Below, Voice professor Dory Sibley describes her approach to the course and provides an overview of the final, and Physical Theatre student Laura Mullaney shares a little bit about her experience of the working demonstration:
Dory: This vocal approach is a holistic technique formed over years of work in Physical Theatre, classical voice, Alexander and Roy Hart Techniques. The students combine physical body work with inner body awareness exercises to form a new, individualized understanding of vocal technique. This work primarily focuses on the “sound” rather than the “definition,” breaking down the boundaries between what the words mean and how they resonate in our bodies. Through work on deep inner connection and breath, the students begin to find each other and reconnect as kinetic beings, open to act on any impulse, and returning to a more instinctual state. This semester, the students created pieces based on fairy tales that are featured in Neil Gaiman’s “Instructions.” They had only 8 hours of class time and a few hours of studio time to create the final piece in which they explored the idea of journey, ambience and the aesthetic of their own story. The final project was completely created by the ensemble using only deconstructed text from “Instructions” or their own word orchestras. I hope that the students will take with them the innate ability to trust their own voice and the confidence to follow their intuition. More importantly, they all began to understand what they need as individual performers in an ensemble setting. Now they can take that into their own work and are more readily prepared to put themselves in the situation they know serves them best as artists. I was very impressed with the unique ways in which they adopted the tools to utilize in their final piece. Their use of space was beautiful and the story was deeply engaging. I was also particularly impressed by this cohort’s ability to work as an ensemble. They had a genuine connection to each other that awakened strong images and vocal possibilities.
Laura: I really enjoyed getting to work with others and create something that was entirely our own. It was so exciting to watch something come to life from simple phrases that we created. I think that one of the phases that was most rewarding for me was when we first started to get feedback on our small ensemble proposals from our peers. Someone suggested to my group that we reminded them of the witches from Macbeth, and we were able to take this idea and channel our energy into these characters. It really made me realize how important it is to have the creative support from your ensemble. As an ensemble member for other group’s pieces, I enjoyed being a part of their creative process and watching their vision come to life. I’ll always remember what it felt like to work with such a creative, passionate, and supportive ensemble here, for this final in particular. I definitely plan to carry forward with me this creative energy that my peers constantly provided me with. It was such a rewarding experience that I feel so lucky to have been a part of.
Soon after the Voice final, the dancers performed their Tarantella piece directed by Gianni Bruschi. We asked Gianni to speak a bit about the Tarantella final, and Dance student Olivia Wood to share some thoughts on her experience:
Gianni: With my colleagues, I teach starting with practical and theoretical study of the Italian Tarantella, linked to cultural phenomena such as Tarantismo and Greek mythology, and leading to a collective creation, that is born from the union of the personal expression of each participant. In addition to intense physical work, rhythmic and vocal, this typical Italian dance allows practitioners an opening and knowledge not only to the Italian culture of the past (in relation to the next cultures of the Mediterranean basin), but also to expand their personal imagery, integrating to multiple physical functions such as moving the feelings, emotions, impulses and desires, intuition, thought and imagination. By sharing in the classroom stories and ancient myths, each student has the opportunity to get close to the archetypes from which human beings for centuries have developed thought and knowledge.
Olivia: The process was unbelievably fantastic! I loved the movement because of its sheer athleticism and power. As an artist, I learned that I enjoy explosive movements that let me occupy my widest kinesphere and that I enjoy learning about different cultures and letting aspects of those cultures become a part of me too. I also enjoyed the process of creating a dance with an ensemble because I’m a people person and “all for one and one for all!”
I will take with me the memory of this experience, which I can only describe in this way: the visceral rush of performing and the safety I felt onstage dancing with individuals who I view not only as fellow performers but as my friends.
The Physical Theatre students performed their Movement final in different places on the Villa Godiola campus. Small groups showed exercises that had fed their entire movement aesthetic and Nhandan Chirco mentored the students’ individual pieces. Nhandan spoke to us about working demonstration and the structure of the course as a whole, and student Lydia Utter shared her personal process during the final.
Nhandan: The Movement working demonstration closing the semester aims to provide students the experience of testing themselves and the working elements in relation to the public and to share with spectators, faculty and peers the tools and the results of the working process. As the course itself, the demonstration it is divided into Body Work – with focus on physical training – and Creative Work – focused on devised individual performing fragments. The Body Work section in the demonstration – based on the Training and the Motion by the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards – consists of an intensive physical training specifically designed for movement based theatre practitioners, which helps to form both a more spontaneous and a more articulated body and to develop readiness and continuity of attention simultaneously directed toward one’s own body and inner process and outside to the space and partners. In addition to that the training approaches some of the key issues of acting technique. Creative Work aims to provide students with some basic methodologies for improvising and structuring devised performance materials. As a starting point different associative processes are proposed to the students as an impulse for each one to explore and to discover which are to him or her the most relevant contents in the actual phase. In a second moment each student is invited to elaborate on the subject individual devised fragments in which each student can express his or her own artistic specificity, following personal interests concerning performance style and languages. The work develops by mentoring and supporting students both to define their focus and core theme and to articulate it within the language and approach that they choose, resulting in individual fragments quite personal and specifically tailored by each student, staged in different locations of Villa Godiola by a site-specific approach. Spectators are led from a performance location to the next one in a journey through the Villa and the variety of students creations.
Lydia: My process with the movement final was all about finding my own focus. Since I was doing the slow motion exercise, I had to be able to focus on one single spot for several minutes at a time. With ADD like mine, this was nearly impossible. But, I found that if I focused on my body, I could overcome my mind’s earnest desire to jump around like a kid after trick-or-treating. Honestly, I didn’t know I could do that. It takes effort for me to just listen to a conversation for more than a minute, so five minutes staring at one single spot was like torture. Finding this center was a really incredible thing, something I know I will use for a long time to come. It has helped me even outside of movement, in finding quiet and calm in situations that would usually overstimulate me and stress me out. Bang Zoom. Whappappapapapapow. That’s what the fox says.
Once Movement was finished, the Physical Theatre students turned their attention to their Commedia dell’Arte final directed by Michela Mocchiutti. Stephanie Occhipinti shared some thoughts about the process:
Michela: The main purpose of the Commedia dell’Arte course is to give students a general overview of the fundamentals of traditional Commedia. I try, in the time available, through the language and technique of the Commedia dell’Arte to give students the opportunity to learn about the origins of theatre, some fixed types, and through them, to stage their own characters, valuing their personality and expanding the possibilities of relationship, communication and creative invention. The students participate in directed theatrical improvisation, creating situations and characters related to these fixed types.
The ensemble created material using improvisational techniques inside the Canovacci that I wrote for them as well as songs, music and sounds that accompanied the various scenes.
Stephanie: Commedia was a class unlike any other I’ve ever taken. The process was equally as unique. As a performer, I’ve always shied away from improvisation. This course, however, encouraged me to take creative risks, think on my feet, and trust my creative impulses. It was especially interesting to work on comedy in Italy. Americans have a very different understanding of comedy; we laugh at different things, have different senses of humor, and we have a much more progressive and politically sensitive culture. It was a great challenge to make a shift from witty, linguistic based humor to a more physically based one. It definitely felt uncomfortable to be a part of pieces that degraded women or the lower class, but eventually I was able to see the potential for subversion within the physical comedy. I will say, though it was challenging and fruitful as an exploration, I realized what I value in Commedia is not the traditional roots, but rather where it can take me today. I would’ve loved to explore a more modern branch of commedia in class, but now that I have the traditional foundation I can continue that exploration on my own, somewhere down the road. For our final performance, we created pieces based on characters we were working with for the semester. It was difficult to do that with a 22 person ensemble, but we found a way. We were changing scenes up until the last hours before the final; the epitome of improvisation. In the height of the pre-final stress, I learned how to remain positive, focused on the work, and that my role in an ensemble is to be responsible for my piece of the puzzle in the most comprehensive way possible. If everyone does that, the piece as a whole will be taken care of. I am proud of the way the final turned out. In the end, we each championed our own stories and our own characters. There are lessons to be learned from the stressful times, and maintaining a positive and professional working environment is always a feat. We did that as an ensemble, and I will always take that with me.
The Dance students ended the entire semester with their Contemporary Dance Performance piece directed by Giorgio Rossi and choreographed by the students and a part by Rita Petrone. Continue reading to hear from Giorgio, and from Dance student Lexi Solazzo who shared some highlights from her experience:
Giorgio: For 10 years I have been working with the dance program and collaborating with students to make a final demonstration event. The goal of the final is to give students a chance to create short choreographies. The demonstration focuses on three dimensions: the first, where you can develop starting from an initial idea of the student, answering questions like, how do you dance? What would I like to dance? What is a dance that belongs to me? Etc. The choreographies change often in the first period, because as soon as you are confronted with practice you will begin to feel the desires and you get closer to your personal expression. Following their bodies, students combine fluid and emotional qualities starting from listening in pairs from a sequence that I propose, relating time and space together. The third is a quintet or quartet using rhythm, lightness and irony. It start from my rhythmic phrases on a specific music appropriate to the task. Everything is then developed by the group. This year I am very pleased to have worked with these students.
Lexi: Creating our final performance was a very telling experience for me. It allowed me to discover so many things about who I am as an artist and as an individual. In the begin of our process I felt like I was stuck. I was not sure who or what my movement was. Who Lexi was. However as time went on I felt that I finally figured out who I was as an artist. Although, at this point in time I feel as though I know myself just a little bit more. I have discovered the kind of movement that it most natural for me and kind of mindset I must have when I am creating movement.
In addition to these discoveries this process has showed me that when working I need time. Time is crucial. When I take time to create, I am able to truly connect to my work. Seeing that we were given the entire semester to create our works I felt as though both my piece and the group work embodied our transformation throughout the semester perfectly. This process has also shown me how inspiring it is to work with an ensemble. While learning the movement for Rita’s piece and our quintets I was able to learn so much from watching my peers and moving as an ensemble. The energy when we all moved together was incredible and it gave the movement life. In saying this the one thing I will take away from this experience is the feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment. At the end of our final group piece I can honestly say that the feeling we all felt as we slowly looked back at our audience and classmates on stage was incredible and unforgettable.