A student who was frustrated about getting different feedback from different teachers and presenters about their lack of movement or too much movement recently asked: How do you tell if you have the right amount of movement when acting out a song?
So here are my thoughts:
There is no right answer and there is no definitive answer.
Obviously right now as a student, and if you do workshops or masterclasses outside of school focused on singing performance, all the people in the world will have an opinion on what is "better". Ultimately, you have to take all the input and feedback and make an informed decision on what is right for you as a performer.
Let authenticity be your guide.
What is authentic and natural for you. As you build your identity as a performer what makes you feel like you expressed something the way you want it perceived and what is your audience feedback on how well you got your point across.
Movement should not be distracting but enhancing.
Movement should be authentic to the song and the story you are telling.
There are varying opinions on if movement should match the time period of the song, and my opinion is that singers should know how to make any song "time period" appropriate and how to modernize it so that you can make choices depending on the application of your performance.
If you were to sing an opera piece within an opera that had a director they could ask you to make different choices depending on if the concept of the opera is set in 1880 or 1950.
Movement should be a byproduct of thought and consideration.
So if you have thought out your acting choices and are moving with purpose it is different than unconscious twitching/ticks or self conducting to the time of the music.
I hope that this helps. It can be confusing during this time period when learning music because students are stuck between a world where everything is a FACT and everything is a choice. How to navigate between learning new things, receiving feedback, and applying that feedback AND how to beginning to make those choices authentic to you as a performer is tricky.
Pablo Picasso is attributed to this quote, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
Pablo Cassals wrote, "The art of interpretation is not to play what is written".
It's something you hear from adults al your life, and now that I am getting into my mid 30s, something I hear friends and colleagues say about having new aches and pains in their bodies:
"It's a byproduct of getting older."
From observation, it seems like most people feel incredible in their youth. They are agile, unbreakable, and pain free. Then, as they age, they get more aches and pains, their workout recovery times get longer, their joints get achy.
My body journey has been the exact opposite. Some people are born knowing how to use their body, I was not. I have no intact memories of childhood where I was not in pain. I had no balance, and constantly crashed into things (7 concussions before the age of 15), fell off of things, sprained ankles, dislocated joints. I was exhausted, never wanted to move, had such low blood pressure and temperature it amazed doctors. Caught every disease; I missed about 3 months of school in almost every grade. Everything was hard, my joints ached, my stomach ached, I threw up a lot. Thinking was hard, and I moved through life in a fog. I was obese by the time I was in 5th grade, weighing in at around 250 lbs.
For me, since about the age of 18, I have been on a body journey leading to me feel better. Every year of my life, I feel better than the year before. I have a clearer mind, less body aches, more injuries are rehabilitated. To me, getting older is a journey into feeling better. I don't believe that so many people have to feel so bad so early in their life! We start being more sedentary, drinking more, getting less sleep, being more anxious and stressed and we think what it does to our bodies is just "getting older".
It seems like what is really happening is that we are not caring for our minds and our bodies as well as we could be. This "getting older" is a little bit of an excuse. It takes our choices out of the equation and lets us throw our hands up and say "there's nothing I can do about it!"
Yes, there are legitimate biological things that are happening in the body that change over the course of a life time, but we can profoundly change our bodies with some time and attention. Learn to rework how we move and breathe, and undo to habits that we have unconsciously picked up along the way.
It takes time, and it takes attention. We often put our bodies last. We use them until they need attention so they break. It's a little like never changing the oil on your car until it runs out and breaks. Our bodies need our time and our attention, and our breath.
How you breathe affects your nervous system, it tells your brain whether you are safe or in danger. Your breath affects your athletic performance, and your musical performance. Breathing correctly lets you get the most out of many activities, including yoga practice, singing, talking, and massage. How you breathe calms your body down, and lets you release tension in your muscles, and helps you think more clearly.
It took me 30 years to learn how to breathe this well, and I am still improving. You can too!
In September I will be leading two classes centered around Breathing. These classes are for people who want to feel better in their bodies, and for singers and speakers who want to improve their voice/body connection. Classes will be offered via zoom and limited to 15 people each.
Sept 10- Oct 29
More information on signups to come.
You can also email me with any questions.
From November 2018
songs of grief and joy
Sunday, November 18th @ 2PM
Schroeder Hall, in the Green Music Center
1801 E Cotati Ave, Rohnert Park, CA 94928
"Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life's search for love and wisdom." ~Jalal al-Din RumiLife:
A crazy, beautiful, painful, exhilarating journey.
So many moments of joy and of sadness. The complexity of managing to stay in the present, yet honor the past, and plan for the future. Billions of people all over the world experiencing the same emotions at different time, enacting the same dozen or so stories that play them selves out over and over again.
It has been said that the more we invest in life, invest in being part of people's lives, and in caring about causes, the more fulfillment we get out of life. But, it is also true that caring, being invested comes at great risk. To really care, is to be vulnerable. If we put up too many protective barriers, we miss out on life, relationships, and true joy. If we are vulnerable, we really live, but it comes with risk. Risk that those people can leave, and those causes can fail.
And that is where we step into the process of grief.
The journey in grief and through grief is different for every person. Sure, there are commonalities, commons emotions, common expressions, but we all process in our own time.
The journey through grief is not a straight line, or a predictable time table. Emotions well up at inconvenient times, and places. they leak out as slow or as fast as you can process them. They paralyze you, and exhilarate you.
Ignoring it, bottling it up only closes you off to life.
Working through it leads to living more vibrantly than you have ever lived before.
On November 18th I want to explore with you.
In a world that seemingly has so much division, I want to explore this terrible and beautiful process that every person who has ever been vulnerable has been through. I am interested in exploring all the things that connect us to each other.
Lat year was an especially difficult time for our community.
There was so much loss and pain, but also so much beauty, love and generosity.
Through the anguish, beauty bloomed.
2017 seemed to be a year of breaking for many people, and 2018 a year of grieving and healing. I am hoping that 2019 will be a year of action, renewal, and healing.
A little over three decades on this earth, and many thousands of hours of therapy later, I'm beginning to realize that if you can do the inner work, and the outer work. If you can go through the pain without closing your heart, then you will be able to be more fully present for yourself and for others.
You will get through this.
You will find joy again.
Christa Durand is an arts educator, vocal technician, breathing coach, and musician.