Dancing Skills Would Be Handy

iO Summer Intensive

Week 2

Instructor- Marla Careses



We started with Mirroring. You and a partner stand and face each other, mirroring each others movements. The goal is that neither if you are leading or following, that it is intuitively together. Another way to look at it is that each of you are leading, but in micro amounts of time. Fractions of seconds. That way the lead is always shifting from one person to another. This exercise helps me see that I am never pleased. When I am paired with someone who takes the lead I get annoyed because I want us to share. But when I’m paired with someone as hesitant to lead as I am, as I was today, then I get annoyed because nothing is happening. The common denominator here is me. I should probably spend some time thinking about that.

We then moved to another level of the same exercise, where we spoke together. The goal was to speak at full speed, and to say the same thing. It went rather badly, for the same reason listed above. I’m not brave enough to lead, nor submissive enough to follow. My partner and I got frustrated with each other and neither of us were happy. Marla came over to give us some pointers and encourage us to take bigger risks.

On that note- how often does someone tell you that in your day to day life? How often do people say take a risk, try something that will probably fail? Not often. Everyone tells me to play it safe, be careful, protect myself. Scenes where I do that are unsatisfying because there are no stakes-not physical, mental, or emotional. Could that be one reason our lives are so unsatisfying?

Then, still with the same partners, we did “2 Person Scenes”. I put that in quotes because there were really four of us on stage, but each pair of partners had to move and speak as one (in the first person). This seems like it would be way harder but in actuality it was easier. I think it was standing side by side instead of facing off, touching each other during the scene (standing against someone lets you feel when they are going to move or talk much better than just watching them), and Marla’s notes. We were both trying, it was just a hard exercise. We did end up surprising ourselves and before we could back off Marla yelled at us, ordering us to not back away from the weird thing we’d said. We were arguing with another couple at a yard sale about an item we both wanted and “I” called it a hand. I meant hat, don’t know what he meant, but together it was a hand and suddenly it was a weird, and interesting, yard sale.

Then we did three person scenes where we started as ourselves. After 30 or so seconds Marla added a “quirk” that we all three had to do. Like, our first one was going “awwwww” and drooping after every line we said. 30 seconds later that one was gone and a new one was added, I think being REALLY excited. So forth and so on. It made for hilarious scenes, and it was a lot of fun. I don’t give myself permission to be weird and crazy, or even just odd, so being ordered to do it was freeing. And it added a great deal of subtext to scenes. One group was doing a very normal scene in a pet shelter, one guy adopting a cat, but when they had to add a big wink to the end of every line it turned creepy/twisted/insanely funny.

Then we did another Messing exercise, this one inspired by Buzzly Burkley (an old Hollywood choreographer). This was another hard one for me. I’m not very physically coordinated, I don’t dance or do gymnastics or visual arts of any kind. So choreography and movement and forming a pleasing stage picture is a weakness. One I didn’t really know I had because I’ve never had an instructor expect it of me.

We stood in a row, shortest in the front and tallest in the back. The first person does a movement that everyone else copies, but with a complementing twist. Same movement, just at a different level or something. Then the first person adds a sound, which everyone also almost matches. The first person then peels off and everyone peels off after them, paying attention to stage picture and balance. This is most easily achieved by mirroring the person opposite from you. The sound and movement will transform and morph several times over the next few minutes, which is fine. Any time a person ups the intensity or volume the rest of the group has to match that. Make sure you are playing with layers and depth as well, as a group. This is not normally an opening but it could be with some streamlining.

Next was Onion Peel (aka 171). Another game/exercise I’d never done before and now love. 7 people go up on stage (or around that number depending on group size) and one person starts a solo scene. Then a second person joins in, initiating a new, 2 person scene. After that has time to get itself established another person comes out and initiates a new, 3 person scene. So forth and so on until all 7 people are in a scene together. Each scene should have been distinct and separate from the others, and it had to start with whatever physical position the people already on-stage were in. This forces you to justify weird stuff you are doing.

Then, the 7th person to join has to think of a legitimate excuse to leave. As soon they do then the scene goes back to whatever it was for 6 people, and you have to justify why everyone has moved or is in such weird positions. Continue down until there is only one person left, and they finish their solo scene.

This exercise led to a lot of laughter AFTER be got brave! To start with, it was fine. But as we allowed ourselves to make bigger choices, weirder moves, with the risk of being caught in them the fun level ratcheted upwards. Like, I was in a scene where on the way up the 6 of us were having babies in a shared pool, “to save money on the rental”. On the way down I had been tossing oranges into a tree in the scene before and had my hand way up in the air. I didn’t remember what scene came next but as soon as someone said baby I snatched my hand down and said something like, “Caught him.” I don’t know why, it was one of those fun moments where I surprised myself. That led to a really fun scene about how all our babies had superpowers and we didn’t know why. Mine kept wiggling loose and flying away, another girl lost hers because it was invisible, etc.

Marla then had us do a different version of scene painting. In this one we all painted together. As someone went to paint an item we would all rush there and touch it together, and then keep painting it until we ran out of tings to say about the item. The idea is show, not tell. Instead of saying, “The room is rundown and dirty” say “The wallpaper is stained with cigarette smoke at the top, and several of the corners have peeled loose. The lamp has four bulbs but three are burned out. There is a thick layer of dust along the wall in that inch wide strip where the vacuum never reaches.” That kind of thing. The more specific the better.

We also played Blind Freeze Tag, where we couldn’t see what was going on before our turn, someone who could told us when to go out and tag into the scene, starting a new one from the positions we found ourselves in. The fun part of this game isn’t so much justifying the weird position you find yourself in, fun as that is, but even more to try to find reasons to create crazy set-ups for your team to make others jump into. Like, I jumped into one with a guy where he had his hands wrapped around my neck and we had to make that make sense (without using the fight idea the team before us had been using).

Snatches from today–

  • Take a risk. Justification comes later.
  • Symmetry and balance of stage picture are how we can make something beautiful in the moment.
  • If you make a move, hold it. Don’t second guess yourself! Your moves are valid.
  • “If anything in America is fancy it’s European.”
  • Characters are affected by the mood of the place. Must be. A warm, sunny kitchen with new appliances and oak furniture creates a different character than a basement kitchen with unpainted cinder block walls, a hotplate, and a card table.

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