We are still on our family vacation in beautiful Steamboat Springs, Colorado. We're absolutely loving being out here. The weather is gorgeous (polar fleece at night), and we are having such a great time doing things that we all like to do--hiking, biking, inner-tubing, wading in creeks, eating great food . . .
And, yesterday! We went to the Perry Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp for their open house (Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Beil, and many other famous performers were students). It was like being on the set of Fame except that the dance studios were glass or open air pavilions that looked out over the mountains and sat on the banks of streams. A doe was walking right outside of the window during one of the rehearsals.
What struck me as I was watching the dancers and actors perform and take direction from their teachers was how all art is the same. We are all striving for the same level of expression, no matter what the medium.
The first rehearsal that we watched was a group of younger girls performing a gorgeous modern dance. During part of the dance, some of the girls were suspended from canvas strips that were attached to the ceiling and they were performing beautiful acrobatic moves. After the first attempt, the teacher called the girls over and started talking to them about a certain movement and the curve of their arm. She used the term "phrasing" and showed how a different arm position gave the pose a different feel. She wanted the dancers to show a closing in rather than a reaching up and a subtle twist of the arm gave the pose a completely different mood. Phrasing.
Next, we watched a group of pre-professional dancers. A flamboyant instructor kept us all entertained as he walked the dancers through a group of steps--steps that looked incredibly complicated to me! I was amazed at how quickly the dancers learned the steps as he took them through the moves. When they had finished learning the sequence, the instructor spoke to us and said, "Now, they have learned the moves. We have blocked them in. Later in the week the choreographer will color the movements--add the little nuances . . . make it art." Coloring.
Finally, we watched the cast of the school's upcoming production of Pippin as they rehearsed the opening scene. It was fascinating to watch the instructors giving direction to the cast members and to watch the cast take that direction. I noticed how the lingering of a syllable in a word made such a difference in the feeling of a scene. At one point, the director told the lead actress to hold back or let it swell. She said, "You're too good to put it all out there the minute you get out on stage. Give the audience little hints at the beginning, but wait and let it swell." She also talked to the other actors about setting their intention the minute they entered the stage. Swelling. Setting an intention.
Phrasing. Coloring. Swelling. Setting an intention. Sounds like great writing advice.
I was reminded yesterday that all art is essentially the same. We are all striving for the same level of honest expression and artistry. But, I was especially reminded of how much WORK it takes to achieve that level of artistry. And, I was reminded of the value of a great teacher, critique partner, writer's conference . . . anything that helps us along the way.