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Strip it Back and Start Rebuilding!

Strip it Back and Start Rebuilding!

16 December 2012

In her third article, Tereza Theodoulou examines the building blocks that underpin the development of the Modern Theatre Technique as found in the revised Vocational syllabi

In the Jul-Sept 2012 issue of DANCE, I promised to outline a build-up of a basic technique that can be followed through the Grades to the Revised Advanced 1 and into Advanced 2. One of these is the famous Tilt which can be seen in various forms as early as Grade 2. Please do not panic and start flicking through your Syllabi searching for a missing Tilt in Grade 2 as you will not find one. What you will find however, is the basic foundation, a simple sideways Weight Transference or Balance. This is seen in the Lyrical Amalgamation, just after the spin on the spot and has been artistically choreographed by Christina Ballard with a story-line to enhance the children’s imagination. At this point they may feel sad or disappointed but, whatever the emotion, the quality is one of an easy transition from one side to the other through natural turn out with an easily stretched foot onto straight legs.

As well as the Weight Transference, the Tilt is based on a Side Stretch which also begins in Grade 2. Now examine the development of each Grade and Vocational level and analyse the added strength required to achieve each variation of a Side Stretch. Add any extra strengthening exercises you may include to enhance the physical development of the maturing student such as side planks and any abdominal exercises that incorporate the obliques in a concentrated way. You can see how the technique of supporting the torso in space on a lateral plane away from the central axis has been developed and followed through.

“To continue deepening our analysis of the technique, style and movement vocabulary all we have to do is strip it back and start rebuilding. The foundations, like the seamstresses’ template, are already there”

The basic Tilt with a low level leg line is found in the Grade 4 Lyrical Amalgamation, Grade 5 Tendus and in the Grade 6 Floor Sequence, Breath and Release and step of vocabulary which are all part of our Dance Movements section. This in itself signifies that the Tilt is an organic action that should be thought of as a movement, a continual transference of energy rather than a static position. 

Jazz Change of Weight in Intermediate Foundation develops the technique of coming away from a central point at speed on a frontal and lateral plane. This is again enhanced at Intermediate Level where the student learns to move smoothly up and over to the front and side in a curved alignment in the first section of the sequence. This is then contrasted with an immediate transference of weight and recovery with a concentration on moving sideways. Combine this with the depth of lunge needed in Intermediate Side Stretch with the head leading the way through a downward swing of arm and body and you can develop this technique through a full plie in 2nd into a lateral extension as found in the current Advanced 1. If a student can arrive in a lateral extension at 90 degrees, then they should be able to eliminate the fear factor involved in fully transferring the weight on a tilted line in a side stretch that hinges from the groin not the waist. Just add turn-out and the leg will float up creating the desired line at full height. Let us not forget that the height of the leg very much depends on the student’s natural facility. The leg line itself is an artistic enhancement of the Tilt and can be seen in Retire, open Attitude or full extension which encourages a full range of movement in the hip socket as in any Side Kick. Students of the current Advanced 1 syllabus don’t always enjoy the Weight Transference exercise but with courage, strength and confidence they can achieve this fabulous line. The physical demands of the revised syllabi are greatly benefited by the Weight Transference exercise and it is recommended that we continue using the basic technical content found in the current Advanced 1 syllabus as a back-bone or template to support the development of the new work in both the Advanced 1 and 2. 

Indulge me again! In the Jul-Sept 2012 issue of Dance I spoke about my husband and this time I’m going to speak about my mother. My mother was a gifted seamstress, who dressed with what I always referred to as her own style. I realise now that everything she wore had a classic base, a template that she knew suited her body. Over the years, this simple foundation of her outfits would be adapted as hem-line lengths went up or down, colours went in and out of vogue and even the quality of the material would change, altering the look and movement of her dresses but underneath all the adaptations and embellishments it was the same classic cut – because it worked. The same can be said for the basic format of many of the techniques, styles and movement vocabularies found in the ISTD Modern Theatre work.

In the last issue of Dance (Oct–Dec 2012) I revisited the influences of Mattox and Ailey and explored their effect on the development of the original and the revised Advanced 1 and 2 syllabi. For me, it has been like wearing a vintage Haute Couture outfit. The cut is ageless and suits the physique. I wear my mother’s clothes that date back to the early 1960’s and always feel fabulous because I know it has come back into fashion, in fact it never went out. Looking at our new choreography of the Advanced 1 syllabus with so many references found in the Grades, the previous, current and revised Vocationally levelled syllabi, it is encouraging to realise that the building blocks have been there all along. So, to continue deepening our analysis of the technique, style and movement vocabulary all we have to do is strip it back and start rebuilding. The foundations, like the seamstresses’ template, are already there! 

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