Jump to content

Acting outside of your comfort zone...


DavidW
 Share

Recommended Posts

Since joining a local Russian Youth Ballet Company I've been working on roles that have required not only a higher degree of dancing skill than I've needed before, but also a degree of acting.

 

Previously all the performances I've done have been isolated variations or pieces that haven't required much acting. The most acting I've done is probably Franz in the Wheat Pas de Deux from Coppélia. In the YBC the guys have so far learnt the Rothbart part from Swan Lake Act II (Kirov version) whilst the girls were learning to corps swans and cygnets. This has involved acting rather malevolent and evil, as well as owl-esque, which has been fun but also tricky at times to keep this façade up during the trickier parts of the variations.

 

Then this last rehearsal we started learning Basilio's Variation from Don Quixote. We worked through the steps and then did a couple of run-throughs. Our teacher then told us to really 'act' the piece. Now as far as I know Basilio is very confident and a little cocksure - not words I would usually describe myself!

 

I'm finding it a bit tricky to act so unlike myself (I just feel a bit stupid to be honest!) whilst also doing the variations and was wondering if anyone had tips for dealing with the acting side of dancing?

 

Thanks!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not specifically dance related David, but I have always been a shy person, but despite this I did a lot of drama when i was at school/university. People were always surprised that I, who wouldn't say boo to a goose, could get up on stage, but the secret for me was to realise that nobody was watching me, they were watching my character. I think what makes us nervous in these situations is thinking what others are thinking about us IYKWIM? If you can get it into your head that people aren't thinking about you at all, they are thinking about Basilio (or whoever) you may find that you can actually get into that character a lot more easily.

Probably the people on here who know me in real life will be laughing and saying that I'm not shy - but I am really, I've just learned to deal with it, and doing drama was part of that. It's really great fun to "be" someone very much unlike yourself actually. just let yourself go and have fun.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks so much for the advice Pups_mum! That's a really great way of looking at it. To be honest, I'm not really sure what Basilio's character is (unlike Rothbart) which might be one of the reasons I'm finding it so hard. I might research a little into the Don Q story and then try and work on shifting my mindset to remember that people are looking at Basilio, not me...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I used to work with a lad who was very keen on amdram and was the most fantastic pantomime dame ever. (I did also see him play serious roles). He had terrible problems passing a promotion board and talking to him I asked him why he seemed to have no problems on stage but couldn't cope with a 30 minute interview. His answer was that when he was on stage he was the character not himself.

 

I don't know if this will help Dave.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I felt that way about dancing, too - the music became me and I (hopefully) became the music. I was covered by the music. I was never the ordinary me who walks down the street or cooks up the family dinner. If you are a specific character you have to disappear inside that other persona.

 

 

Find Basiliio's "voice." His tempo - how would he move? You are not looking for yourself in him - but him. Just like you act and feel differently when you wear different types of clothing (swim trunks, for instance, as opposed to other clothes) so, when you put on Basilio you are not you - you are him. Who is he? What does he like to eat? What does he like to do? Is he shy? Is he feisty? Patient? Short tempered? A cad or a lover? Is he a hand shaker or a brassy back slapper?

 

The audience is not seeing you so don't be concerned about how they see you.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for your advice Janet and Anjuli!

 

I'm not familiar with Don Q at all; I have never seen it live nor a recorded version. My first plan is therefore to watch the Dutch National Ballet version (Ratmansky) which features Matthew Golding in the Basilio role. I've heard excellent things about Golding, and there is the added bonus of him coming to guest with the Royal Ballet later this season.

 

Hopefully watching this (and possibly other productions too) will give me a better understanding of Basilio's character. Once I know who Basilio is, I can start working on absorbing that character and letting it influence the way I dance the variation (and the rest of the piece - I think we may be learning more Don Q in the coming weeks).

 

Thanks again!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you get the time David, how about attending a couple of drama workshops. These workshops will help you to fall in and out of characters and also help you to find that little bit of confidence when acting. Have fun with the characters almost going back to being a little boy when you were a super hero running around the playground, just let go.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with looking for drama workshops or classes, as a former actor. Part of what I learned in drama school is just giving it a go, throwing yourself into it and not worrying what people think. We did the most silly games and exercises which I thought were childish but were to help us release self-conscious thoughts and too much self-awareness. If you can find one or two workshops for beginners, it may help not only with the actual acting but losing that self-conscious worry and not holding back.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I understand how you feel, I'm quite a shy and retiring person and I'm learning a solo from Mats Ek's Giselle at the moment. In this version Giselle is a very confident and sexual person and spends a lot of time throwing herself at Albrecht so I'm really struggling with the character. All I can say is don't worry about looking stupid, the classmates I enjoy watching the most are the ones that really throw themselves into the acting side of dance and the ones that are embarrased and look at the floor are actually the ones that look silly. Everyone has given really good advice so don't be afraid and just go for it!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

David's request for advice has raised a question in my mind, namely, do ballet students have acting lessons at vocational school? There is obviously a huge emphasis on having the right kind of body and on perfecting technique but to be a top class dancer you need to be able to act and yet acting ability doesn't seem to be considered when the schools are recruiting. Are students ever assessed out because they can't act? I often wonder how teenage boys manage when they have to pretend to be in love etc as most teenage boys are shy around girls.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some additional thoughts, DavidW....

 

When you are watching a story ballet such as Don Q, take time to watch the "side action." There are a lot of "characters" in that ballet and all too often we miss their interplay. In some productions there are several tables at which the different characters sit and interact with one another. Don Q in the full version is especially interesting in this regard. Also watch the corps in the crowd scenes. Watch the little things they do. They don't feel silly at all!

 

Many dancers, including a number of male dancers I've interviewed prefer to dance parts with lots of character rather than just an amorphous noble prince. Nikolai Tsiskaridze prefers Rothbart to Siegfried and Ethan Steifel preferred Albrecht as his favorite role because of the acting.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

David's request for advice has raised a question in my mind, namely, do ballet students have acting lessons at vocational school? There is obviously a huge emphasis on having the right kind of body and on perfecting technique but to be a top class dancer you need to be able to act and yet acting ability doesn't seem to be considered when the schools are recruiting. Are students ever assessed out because they can't act? I often wonder how teenage boys manage when they have to pretend to be in love etc as most teenage boys are shy around girls.

Never heard of students being assessed out because they can't act.

 

At WL, the students study drama in the early years and expressive arts is a compulsory gcse, or at least it was when ds was there. School plays were always superb, my ds particularly enjoyed the role of Uriah Heap!

 

At Tring my ds opted for theatre arts as an A level which obviously involved acting and they also got additional drama lessons. He particularly enjoyed dance acting lessons with the mighty Jeremy Kerridge.DS has to do a lot of acting in his latest roles so it is a vital skill.

 

Good luck DavidW, enjoy the research into Don Q, the Danish version has superb dancers in it!

Edited by hfbrew
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

KAB in Washington have just introduced acting for ballet, and also do ballet appreciation where they spend a lot of time discussing characters and their motivation which I think helps in playing the part, so researching the character is a really good idea. But remember you can bring your own interpretation- no need to slavishly follow someone else's; no matter how good they are you can always have a different view..

I think I may have mentioned in another post finding it quite a revelation (never having seen a live ballet before) watching DS's first Christmas performance and noticing that the dancers who stood out were those who projected their personality and looked convincing in a role- this was far more important to the performance than how perfect their steps or how complex and 'acrobatic' their choreography. So it's worth getting a handle on this. I'm sure it get's easier the more you do it (and maybe even fun eventually?!)

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Something dd has found is that with RAD syllabus classes, the students don't learn any mime or 'acting', and individual expressiveness doesn't seem to be encouraged all that much (certainly not by her last teacher anyway!).

 

Her new teacher says that drama classes are a really good idea, and very helpful for dancers.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Such an interesting thread! Thanks for all your suggestions guys - I'll certainly try to find some drama workshops (hopefully my University drama society might run some) although when I'll find time to fit them in is a different matter altogether!

 

I'd never really encountered the acting side of things until I started with the Russian Youth Ballet Company. I certainly underestimated how tricky it is to act whilst dancing - hiding the difficulty/pain of a dance is tricky; doing that whilst being in character is even harder!

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My dd at the Bolshoi Academy has acting lessons each week (mime) They are part of the curriculum. Here is a you tube clip of one of their 2012 acting exams, you will have to move it slightly foreward to get into the actual acting bit. If I am boring anybody by putting these clips up please say, I wont be offended.

2.jpg

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes,Primrose i think the vast majority of people on here will enjoy seeing them. Haven`t been on the Forum for a while. I put my switched on laptop on the floor,then lost my footing and stood on the blasted thing.Wrecked the hard drive. £110 to fix. Not a fortune,but i couldn`t afford to pay for that and the boiler to be fixed all in the same week. Nice to be back.!!

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What a fantastic video Primrose! (As are all the videos on that YouTube channel - I presume it is a teacher at the Academy?)

 

I've always found Ballet Mime to be an artform in itself - especially iconic mimes like Act II Swan Lake or La Fille mal Gardée. When performed well they can almost bring me to tears...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I and my husband met and had lunch with Ilya. There are, as I recall two dancers with same name but I think the other is from the Mariinsky and this one is from the Bolshoi. He was in San Diego for a few years and then went back to Russia. He was delightful and we really enjoyed meeting him and his family. I am glad to see he is doing what he loves to do.

 

While he was here, he put on a couple of evenings of Russian dance which I believe I reviewed. The program was good but he couldn't get the financial backing necessary to continue. It was a pity when we lost his talent in this city.

 

I wish him all the luck in the world.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Haven`t been on the Forum for a while. I put my switched on laptop on the floor,then lost my footing and stood on the blasted thing.Wrecked the hard drive. £110 to fix. Not a fortune,but i couldn`t afford to pay for that and the boiler to be fixed all in the same week. Nice to be back.!!

 

Oh no, you poor thing! I try never to put mine on the floor for that very reason: I'm scared I might trip over it or something.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes Tulip, this was the graduating year for June just gone. Joy does feature alongside Mario a few times in the clip. Joy now dances with the Bolshoi company and Mario with the michaelinsky, (bet I spelt that wrong). The teacher who reveals herself at the end of the clip actually teaches my dd. When we went out to visit her last Easter we were able to watch her acting class and it was facinating. Heather had to play the part of a mad dentist all mime and still classical.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...