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.

The Chekhov Collective UK Anniversary

                               Venue | Goldsmiths, Studio RHB 154

                               Time   | 6.00-8.00pm at Goldsmiths (ticket booking)

                                             8.00-11.00pm New Cross House Pub

                                             316 New Cross Rd, London SE14 6AF

                                             (Open to any participants)

                              Tickets | Book a free ticket here

                              Date | Saturday 22 June 2024

You are warmly invited to join us as we celebrate a decade of work by the Chekhov Collective Practice Research Centre! This event will be a chance to gather, exchange reflections and experiences, and for us to thank the wonderful participants who have joined us over the years, and practitioners who have led TCC events.  The celebration will start at Goldsmiths, and then move to New Cross House pub from 8.00pm.  

We are looking back over a rich and joyful time, with over 90 public events held between 2013 and 2023. These have spanned symposiums, research-led workshops, knowledge exchange events, panel conversations, practice presentations, papers and lectures, books, Q&A sessions, professional mentoring support, and bespoke sessions for participant groups beyond the theatre.

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Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT) — Special Issue: Anti-Racist Training (to be published September 2025)

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

Guest Editors

Broderick Chow ([email protected])

Samia La Virgne ([email protected])

Training Grounds Editor

Lauryn Pinard ([email protected])

Anti-Racist Training (Issue 16.3)

The drive towards becoming “anti-racist” institutions or practitioners has taken on renewed energy in recent years. In 2020, responding to alleged and substantiated claims of abuse, discrimination and oppression spanning decades, theatres and institutions of theatre and performance training seemingly acknowledged the systemic racism that underpins the field. Action plans were put in place, committees were formed, and policies were drafted and approved. The question, however, of whether theatre, dance, and performance training itself has moved towards becoming anti-racist, or even what anti-racist training is, remains unsettled.

In 1990, Paul Gilroy suggested that “there is a crisis of the political language, images and cultural symbols which [the anti-racist movement] needs in order to develop its self-consciousness and its political programme. This problem with the language of anti-racism is acutely expressed by the lack of clarity that surrounds the term ‘anti-racism’ itself” (1990: 72). This leads to anti-racist actions being seen as ineffectual or at worst, patronising and infantilising. In theatre and performance education and training—as in everyday life—the specificity of racial oppression often becomes an “add-on” to a wider conversation on equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging. If, as Ramon Grosfoguel states, racism is “ a global hierarchy of superiority and inferiority along the line of the human” (2016: 10), any training that claims to be “anti-racist” must reckon with what Sylvia Wynter (2003) defines as the “coloniality of being/truth/freedom/power”, that is, the ideological project of defining Western “Man” against indigenous, Black, Global Majority and subaltern peoples that emerged with the European empires’ colonization of the “New World.” Efforts to “decolonize” or “decentre” the field, as Royona Mitra (2019) and Swati Arora (2021), among others, have pointed out, often adopt an “additive” approach, which “does not aim at structural change but works within it” (Arora 2021: 13). As the 2020 open letter “White Colleague Listen!*” suggests, theatre and performance has traditionally privileged colonial knowledge systems and therefore, this produces both racist pedagogical and epistemological structures and racism in everyday interactions in rehearsal studios, classrooms, and corridors.

The aim of this special issue is to examine different perspectives on what an anti-racist  theatre, dance, and performance training might be. It seeks to:

  • Explore various ways anti-racist concepts and practices are embodied in contemporary theatre, dance, and performance training.
  • Build/construct understandings of developed and developing anti-racist performance praxis.
  • Provoke conversations that challenge and contest traditional Western hegemonic performance practice methodologies.
  • Debate what new forms of anti-racist practice might emerge and how they can be sustained.
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Call for Postcards and Speaking Images: Green Trainings

Special issue: Green Trainings (to be published in September 2024).

As part of the Green Training Special Issue, this is a call for Postcards and/or Speaking Images on Experiences of Green Training. 

We are living in a time of an unprecedented global environmental crisis. Scientists have developed a sophisticated understanding of the Earth’s climate system and we know with high confidence that climate change is happening today as a result of greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity. In the last 20 years, there has been an increase in arts-based training for environmental awareness, and a rich history of practitioners working outside, drawing for instance from paratheatre, somatics and bodyweather.

In this Special Issue of TDPT we seek to discover green trainings’ roots, to document forms of green training which already exist, and to debate what new forms might emerge. 

Send us a postcard (up to 100 words) or a Speaking Image (short texts responding to a photo, drawing, visual score, etc.) on your experience of training in relation to/towards/alongside environmental awareness. 

  • How does your Green Training look, sound, taste, feel, smell, move like? 
  • How can Green Training be captured in a short piece of text, an image or a visual representation? 

Please send your contribution to Training Grounds Editor: Maria Kapsali [email protected] by Friday the 26th of April. 

CfP: TDPT Special Issue — Training for Movement, Physical Activity and Health — to be published June 2025

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

Guest Editors:
Dr Campbell Edinborough (Leeds), [email protected]
Dr Rebecca Stancliffe (Trinity Laban) [email protected]
Prof Andy Pringle (Derby) [email protected]
Training Grounds Editor: Zoe Glen (Kent) [email protected]

Physical inactivity is increasingly being linked to chronic health conditions and all-cause mortality. But despite a growing global interest in physical activity promotion, the varieties of movement and physical activity experienced by those who participate in performing arts training are rarely included or considered in policy documents and public health recommendations.[1] 

This special issue of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training will explore how performer training can be understood to offer opportunities for physical activity, movement education and exercise. It will analyse, evaluate and critique the ways in which performer training provides individuals and communities with unique and diverse opportunities for movement, exercise and play – providing an account of the ways in which performing arts participation might be understood as a valuable, alternative context for promoting and facilitating movement, physical activity and health from childhood through to older age.

Through exploring examples from professional training, participatory arts practice and education, the special issue also seeks to explore the critical and methodological questions that performing arts practices raise in relation to wider concepts of physical activity, movement training and health. The volume will provide space for analysing the ways in which paradigms of embodiment from the performing arts can be understood to provide alternatives to those found in the fields of public health, sport and exercise – articulating how performer training challenges deficit models of various health conditions and produces a more complex, and less isolated, view of health and wellbeing.

Contributions are invited on (but not limited to) the following themes and/or topics:

  1. The historical intersections between performer training, movement education and health. The editors seek contributions from scholars looking at the intersections between histories of physical education, health, and performer training.  Contributions in this area could include: analyses of the historical use of performing arts in the context of physical education and health (e.g. Margaret Morris, Rudolf Laban and global folk dance traditions); performing arts training that draws on knowledge from physical education (e.g. Georges Hebert’s influence on Jacques Copeau, the relationship between gymnastics and dance, or the influence of martial arts on traditional East Asian and South Asian performance forms); and the use of somatic education in performer training (e.g. Yoga, BMC, Feldenkrais and Skinner Releasing Technique in post-modern dance, or  F. M. Alexander’s influence on acting).
  2. Mixed mode analyses of how performing arts are used in promoting and facilitating physical activity and health in community and participatory contexts. We are particularly interested in submissions that investigate the specific qualities and characteristics of performing arts activities when implemented as physical activity, physical education and health interventions. The focus here may include how the performing arts encourages embodied self-awareness, relationality, ownership, and autonomy across the life course through creativity, artistry, and self-expression. 
  3. Analyses of performing arts as a means of promoting inclusion in physical education and physical activity.  Key points of focus here could include: analysis of dance as a context for encouraging participation in movement education and physical activity amongst girls and young women; theatre and dance as non-competitive contexts for moment and play; and the performing arts as a context for older people to keep active and develop movement competencies.
  4. Critical analyses of how dance and creative movement is used/taught/experienced within physical education curricula in schools. Contributions here might consider the challenges and benefits of including dance and creative movement within physical education curricula. 
  5. Pedagogical analyses of classical dance and theatre forms as life-long processes of movement education and bodily entrainment. (Examples might include: ballet, Kathakali, Khon and Noh).  
  6. Autoethnographic accounts of performer training as processes of movement education and physical activity.  We are interested in hearing from performing arts practitioners who can reflect critically on their training through the lenses of health, embodied experience or movement education.

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 Campbell Edinborough ([email protected]), Rebecca Stancliffe ([email protected]) and Andy Pringle ([email protected]). Training Grounds proposals are to be made to Zoe Glen ([email protected]), copied to Campbell, Rebecca and Andy.

Our deadline for these abstracts is January 8th 2024

Theatre, Dance and Performance Training has three sections:

  • “Articles” features contributions in a range of critical and scholarly formats (approx. 5,000-6,500 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 (more speculative pieces up to 1500 words); postcards (up to 100 words); visual essays and scores; Speaking Images (short texts 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: https://theatredanceperformancetraining.org/.

Issue Schedule

  • 8th January 2024: proposals to be submitted.
  • Early March 2024: Response from editors and, if successful, invitation to submit contribution
  • March to July 2024: writing/preparation period
  • July to early October 2024: peer review period
  • October 2023 – January 2025: author revisions post peer review
  • June 2025: publication as Issue 16.2

We look forward to hearing from you.


[1] None of the proposed strategic actions from the WHO’s GAPPA mention the potential and existing roles that arts and cultural activities play in promoting and facilitating physical activity.  Likewise, the UK’s 2017 All Parliamentary Report, Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing, mentions physical activity only four times within ninety-nine pages (referencing participation in dance and music).

Don’t ask me how I feel: how ambiguous language is a learning barrier in actor training.

By Klara Hricik (She/they)

Klara is pursuing an MFA in Actor Training and Coaching at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

How do you feel right now?

What does that question elicit for you? Do you want to answer? If so, what might your response be? Would you consider physical sensations, your emotional state, or any present thoughts? Would you give a genuine, insightful response or a casual polite non-answer as a means to move on with the conversation?

Throughout my theatrical training, I have heard acting instructors use the word feel when leading exercises. I have heard it utilised as a check-in: “How did that make you feel?” and “Did that feel okay to you?”, and as a direction: “Connect to the feeling”, “You just have to feel it”, and “You’ll know it when you feel it”.

I have never been able to figure out what is meant by feel. The word has always been very overwhelming for me, which makes sense as there are almost twenty definitions across different parts of speech (Merriam Webster, 2023). I’m sure I’ve heard just about every application of feel throughout my acting training across various practices; however, it was rarely specified which one my instructor intended. I believe that I may have struggled more than some of my peers due to being a neurodivergent learner. Many people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Dyslexia struggle with interpreting indirect language (Chahubon et al., 2021). As someone with ADHD, I have found the ambiguous language used in actor training to be a barrier not only to my understanding of various acting practices, but also to my success as a student. In my insecurity, I could not navigate how I was being assessed, whether I was ‘succeeding,’ and if I would be marked well by my instructor.

As I reflect on my experiences, I aim to answer the following questions:

  • “How has ambiguous language impacted my acting training?”
  • “What are the different definitions of feel?”
  • “How is feel used in different actor training methodologies?”
  • “How can I sharpen my pedagogical vocabulary to promote clarity in my approach to actor training?”

How has ambiguous language impacted my acting training?

Throughout my acting training, I was often chastised for being too logical, asking too many questions, and being too ‘in my head’. The reality was that I had no clue what I was supposed to be doing or why. I didn’t get why I couldn’t ask why. Why were we moving through the space without speaking for hours? Why did it matter what water feature I saw myself as that day? Why was my homework to study a tortoise’s movements? Why were we throwing a ball in the air repeatedly for twenty minutes? Why was I doing this at 9 am and paying obscene amounts of money to do so? Why was this crucial to me becoming a better actor?

My requests for clarity and structure were often perceived as combative, uncooperative, and unprofessional, despite my genuine desire to do the work and learn from it. In acting and movement classes from secondary school to professional workshops, I would often hear comments such as “No questions”, “There is no right or wrong”, or “Don’t think about it or judge it, just feel it. We will discuss later”. I will highlight for you my thought process in moments like these:

Feel what? What is ‘it’? How can I not judge ‘it’ if I don’t know what ‘it’ is? How do I find ‘it’ without thinking about ‘it’? How am I supposed to notice my feelings without thinking about my feelings? Obviously, I am doing this exercise wrong, I don’t feel ‘it’. Well, I don’t think I feel it, but I’m not supposed to think! Okay, what am I going to say when we discuss? This exercise made me feel…. confused. Can I say that? I feel like… my head kind of hurts and I’m hungry. That’s an honest answer. No, I’m sure that’s not what they want to hear.

Okay, let’s take a look around the room… Everyone else looks so focused. I better put on an intense face, too, so they think I’ve got ‘it’. Everyone else seems to feel ‘it’ and know what ‘it’ is. How do they know? How do they get ‘it’ and I don’t? Was ‘it’ obvious and I’m just dumb? Am I a terrible actor?

As I was often unable to make sense of what I had experienced in my acting training, I had no way of gaining the intended knowledge. I was, instead, forced to resort to pretending to understand what occurred, for fear of embarrassment in discussions and, ultimately, being marked poorly by my tutor.

I now know that my inability to succeed in this setting was not due to my inability as an actor or lack of effort as a student. Philosopher and researcher Alva Noë says that learners must ‘… experience sensations sufficiently that [they] make a certain sort of sense to [them], i.e., [they] understand that the sensations [they] experience are constitutive in some way’ (Noë, 2004, p.3 in Zarrilli, 2012, p. 47). As the purpose of the work was unclear and my requests to make sense of it were often denied, I was not able to fully learn or experience these activities in a way that encouraged my growth as an actor.

This also had consequences for my experience as a student, as I didn’t know how I was being marked. In an educational setting, giving students open-ended guidance when they are being assessed can not only result in insecurity and stress for the student, but a lack of trust in the educator and effort towards the work. In Aligning Teaching for Constructive Learning, JohnBiggs, referring to the broader field of higher education, explains ‘The assessment is the curriculum, as far as the students are concerned. They will learn what they think they will be assessed on, not what is in the curriculum’ (2003, p2). While actor training is largely experiential in nature, the confines of educational settings require measurable marking criteria. Though ambiguous language may aid the creative freedom of an exercise for some students, that does not negate the fact that in an institutional setting, actors are being evaluated. It is important for actor trainers to be clear about what the intended learning outcomes are and create specific, measurable criteria that students can work towards for assessments (Biggs, 2003). Whilst there are evident barriers for neurodivergent students that have legal ramifications under the Equality Act (Legislation.gov.uk., 2010), ambiguous language and grading guidelines can negatively impact the education of all students, as we will explore through various definitions of feel and the ways they are often conflated.

What are the different definitions of feel?

When looking at the word itself, feel has many meanings across different parts of speech as a transitive verb, intransitive verb, and noun (Merriam Webster, 2023, n.p.). Here are all of Merriam Webster’s definitions of feel, which we will explore more deeply in the next section (2023, n.p.).

Feel – Transitive verb

  1. a: to handle or touch in order to examine, test, or explore some quality
    b: to perceive by a physical sensation coming from discrete end organs (as of the skin or muscles)
  2. a: to undergo passive experience
    b: to have one’s sensibilities markedly affected by
  3. to ascertain by cautious trial (usually used with out)
  4. a: to be aware of by instinct or interference
    b: believe, think
  5. (US slang): to understand (someone): to know how (someone) feels

Feel – Intransitive verb

  1. a: to receive or be able to receive a tactile sensation
    b: to search for something by using the sense of touch
  2. a: to be conscious of an inward impression, state of mind, or physical condition
    b: to have a marked sentiment or opinion
  3. seem
  4. to have sympathy or pity

Feel – Noun

  1. sensation, feeling
  2. the sense of touch
  3. a: the quality of a thing as imparted through or as if through touch
    b: typical or peculiar quality or atmosphere, an awareness of such a quality or atmosphere
  4. intuitive knowledge or ability.

Across these definitions, we see references to the physical, cognitive, and experiential applications of feel. Let’s explore these different definitions and moments when they may be applied in the context of actor training.

How is feel used in different actor training methodologies?”

I want to begin by isolating the definitions of feel that reference physical sensations (Merriam Webster, 2023, n.p.).

Transitive verb

  • to handle or touch in order to examine, test, or explore some quality
  • to perceive by a physical sensation coming from discrete end organs (as of the skin or muscles)

Intransitive verb

  • to receive or be able to receive a tactile sensation
  • to search for something by using the sense of touch

Noun

  • sensation, feeling
  • the sense of touch
  • a quality of a thing as imparted through or as if through touch

When asked how I feel, the first thing I do is consider physical sensations, which may be the intended application in various acting methods focused on actors’ physicality. Artaud believed that theatre is primarily physical(Hodge, 2010, p. 285) and many acting methodologies agree with this notion. Practices, such as Meyerhold, Suzuki, and Grotowski, do not focus on the cognitive processes of other acting techniques, but on the ‘materiality of the actor’s body and what can be done with it as a medium’ (Allain, n.d., n.p.). Beyond physical theatre, we see the prioritisation’ of the actor’s body in many popular acting practices. Physical experiences may be encouraged practically, with practitioners using objects, such as sticks in Meyerhold’s biomechanics (Hodge, 2010, p.33) or in Stanislavsky’s exercises in concentration, which rely on the senses to explore an object (Hodge, 2010, p. 9). Many practices also rely on the physical bodies in the space, such as in Stanislavsky’s interest in Yoga (Carnickie, 2008), and Grotowski’s corporal exercises and focus on ‘extreme physicality’ (Wolford in Hodge, 2021, p. 208).

Methodologies such as Chekhov and Linklater encourage students to imagine physical experiences rather than engage with real physical items, often relying on imagery. Affective memory, as created by Stanislavsky and further developed by Lee Strasberg, promotes that ‘the ability to recall senses stimulates the body rather than the mind, giving the actor greater visceral awareness and experience’ (Krasner in Hodge, p. 148). In every facet of my training thus far, I have encountered some form of physical work, often engaging with the five senses.

Most actor training methodologies also value some sort of awareness, which we also see exemplified through the word feel (Merriam Webster, 2023, n.p.).

Transitive verb

  • to be aware of by instinct or interference
  • believe, think
  • (US slang): to understand (someone): to know how (someone) feel

Intransitive verb

  • to be conscious of an inward impression, state of mind, or physical condition
  • to have a marked sentiment or opinion
  • seem
  • to have sympathy or pity

Noun

  • typical or peculiar quality of atmosphere, an awareness of such a quality or atmosphere
  • intuitive knowledge or ability 

In these definitions, I see the words ‘aware’, ‘awareness’, ‘conscious’ and ‘intuitive’ come up across various meanings. This directly relates to actor training as awareness is largely encouraged across acting practices, including Chekov’s ‘body-awareness into and through psychophysical composition’ (Zarilli, 2012, p.20), Suzuki training, which David Climenhaga says ‘is as much about awareness and placement as it is about exertion’ (in Hodge, 2021, p. 294) (which, if you’ve done any Suzuki, you will know that that is a very high bar to set), and in Meyerhold’s Biomechanics, where ‘… the actor needs to be extremely sensitive to what his body, his gestures his movements are connoting. He needs a kind of built in mirror’ (Leach in Hodge, 2021, p. 32).

Often, actor training is concerned with going beyond the physical and connecting different aspects of awareness, such as emotional or mental. Stanislavsky scholar Sharon Marie Carnicke says that ‘In the realm of “feelings” the System’s actor works on all levels- physical, emotional, and intellectual – at once’ (2008, p. 218). Kristen Linklater’s work explores the connection of the mental and physical as ‘whole-body-mind awareness’ (Linklater, 2006, n.p.). Clearly, awareness is a key component of many prominent actor training methodologies, which may pose a barrier for some actors.

There are many people that struggle with physical and/or emotional awareness, with a significant prevalence in neurodivergent individuals. It has been found that people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder may have ‘difficulty with sensing internal states,’ including body awareness, in comparison to those without a diagnosis (Fiene and Brownlow, 2015, n.p.). Alexithymia is ‘characterised by difficulties in recognizing emotions from internal body sensations’ (Shah et al., 2016, n.p.). Although separate diagnoses, alexithymia is ‘highly prevalent’ in autistic individuals (Poquérusse et al, 2018). In their research drawing on their experience as an autistic actor and actor trainer, Zoë Glen claims that ‘the autistic actor’s own emotion memory may not be available to draw on. Asking us to remember a time we felt sad, excited or angry, […] is not an effective route to emotional activation for many of us’ (2023, n.p.). I would like to invite actor trainers to be awareof any barriers that may exist in their practices and consider what they will do when they have individuals who find this awareness inaccessible.

With all of these, often conflicting, definitions of feel across acting practices, how is an actor supposed to know what is being asked of them? Why, in a field that is so focused on specificity in acting choices, are we using such general vocabulary?

Well, for Stanislavsky, the ambiguity was somewhat intentional.

In his original Russian texts, Stanislavsky often uses the word ‘chuvstva, which refers simultaneously to  ‘feelings’ and the five ‘senses’’ (Carnicike, 2008, p. 157). He wanted to evoke that well-rounded psycho-physical actor we talked about previously. When Stanislavsky’s texts were translated by Elizabeth Hapgood, she translated the Russian words for feelings, experiences and sensations interchangeably (Carnicke, 2008, p. 132). We can see this multiplicity in the English definitions of feel as well. The utilisation of the different meanings and connections of feel that is prioritised in many acting practices may improve some acting performances; however, I believe that, especially early in training, it is crucial to use specific language clarifying what elements are being focused on in the work, be it physical sensations, different aspects of awareness, or an intended experience. And I do believe Stanislavsky would agree with this notion. In his later work, Stanislavsky added this specificity into his own practice, limiting the word ‘sensations’ to refer only to physical feelings (Carnicke, 2008, p. 218). I would encourage this clarity from actor trainers and suggest using an alternative to feel when referring to what they want actors to experience.

Aside from the definitions we have already categorised, feel can also be used to describe the way in which one engages with an experience. Feel in reference to experiences can be classified into two applications, being either active or passive (Merriam Webster, 2023, n.p.).

Feel as active experience:

Transitive verb

  • to ascertain by cautious trial (usually used with out)

Feel as passive experience:

Transitive verb           

  • to undergo passive experience

Intransitive verb

  • to receive or be able to receive a tactile sensation

I was confused both by the inherent opposition in these applications and by the notion that one could “passively” experience something. Upon reflection, I recalled how often I was asked to ‘receive’ or ‘undergo’ experiences without any sort of critical engagement or personal autonomy of the work. I believe that this request has caused the most contention throughout my acting training journey. I was resistant to experiences where I was expected to be impacted without any information on what we were doing and why. I was often encouraged to ‘let it happen’, ‘trust the process’ and ‘jump in’ rather than to proceed cautiously, to ask questions, or to seek clarity in moments when I would have benefited from further guidance. I would advocate for a shift away from this passivity in actor training in favour of a more engaging pedagogical framework.

In his later work, Stanislavsky began advancing Active Analysis as a means to give actors more autonomy over their work and perhaps to challenge directors who ‘threatened to treat actors like pawns’ (Carnicke, 2008, p. 202). This began to shift away from the passivity required in Stanislavsky’s earlier hierarchical pedagogy to more of a dialogic style (Alexander, 2019). I believe that this shift should be noted and embraced when considering the application of the earlier definitions of feel. I would like to suggest using what Alva Noë refers to as ‘perceptual experience’ (Noë, 2006) in place of the passivity and level of obedience that was often asked of me in my training. Perceptual experience encourages learners to be ‘intrinsically thoughtful’ and notes that it is through their ‘skillful activity’ that they will understand the material (Noë, 2006, p.2). Rather than passively watching or replicating the practitioner, actors are encouraged to actively engage in their learning experience, asking questions, forming opinions, and working to develop their skills rather than letting someone tell them what to do and how it should impact them. I propose that we use this mindset when considering all facets of feeling in order to remove any ambiguity from the work and support actors to make sense of the work and have the best opportunity to grow as artists.

How can I sharpen my pedagogical vocabulary to promote clarity in my approach to actor training?

So, what do we do?

Elaborate and get specific.

My freshman year of Acting during my undergraduate degree, we were encouraged to purchase Marina Caldarone and Maggie Lloyd-Williams’ Actions: An Actor’s Thesaurus (2004). When analysing a script, we were to refer to this text to differentiate and specify the intentions of our acting choices. 

Actor trainers: I invite you to do the same. If you are inclined to use the word feel, notice that. Consider the nuances behind what you are actually asking of your students. Assess what may be the most effective way to communicate the intended outcome. Maybe you could elaborate on your use of the word or find a new word altogether. Below is a table I created that proposes some alternatives to feel in different actor training scenarios.

Alternative vocabulary to feel
Feel pertaining to the physical

Isolate the use of the word ‘sensations’ exclusively for this application (a la Stanislavsky)
Notice any sensations occurring in your body. Explore the physical experience of doing this activity. Consider what temperatures, textures, muscular tension, etc. you or your character may be physically sensing.
Feel pertaining to mental thoughtsNotice any thoughts that arise from doing this exercise. What does this make you think of? Engage the character’s mentality as you respond to this moment.
Feel pertaining to emotionsNotice any emotional reactions that may come up for you or your character.What emotions might your character be experiencing? Consider the different emotional reactions your character might have in response to this moment.
Feel pertaining to ‘perceptual experience’ (Noë, 2006)Explore any impulses that arise from this activity. Receive these instructions and see what sensations, thoughts, or emotions you experience. If nothing arises, engage with the material in whatever way you are able to.
Feel pertaining to analysisConsider what is effective in this practice and what might be a barrier for you.Explore the limitations of this activity.Engage with this exercise through a critical lens.Notice any reservations you might have. Feel free to address them in whatever way you deem fit before engaging with the activity.

These are some examples that could potentially specify intention, but the possibilities are by no means limited to this table. It is also possible practitioners will have to communicate in different ways for different students. By using specific language and being flexible in their methods, actor trainers can enhance clarity and inclusion in their teaching. In my practices, I hope to deepen students’ understanding of acting by continuing to clarify ambiguous language and, in doing so, prevent alienation and insecurity amongst my actor-students.

Klara Hricik,
Septmeber 2023.

Bibliography

Alexander, R. (2019). Dialogic Teaching: A dialogic teaching framework. Available at: https://robinalexander.org.uk/dialogic-teaching/.

Allain, P. (n.d.). ‘What is Physical Acting?’. Physical Actor Training: an online a-z. Drama Online Library. Available at: https://www.dramaonlinelibrary.com/physical-actor-training.

Biggs, J. (2003). Aligning teaching for constructing learning. Higher Education Academy, 1(4), pp.1-4. London: Routledge.

Calderone, M. and Lloyd-Williams, M. (2004). Actions: The Actor’s Thesauraus. Nick Hern Books.

Carnicke, S. M. (2020). Stanislavsky in Focus: An Acting Master for the Twenty-First Century. 2nd edn. London: Routledge. pp. 132-218.

Chahboun, S., Kvello, Ø., and Page, A. G. (2021). Extending the Field of Extended Language: A Literature Review on Figurative Language Processing in Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Frontiers in Communication, 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fcomm.2021.661528.

The Equality Act of 2010. [Online]. Legislation.gov.uk. Available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents.

Fiene, L. and Brownlow, C. (2015). ‘Investigating interoception and body awareness in adults with and without autism spectrum disorder’. Wiley Online Library. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/aur.1486.

Glen, Z. (2023). ‘Access for autistic student-actors: interrogating the role of empathy within actor-training methods’. Theater Dance and Performance Training. Volume 14 Issue 1. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19443927.2022.2095428?scroll=top&needAccess=true&role=tab.

Hodge, A. (2010). Actor Training.  2nd edition. London: Routledge, 2nd edition. pp. 9-296.

Linklater, K. (2006). Freeing the natural voice: Imagery and art in the practice of voice and language (2nd Revised Edition). London: Nick Hern Books.

Merriam-Webster (2023a) Feel definition & meaning. Merriam-Webster. Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feel.

Noë, A. (2006). ‘Précis of Action in Perception’. Psyche: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Consciousness 12(1). Available at: http://journalpsyche.org/archive/volume-12-2006/.

Poquérusse et al (2018). ‘Alexithymia and Autism Spectrum Disorder: A complex relationship’. Front Psychol. 9(1196). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6056680/

Shah, P. et al (2016). ‘Alexithymia, not autism, is associated with impaired interoception’. Cortex. 81, pp. 215-220. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27253723/.

Zarrilli, P. (2012). Psychophysical Acting: An Intercultural Approach After Stanislavsky. London: Routledge. pp. 20-47

Appointment of TDPT Co-editors

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), announced their intention to step down from their roles from the end of next year (Autumn, 2024) at the annual TDPT associate editors meeting this April.

A recruitment appointment panel has been convened and it is seeking to appoint two new co-editors from all disciplines related to the field of performer training, for this very successful journal published by Routledge and in its 14th year. The journal is quarterly and Taylor & Francis will provide remuneration for the role to cover any journal-related expenses. TDPT has contributions from scholars and practitioners across the globe and 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 the editors will lead a group of associate editors and blog editors numbering over twenty individuals.

The successful candidates will bring strategic ambition and vision to the journal, taking TDPT into the next phase of its development with energy and imagination. The role will offer you unique insights into academic publication and provide you with opportunities to expand your own networks with scholars and practitioners. You will steer the journal’s direction, ensuring it keeps up to date and responsive to current ideas and movements in performance training. It gives you the opportunity to work closely with one of the world’s leading academic publishers.

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 and diversify its contributors and content.
  • Highly organised and efficient with excellent communication skills.
  • At your best when working in a tight-knit, collegiate team of editors and associate editors.
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Imaginary Touch: Multi-Sensory Experiences for Non-Physical Connections Over Distance

In this blog post, I want to share my ongoing exploration of new working methods that aim to recreate sensations of touch and non-bodily connections, particularly in the context of remote or online experiences. As part of my practice-as-research project, which began during the Covid-19 pandemic and continues to evolve, I have developed two audio recordings that offer online multi-sensory experiences.

The significance of physical touch in interpersonal relationships and emotional well-being has gained recognition in recent years (Heatley et al., 2020). However, events like the #metoo era and the COVID-19 pandemic have limited opportunities for physical touch and non-bodily connections, creating a need for innovative methods to recreate touch experiences across distances or online (Sigurdardottir & Halldorsdottir, 2021). The shift to remote and online practices has presented challenges for fields that traditionally rely on physical touch, such as dance. The inability to engage in direct physical contact has prompted us to explore how we can recreate the intimate and sensorial experiences that touch provides. Moreover, even outside the limitations imposed by a pandemic, there are individuals who cannot or choose not to engage in close physical contact due to various reasons like physical disabilities, sensory sensitivities, or personal boundaries. For these individuals, the ability to experience touch-like sensations remotely offers opportunities for inclusion and participation in activities that may otherwise be inaccessible to them.

To address these limitations, I have created a series of online multi-sensory experiences that aim to explore alternative ways of engaging with and experiencing touch in online spaces. Each experience approaches the concept of touch in a unique manner. It is essential to note that when referring to touch-like sensations, I adopt a comprehensive understanding that goes beyond the physical act. Drawing inspiration from philosopher Erin Manning (Manning, 2006, 2013), I view touch as a transformative and relational process rooted in the concept of prehension. I emphasize the interconnected nature of touch, recognizing that it extends beyond mere physical sensations.

This post introduces two audio files for personal exploration at home or in someone else’s home. The recordings prepare for improvisational tasks, cultivating presence in external and internal states. They invite a sensory journey, focusing on your sense of touch through various approaches. Use them to prepare for remote workshops, classes, or rehearsals.

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TDPT Special Issue, Touch in Training, 14.2, Now Published

Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, Volume 14, Issue 2 (2023)

CONTENTS PAGE

Editorial
Ha Young Hwang, Tara McAllister-Viel, Liz Mills & Sara Reed

Article
Consent-based actor training as the only way forward
Andrea L. Moor

Article
Touch and consent: towards an ethics of care in intimate performance
Marié-Heleen Coetzee & Kaitlin Groves

Article
Maintaining the consent-bubble: an intimacy coordinator’s perspective on touch in performance training
Èmil Haarhoff & Kate Lush

Article
The Unclean, ‘touching and training’ in puppetry from Japanese otome bunraku
Caroline Astell-Burt

Article
Exploring Rudolf Laban’s flow effort: new parameters of touch
Juliet Chambers-Coe

Postcard
Theatre in museums: ‘touch it without a touch’
Lu Wang

Article
Touch as a feedback loop: exercising the leap from inertia to activation
Kristina Johnstone

Postcard — Oration
Our contact improvisation partners during lockdown for dancers in training
Malaika Sarco-Thomas

Essai
Archiving the healing touch
Nora Amin

Postcard
Touch in tableau: a powerful moment to break the wall
Lu Wang

Article
Tactile renegotiations in actor training: what the pandemic taught us about touch
Christina Kapadocha

Discussion — Essay
What a touchy subject! Discussions, reflections and thoughts about touch on the UEL BA (Hons) Dance: Urban Practice course
Carla Trim-Vamben & Jo Read

Article
Voice (as and in) touch
Electa Behrens

Essai
The Little Acorns – it was a touch and go experience
Saranya Devan

Essai
A repertoire of touch in participatory choreography
Elvira Crois

Article
In touch and between: a tactile toolkit for creative practitioners to navigate touch within their creative practice
Dina Robinson

Article
Affective topologies and virtual tactile experiences in theatre training
Adriana La Selva

Essay
Queer performance in times of the pandemic: movement, identity, and hope in heart2heart and The Ladder Project
Gayatri Aich

“Touch and Training” as a special issue for Theatre, Dance and Performance Training takes up the call to (re)consider performer training for a changing performance culture as a result of recent global happenings, specifically #MeToo, #blacklivesmatter and the Covid-19 pandemic. Out of these three quite defined moments in history, there has emerged an intertwined and complex understanding of touch in performer training studios and rehearsals. This leads creative artists to critically interrogate “traditional” understandings of touch as well as propose new, other ways of (re)negotiated touch during creative exchange. As an editorial team of four from different performer training institutions and freelance experiences in South Korea, South Africa and UK, we encouraged contributors to intentionally layer their impulses and responses, questions and practice as research and look across disciplines and cultural contexts. For this special issue, we have selected materials which can be read as singular contributions or read in relation to each other through our structured juxtapositions and groupings, and understood as a kind of meta-narrative on touch in training at this moment in time. Peer-reviewed articles, essais, postcards and an edited conversation, as well as embedded links to video clips, sit in conversation with each other.

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TDPT Issue 14.1 Now Published

Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, Volume 14, Issue 1 (2023)

CONTENTS PAGE

Editorial
Libby Worth, Jonathan Pitches, Thomas Wilson & Aiden Condron

Article
The listening actor: intersections between the musicality of Meisner Technique and ear training in Dalcroze Eurhythmics
Andrew Davidson

Article
Beyond the stomp: the Nobbs Suzuki Praxis as an Australian variant of the Suzuki Method of Actor Training
Antje Diedrich & Frances Barbe

Speaking Image
Skills shared
Anja Meinhardt

Essai
There is no such thing as an accident
Thomas Wilson

Article
Performing while documenting or how to enhance the narrative agency of a camera
Nathalie S. Fari

Article
Access for autistic student-actors: interrogating the role of empathy within actor-training methods
Zoë Glen

Speaking Image
The interpersonal body: knowing another through the shared embodiment of ‘energetic contact’
Juliet Chambers-Coe

Events Review
Unrehearsed Futures – Season 2: a series of public conversations on possibility, plurality and planetarity in theatre pedagogy hosted by Drama School Mumbai
Phalguni Vittal Rao

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CfP: TDPT Special issue – Green Trainings – to be published in September 2024.

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

Editors:

Jonathan Pitches ([email protected])

Libby Worth ([email protected])

Training Grounds Editor: Maria Kapsali [email protected]

Green Trainings (Issue 15.3)

If not now, when?

We are living in a time of an unprecedented global environmental crisis. Scientists have developed a sophisticated understanding of the Earth’s climate system and we know with high confidence that climate change is happening today as a result of greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity. Negative impacts from climate change, including extreme weather events, the acidification of the oceans, declining glaciers and sea ice, and rising sea temperatures are already being felt and will continue to increase into the future. Radical action to limit future global greenhouse gas emissions is essential if we are to restrict future changes in the climate system. A key target emerging from COP27 (November 2022) is the pressing need to effect the shift from pledging to implementation. In this time of climate emergency we must collectively accelerate, scale up, replicate success stories and bring about transformative action. Conscious of the ubiquitous, and iniquitous acts of greenwashing and virtue signaling, this call for transformative activism must at the same time be expressed honestly with open acknowledgment of the barriers to change, the impediments, and potential failures and the need for persistence – to try and then to try again.

In the last 20 years, there has been an increase in arts-based training for environmental awareness, and a rich history of practitioners working outside, drawing for instance from paratheatre, somatics and bodyweather. There has been a concomitant process in Fine Art – Suzi Gablik’s The Re-enchantment of Art (1991) is a key frame of reference and Natalie Loveless’s How to make Art at the End of the World (2019), has also been very influential more recently. Their focus on pedagogy, responsibility and ethics is instructive for thinking across disciplines. In parallel with this movement there has been a too-late acknowledgement of indigenous/first peoples’ training methods, and the capacity they have to spark new thinking about old training methods, and thus to decolonise the training studio – Te Rākau’s Theatre Marae for instance in Aotearoa/NewZealand (Pearse-Otene, TDPT 12.1) or Cricri Bellerose’s ecosomatic attentiveness through which she becomes an ‘apprentice to the land’ (TDPT 13.2).  

In the UK and the US, there have been logistical and industrial responses to the crisis, with a focus on finding ways of operating more sustainably and with less waste. The emergence of the Theatre Green Book, now complete at 3 Volumes, provides free guidance for theatre-makers on what everyone can and should be doing to change their practice, and is evidence of the UK theatre sector’s commitment to creating a common standard for sustainable theatre. Similarly, in the US, the Broadway Green Alliance has paved the way for an initiative dedicated to educating and inspiring producing theatres to implement environmentally friendlier practices, with their Green Captain programme providing advocacy and support for professional theatres and college theatre departments. In the UK, some institutions have adopted Green Captains, highlighting their commitment to future sustainable practices. These programmes are, however, almost exclusively focused on theatre production, buildings and operations. If we look to the training methods of performers employed in these contexts, there is scant (published) evidence of sustainable, or ‘green training’ practices.

Cognisant of the urgent need to address the often problematic issues around responsibility for engagement and action, our discipline is provoking ways to respond. For example, the 9th edition of the International Platform for Performer Training (Chiusi, Italy, January 2023), where this Call for Papers was first developed, included New Creative Ecologies: Non-anthropocentric Spaces, Geopoetics and Climate Change in Performer Training as one of its four key themes for exploration, while RiDE’s forthcoming Special Issue, Confronting the Global Climate Crisis: Responsibility, Agency, and Action, seeks to ‘confront the climate crisis with a revived interest in the diverse pedagogical, ethical, aesthetic, and sensory qualities’ of applied theatre research and practice.

In this Special Issue of TDPT we seek to discover green trainings’ roots, to document forms of green training which already exist, and to debate what new forms might emerge. As such, our questions for this special issue may be conceived in three interrelated parts – sources, contemporary practices and imagined futures:

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In touch and between: a snippet of a tactile toolkit for creative practice in relation to preparing the body for somatic practice and the notion of sonic dominance

This post presents two audio files which can be found within the article In Touch and Between: A Tactile Toolkit for Creative Practitioners to Navigate Touch within their Creative Practice under the subheading Acclimatising the Body and Sonic Dominance. They have risen as part of my practice as research which began before the Covid 19 pandemic and has been ongoing throughout. This research investigates how touch can be used as a tool to develop creative practice through a somatic methodology using passive, active and intra-active touch within the solo body and between bodies. This initial enquiry stemmed from research around the displacement of touch in Aristotle’s hierarchy of the senses (1951) and this catch-22 between negative associations of touch and the longing for touch due to the pandemic. It aims to challenge power dynamics between the giver and receiver of touch, in a way that can offer opportunities for the receiver to have agency and attend with their sentient body; present new tactile engagements to deepen our relationship with our practice; and open up suggestions of touch being a collaborative mesh for us to be in touch with one another. This was analysed within my own solo creative practice and case studies including professional practitioners and university students, in relation to artistic identity and creative inquiry within dance and movement. As a result of this a tactile toolkit has been created which offers a variety of scores/ exercises to be explored through improvisation and offers different methods of engaging with touch highlighting the reciprocal interplay between the internal and external worlds. 

This post presents two different audio files which you may use for your own inquiry or to facilitate within a studio/ class environment. This first audio (Acclimatising the Body (figure 1)) is a somatic guided offering which prepares the body for somatic practice, whilst the second is a score/ exercise itself for you to respond through improvisation and your sense of touch. Findings have been collated for the second score (Decibel Negative (figure 4)) and are presented in the article mentioned above, however it is not a necessity to have read these as they are just observations. We have our own tactile language and so what we experience will be subjective and significant to ourselves.

Acclimatising the Body (figure 1)

This is a guided offering which aims to prepare the body for somatic practice by drawing awareness to the sense of touch whilst releasing any thoughts or pre-conceptions which may be present. It will enable the body to become more receptive to stimulation and approach the scores/ exercises presented in the article through a holistic presence. This audio can be used for your own creative practice and engagement with the scores/ exercises or within a class environment to enable students to settle. This audio could also be used independent from the article and become incorporated into any form of somatic practice which encourages tactile awareness. It will ask you to find a comfortable resting position and close the eyes so please ensure that you feel comfortable with your environment to do so. It is recommended to be done with stillness so to help draw attention to the body. Throughout, I ask you to listen to the offerings through your sense of hearing but also to notice sensations through the skin and promote a tactile awareness between ourselves and the world.

Decibel Negative (figure 4)

This audio is a soundscape Joe Mathew curated as part of the research and the sound itself is used as a score/ exercise for creative improvisation. The sound uses low frequencies in order to enhance the vibrations and offers awareness on how we perceive this through our sense of touch rather than hearing, also known as ‘sonic dominance’ (Henriques 2010). It will begin to introduce the lived notion of the skin in that our body may respond subconsciously and the creative choices will further highlight our processing of tactile composition (Gunther and O’Modhrain 2003). Due to the low frequency, the volume will need to be turned up to its highest volume to feel the full effect and it is recommended to use a good speaker to become fully immersed in the sound. Headphones can also be an option but the vibrations may be reduced. This can be used for solo creative practice or facilitated within a class environment. Whilst exploring this score I would like to invite you to consider the following and please do share any experiences in the comments: 

How can you experience sound as a tactile phenomenon?

How does it infiltrate your anatomy and how do you respond?

How do you move, or perhaps it prevents you from doing so?

How does it affect your relationship to the external environment?

How might it affect your composition?

Knowledge of works

Aristotle. 1951. De Anima. Translated and edited by Kenelm Foster and Silvester Humphries. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Egert, Gerko. 2019. Moving relation: Touch in contemporary dance. 1st ed. London: Routledge. doi:10.4324/9780429030901.

Gunther, Eric and Sile O’Modhrain. 2003. “Cutaneous grooves: Composing for the sense of touch.” Journal of New Music Research 32 (4): 369-381. doi:10.1076/jnmr.32.4.369.18856

Henriques, Julian. 2010. “The Vibrations of Affect and their Propagation on a Night Out on Kingston’s Dancehall Scene.” Body & Society 16 (1): 57-89. doi:10.1177/1357034X09354768.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1968. The visible and the invisible: Followed by working notes. Northwestern University Press.

Olsen, Andrea and Crayn McHose. 2014. The Place of Dance: A Somatic Guide to Dancing and Dance Making. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press.

Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine. 2010. “Kinesthetic experience: Understanding Movement Inside and Out. Body, Movement and Dance in Psychotherapy 5 (2): 111-127.

CfP: TDPT Special Issue, Training and Agency

Theatre Dance and Performance Training Journal (TDPT)

Special issue: Training and Agency to be published in June 2024.

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

Guest editors:

Dr Jane Turner, Manchester Metropolitan University ([email protected])

Dr James McLaughlin, University of Greenwich ([email protected])

Dr Sarah Weston, University of Bolton ([email protected])

Training Grounds Editor: Aiden Condron ([email protected])

Training and Agency (Issue 15.2)

Training could be thought of as a regime. A repeated practice with structures and boundaries, which the subject is required to conform to. Yet, this subject is an agent with their own thoughts, feelings and instincts who needs to both serve the discipline and rigour prescribed by training while retaining a sense of autonomy. In this Special Issue, we will be exploring performer training in relation to the idea of agency. Developed out of the TaPRA Performer Training Working Group 2021 Conference, the issue will examine to what extent the subject has agency within frameworks of training, through a variety of themes including: agency and creativity; the drama school or training institution; agency and consent; and the possibility of subversion within the structures of performer training. Contributors will come from a wide range of performance disciplines such as actor training; critical pedagogy; applied theatre; opera; studio practice; circus; and dance.

Agency, the ability of the subject to act according to their own will, is temporal: dependent on the past, present and projected future of the subject (Emirbayer and Mische, 1998). The capacity for agency is often defined in relation to structure, the social, economic, cultural or other circumstances in which the individual acts. Moving beyond believing purely that subjects operate entirely according to their freewill, or an approach that argues humans have no independence and their behaviour is entirely determined by circumstances, it is possible to conceive of structure and agency’s power as interlinked. In this sense, structure and agency could be argued to work in tandem: as structures increase, agency recedes, as the agent is empowered the structural power decreases.

The relationship between structure and agency is significant for any pedagogic practice as with the interplay of rules against the emergence of self-determination familiar to many learning processes. Performer training as an over-arching practice is highly contingent on the connection and tension between a training structure (the institution, the practice, the exercise) and the agency of the individual. In response to Maria Kapsali’s editorial to the Training Politics and Ideology Special Issue (2014), this issue directly addresses the notion of agency in relation to the external forces that surround practice. Kapsali describes how the content and structure of performer training is subject to many forces outside of individual control, such as the entertainment industry, government funding, education systems and curriculum, and limitations of particular institutions (ibid, 103). Yet alongside this, she writes, it is often within training practices, that we find the ‘last haven of liminality’ through experimentation, and the acceptance of failure as a strategy that can lead to new possibilities (ibid, 104). This precise tension highlights the ways in which the structures of training, or a training as a structure, can also provide the circumstances for the agent to push back.

Within this conversation, it is important to acknowledge the historic and cultural circumstances in which training structures emerge and have become dominant. Mark Evans (2014), for instance, discusses the extent to which training structures emerge in accordance to the subject’s own history, with the relatively privileged trainee less likely to come up against limitations to their agency as their history reflects the prevailing order. Similarly, Royona Mitra (2022), through her discussion of contact improvisation, highlights how power (particularly that of whiteness) operates through practice, and the danger of invisible power structures permeating activity; this also includes those practices that claim to be determined by subjective agency. Emma Gee and Matthew Hargrave also outline systems of performer training that require disabled students take on practice that mirrors the structures of a disabling society (2011, 36). They offer a difficult set of propositions to make us question the fine line between training as a liberatory activity, against training as perpetuating social discrimination and inequalities:

Clearly, it is problematic to require any person to ‘normalise’ what is not possible for them to ‘normalise’, for example requiring an actor with a lisp to refrain from lisping. Conversely, this ‘problem’ may be an ingrained set of habitual behaviours that have gone unchallenged and assumed to be impairment. We then hit upon the double barrier that learning disabled actors face: assumptions about ability go untested and habitual tropes are reinforced in an attempt to be ‘enabling’. (2011, 42)

Accordingly the authors ask whether performer training needs to be radically different: do we require ‘more an undoing of repressive social mechanisms than a goal-driven acquisition of a set of formal skills’ (Gee and Hargrave, 2011, 34)?

This special edition will investigate how training structures impacts on the agency of the trainee, and vice versa. Some of the questions we would like to explore are:

  • Are the boundaries of training necessary in order to define the individual agent?
  • Can performer training traditions, repertoires, canons, or training institutions, impede the creativity, imagination or abilities of those in training?
  • Is agency significant in relation to codified training practices, particularly non-western traditions, such as Noh Theatre or Kathakali?
  • Does training conform and/or perpetuate pre-determined requirements set out by the entertainment industry, in tension with the performer’s agency?
  • Are the social, economic, cultural and political structures that correspond to institutional power erasing social and cultural difference, or even preventing access to training? Or, are training structures an essential part of an individual’s journey to the realisation of agency?
  • Could the empowerment of individual agency subvert, counter or challenge the structures of training regimes? 

Contributors may wish to explore the following themes:

  • Performance training in negotiation with existing power structures: from the specific power of the institution, for example, to broader structural operations of power in terms of race, class, gender identity, sexuality, disability, nationality and more.
  • Performance training and the implications of a neutral stance promoted by some forms, such as Lecoq training and the neutral mask. Does this notion of neutrality erase individuality and autonomy and point to questions of disabling or double-disabling practices in an attempt to ‘normalise’?
  • The challenges of working as an autodidact to achieve self-development and personal training; does this approach offer different questions concerning the role of individual agency?
  • Access to performance training, particularly in terms of class, socio-economic deprivation, race and disability.
  • Agency, empowerment and/or liberation through the subversion of traditions of performer training, such as radical practice within existing frameworks or institutions, or approaches of decolonization in terms of performance training canons.
  • Agency as the use of personal, social and ethical values to foster personal responsibility, ownership and a self-determining artistic trajectory to animates one’s practice. 

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  Dr Jane Turner, Manchester Metropolitan University ([email protected]), Dr James McLaughlin, University of Greenwich ([email protected]) and Dr Sarah Weston, University of Bolton ([email protected]).  Training Grounds proposals are to be made to Aiden Condron ([email protected]), copied to Jane, James and Sarah.

Our deadline for these abstracts is January 9th 2023

Theatre, Dance and Performance Training has three sections:

  • “Articles” features contributions in a range of critical and scholarly formats (approx. 5,000-6,500 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 (more speculative pieces up to 1500 words); postcards (up to 100 words); visual essays and scores; Speaking Images (short texts 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: https://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

  • 9th January 2023: proposals to be submitted.
  • Early March 2023: Response from editors and, if successful, invitation to submit contribution
  • March to July 2023: writing/preparation period
  • July to early October 2023: peer review period
  • October 2023 – January 2024: author revisions post peer review
  • June 2024: publication as Issue 15.2

We look forward to hearing from you.

References

Emirbayer, Mustafa and Mische, Ann. 1998. “What Is Agency?” American Journal of Sociology 103 (4): 962–1023.

Evans, Mark. 2014. “Playing with history: personal accounts of the political and cultural self in actor training through movement.” Theatre, Dance and Performance Training 5 (2): 144-156.

Gee, Emma and Hargrave, Matt. 2011. “A proper actor? The politics of training for learning disabled actors.” Theatre, Dance and Performance Training 2 (1): 34-53.

Kapsali, Maria. 2014. “Editorial.” Theatre, Dance and Performance Training 5 (2): 103-106.

Mitra, Royona. 2022. “Unmaking Contact: Choreographic Touch at the Intersections of Race, Caste, and Gender.” Dance Research Journal 53 (3): 6-24.

Akram Khan in Conversation with Janet O’Shea on Brazilian ju-jitsu

Recorded for the Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT) Blog, associated with the TDPT academic journal to connect to their special issue on Martial Arts and Training.

Conducted on Zoom between Los Angeles and London on Tuesday, 24 January, 2023, this was an opportunity to explore, through a conversation between Janet and Akram, two practitioners of Brazilian ju-jitsu, the nature of the practice and its relationship to training for performance.  This was inspired by the piece written by Akram Khan for the Financial Times in December 2021, ‘Akram Khan on Brazilian jiu-jitsu and his beautiful midlife crisis’, and suggested by Paul Allain, a co-editor of the special issue.

Contributors:

Akram Khan

Akram Khan (he/him) is one of the most celebrated and respected dance artists of today. In just over 22 years he has created a body of work that has contributed significantly to the arts in the UK and abroad. His reputation has been built on the success of imaginative, highly accessible and relevant productions such as Jungle Book reimaginedOutwitting the DevilXENOSUntil the LionsKaashiTMOi (in the mind of igor), DESHVertical RoadGnosis and zero degrees.

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Virtual Launch of TDPT 13.2 – Training and Wellbeing

This webinar, hosted by the Université d’Artois in France, is sponsored by the UBC-funded “Culture, Creativity, Health and Well-Being” Research Cluster (https://eminencecluster.weebly.com/) in partnership with the Canadian Association of Theatre Research (https://catracrt.ca/). To register, please click on the following link: https://univ-artois-fr.zoom.us/…/WN_rkb465MYQi6Sr6DPXmW5KA.

This event will be hosted by co-editors of the special issue, Virginie Magnat (University of British Columbia) and Nathalie Gauthard (Université d’Artois), and will be held on June 28, 2022, 4:00 – 6:00 pm Central European Summer Time (GMT+2), with keynote addresses by Eugenio Barba and Matthieu Ricard.

More details are here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1117813565436068/?active_tab=about

CfP: TDPT Special Issue: Touch and Training

Special issue: Touch and Training to be published June 2023

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

Guest editors
Dr Ha Young Hwang, Korea National University of Arts, School of Drama, Seoul, South Korea ([email protected])
Dr. Tara McAllister-Viel, East 15 Acting School, University of Essex, London, UK. ([email protected])
Liz Mills, AFDA The School for the Creative Economy, Cape Town, SouthAfrica ([email protected]).

Training Grounds editor
Dr Sara Reed, Independent researcher, writer and project manager ([email protected]

Touch and Training (Issue 14.2)
Global happenings throughout this past decade, such as ♯MeToo, ♯blacklivesmatter, Asian Spring, Arab Spring, the Marriage Act (2013 UK) and Russia’s “Gay Propaganda” law (2013), and COVID-19, have radically repositioned touch in performance and performer training. Touch is a socio-cultural event, a political act between two people as well as a network of power positions and layers of institutional infrastructure: who touches, how does/should one touch, why and when can/should touch occur? These questions when raised within performance traditions, theatre, film and television rehearsal and performance spaces and performer training studios ask creative artists to (re)consider the ways we think about, talk about and stage touch: for instance, the rise of the “intimacy coordinator” in response to concerns about the inequitability of touch during re-enactments of intimacy is only one of a number of recent developments in performance-related fields (re)considering the role of touch during the creative process.

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TDPT Issue 12.3 – Performer Training in Australia, Now Published

In an oft-repeated anecdote, Australian actor Nick Lathouris tells of the arrival of Jerzy Grotowski’s ideas in Australia in 1969 — courtesy of a badly-Xeroxed copy of Towards a Poor Theatre that circulated between the acting company that formed around director Rex Cramphorn in Sydney as a kind of hallowed totem, a connection to a rich vein of tradition and experimentation in training in a continent that was sorely lacking both. Speaking of the same period, playwright John Romeril remembers the early days of the Australian Performing Group (APG) recalls: “much of what we did by way of acting exercises we drew from magazines and books. We read of and ripped off whatever came our way”. Origin myths such as these inform Ian Maxwell’s characterisation of Australian trainers and trainees as “theatrical bowerbirds”, metaphorising the distinctive Austro-Papuan bird family that is renowned for a courtship ritual where the male decorates his bower with an eclectic range of bright objects, both natural and inorganic. Down under, disconnected from the celebrated training traditions of the northern hemisphere in the decades before globalised publishing, Australian trainers collected whatever they could get their hands on, arranging bespoke lineages that combined native and imported traditions.

A satin bowerbird at his bower in Lamington National Park, Queensland. Photograph by Joseph C Boone. CC BY-SA 4.0.
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Student Reflections on Psychophysical Training, Part One: Injury/Recovery

Introduction

by James McLaughlin

Many trainers are used to writing – preserving their experiences, their systems of training, and their worldview in words.  What is often forgotten is that there is more than one person in the studio, that the discoveries of the ‘master’ are due to the work of the ‘student’, and that the thoughts, voice, and discoveries of the students might be as valuable to understanding the phenomena of training as those of the trainer.  A desire to demonstrate this was the impulse behind this collection of posts from five students who I have led through a version of Phillip Zarrilli’s psychophysical training at the University of Greenwich this year.

The Covid-19 pandemic set up a unique experience for me and the diversity of the students’ reflections shows that I am not alone in this.  Alicia Bowditch-Gibbs’ piece shows the compromises made to allow an injured body to acclimatize to the training and the way a new training can resonate with older strata of training in the body.  Paul Cole writes of recovering from Covid and the adjustments and innovations he was forced to make to fully engage with the work.  To put these into context, I will introduce the student contributions with my own background with the training.  In a follow-up post, three more students will reflect on the role of breath, spirit, and neurodiversity in training.

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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 ([email protected]), James McLaughlin ([email protected]) and Jane Turner ([email protected]) 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 ([email protected])
and Prof. Grzegorz Ziółkowski, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań ([email protected]).
Training Grounds Editor: Thomas Wilson, Rose Bruford College, London ([email protected]).

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: [email protected] and [email protected]. Training Grounds proposals are to be made to Thomas Wilson ([email protected]), 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: https://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: [email protected] and [email protected].
  • 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 [email protected] and/or Libby Worth [email protected].  Our consultant editor Simon Murray is also available for advice [email protected].  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 [email protected]  and/or Libby Worth [email protected].  Our consultant editor Simon Murray is also available for advice [email protected].   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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