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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Move, Baby, Move!

Here we come to one of those topics that most of us would like to avoid.  Getting in touch with our bodies.


I remember in both my undergraduate and graduate acting programs, I HATED my movement classes.  Seriously.  Hated.

Which right there should tell you something.  Hatred is a very strong emotion.  It says something about the person who's feeling it.  Principally, that they care.  A lot.

And I absolutely did.  I cared.  I cared enough to moan and complain and grumble and whine any time an instructor asked me to get my body involved in my acting.  "Just let me ACT!!" was my constant (and I'm sure grating) response whenever the topic would arise.

Because (and I'm sure you've all figured this out already, because you' know...not thick) I wasn't particularly comfortable in my own skin.  I was always one of those actors that was great with technique.  I could think my way around and through (and under and over) any part on the planet. 

What I couldn't do was just inhabit it.

Because, you see, inhabiting a role means embracing it fully.  Embracing something fully means mind, soul guessed it...BODY!


Then came grad school and my sadistic German yogi.  Part of our program was an incredibly intensive style of yoga.  If you know anything about yoga, you know about Ashtanga (or flow or power) yoga.  Gerhard somehow managed to make really hard yoga even harder.

I showed up for my first class thinking that I was in for some gentle stretching.  A little downward dog, some cat and cow, maybe the plow pose if we got a little nuts.  Instead, I found myself an hour later with a pool of sweat in front of me, feeling like I was going to die.  And Gerhard, bless his little heart, said, "Dat vas de eesiest day of yoga ve vill haf."

He was right.  It got nothing but harder.  But I loved it.  My body strengthened and got more flexible.  I started wanting to eat better.  I slept more soundly.  I found myself pushing myself further than I ever thought I could.

And something else happened.  My acting deepened.  I could get in touch with my emotions more readily.  My presence and charisma skyrocketed.  And I discovered that I could manipulate my body's energies in ways that seemed almost...magic.

Before this experience, I called any training that wasn't strictly cerebral "Kumbaya" theatre.  I thought it was overly touchy-feely and distracted actors from the "real thing".

No more.

So, if you're like I was, you can fight this.  That's a choice.  I can tell you from experience it's not a great one.

Or you could try embracing your body.  Training it.  Strengthening it.  Exploring what all it can do.

Don't limit yourself!  Martial arts, Alexander technique, Laban's efforts, yoga, horseback riding, fencing, stage combat, stunt work, and on and on and on.  The possibilities are pretty much limitless.

Get inside your body and stay there for a while.  It's uncomfortable at first, but I'm telling you, it's absolutely the best place to live. :)

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