’ 2017 and Arts Council England ‘Creative Case for Diversity’: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201617/ldselect/ldcomuni/170/170.pdf
In relation to this background, we invite proposals that may address, but are not limited to, the following questions:
- How do performer training approaches and regimes understand and frame ‘the Other’ and/or questions of otherness?
- At what point in training does a consideration of ‘an audience’ arise?
- How do I consider and position myself in relation to those others that I am in a training situation with?
- To what extent is training recognised and experienced as a solo endeavour?
- Can training respect and work through marginality or does its very process and logic cultivate homogeneity and conformity?
- When and how might training become ‘counter-training’?
- How might a trainer or trainee be experienced as ‘other’ and what impact might this have on my experience of training?
- How might performer training practice and discourse relate to recent theorisations of marginality, queerness and otherness?
- How do we experience training in relation to our social media selves/other personas?
- How do we train in relation to a digital other? How do I relate to and experience/feel a training mediated through digital technologies?
- How has intersubjectivity in performer training practice and discourse been framed?
We are particularly keen to receive proposals where responses are situated inside critical frameworks as well as recent cultural policy related to the aforementioned questions.
This year, the Performer Training Working Group will be collaborating with the Performance and New Technologies Working Group by holding a joint session, addressing performer training in relation to digital/networked technologies. If you believe your proposal is most appropriate for this session, please indicate this, though final decisions will be made by working group convenors.
Submitting a Proposal
Please email all abstracts (no more than 300 words in length), along with an additional few sentences of biographical information. Please also include precise details of your resourcing needs, for example, any audio-visual technology, or a particular type of space (e.g. drama studio) that you will need to make your presentation.
The deadline for the submission of proposals is Friday 20th April 2018.
Please note: only one proposal may be submitted for the TaPRA 2018 Conference. It is not permitted to submit multiple proposals or submit the same proposal to several Calls for Papers. All presenters must be TaPRA members, i.e. registered for the conference; this includes presentations given by Skype or other media broadcast even where the presenter may not physically attend the conference venue.
Early Career Researchers Bursary Scheme
If you are an Early Career Researcher, then you are eligible to be considered for a TaPRA ECR Bursary. Please follow this link for more information, and please indicate on your proposal whether you fit this criteria and wish to be considered for the bursary scheme: http://tapra.org/bursaries/
Circulation of paper-based presentations in advance of the conference
Papers are circulated in advance of the conference, so paper contributors should be prepared to have a full paper by early/mid August.
Please note that our group also welcomes participation from colleagues who do not wish to submit papers or other presentations. However, if you do wish to participate in our working group, but are not delivering a paper, please email us your name and details so we can ensure you receive papers in advance.
We also warmly encourage, that where possible, contributors attend over the 3 days, so that conversations and experiences can grow and develop collectively during this time-frame.
Theatre, Dance and Performance Training journal (TDPT)
TaPRA Papers may be considered for further development and publication in the Routledge Journal TDPT, http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/rtdp
We very much look forward to hearing from you.
Kate, Maria and Tom
Thanks very much for your Task 24. Please see my reflections below and your next Task 25 – alone/duet/phone
I really enjoyed following your train of thought between the different challenges of Task 23 and how they led you to Task 24. I was fascinated by how, the moment the ‘discriminatory mind’ was switched off, you experienced a sense of detachment from your own body in what you saw on the photos and the video from the dance class. I feel differently: Perhaps I have simply become accustomed to scrutinising movement and body – a consequence of looking at myself in the mirror as a dancer for years – so this has become intertwined with my experience of the movement.
I recalled filming myself practicing yoga for Task 21 –emerging forms– and finding it really interesting to practice with this awareness of ‘being watched’.
Reflections Task 24– Confirmation?
For task 24 I was practicing alone in the house so I had to think up an alternative solution to having a photographer pointing a camera at me. I called up my partner, who is still in Leeds, and asked him to act as a ‘camera’ by instructing him to imagine my joints as we were practicing yoga together.
We started by synching our breathing pattern in a shared meditation while being in contact online. After eight minutes of this we disconnected our conversation and did a prearranged set of postures: Sun salutations A & B, standing postures, Shalabasana and Urdhva Dhanurasana completed with a short relaxation. Whoever finished first would send the other a text message to mark the end of their practice. While we were practicing, we each had to imagine the other thinking about or looking at our joints as we were (presumably) in the same postures at roughly the same time. When we both finished (with 1-2 minutes apart) we called each other up and reflected on the experience.
Task 25 – alone/duet/phone
This topic of ‘being watched’ is something I discussed with a friend recently in relation to movement improvisation. She was explaining the big shift in her awareness, as a teacher at the culmination of an improvisation workshop, had asked participants to continue improvising but to now imagine one side of the room as their audience.
This is your task 25:
- choose an activity that you can repeat 3 times. This could be a set of yoga postures, moving to a piece of music or doing mark-making. Decide a rough time frame for your activity.
- the first time you do the activity be in a space on your own
- the second time, either ask someone to witness you do the activity or imagine someone there. Decide whether they move around or stay in one place.
- the third time, arrange to speak to someone on the phone/online, connect with them and ask them to ‘be present with you’ after you finish the conversation while you do the activity
Bring back to the blog reflections from any part of task. Enjoy!
Saturday 9th June 2018 between 10am and 4pm at Rose Bruford College
On behalf of the Theatre, Dance and Performance Training Journal, the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama, Manchester School of Theatre and Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance, we are delighted to invite you to this FREE event:
Practise, Reflect, Share: Writing for Publication
Building on the success of Practise, Reflect, Share: Ways into Research in June 2017, this follow-up day aimed at colleagues involved in the training of performers, directors, designers and technicians, offers an opportunity to explore ways into writing that draw on teaching, professional practice or practice-as-research. Hosted by Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance, the event will offer practical guidance, workshop sessions and discussion about how to begin to write for publications, focusing mainly on articles. What does an abstract look like and what makes a good one? How to develop and structure a longer piece? What does the peer review process involve? How best to use images and supporting material? If you are thinking about working on an article and would like to know more about the route to publication, then this event will prove both informative and stimulating!
Please follow the following link to book for this event:
Please feel free to contact David Shirley ([email protected]) directly if you have any questions or require further information.
many thanks for Task 23. It really came as a breath of fresh air and opened up a possibility I had not previously considered. Below you can find my reflections and then the instructions for Task 24.
So the bottom line for my engagement with Task 23 is that I failed entirely. The task made a lot of sense to begin with. Before doing the task, I began thinking whether treating visual images of the body as a cause/source of its objectification is in and of itself a conditioned response and whether, as you rightly suggest, I can move away from it.
Pictures of me were taken while I was doing my practice and this time I was a bit more prepared for what I was about to see.
I looked at the pictures after my practice and I look at them again now. I try to quieten the ‘discriminatory mind’ (do you remember Task 2, Andrea Olsen?) and resist the ease with which it identifies shortcomings. Once this mode is switched off (I know. A totally mechanical metaphor, but how else can I talk about this?), I simply have no connection to the image. It could have been someone else’s body, for all I know. Nothing stirs in me by looking at the photos, there is no memory, there is no response.
It happened by chance that during the week I watched a video of the dance class I take every week. Again, my first and predominant attitude was to spot deficiencies and corrections (what are my shoulders doing so close to my ears???), but there was nothing beyond this. I could not remember the sequence from which the movements came from, I could not remember doing these movements, and watching myself doing them brought nothing back, apart from criticism.
I do wonder if there is any point in trying or hoping to rehabilitate some kind of visual connection to my practice. It seems it has been completely taken over by the logic of orthoperformance. But I have no idea of how to go about this. Maybe another medium, say sketching, would be more expressive and allow for a better connection? Or maybe the time lapse between the actual practice and its encounter in photographs needs to be longer?
In addition to this wall, it seems, I came up against, there is also something else that happened and this might be potentially productive.
Task 24 – Confirmation?
While I was doing my practice yesterday and before having the photos taken, I began to imagine the work of the camera. How the person who was about to take the pictures might zoom in on specific body parts, how they might take pictures from angles I could not possibly access without a camera. While I was playing with this, I also noticed that awareness of those body parts, on which I imagined the gaze of the camera, was greatly heightened. Imagine a camera over my toes and there! they come to life, they respond, they press, they lengthen, they become active in preparation for the photo that will be taken of them. The pose for a selfie!
So, I would like, if possible, to test this with you. You would need to have someone with you when you are doing your practice and ask them to take photos of you while you are practising. If you cannot find someone to do this, then you can just imagine the camera in the way I did. Notice what the presence of the camera, there and then, does to the practice. You can bring back to the blog any part of the process.
Thanks for the Task, no need to apologise.
It feels somewhat ironic that you should present me with a task to study how my practice looks on a week where I cannot even touch my toes. It was a week that was marked by challenging circumstances: illness (flu, first my daughter, then me) very little sleep (due to the former), spraining my back (due to both) and travelling back and fro to Norway by car/ferry which made time limited. I spent the first four days thinking about the task as I was not able to practice. Saturday afternoon I mustered enough time and energy to test it but never got to the ‘corrections’ part. I therefore send an apology back to you – I simply have not been able to carry out the Task the way you asked me to.
Task 22 Corrections
I decide to stick to the Ashtanga sequence as a barometer for my practice and begin my Sun Salutations – I have my camera set up to take photos every 5 sec to capture the progression of my postures, alignment etc. As expected the practice is very difficult and painful but as is always the case when injured/sick I am hyper-aware of my body and the practice feels very fulfilling. My attention bounces between my back, my head and my joints, connecting me with sensation and the internal spaces in my body. It brings up images of joints and muscles working together, blood carrying oxygen around my body and nerve endings that are overstimulated. I realise I have no interest in the camera nor in the photos that will come out of it –perhaps because I know what they will show: a decrepit woman doing half-versions of postures in an Ashtanga sequence.
When I look back at the images, the postures are hardly recognisable. It makes me smile, as there is a direct relationship between how I feel in the practice and how it looks: pretty awful.
Task 23 – Merge seeing with felt sense
I was sad not to have completed your Task 22 and am happy to repeat again next week in its entirety if you feel that would be interesting.
Personally, I feel it is very useful to be made aware of how postures look. As you mention yourself, the function of a teacher is for her/him to see you from the outside and when practicing yoga on your own, the focus become inwards directed and some attention to the ‘form’ of postures is lost.
But is it an objectification of the body to look at it from the outside, like you mention? Does using vision always mean judging or objectifying? Is there a way of looking at the postures where seeing is merged with the kinaesthetic intelligence experienced in the body?
In other words, could the felt experience of the posture harmonise with a visual impression or simply add another dimension?
Your Task for this week is to start like Task 22: Practise postures and make a record of them on video/photos. Continue by studying the visual material but instead of looking for areas that can be improved, merge your ‘seeing’ with the felt sense in the body when you were doing the postures. Maybe your reflections can be a poetic rendition of what happens in this space between seeing and sensing.
many thanks for task 21. In the following you can read about the process and below there is a link with some visual responses to the task. Then, there are the instructions to the next task.
Task 21 proved a lot more difficult than I expected. In a less known publication, The Art of Yoga (1984), Iyengar notes how he saw yoga postures in his surroundings, such as sculptures and iconography in temples and caves. He also talks about the postures figuratively, for example he refers to Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2) as the Scales of Justice (Iyengar 1984:42). In a respect, he did something very similar to what we have been exploring: he saw the shapes of postures in both everyday and religious objects. So, I expected that I also would be able to recognise postures everywhere. To my surprise, I wasn’t.
On Wednesday and Thursday all I could do was look bewitched at the snow. By Friday, I began wondering whether there are any caves in Leeds or whether I should go searching for a Hindu temple. I dismayed that the exercise was pointless, the snow had simply coated everything. I look more intensely: the trammelled snow, the pasta in my bowl, the soap in the sink, the chimneys, the cars, a piece of string.
Frustrated I cannot see anything remotely resembling a yoga posture. I try a different angle. Maybe I should not be looking for shapes after all; maybe I should be looking for sensations and movements that somehow resonate with the inner sensations generated by the practice of different postures. This does not yield any results either. I run out of time.
By Saturday morning, I begin to get worried. Armed with my phone, I go out determined to find these images no matter what.
Perhaps a more assertive attitude, a sharpened intentionality, or simply fear that come Monday I would still be empty handed, opens my perception a bit more.
I go back home and I practise these postures. But I do not so much think of this practice as an instantiation of the object I photographed. I am thinking more about the end result: how we, the object and I, can fit together in one frame. And here is a word I often feel when I work outside: I want to merge with my surroundings. An impossible thing in reality, I try to realise this longing by merging the images.
Yet, make no mistake: the images are also strategically superimposed to cover deficiencies in my practice. And this brought me to the next task and to a place I wish we had not reached.
Task 22 – Corrections
There was often bewilderment and frustration, when I was taking yoga classes. My teacher’s instruction to stretch more, to turn more, to do whatever more, felt absurd: but I am turning, stretching, pressing, lifting. And yet, there was more space, there was more movement. Since I stopped taking yoga classes, I work with a knowledge of how things feel and how they are supposed to feel. I do not know how they look. And I never wanted to.
I always thought that looking at the posture from the outside leads to an objectification of the body and to an attitude that focuses too much on technical perfection rather than kinesthetic intelligence. So, when I had to look at photos of my postures for Task 21, I did not like what I saw and I did not like that I did not like what I saw. The postures simply felt much better than how they looked. This not only hurt my ego; it also opened up a methodological question I thought I had answered. Long ago I had decided to trust the body, its impulses, its responses, its yearnings as a way to navigate reality. This project is part of this wider decision.
The photos were deeply unsettling, therefore, because they showed that things, and my body included, do not look the way I think. Actors have this problem often, but so I think everybody else. So here we are. In one of his most famous quotes, Wittgenstein argues that ‘a main cause of philosophical disease is an unbalanced diet: one nourishes one’s thinking with one kind of example’. So heeding Wittgenstein’s advice, I am asking you to do something I would never have thought I would ask you to do.
Pick a series of postures. Practise them while you take stills or a video recording of them. Study the visual material and look for areas where the posture can be improved. Identify specific things you think can be worked on more in each posture and do the postures again. You can bring back any aspect of this process to the Blog.
We are currently seeking a new member to join the editorial team of the TDPT Blog, www.theatredanceperformancetraining.org.
Associated with the influential journal, Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, published by Routledge, the blog’s 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.
Now entering its third year, our blog has been highly successful in engaging new audiences for the TDPT journal, creating an online space that promotes spontaneous and productive conversation and debate. As we grow further it will represent a productive and discursive teaching ‘tool’ – or forum – within all levels of education and training preoccupied with dance, performance and theatre.
This opportunity will offer the chance to develop your own networks with scholars and practitioners, as well as contribute to the shape and direction of contemporary discussions on training.
We invite applications from researchers from any stage of their career, but especially Post-Graduate Research Students and Early Career Researchers who are actively seeking to develop their research and practice networks. We also encourage those with an active interest in Practice-based research and/or Live Art, and those who have familiarity with editing audio-visual material. As we are seeking to broaden our outlook and audience, we are interested to connect with scholars who reside outside England but above all we are looking for a team member who is highly organised, can work well in a team, and has a passion for the field of theatre, dance, and performance training.
The successful applicant will participate in regular Skype meetings with the Blog team to discuss the administration of the site and curation of posts. They will also seek out new content from practitioners and scholars and liaise with these authors throughout the content-making process. Such content may take the form of writing, photo essays, audio-visual files, and/or other innovative approaches. Applicants should be comfortable with editing and curating such content.
For further information, please contact blog editors, James McLaughlin, [email protected] (University of Greenwich), Bryan Brown, [email protected] (University of Exeter), or Maria Kapsali, [email protected] (University of Leeds).
To apply, please send a one-page statement of your relevant skills, interests and aspirations for the journal with an accompanying CV to James McLaughlin, [email protected] by Monday, 9 April, 2018.