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Acting Yoga (AY)

The method of the Acting School of Imagery, Kiev (Ukraine)
control of movement, voice, tension and balance

for ukrainian text see »Materialien« on the right-hand side

english spoken workshop / Workshop in englischer Sprache

A common and well-established understanding of acting art is the ability to believably reproduce human behavior (e.g. of a fictional character from a literary work) in artificially »proposed« life circumstances. The understanding of the »character« and the circumstances in which the actor is supposed to act is created either by the actor himself or together with the director. The actor in the common sense of this profession must imitate, as accurately as possible, the suggested feelings and emotions of the character, his movements, facial expressions, voice and even physiological conditions. In such a state of »entering into the role«, the actor must play/act convincingly and follow the instructions of the director. This appears to be the essence of »performing« or »performative« art.

We consider that such a kind of acting is appropriate only when the theater or film work is focused on »telling stories«. Essentially the »Storytelling« replaced the creation of an artwork that is full of the Images. Here comes the question: is the »storytelling« an art by itself? Undoubtedly yes, since the time of Aristotle, who in his »Poetics« divided literature and all arts into: epic, lyric and drama. It is obvious that storytelling is an epic art in modern conditions. However, when the theatrical or film epic is an art, is the actor's work an art in these cases as well? Or is an actor just a performer of a role? Even a masterful one, even a »clever Harlequin«, but still a performer. Not the creator.

In our understanding, an Actor is someone who elevates human behavior to the level of an art - the art that is capable to impress, the art that is full of Images and Transformations. Because we are convinced that Imagery is the only language of a true art, in contrast to the skilled craftsmanship, the so-called »performing arts«.

So, in order for the real Actor to be able to create real impressive Images, he needs the skills of an expert player and a »cool tool« at the same time. He himself must be both a player and an instrument of his creative art. In general, we distinguish three hypostases of a real actor.

1. The actual inner Actor, as the operator of his own means of expression.
2. The inner Dramaturge, as a keeper and »rethinker« of one's own experience of impressions. The one who takes care of the dramaturgical score of acting.
3. The inner Director, as the administrator of all behavioral and mental processes.

In order to develop the Actor's internal operational skills, our school has developed a special subject and corresponding training practice, which was named: the »Acting Yoga« class.

Acting Yoga (AY) is an unusual combination of two words in one name and, at first glance, a paradoxical meeting of incompatible active aspirations.

Actor’s action is generally considered to be presentational, demonstrative, extroverted, directed outwards, at people, at the world around and Yoga with its many meanings: »union«, »unity«, »harmony«, »connection« – is a practice that directs our inner gaze, attention deep inside, into our very human being.

In our opinion, the actor's responsibility is primarily the operational management of one’s own means of expression, such as body plastic, facial expressions, voice and emotions. It is self-directed leadership, developed personalism and an initiative directed towards one’s self.

The AY is an educational and practical course developed at the acting School of Imagery and is one of the newest trends in the daily practice of actors/students, which, we believe, should become a necessary component of the training of actors/students of any modern acting school.

The AY training harmonizes and operationally combines various actor’s external manifestations, primarily by bringing behavior out of an automatic, unconscious mode into a conscious, controlled one. Control, in this case, is not an option that narrows, limits or in some way impoverishes the possible variety of manifestations, but »opens the eyes« to the entire system of actor's acting tools in its complex interaction.

We believe that a modern acting school should not remain captivated by the outdated ideas about acting education: endless acting sketches, intuitive improvisations and amateurs’ performances. That’s why AY is a part of the professional subject of our acting school - »Mathematics of Imagery«. The AY organic part of our basic courses is an operative body practice that prioritizes personalized act over an intuitive one. In addition to the applied meaning, the AY has its own full-fledged self-sufficient meaning of a separate discipline. We apply the AY both as part of our academic programs and independently, as a training followed by further autonomous practice upon completion of an educational one-month course.

The AY consists of pantomime, choreographic and statuary corporal practices, combined with breathing, voice and other authorial techniques.

In our concept, the AY includes four main parts:

1. Coordination Gymnastic;
2. Body’s Acoustic;
3. Emotional Intelligence in Action (or »Zen of Tension«*);
4. Work in Non-Equilibrium (»Gravitational Sufism«*).

*we use the terms »Yoga«, »Zen«, »Sufism« with respect, not in a religious sense, but only in a utilitarian sense, given their effective semantic value.

Coordination Gymnastic:
gymnastic exercises aimed at a conscious transition from automatic movement to the directly controlled one. The movement which is organized according to a certain order and regulations. Combination of static positions and dynamic movements in one exercise. Development of an operational competence in managing of one's own physical processes. Accepting one’s self and one’s own body, as the most valuable object of management. Love and interest to one's own body as to the tool/instrument of self-expression enables such, at first sight, difficult and to some extent routine work. Decomposing and assembling algorithms of one's own body movements. Symmetry and non-symmetry, synchronicity and non-synchronicity of actions, conscious de-phasing in actions. Facial expressions, gestures, choreography are the territory of one's own bodily operational control. We learn to develop certain defined sequences to automaticity and something we always like to gather »by hand«. Corporal plastic art, as a coordinational operational activity in all possible ranges, requires continuous diligent practice. That is why coordination gymnastic occupies such an honorable place in our Acting Yoga course.

Body’s Acoustic:
Breathing and vocal yoga.
- this is the part of Acting Yoga training that deals with the possibilities of sound of the actor's body. Incorporating the sound of the entire human body into vibration. A perfect algorithm of sound, its regulation is possible only with a certain understanding and feeling of a so-called »closed acoustic volume«, the acoustic nature of sound inside and outside the human body. In addition to the well-known sound »support« from an acoustic point of view, the best result is achieved especially with a properly used »closed acoustic volume«. This can be done by relying on specific exercises and the development of certain »reactive sensations«. Good sound relies on proper breathing. Corrections of the breathing algorithm – mastering our own interception right in the middle of the breathing-relaxation process - is real breathing yoga. In this way, we already get vocal yoga together with exercises that tunes the larynx in a such way, that all available ranges are open: from strobe to falsetto. The perfect operation of the sound of vowels in combination with consonants in the entire voice range is a result achieved and maintained only by the constant practice of voice and breathing yoga, which we offer. We combine this practice under the general name: Body’s Acoustic.

Emotional Intelligence in Action, »Zen of the Tensions«:
Work with excessive tension of the muscles of the body. We study the connections or correlations of the various emotional states of a person with the »map of tensions« of the body, their dynamics. We learn to fill graphic movement with additional conscious muscle tension. As finer the filling, the less but noticeable this excess of tension, so wider the range of possible fillings - from small to large – which opens up to the actor. We learn to fill our movement, our choreography with emotional tension. In addition, we learn to operate the mechanism of filling any movement with weight and/or its maximum relief, devastation. Plastic improvisation, in which the actor is equally occupied with both the graphics of movement and filling with tension-relaxation in their dynamic fluidity, turns into an attractive energetic magnetic performance. A practical bonus of working with tensions is a training in drawing one's own attention to different bodily locations and observing them in action and non-action.

Balance. Work in Imbalance. »Gravitational Sufism«:
We always have »next« to us an unpredictable partner, a coach. This partner is gravity. We consciously look for such positions of our body, in which it is difficult to maintain balance/equilibrium. Rising from the full foot to the toe or to the heel, or even simply standing on two legs, after a second or two we will intentionally begin to lose our balance and continue balancing to restore it. In our understanding, this is reflex-protection response of our body to the loss of balance. The goal of the training is to find such a choreography, such a movement, which would »prevent« the loss of balance. We play with gravity to find today's »winning tactics« of our movements. Additionally, to some extent artificial complications of finding balance contribute to the discovery of the ability to trust the body to find its own rhythms, patterns, energy of movements. The metaphorization of such work leads to a very interesting practice - spontaneity in plastic improvisation.

AY is a harmonious combination of such gymnastics’ disciplines as: coordination, breathing, articulation, body’s acoustic - as a separate discipline that investigates the acoustic possibilities of both voice producing and the resonantly vibrating nature of the actor's body - as well as the unique practice of managing local physical tensions, as the most manageable component of a person's emotional state.
AY is a practical conscious combination of movement and immobility, voice and breathing, tension and relaxation, aimed at the development of internal discipline, orderliness of actions and external expressiveness.
The AY relieves body and voice clamps, normalizes breathing, returns control of internal tensions, develops coherence of the physical actions, brings the body to a state of productive tone and harmonizes the entire psycho-emotional system of the actor.

Each lesson of the AY class is practical, conducted in a training format. As a practical part of the specialized subject of the school - »Mathematics of Imagery« - the AY is an organic part of all basic courses of the School of Imagery. At the same time, this course has its own independent value as a physical health practice that increases the physical and general somatic culture of a person.

You can learn more about the School of Imagery and our courses at shkobr.com.ua

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