musings from a scholar, a performer, and a die-hard pedagogue!
At the beginning of my career I gave a public lecture entitled "The Choreography of Performance." This lecture has become a cult classic of sorts ... being repeated ad nauseam through the years.
In this month's blog, I offer the smallest glimpse into its primary tenets (the live lecture is far more fun!!):
1.) You are performing for an audience!
A performer's appearance, demeanor, and environment affect how an audience perceives a performance. How would audience enthusiasm for a Black Sabbath (Heavy Metal) show change if the band came out dressed in tuxes, sat in chairs, and presented their show in traditional, unchanging concert lighting?
Not only would the audience react awkwardly, but the band would likely appear disconnected with the environment ---
No matter how they performed, that dissonance would exist.
Performing is about knowing your audience.
2.) You are performing in a space!
The space in which we perform interacts with the performance. Though this element is frequently out of our control--we can control seating, lighting, and our understanding of the space. Are you performing a program for an audience of 50 in a hall that seats 150? Rope off select rows controlling where your audience may sit. This controls their listening experience (and the hall appears fuller!). Did you include long, insightful program notes? Leave the lights dimmed for easier reading. Are you performing solo on a large, horizontal stage? Alter the lighting to a smaller spotlight. Is there no green room? Determine where you will 'create' your off-stage space.
Finally, practice your choreography in the space: walking on/off stage, as well as bowing can feel awkward without practice. Remember, these are moments of pride. Do not rush; look forward and be in the moment. When bowing: bend at the waist, look at your toes, and count to 3.
Bowing is not about you. It is a gracious 'nod' to the audience - an act of 'thanks' for their attendance, attention, and appreciation of your music.
Performing is about knowing your environment.
3.) You are performing music!
Appearance, demeanor, and environment interact with the music itself.
A tuxedo with tails in a concert hall may be appropriate for Vivaldi, but Miami's approaching Bassoon Ensemble Concert is anything but Vivaldi-serious.
We will be performing a "We Stole your Music. Get Over It. It Sounds Better on Bassoon Anyway." show at the end of the month. The tongue-in-cheek nature of the gig lends itself to casual (or silly) attire, a relaxed venue (we decorate our recital hall), and an audience of raucous students (our bassoon ensemble concerts are a bit ....ahem....infamous).
A reverse of any of these attributes would lessen the audience (and performer) experience.
Performing is also about knowing your music.
As you prepare for your next performance, prepare the entire performance.
What are you performing? High Art Music? Low-brow comic relief? What is your venue? Traditional Concert Hall? Classroom? Coffee Shop?
Who will be attending? Students? Professional Musicians? Community Members? Children? Elderly?
Break a leg!