1. The Warm Up
Apart from bringing the group together to form a single unit, the warm up is just what its name suggests. The crucial decision is how long to spend on it. On Saturday we had a lot to get through so I did not take long. If one is doing a workshop that is concerned with (say) physical theatre, then the warm up would be crucial as for ballet or dance. It would for example involve a lot more stretching.
I was not trying to teach a movement class, but even a little exercise has great benefits.
a) The head and the neck. Be careful it is easy to pull a muscle. In olden times last century when I was training, teachers tended to be a bit rough asking the students to do complicated neck and head movements. For mime work that is important, but I think that on a simple level, the main benefit of simply moving the head round without moving the shoulders and without strain is that it makes one aware of isolation. Normally when we turn to look. We move the shoulders and the trunk. Looking without doing so creates interesting tensions – one becomes aware of the exercise as a thing in and of its self, as something different. Thus it makes one more alert.
b) Moving the shoulders and arms as in flying. I love this exercise, not only because it has such an imaginative core – flying, but it is also safe and provides a very full work out of the shoulders which is the area in the body where we carry a lot of stress and tension. There are three key elements in this exercise. 1. Lower the centre of gravity by bending the legs slightly at the knees. This gives stability and allows one to fly, look, turn, glide etc. 2. Lead with the elbows. Many people find this hard at first because it is unusual. But once mastered, it is astonishing how much freedom it gives – and what power. 3. Try to keep the shoulders and arms in one straight line. The temptation is to bring the arms inwards and have them flapping in front of you. Don’t. Keep a straight line out to the sides no matter how strange it feels. I think of a sea gull. This is the perfect wake up exercise as it is a total work out on its own – but as with all such things, never push too far or to the point of pain.
c) Moving the ribs without moving the hips or shoulders. This is a mime exercise, but valuable in this context as it helps to loosen the body and remove tension. It sometimes takes a while for people to be able to isolate the rib movements. But once achieved it becomes easy and fun.
d) Moving the hips. This is a key movement for lots of things!! Expect merriment. While standing still, move the hips to the front. Now slowly move them to the back, and then slowly to the front again. Do this until it becomes easy. Part of the value is in the experiencing.
Now move the hips in a circle clockwise and then anti-clockwise. Now combine front and back movements with circular movements. Have fun with the movement. I learned these movements when I was dancing Rock n’ Roll. Think of Elvis Presley who was called The Pelvis. When you dance you are often shifting the weight
Once you have mastered the basic movement, you can extend the exercise by walking while making the hips hold to the front, or hold to the back. Try walking while revolving the hips. It is very strange. My old teacher of movement, Yass Hakoshima, used to maintain that this movement is the basis of all stage movement and this makes sense as so many movements radiate out from this centre.
e) Ankles. It is important to let this movement be a flow through the ankle. It is a lovely relaxing movement.
f) Deep breathing. Breathe in fully. Hold for a count of two. Breath out fully. Hold for a count of two. Breathe in fully etc. etc. Do this two of three times with the body relaxed and the arms hanging easily at the sides. If you are doing these exercises with a class, now is the time to glance round as see who is relaxed. If the exercises have been done properly, people should be standing easily with the arms loose. They will also be concentrated on what is next.
Apart from Dance and Mime, I think the basic warm up should not take more than five to ten minutes. When you are doing these exercises, you are not preparing for athletics, but simply bringing the body under control and leaving the rest of the world outside the door.
Now you are ready to begin the imaginative work. (To be continued.)
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