Aug 7 2011

Smallsword/Time

Matt and I have been working the smallsword fight that I used in Estonia to see what we can discover. Like the Longsword fight, we’re finding many nuances in the kinds of attacks and responses we’re making, not to mention how important it is to be specific in the time of your actions. In addition, because the time in smallsword is so short, it’s of the utmost importance to be completely focussed on your partner, actions and intents. As soon as we do a run “just to go fast”, the whole thing falls apart, and with a quick weapon like smallsword, there’s no saving it. It’s like doing dialogue comprised of one word responses. Stop listening, and it’s so obvious that nothing is really happening.

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Jun 9 2010

3 fights in 12 hours

This actually took place two months ago, but it was a fantastic learning opportunity that I want to share.

Matt and I performed in “An Evening with Bill Shakespeare” at the Vaughan City Playhouse. This show was a collection of Shakespearean monologues performed by us, the six-person company, plus three fight scenes provided by me and Matt. Because I had been in Sweden, we had a very limited amount of time to prepare these fights: three days. We enthusiastically embraced this opportunity to test some of the theories and concepts that I have been developing in conjunction with my Chalmers Arts Fellowship. Three days, three fights. Three days of physical and mental exercise as we built new fights, learned them, rehearsed them into well-acted and physically polished scenes.

I won’t bore you with all of the details, but here are the lessons we learned on this one:

1 – Stop when you’ve had enough
This one was reinforced, and it’s most obvious when we’re doing this kind mentally and physically intensive work. Grab some water ad let your brain rest. Also, recognize when you’ve reached your saturation point and stop working for a while. Perhaps you’re done for the day, perhaps you’ll get back to it in a few hours. However, there isn’t much point in pushing beyond that limit. You use your time less efficiently, and by training choreography in a state of exhaustion, you may find that you learn it with all sorts of little errors. Take a break and you can come back to it. On this project, we found that our time was most efficiently used when we worked 4 to 6 hour blocks with a mid-way break.

2 – Remember ALL the elements of your choreography.
For a long time, it’s been sufficient to focus on blade work alone. However, in this case and in many others, specific footwork is necessary as affects other elements of the fight, like rhythm and character expression. Without marking all of these elements the fight just didn’t work properly. One of our rehearsals, we set the choreography for the backsword and buckler vs. rapier and dagger fight. We were nearing the end of our ropes, so we worked a section and recorded it on video, and then left it for the day. When we revisited the fight the next morning, we had all the blade work right away, but it didn’t flow as smoothly as it did the day before until we re-discovered the other elements like intent. Just like working with text, it’s easier to remember when you’ve worked on the whole story.

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Apr 3 2010

The gypsy and the classical violinist

When Brad talks about uniting technique and process, he often uses the example of the gypsy and the classical violinist.  The gypsy plays a violin with intense feeling (process), and the classical violinist’s strength is impeccable technique.  While we’re impressed with the feats of the classical violinist, we’re more moved by the heart of the gypsy.  An ideal performance marries the two.  The following performances by Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy are an example of this:

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Jan 30 2010

Week one with Brad in DC

Classes are done for this week.  I am continually awed by his eye for the big picture and his ability to listen.  I’ve spend many years looking at the details which are also important, but the big picture is what binds it all together.  His style of teaching also involves observing and listening.  While this may not seem extraordinary (of course you have to observe and listen! How else can you see what they’re doing), what perhaps is amazing is how he applies the information he receives.  What seems to me like magic, though hopefully not for long, is how he anticipates the students’ needs.  He picks up on the tiniest cues and has a most appropriate response.  Well, beyond appropriate.  He has exceptional to solutions to problems, insightful interaction with people and clever redirection of energy.  Brad practices what he preaches.  Just as Marozzo’s grappling techniques require keen listening, good structure and positioning, and a choice from the many responses available, so does Brad, in his life and his teaching, listen to people and situations, remain unshaken by new stimuli, and chose a response that best fits the situation.  If I nothing else, this week I will listen.

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