Somebody's Watching Me: R&D Days Ten & Eleven. Saturday 2nd - Sunday 3rd September
Developing our choreography, polishing up our movement and dance in the studio with our choreographer Nathan Marsh and Taiko Drummer Nao Masuda
Present in Saturday and Sunday's sessions were: Ariel Fung (international collaborator), Nathan Marsh (dance choreographer), Nao Masuda (sound artist), Danny Rose (BSL interpreter), Liz Macartney (BSL interpreter), and myself.
SATURDAY 2ND SEPTEMBER:
The session started off with a hip hop style warm up led by Nathan Marsh in the Performance Studio at 10am, while Nao set up her Taiko drums.
Following the warm up and stretch, we immediately began polishing up on the choreography pieces developed by myself and Ariel on the Falling In Love dance section. I wanted more of a hip hop feel to this, as we previously didn't use any music when we created the movements in the studio before.
So Nathan put on some classic hip hop instrumental music, turned it up so we could feel the rhythm and beat and familiarise ourselves with it, and then began a basic bounce to the beat, and from there moving to different spots (side to side, back and forward), turns, slides and jumps, and then incorporating these into the choreography structure that we had. Nao added to the rhythm with her accented drum beats which blended in with the music from the stereo speakers.
This was really useful as it simplified the whole routine - sometimes just keeping it really simple is the most effective way to show a really good dance.
So we reconstructed the routine and worked out a beginning, middle and end to complete the dance.
We needed to focus on the 'love' element also - as the two characters are teens falling in love in the story. This needed to be seen clearly in the dance. So we decided to come back to this routine in the afternoon to focus on that: acting, eye-contact, flirting, being shy - all of this is 50% of the piece.
Moving on, we asked Nathan to help us improve on the robotic routine that we created for the Implant Scene. For this piece - we had a complete piece of choreography that Ariel and I developed a few weeks earlier. Nao is providing the drum beats in this routine - bold, accented beats which we could feel through the floor that really helps us emphasise our hits and popping movements.
The important aspect of this dance was the robotic element - our characters have the implant and are being controlled by sound waves, so it's really important we showed this through the street styles of robotic and popping. To make this look effective required a lot of practice in getting those 'hits' - contracting and relaxing the muscles very quickly to the beat, to make the body pop.
So Nathan put some funky popping tracks on, and we did some basic popping exercises to improve our hits. As well as this, he helped polish up our isolations (moving different parts of the body separately) and we trained on our posture so that we keep a more rigid, robotic body that's limited in movement to our joints only. This is another small but important detail in our routine that has to be worked on because we do not need to be fluid and organic here like we are in most of our dances.
Once we'd had lots of practice and training, we came back to our robotic routine and broke down the sections of the choreography, and Nathan helped us polish up on all the sections over and over, before putting it all together.
"Sometimes just keeping it really simple is the most effective way to show a really good dance."
After lunch, we returned the the hip hop routine we worked on earlier this morning to focus on the acting and character development.
We spent a while practicing the routine over and over, making sure to keep our eye-contact and smiling to each other, but making it look natural and real. It took time because when we danced, we were thinking a lot over the movements, making sure we are on beat and remembering the next move. This usually happens by habit, but eventually we managed to forget about the music and routine, forget the people in the room.
We continued this routine throughout the afternoon, practicing and practicing so it became much better. Then we went back to the robotic routine again - some more practice on our hits and running through the routine over again.
We ended Saturday's session at 5pm after a good productive day and had a briefing on tomorrow's schedule.
SUNDAY 3RD SEPTEMBER:
Today we are in the Randle Studio next door to the Foyle Studio (where we will be sharing our work in a few days time). We begin with a warm up led by Nathan.
This morning we are working on a different scene and dance routine - the Nightclub Scene.
In this scene, Billy and Ariel's characters had developed a Secret Code - a method of communication through gesture and dance that can't be understood by the authorities. They sneak into a club to test the code right under the eyes of Big Brother.
We presented our choreography ideas to Nathan - demonstrating a structure of movements that we created, which I then asked him to help develop and improve, it needed to keep the secret code elements in the dance, it had to fit in the story, and look impressive for the audience.
So we went through our routine and developed it better so the gestures fitted in nicely. Nathan suggested that we include a dance battle at the end of this routine, so he helped us each create a short breaking routine and make it look like we are dancing-off and challenging each other.
This is the longest routine in the story so far and there's a lot of elements involved - acting, comical expression, choreography, gesture, battling.. so we spent the whole morning really working on this section.
We loved the idea of bringing break dance into the story - it's another style we can add, although not something we are used to, so by lunch time we were very bruised and exhausted.
At lunch time we stopped and had a stretch / rub down, to limit the risk of injury from breaking.
Back in the studio we are continuing on the Nightclub Scene routine, but focusing on the acting elements. We had to create a beginning and ending to the scene and this is mostly acting here.
The scene starts with Ariel's character entering the club first; sneaking in and blending in with the clubbers, just casually dancing. Meanwhile, my character is hiding and looking out for Ariel's signal, then sneaks into the club and blends in whilst looking around shiftily and bouncing to the beat. I make my way to the bar at the front, order a drink and down it, then start dancing more confidently, sending a few signals to Ariel's character in secret code. Then we would start our dance routine.
We polished up the choreography so it was looking much better, and then we tried it again but this time, Nathan suggested we do it without facing the studio mirrors.
It was important at this stage of the project that we begin to wean off our reliance on the mirrors because the presentation is only a couple of days away and we would be facing an audience.
With more confidence, we tried the routine again - but this time, we are facing completely different angles. Whilst the choreography that we both do is identical and symmetrical, we had to fit this dance into a club scene - so imagine there's lots of people on the dance floor, it's crowded, everyone is facing different ways and moving in different directions - it was important we showed all that, otherwise it wouldn't look realistic.
Nao helped with this by positioning herself in the middle of the stage between us, acting as a 'club-goer'. So when my character and Ariel's faced each other to communicate, we had to look over and around Nao as she stood in the middle. This was really useful in helping us imagine more people / actors are present on the stage with us.
A lot of focus was spent on working our facial expressions in this dance - we had to imagine we are in a club and dancing casually, so we are looking around a lot, and not looking at the audience as we usually would in other scenes. Also, we had to look slightly suspicious, and looking as though we're trying to evade attention from the cameras monitoring everyone, whilst we communicated to each other in the secret code. So there was a lot going on in this dance section.
Towards the end of Sunday's session we went back to the breaking dance-off section again, polishing up and getting used to this style. We are excited that we are doing this and while it's very challenging and bruising, we enjoyed it and loved the fact that Nathan can provide us with his expertise as a former b-boy himself, so he knew what kind of moves we could pull off without it being too difficult - we didn't have to do any advanced-level power moves to make it look good.
Wrapping up today's session, we had a briefing for the rest of the week and what the plan would be. We packed up and left the studio at 6pm today, totally shattered after another productive and exciting day.