Each action has its origins in the nerve channels that feed the motor muscles. The muscles operate on an ‘all or nothing’ basis (they either commit to move or do nothing). The performer can explore this decision threshold and so gain more effective use of muscular action. Once committed (via the muscular threshold) an action can still be contained in the body of the performer. It is up to the performer to decide how much of an action is committed to the spatial dimension outside the body. (E.g. try committing to a run but do not move.)
The relation of the three dimensional body to the features of any given space and the objects, architecture, other performers, spectators who occupy it. Composed of ‘in front of’ , ‘behind’, to the right of me’, ‘to the left of me’, ‘above my head’, ‘beneath where I am standing’. Linked to proprioception (qv) and direction (qv)
As results are often uncertain or difficult to predict in advance it is important to have a positive attitude to work. ‘Always say yes’ is a good rule, especially when working with others. It is also important to develop an attitude of independence, as opposed to reliance on others. (Ensemble work is based on independent contributions rather than inter-dependent work.) A positive attitude will also face up to (and recognise) obstacles rather than avoid them (or turn a blind eye). This will always allow for opportunities to be created. Finally, a performer should aim to feel pleasure in his/her work !
A sense of balance is involved in all actions. E.g. in knowing that you are standing up when you are standing up. It is usually an unconscious process ((imagine how peculiar it would be if you had to consciously work out what position you were in every time you moved). However, a performer has to bring as much of the learned response to balance into the conscious arena in order to work with it. (See perception.) Balance also means physical equilibrium, and this is a matter of muscular and skeletal alignment. All non-aligned (out of balance) work should be the result of conscious performer decision, hence the importance of correctly aligned posture as a starting point. Some directors (e.g. Eugenio Barba) place great emphasis on re-alignment or moving out of balance as a means of developing physical work.
A key element in performer work, linked to energy (qv) and to relaxation (qv). It is an involuntary process but is directly affected by emotional and physical dynamics. Consequently the performer can work on using breathing to explore (open up) heightened states of emotional and physical stress.
The exact point at which the upward direction of the body meets the downward. It is crucial to be able to focus on this point as ‘where you are’ at any given moment, since it is this centre which provides the information about horizontal and vertical movement, stillness and movement and much more.
The ability to work with others, to let another take the initiative, to ‘go with’ rather than ‘resist’, to work in support rather than in opposition.
1) The ‘all or nothing’ response. Do it, or don’t do it, and once on a path of action stay with it. Don’t look back, don’t be tentative. As one performer put it, it’s about resisting the urge to ‘go over the comfort cliff’!
Linked to focus but going far beyond. One of the key performer functions/skills. Also a vital activity in other physical disciplines (sport, martial art, yoga etc.) Concentration means focusing exclusively on the given moment (i.e. not on what has happened in the past, or might happen some time in the future). It cannot be undertaken in a vacuum, and depends crucially on knowing what you are doing (see focus). Developing concentration takes time and in order not to produce tension must be combined with relaxation techniques.
For a performer contact is a constant. Knowing precisely what your contact is at any given moment is a key skill. E.g. standing involves contact between the soles of the feet and the floor surface (whatever that is). All physical movement (rolling, falling, running etc.) is in effect an exploration of the potential surfaces at your disposal. The resistance of a surface depends on its material (wood, water, fabric etc.) and is constant. Contact with other performers does not involve constant resistance quality, on the contrary it is immensely variable, unpredictable and depends on the mutual decisions of the performers involved. E.g. one performer can hold on to (resist) another performer who is pushing forward (resist). The development of this contact will depend on the inter-action between each performer’s decision to resist or not resist. Non-contact (the potential for contact) is as important as contact itself (but different). Body contact (and its potential) is also affected by individual sensitivity (erotic areas, tender, cold, hot etc.) and by individual perception (my feet are too big, I like my/your legs, I am heavy , etc.).
The point in exploration that follows the starting point and that precedes resolution. Being able to ‘develop’ work is a key skill, resisting simple ‘builds’ or short fuse resolutions in order to explore and hold more complex patterns and depths of work.
Each performer operates in a dimensional environment, not a vacuum. This means that the performer is always in a particular direction at any precise moment. Direction of the body in space (q.v.) is perceived via the pelvic centre (the hips). It is reinforced (or resisted) by the shoulders and the head (led by the eyes). The body must always attempt to know the directional arrangement of these three elements in any given moment. Direction is three dimensional (i.e. horizontal and vertical).
Closely linked to impulse (q.v.). It is a basic motivating mechanism that is not determined intellectually. Also linked to desire and pleasure. Contact with others, movement itself, these are examples of drives. In physical work the notion of drive can often replace that of motivation.
The application of energy potential in any given moment.
Invisible, yet essential ! Cannot be diminished but it can be displaced. To say ‘use more energy’ is misleading. Rather it should be ‘ focus/channel your energy in a particular way’. Energy needs to flow round the whole body, wihich is why removing tension is important.
Related to attitude, exploration is the process of discovery and working of material (whatever that may be). It is a vital process, and is also related to concentration. Exploration requires a recognition from the performer that the next step is not known, while at the same time looking for that next step. If you anticipate your future action (for the sake of security or whatever reason), or hold on to past action then exploration stops.
Applies to the muscular-skeletal framework of the body, but also leads on from this to imply an overall ‘flexibility of approach’ to work (see relaxation). All moving parts of the body need exercising to develop strength and suppleness. The spine and the pelvis / hips are the central skeletal joints. Moving muscles / joints are under voluntary control (unlike an involuntary muscle like the heart). This involves understanding the principles of relaxation and resistance, since all movement is subject to tension (producing inflexibility).
Normally only associated with eye movement, but actually has much wider applications. Focus can mean concentration / awareness on any particular point, and need not involve eye focus (see direction). E.g. to focus on your hand, your thumb, the tip of the thumb can be done without looking (with the eyes) at the thumb. Focus could also be described as knowing what it is you are concentrating on at any given moment. Closely linked to perception and sensitivity.
The word used to describe the desire to undertake an action. A performer can resist an impulse or allow the impulse to become an action in the space. You cannot negate an impulse, however, only work with it.
The ability to start a new line of action. It is the opposite of ‘holding on’ (equally important) and can imply a break with what has gone before. It is an essential part of the performer’s practice, linked to originality (not always following), taking responsibility, and being incisive, unpredictable, spontaneous.
Our normal sense of pace is related to pulse-rate / heart beat, and is also dependent on perspective and position. A performer needs to work at understanding pace and to extend their ability to work individually at very slow speeds as well as at very fast speeds.
How we organise the mass of sense data (see sensitivity) that we are receiving at any given moment. It is part of the performer’s work to get inside the perception process in order to see things differently, or see things as if for the first time. Areas such as spatial perception (perspective), sense of time, even sense of self come into this process.
Allied to resistance (q.v.) release is ‘letting go’ of muscular tension in the form of resistance in order to allow an impulse (q.v.) to engage with the space. It is closely allied to relaxation (q.v.) but is specifically related to muscular tension. It can be focussed on particular muscle groups, and is activated via breathing and muscle control. It also has an impact on the whole performer experience.
The deliberate releasing of tension / resistance in the muscles of the body. Performer functions such as concentration can only work via relaxation. Work on relaxation develops openness of response, speed and sensitivity.
The ability a performer has to apply an equal and opposing effort in response to a force acting on him/her. Unless lying in a completely relaxed state on the floor surface the performer is always engaging resistance at some point (e.g. standing up). Deciding where and how much resistance to engage at any given moment is a key performer activity.
The end of an action sequence. It has no further development potential (at that moment). Resolution will always potentially be followed by a new starting point (q.v.). Knowing where you are in the starting point – development – resolution cycle is a key component in the performer’s exploration of material. E.g. by refusing both resolution and a new starting point a performer will be able to explore the development of a given moment.
Follows a stimulus (q.v.). There is no fixed way of responding to any given stimulus, each individual performer will be different, but a response will always occur.
Could also be called pulse, wave, beat. Our sense of rhythmic pulse is closely connected to our heart beat, our breathing, the rhythms of night / day, winter /summer, in short all cyclical rhythms in nature (including life and death). As well as informing movement , emotion /feeling is also subject to cyclical rhythm (sometimes very short).
One of the key activities of animate beings. For the performer it is a process that needs development. Another term might be ‘awareness’, although sensitivity covers all aspects of sense awareness (touch, smell, taste, sight, hearing). A performer needs to understand their individual role in this process – sensation isn’t something that just happens to you. You are also able to create the conditions for sensations to occur (go looking for sensation). E.g. pick up a flower to smell, reach out a hand to touch. It also means becoming more aware of basic sensations (e.g. dampness on skin, coldness, heat etc.). Is it possible to intervene in these processes too ? (E.g. make ‘cold’ feet feel ‘warm’.)
Should be viewed as a material to be used in performance. Not an empty or passive thing to be filled up, but an active dynamic material. Space is explored via physical relationship with spatial boundaries that are fixed (walls, floors, natural boundaries etc) and with boundaries that are not fixed, crucially other performers.
A performer must always know the starting point for any sequence of work. Not to be confused with purpose, starting point marks the threshold between performing and not performing, when the performer starts to work. It is also the beginning of an action that follows the resolution of a previous action. Deciding between development, resolution and a new starting point is one way or progressing through an action sequence.
From the moment of beginning work, everything is a potential stimulus for the individual performer. To avoid over-load a performer undertakes the crucial task of selection from stimuli available in order to develop. As well as sound, the space, etc. different stimuli can be deliberately introduced. Music, words can also be used in this way.
Since a performer cannot count the seconds (like a clock) throughout a period of work, clock time is not a functional element in performer practice (except when a performer wants the work to stop !). Time becomes variable, and is related to perception (time moving ‘slowly’ or ‘quickly’). All you can be certain of is that time does move forward during performance work, i.e. you are older at the end than you were at the beginning.
Produced by atmospheric pressure downwards (this is why standing up involves resistance). Using your individual weight in movement, relaxation and other work is an important performer process.