I don’t know live artists who do this work because they thought it was a practical way of earning a living or because a careers advisor suggested it. It is definitely not leading to financial stability and it can hardly be programmed in advance. My impression is that most people who are ready to put up with the disadvantages of this career are motivated by vocation. However, vocation is a big advantage. In Castaneda’s book The Teachings of Don Juan, Don Juan says, “All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. (…) Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. (…) A path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy; it does not make you work at liking it.”
Auditions are organized so that the director/choreographer can find the performers for a project. The type of work to be carried out will determine the type of audition. For collaborative creation, the audition is aimed at getting to know what the performers can contribute in terms of their technical and interpersonal skills and what their world of references is. In contrast, if the performers are to do something predetermined, the audition has a narrower focus and is aimed at finding out how the performer would fit the part. I think about this a lot in the context of couple relationships. Some people know what kind of relationship they want and they look for somebody that can fulfil this. Other people prefer to get to know someone without a specific goal in mind. If they like this person, they find out what emerges from the interaction and see where this “collaboration” leads to.
I mean not doing in the Daoist sense of wu wei: not doing anything more than what is necessary. The opposite of overacting and of ad-libbing when this is unnecessary and not contemplated by the director/choreographer. Of course, it’s wonderful that performers make personal contributions, but if they get carried away, the performance can end up losing cohesiveness and become a string of individual moments. Wu wei is a Daoist concept that literally means non-action, and refers to doing only that which is in harmony with the Dao, that is, with nature. When we liberate our actions from our wishes and instead play our appropriate role as events unfold, we leave behind our small will to become part of the bigger will of the whole. For sure, it’s sometimes not so easy to know what the path of the Dao is… but practice goes a long way.
Overacting is carrying out an action with more energy than necessary. Leaving aside the possibility of parody, why would a performer do this? It would seem to be an attempt at highlighting what we are doing, as if we thought that the audience might not realize the importance of what we’re doing, so we make an effort to get the focus. We may succeed in obtaining the other’s attention… while losing their resonance, empathy and connection.
I admit that I have a problem with the way this word is used. People use it mostly to mean “pretending”, and that’s not the same thing. True, there are people who say they’re acting when they’re actually pretending, so that explains it. To act means to carry out actions. In theater these actions can include shouting or laughing or falling to the floor with the appropriate intensity and intention so that they will be organic within the whole. When we’re not 100% committed to acting, that is, to carrying out the action surrendering to it, then, yes, we are pretending and the action is just an empty shell. Nature never pretends, it does what it does. So pretending is being out of tune with nature, and this in turn means being disconnected from our essence. When I do what I do, am I acting or am I pretending?
Interpreting is making meaning out of signs. A text can be spoken to mean different things and the same happens with music or choreography. Every artistic director can understand slightly different things from a set piece and, if they restage it, this understanding is what will make their production different from the others. That is part of the game, because art, as opposed to science, is concerned with subjectivity. It’s great that art validates human nature in this way, because humans are not gauges; our take on things is always an interpretation. Being aware of this (and of when our interpretation is becoming a distortion) can make communicating and relating to others and the world a lot simpler.
Of course, we can all imagine that dancers need to keep their bodies flexible in order to do their work. Actually, it’s important for all live artists to be flexible, and not just anatomically. Because of the nature of live arts, performers often have other jobs, projects overlap, different phases of the production process happen in different places and sometimes members of the team need to be replaced. This turns fitting everything together into a big feat, which can only be accomplished if everybody is flexible and willing to accommodate. Sometimes it’s necessary to stand firm by a plan in order to bring it to fruition. Sometimes the only way to make a plan succeed is to let go of certain aspects of the initial design and to adapt to evolving needs.
Training is the more repetitive part of practice, not so much concerned with creativity but with exercises that are repeated, like fingering or stretching. Physical condition improves with training and is also lost without it. Like with brushing your teeth, it’s no good thinking you already did it yesterday. What physical abilities make your life a more enjoyable experience? How do you take care to ensure that they’re there when you need them?
A language is a system of signs used for communication. The human language made of words is one example. However, almost everything conjures up associatons, meanings and emotions and can be used a language. If everything that is part of a piece works synergically with everything else, it will be easier for the audience to access its code and its world of ideas. Sometimes we are saying something with our words while everything else about us says something completely different. Could this contradiction be pointing at a more complex picture? Or is one of our languages betraying our truth?