For this week’s student ADALife Blog post physical theatre student Mckenzie shares with us some of her instagram blogging she’s been doing while here at the ADA, and dance student Ronesha shares some photos and videos she’s taken of her fellow dancers and the work they’ve been doing.
Mckenzie Wilkins, Arizona State University (Physical Theatre Intensive)
Welcome to… my brain, my handwriting [can anyone even read that?!], and class. Welcome to our class. We didn’t discuss any of this. It just came to me, quietly, when I sat down after performing our last piece of the day. Partly from memories of when I was an English literature major a couple years ago. Partly my own rambles… Today, in our ensemble, I kept feeling the urge to embrace the part of the antagonist in our stories… Not gonna lie, it’s the most fun – I think. || Last night, we got a wonderful gift of a bonus class. Even after we were exhaaaausted & melting into puddles of our own – & others’ – sweat, from our usual *full-time* schedule … We still showed up to learn Tarantella from a master! And it was sooo worthwhile. He began his workshop by explaining that Tarantella (a certain style of dance, shared by many cultures) was born out of embracing Opposites, to accept that we cannot know white without black, up without down, love without hate, Etc. Kinda, the idea of yin & yang. When the people were out in the fields, collapsing from exhaustion, there was ONE thing they found strong enough to raise their spirits & give them enough force to lift themselves off the ground – and that, my dears – is DANCE. They would dance, until they were back on their feet & going. That’s the beauty of dance – it can be found in any culture. Children do it inherently – as soon as they’re learning walk, they will shake their bodies around… This teacher truly brought us on an adventure; those 2 hours flew by like 20 minutes… He even had us DRAW whatever innate melody was playing in our heads, to draw our own unique voice on paper, with a colored pencil. I also made a new friend, via sharing these drawings, and I haven’t even antagonized her! Yet…
WEEK 2 | Day i | “Lunedi” (Monday) | Very playful – yet somehow, also serious – day. There is always a challenge within play, isn’t there? Competition; dominance & submission; push & pull; the chaser & the chasee; someone making a rule & someone breaking or bending it; an object to seize & someone to take it from, Etc… As I observed the room (and myself in it) I was reminded of childhood & adolescence. Days in P.E. & recess (which I hear lately, are disappearing in American schools. What a shame!) || As much as I love to dance and perform now, it hasn’t always been that way in other athletic activities. I hated being forced to play games like kickball. I wish we’d been given more space to create our own games & express a variety of talents, instead of just “steal the ball” & slam-the-others-down dynamics. It felt too violent… NOW? Among my peers, there is sometimes pressure (be it subliminal or obvious) to “do better than” or to capture more attention or to create some sort of Superior Art Form. || Here, we are encouraged to focus on togetherness, over n over again in the exercises we are taught. We must react & respond to the other(s). We are applauded when we show deep listening. Which can happen with the ears, as well as the eyes, and intuition. We played a game of “Catch the Stick When I Drop It” – which was harder than you’d think! I promise. And we were moving all the while, in a somewhat combative spirit, and we had to start with our arms in a certain way. It took all of us awhile to catch the hang of it. And the “success trick” was, as we figured out? Eye contact. Interesting. When we kept focus in the other, as we walked in pairs (face to face) we were better prepared when squatting [“bring out your animal!” is what Professor Sam yells often] and making eye contact, not watching the stick at all, but trusting our in-tune-ness & our peripheral vision.
Day V @ The Academy ~ and the end of Week 1 || We turned up the heat today. I felt a fiery glow in the room(s). There was an extra element I can’t quite name. I broke out of my shell and followed sparks that I couldn’t doubt. My scene partners were offering such authentic material- as we are learning the beautiful variety & POWER in each of our voices. It’s difficult to even describe what- exactly- we are DOING. • It’s simply called “Physical Theatre” • It’s kind of like, interpretive dance & the “theories” behind choreography + vocal elements; but not “lines” from a script or play to rehearse & memorize. We seldom even use real words! It’s somewhat primal, sorta savage. It’s all fresh, organic, temporal. We create it here – once – together. Then it’s gone. Forever. And no outside audience. And no one is recording the actual work we are doing. That’s kinda the point; it’s intimate. It is a moment. There were so many brilliant instantaneous situations sprinkled in the chaos you might call IMPROV. For my own work… Maybe it had something to do with, I didn’t wear my contacts today (to give my eyeballs a break). So I had my glasses on instead, until* I was performing. Maybe, not seeing the audience was the relief. I was just THERE, present – me & my imagination & the colleagues moving with me. There was strong communication among the group today, but hardly any explaining. It was that creative “sweet spot” oh and ps. We don’t have air conditioning here, but we do have big open windows & the Mediterranean / mountain breeze. I’m adjusting to that heat we generate, getting acquainted with the kind of discomfort that forges growth. And I really love it.
@accademiadellarte || Last night we had a special little gathering to listen to a presentation by the founding president of this school. His name is Scott. He’s goofy, cool, and down to earth. We learned some art history- not just the facets of performing arts- but the origins of WHY the Human needs art & what purpose it has today vs. what significance it held for our ancestors. We discussed VALUE, how is it defined, what price can be placed on art, and HOW / why art became a commodity… It, historically, hasn’t always been a product to monetize. We spoke a bit about capitalism. Not bashing it, not praising it. Just—seeing some causes & effects, some benefits & obstacles—as it pertains to the art world & working professional artists today. I think I speak for most—if not all—of us in the room last night: it was definitely worth sitting still for #class
Day ii @ the Academy ✔️ I’m already growing & testing my limits as an artist. Our morning class – completely on the floor – we did an hour of pelvis stretching. Ha, yeaaa it felt real nice. We were all ooo-ing & aaah-ing. I’ve done similar in yoga before, so it wasn’t a surprise, but a nice reminder of how much emotion is stored in tense places. When this stress is released from the body, we are freed to move more authentically & honor our instincts.| Yesterday, we partnered up & massaged the muscles between each other’s ribs- so that we can breathe more fully. That class had a lot of laughter – as it was amazingly ticklish & just the general nerves about touching strangers… *We were told not to hold anything in* About “holding it in” ~ I’ve always been an oddball creative type, who can barely sit still, who is often too playful & spirited for my own good, still learning my limits on all that. ((I was “officially diagnosed” ADHD at 19, even tho everyyyone had been telling me for years.)) I carried a lot of shame for so long about being “DiFfErEnT”.. Then I discovered theatre & found so much common ground with these individuals… Bursting into spontaneous dance is the norm?! YES. “Me too!” And the more I let it out, “It” being the real me, the happier I am & the more I’m actually okay with rejection, generally speaking. Many of these classes here are focused on experimental theatre. This means, bring whatever you are; and somewhere it fits. It’s a safe place to be silly, to be aggressive, to be SO serious, to be your own guinea pig & test a style or technique; to embarrass yourself. I mean, there really isn’t “embarrassment” when everyone in the room is doing what we do – with conviction. Today we played basketball with no ball, and it got pretty real! More importantly, this afternoon, I conquered a fear. I sang. A’Cappella. In front of the entire class when all other 16 were silent (we each had to). I insisted on going last. I had butterflies in my stomach. When professor Saso smiled at me like “Wow, where did that come from?” I felt something very reassuring. And when he added piano, I realized the fear left me & I was connected instead.
Ronesha Butler, University of Arkansas (Dance Intensive)