Friday, October 23, 2015

"Operate"....Joanna Numata and Neil Schwartz

When you listen to the vocal style of Etta James, Nina Simone, or Ella Fitzgerald, one thing that is a common theme among all three, is their skillful use of phrasing and shading in their delivery. Many years later, when Eric B and Rakim came onto the rap scene, people were once again blown away by Rakim's artistic use of tempo and rhythm with regard to his speech pattern. His phrasing and deliberate pauses even earned him the nickname "Coltrane of Hip Hop." Consequently, dancers can also learn from this musical principle and create layers of complexity and nuance in their movement by creating moments of silence and phrasing. This collaborative video by Neil Schwartz and Joanna Numata, both from NYC Broadway Dance Center, highlights this concept perfectly.

MUSICALITY: Any orchestral work that exists is the sum of its diverse parts. The strings play in harmony with the brass, counterpoint to the percussion section, etc. But it is never the case, that ALL parts play at ALL times. This would create an imbalance in the orchestra's ability to ebb and flow between dynamic and sostenuto, forte and pianissimo. For balance to exist, the individual parts must know when to interact and when to hold their space silently. For movement artists, a similar effect can be created through the use of canon. An example of this is (:07-:09 and 1:05-1:07) where both choreographers ask certain dancers to hold stillness for a set count, thereby allowing the movement to mirror the repetitive aspects of the music. Sometimes, in the street vernacular you will hear this technique referenced as "ripple" or "peel off." In any case, the result is the same and is an effective way to add visual texture to break up a completely unison phrase.

DANCER SYNC: As I mentioned before, both of these choreographers understand the importance of phrasing the movement. When Neil's section starts (1:07-1:13) you can observe a beautiful balance between sharp, contracted, hard hit accents, and then perfectly smooth, legato, almost soft arm sequencing. This is very much akin to the way that the aforementioned vocalists would snap the pronunciation of one word, and then languidly stretch out the next. The beauty of this awareness can be seen in the dancer's interpretation of the choreography. When a choreographer realizes that the movement must have a cohesive flow between hard and soft, then the dancer can easily slip into this groove, as it is the natural essence of breathing (inhale is dynamic and powerful, exhale is relaxed and smooth).

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: Many times, when I watch young choreographers who aspire to work in the commercial industry, they often lack basic sensibilities. Because of this, their performances typically feel flat and one-dimentional. One simple lesson that can be learned from Joanna and Neil's work is the "Rule of Two". If you watch carefully, you will notice that every two counts of 8, there is a complete formation change from "V" to "inverted V" to "2 by 3" to "5 on a die" etc. By applying this simple rule, Neil and Joanna have created a compelling sense of power and intensity, thereby keeping the energy high and audience fully engaged. For even more complexity, choreographers can also apply the "Rule of Two" within the counts of 8 themselves, a technique that Academy of Villains have mastered beyond perfection.

KUDOS to Joanna and Neil for illustrating fundamentally beautiful form in the composition of their movement and being exemplary in their execution.

No comments:

Post a Comment