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Hi

This is my first time here so I don’t know if i posted it to the right place. 

I have a solo to the song called blackbird by Sarah McLachlan and it is a very simple but nice dance that I have perfected it technically and want to add an emotional element to the dance.  I can’t find a story or meaning  and I am struggling to put in motion and at the moment I am just doing a slight smile. Do you give any suggestions for Story I can base it to.

Thankyou so much :)

 

link to song:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=g3VrggQW7tk

Edited by Ian Macmillan
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3 hours ago, Aixsta said:

I can’t find a story or meaning 

Hi Aixsta, and welcome !

 

Would it help to think more about the lyrics?

 

"Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free.

Blackbird fly blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night"


Perhaps there are ideas there about about pain, restriction, darkness and blindness, being transformed through music and dance into joy, flight, freedom, light and sight?

 

Edited by Richard LH
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I don’t know how old you are, Aixsta, but just thinking in terms of sad and happy ( smile or no smile) is fairly bland  and won’t necessarily bring maturity to the piece. Sadness and happiness are made up of many emotions, so by researching what these actually are and what they mean to you personally, and through the words and music, will bring a  greater depth and emotion.

Goid Luck.

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Blackbird was written by Paul McCartney as a paean to the US Civil Rights movement:

 

"So, I was doing explanations, and I actually just remembered why I'd written "Blackbird", you know, that I'd been, I was in Scotland playing on my guitar, and I remembered this whole idea of "you were only waiting for this moment to arise" was about, you know, the black people's struggle in the southern states, and I was using the symbolism of a blackbird. It's not really about a blackbird whose wings are broken, you know, it's a bit more symbolic."    

 

So perhaps you could think about it in those terms as well.  As an addendum, Stella McCartney said that this is her favourite of all her dad's songs.  

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4 hours ago, Aixsta said:

Thank you Richard LH, 

so do you think with music that is on the happy side, it’s appropriate to portray a sad, dark face that slowly turns happy? 

Perhaps, although the transformation might work better if it is sudden...and as valentina says, you may have to think about something a bit more complex. However as I know next to nothing about choreographic technique, or the dance you are working on, I am not sure I can help further!  Hope it goes well though.

 

34 minutes ago, Sim said:

Stella McCartney said that this her favourite of all her dad's songs.

It is also an old  favourite of mine to try and pick out on the guitar.

Edited by Richard LH
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5 hours ago, Sim said:

I am not sure that one can consciously 'add emotion'.  I think that, if you are feeling it, it will come out from somewhere inside you and be reflected in your body, your movement and your face.  

 

That sounds very romantic, but I’m not sure it’s got much going for it in practice. 

 

I’d attempt to add helpful acting advice here, but it’s one of the things on my list to start sorting out in 2019: I think my teacher’s recommendation would be to make up a simple story that fits the music and act out the emotions from that.

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42 minutes ago, Colman said:

 

That sounds very romantic, but I’m not sure it’s got much going for it in practice. 

 

 

Oh silly me.  I didn’t realise that Maria Callas was faking it all that time.  Or Judy Garland.  Or Alina and Johan in tears at the end of Onegin.  They were obviously all just acting, and feeling nothing.  How foolish of me to think that they actually felt emotion emanating from within themselves.  

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If I feel an emotion it’s not because I have had to act to portray it or evoke it.  People know what I am feeling.  You can’t learn emotion.  It comes from within.  No-one can act the deeply emotional performances of those I mentioned above.   That’s what sets them apart.  You can tell when someone is acting and when someone is feeling. 

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This is a very interesting topic.

 

I've never had a dance or acting lesson in my life but these are my observations from watching theatre for over 40 years and ballet for over 30.

 

Most dancers/actors seem to feel emotion but some have to learn how to express it:

 

I remember a performance of BRB's Romeo and Juliet where the lady dancing Juliet very obviously felt deep emotions - I watched her sobbing through the curtain calls and she was obviously still in character - but they did not come across the footlights and, to me, the performance looked rather sterile.

 

I remember Chi Cao saying in an interview that he felt he only learned to act properly (my words) when he starred in Mao's Last Dancer.  Having watched his dancing career for the previous 13 years (at the time) I think he was doing himself a disservice because I had seen him grow in stature as an artist as his stagecraft grew over the years.  Yes, he was even better after the film.

 

Some dancers (eg Alex Campbell of RB) come as a complete package straight from school, others have to hone their stagecraft and some do that quicker than others.

 

With dance emotions are displayed in the gestures you use as you move your body.  I can find abstract works deeply moving because of the way the dancers move and express their emotions through dance even though their faces may be neutral.

 

From the musings of a non-dancing, non-acting observer I would suggest concentrate on getting the music into your soul and let your body show your emotions.  Your facial emotions may follow then follow your body's emotions and show your feelings.

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I think this is a really interesting and thought-provoking discussion. I'm just kind of musing here rather than coming up with answers. I think a response should ideally be natural and sincere, but that isn't always going to happen of itself and that's where acting comes in. I'm thinking now about the difference between "acting" - which you might do in a more dramatic or narrative piece - and an expression which might be purely abstract and based upon the feelings that the music and/or movements provoke in yourself (which would be personal and quite possible uniquely individual). Personally I never look to find a "story" where there isn't already one but rather try to identify the mood, style and character of the music or choreography. When dancing a piece that has been choregraphed by someone else for a performance, what you need to express must be based on the choreographer's intentions although of course you can develop and make it your own. But where you are creating the dance yourself or when nobody has defined how it should be then the expression is entirely personal - listen to the music and consider any feelings that arise (I don't think they need to be huge deep emotions or even clearly defined). I might listen very carefully to the music noticing dynamics as well as melody (and if there are lyrics, read them and think about them) and note down some key words that come into my head, not just emotions like "joyful" "serene" but descriptive words like "witty", "cheeky", "smooth",  "sparkly" or "spikey" because quality of movement is part of expressiveness and of the way you communicate emotion (ie not only through facial expression). Of course all your emotional expression is undone if what comes over is your genuine emotions of "intent concentration" "anxiety" or "panic".  I also think that if you can't come up with any genuine personal response then it's really difficult to actually enjoy that piece and you end up always rather disliking that dance!

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Hi Aixsta just a couple of questions!

Did you choreograph the dance or was it created by your teacher etc....as you say you already have the solo....did you choose the music or did somebody else?

If you did choose the music then you must have had a reason as to why you were drawn to it in the first place. What were your feelings then? It's always much harder to dance to a piece where you can't find some sort of connection with the music.

 

Also are you using all of it or just part of the song to fit in with a time limit on the solo?

You may not have much time to create much development in the dance so I guess go with your overall feeling about the music .....eg if you put the music on and were just improvising in your lounge at home to it ....what movements tend to come out ....and at the end of the song how do you feel?

It is sometimes very hard to communicate how you feel and what you really want to "say" to an audience when dancing .....so don't worry too much especially  if you have the technical side sorted out!! It's the fall back!! At least the dance will look good if the technique is there!! It does take quite a bit of practice ( not artifice) and some dancers seem to have more of a natural talent for this but you do see dancers develop this ability to communicate their felt emotions to an audience over a number of years. You may know a dancer in the Royal Ballet called Akane Takada .....I think she is one of these dancers who has really come on leaps and bounds in 2018 in this respect whereas Francesca Hayward seems to have this talent more naturally.....although of course dancers do develop at different rates anyway.

I believe even Margot Fonteyn was not so remarkable in her very early years!! 

Well Aixsta no pressure then!! 

Have you got some friends who you can practice your performance on? There's nothing like lots of performing to find what you really want in a piece!

Good luck when do you have to perform it?

 

 

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Just an aside to some earlier comments here.

As far as I know ballet dancers in training are not given that much time to learn acting skills.....so to some extent left to their own devices with this aspect.

I don't know whether this is a good or bad thing but in the end I'm sure most acting skills required  whether for dancers or actors in general are really learned "on the job" anyway....a bit like teachers really!! 

Many very successful actors never went to Drama School.

So I'm sure many dancers whose dramatic ability is particularly strong have either acquired this over many years of performing or do have some innate ability for it. 

There are many people for example who say Fonteyn never really developed her more dramatic side until she danced with Nureyev when already in her 40's!! I did see her before this ...but unfortunately not in a dramatic ballet... so cannot say for sure if this is true but she was certainly a wonderful actress from her 40's to 60's!! 

Sorry Aixsta not entirely relevant to what you asked originally but Thankyou for starting this interesting thread.

 

 

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is this a lyrical or contemporary  piece? 

have to understand lyrics first before you can do choreo or put in emotions i feel 

i watch my daughter dance lyrical  etc and lots of other 10-11 year olds  in competition  and when you see them 'hit'  the right emotion in their face/body/hands/speed of movement   its just a joy , sometimes they overact at this age and some have no idea as suspect they  dont understand the song , some kids get emotional connection  straight away but others have to 'learn' emotion  .... an interesting topic and as a mum i find this interesting to look for in the kids 

 age/experience and nerves can all effect 'emotion' on the day aswell

watch yourself in the mirror - video  yourself - ask someone non dance to listen to the track and tell u how they feel- listen to the track and verbalise how it makes you feel to someone  or just dance freely to it and see how you move  around ..... ask your teacher why she picked this song and what the story is 

ps i know nothing about choreo and solo putting together but love watching the process with my daughter as so very clever  BUT i note  there is always a narrative with the solo  given from the teacher i find to help the kids get into it x

 

Edited by leotardmum
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Yes I only found out last March when our ballet group took part in a Dance Competition for the the first time that lyrical jazz which most groups performing there seemed to be in to ( and very much younger than us!) meant performing to songs and expressing the lyrics ..........and not the other meaning of lyrical which means soft and flowing!! Up till then I had thought lyrical jazz was a more balletic form of jazz/ contemporary dance etc.

 

Going back to Aixsta ......has your teacher asked you to try to put more emotion into this piece? I do know this song but must listen to it again now! 

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Okay Aixsta have finally re listened to this piece and what strikes me is its delicacy. I think Richard LH gave some good advice in his post. But the overall feel is of joy over darkness....for me.

I feel it needs to be kept light ....not a big smiley piece....but a lightness of expression in the freedom of movement.....this can just come from the eyes ....not too sad!  

Have a read through some of the comments on this piece on YouTube. One person said when she was down this song always lifted her spirits .....another said she found comfort in the piece after her mother had died ......perhaps you can find something of these feelings in the piece.

Its very difficult to really give advice without actually seeing the choreography already set. 

But as I said if you put the music on and improvise to it I'm sure you will pick up something of the spirit of the piece to carry over into your set choreography. Your teacher may be able to help you. But am so glad you are trying to find in yourself a bit more inner expression to bring to the dance. 

 

 

 

 

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Have you try using something from your own life to summon feelings for your performance? Maybe think about a time where you overcame an obstacle or burden. You can also think about a place you go to feel calm in order to convey that look, an incident that made you angry for passion in your movement, and fun times that you had to show joy.

 

Good luck with your solo.

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Thankyou again for all the replies; they have been very helpful.

i read the comments for the songs and I understand the song A bit better now. 

I think As the story behind it, I will try to base it on - taking the bad thoughts, memory’s, experiences and learn from them in the end resulting in success and joy 

just an idea ...

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Some advice from an ex professional actor:

 

Choose a character you want to play. Research that character. Give them as much life outside the stage, before they arrive (preceding event).

 

Define where they are - what is your set? What is your location?

 

Define what your character wants - this is the motivation of the character. Make the motivation as dynamic as possible. The character may want different things from other characters based on relationships and how they can help, but their core needs remain the same. Things to ask yourself:

  • How much does the character want it?
  • What is the best thing that will happen if they get what they want?
  • What is the worst thing that will happen if they don't get it?
  • How urgently do they need it?
  • Does anything happen to change what they want?
  • Does anything happen to make them think they may never get it?
  • Do they get what they want?

Approach - your character may choose different WAYS of getting what they want when they discover that one approach does not work. These are the choices you make as a performer

 

Next thing - strength of obstacle... When you define the strength of your characters needs and pit them against the strength of your obstacles, natural emotion comes out of these.

 

If you can;t do the above - fake it.  And good luck :-)

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The only thing is RichieN is that sometimes these solos are very often 3 mins at most!! So probably only time to create one overall mood on the whole! 

When we took part in the competition in London last March ( above post) it was really annoying as we had only 4 mins to create our group piece so had to keep culling as it were.....bits we liked too!!

In the end we decided we would do a longer piece .....the music was 8 mins in fact....at our winter show to do the music justice etc and just work to the rules for the competition ( though we did notice on the day some competitors didn't in the end though whether they were penalised for this am not sure!!) 

Our choreographer was extremely clever at adapting the piece for the competition something I'm not personally very good at I must say!! 

 

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Thanks for that. You're right about the time constraints of festival dancing. It can be a challenge, I guess. I'm just advising on how to get emotion into a performance, and if you want genuine, repeatable emotion, that is how actors do it.

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