Risk, Laban, and Purposeful Movement

Dab. Flick. Slash. When I decided to walk away from acting, who knew my sophomore Laban Movement Analysis project would come back to haunt enlighten me. I honestly agreed to this project before even reading the script because I knew what a great team I would have the pleasure of working with if I agreed. It’s been an enlightening adventure from day one. Before I even considered acting, I danced, so it’s been a real joy to have such a physical and collaborative rehearsal process. This play really pushes me to new places I have had yet to explore. 

As a society, we have shifted our daily lives in such a way that we’ve been disconnected from movement and how our bodies can inform our current state or vice versa. With long hours commuting on trains or in cars heading to longer days at sedentary jobs, we are no longer giving ourselves the freedom to explore and enjoy our physical self as more than just weight loss and physical health machines. This project has forced me to reconnect with my physical self and remind myself that my body can be just as strong and influential in life as my mind. 

What I missed in the Laban project as a college sophomore was the way movement truly transforms your experience of the world and the way the world experiences you. There was a day in rehearsal when Alli went through the different qualities of movement that can be explored and how they interact with each other to create stylistic movement according to Rudolf Laban. As a petite woman from the Midwest, who was raised surrounded by strong women, I carry myself through the world in an entirely different manner than the little boy of Project: Project’s Shiver. I learned on this day in rehearsal, however, that certain movement qualities have vastly different effects on people depending on their life experience up to this point. My question was why? How can such clearly set guidelines for movement – direct, sudden, and heavy – have such unique meaning to each person when put into practice? That, I think, is an element of what is being explored in the big picture of this production. Without giving too much away, in Shiver, the boy doesn’t feel fear or anxiety, and Charlotte, perhaps feels too much. But, when giving words to the movement qualities of these characters, are they so different? Can having too much of something be the same as not knowing that thing at all? 

Movement workshop in August 2014

Movement workshop in August 2014

We’ve taken risks in this rehearsal process as we explore what it means to walk through life with fear and anxiety. It’s been thrilling to play with all of the shadow scenes as we discover what our bodies are truly capable of creating. It’s great to finally have my Jasmine on a flying carpet moment. There have been some great questions and puzzles to solve in this process, and I have found great joy in answering them with our bodies and their expansive capabilities. 

So, the next time you have to rush to a meeting, don’t chastise yourself for running from the train station to beat the clock, stop and reset your movement meter before entering the room. It’s incredible the way our moods and entire days shift when we take a moment to realign our physical self by preparing to move through the world in a purposeful way. 

Nina’s Top Ten Reasons To Make Theatre As An Ensemble

1. When you doubt yourself, your collaborators will encourage you.

2. When you feel useless, there will be some way to be useful.

3. When you’re exhausted, they will revive you by dumping metaphorical fish water over your head.

4. You will never run out of ideas.

5. There will be snacks.  All the snacks. 

6. You will get to use the blackboard and the whiteboard and the bulletin board and all the sticky notes.

7. You will get to use your secondary skill sets, and the best ideas will come from non-whatevers.  Like the non-writers will tell all the best stories, and the non-actors will be glorious when you read new pages, and the non-designers will invent incredible visual moments, and they won’t even know how amazing they have been because it will just be a natural, organic discovery that comes from observation, love, and magic.

8. The laughing will be a thing.  All the laughing until your face hurts and your tummy hurts and you can’t stop and you won't stop. Can't you see it's we who own the night?

9. You will not be able to remember what parts of the play you made.  A lot of the parts will seem to have dropped in your laps from out of the sky from a wily but benevolent muse.  It will feel so much bigger than you and shouldn’t all theatre be like that?

10. You will learn everything.  You will become a better writer, a better human, and a better collaborator.  You will discover what you’re good at in a deeper way than ever before and you will fall deeply in love with all the people who went on this winding journey with you and you will feel the love coming back to you and you will become more confident and you will see that in the people you love and you will feel a deep sense of pride that you persevered through the times when you weren’t sure where you were all going or if you were ever going to get there.  And you will be humbled by the joy of rehearsals and dazzled by all the momentum of production and grateful for the daring, sweat and energy of all the actors and designers and stage managers and you won’t believe you actually made this beautiful, scary, hilarious, amazing play.

And one more for good luck:

11.  It’s fun. It’s just the funnest.