Method Dancers; Acting a Role

Method Acting: the art of torturing yourself to prove you’re an artist. Just kidding.

This is the school of thought that an actor must always stay in character even after cameras stop rolling. Sort of defeats the whole ‘acting’ part in my opinion, but who am I to slam Daniel Day Lewis? Liam Neeson? I think that an actor should be able to turn out a great performance when it’s time, and then turn it off and return to their actual personality, beliefs, core values when the director yells ‘cut’. But perhaps I am just moody and bipolar enough that I can turn my emotions on a dime; the basic emotional trajectory of my day looks something like : Good mood, bad mood, GREAT MOOD, crying….it all depends on how pirouettes are going that class….kidding again, kind of.

If I were going to go method style in my approach to dancing roles you’d better believe I would stay the fondu away from Giselle or Nikiya from La Bayadere- which are roles I would otherwise love to dance. I would perhaps take on Aurora from Sleeping Beauty. “Ok cast and crew, I’m gonna be needing that castle and presents and that ambien right about now”.

Anthropologie catalogue photo with my decoupaged ballrina roommate

Anthropologie catalogue photo with my decoupaged ballerina roommate

I say that method is ridiculous but I noticed that I carry myself in a different manner, deliberately, even while in rehearsal. We at Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company are preparing for our show this weekend and I noticed during our last run how very differently I behave in the wings, or off-stage for separate pieces, and I don’t think I’m the only one. During the joyous, fun piece I saw myself and others watching and complimenting the dancers onstage (Yes Mariko! -I probably say this at some point every run) and while in the thick of a more serious piece, I could feel my facial expression take a furrowed and concentrated shape, I might close my eyes and mark an arm or go over a key phrase that I made up to aid execution during fast moments “up side down extend”- I say these things to myself until they become second nature

I think behaving this way helps me center my energy and focus on the task at hand. It’s funny that I feel more connected to my fellow dancers, even from the sides,  during a piece that is so openly about communal spirit while I become more introverted and internally focused even off-stage during the other where I feel like something weighty and maybe even beyond my comprehension is going on.

If I’m totally honest though, I think that my changing sideline attitude reflects more how I want to appear to my coworkers and director. I do think concentrating or enjoying myself helps the dancing, but I do ‘act’ these ways deliberately and not because it really helps me. I feel that if I’m laughing or smiling offstage during the serious one, it will look like I in-turn am not taking the work seriously or understanding the intellectual and physical demands. And then if I mess up during a run, my lack of focus will be declared the cause. And if I am not overtly happy even on the sidelines during the happy piece, It will seem as if I’m not grateful for the gift to dance, or like I’m holding back emotionally and therefore probably physically too. Sheesh, what an exhausting game to play. Maybe the method actors are the most devoted and hardest working after all.

"real artists don't smile!'- Kristen and Tara at work and play

“real artists don’t smile!’- Kristen and Tara at work and play

I think the true gift of a performer is that ability to successfully tap into the essence of a role- it doesn’t matter how long it takes for one to get there, but I think I can deliver without having to change too much of my outside lifestyle. The method stuff, at least in this experience, was more about convincing everyone else how fully devoted I am and didn’t really do much to change my actual performance. I think method acting is just covering your butt in case someone could dare say, ‘ they didn’t try hard enough, or do their research, or prepare for their role’.

If my recent life were an attempt at method acting, and the way I drive to how I speak to what I eat were reflective of a character.I would probably be Odette, the White Swan from Swan Lake. I say this because three out of four of my car windows are covered in bird merde and because I recently made this delicious and gluten-free meal fit for a dancer(Since I like food and you probably like food and we all want to be healthy and some of us have restricted diets due to Celiac disease-still getting used to it- , I will be sharing the occasional recipe that seems worthy of taking up space on this oh-so-succinct blog) Thanks to Kate from For me, For you.

IMG_8481 IMG_8479 IMG_8477 IMG_8475

The main component is quinoa, which is a seed –bird food good for swans. Turns out it is NOT good for me, I just don’t tolerate it. I don’t think it has anything to due with my CD as it is gluten free, I just think it’s nasty and expensive and well, I forgive the birds for the crap all over my windows if this is what they’re eating. So I will make this again, but with these changes and tips:

  • For gluten-free eaters, use Tamari instead of soy sauce ( I loved this dressing and I HATE orange juice, but the sweetness and tang goes really well with these earthy-flavored vegetables)
  • More spinach in place of quinoa (No to quinoa!)
  • Do not leave out the sweet potato (as it was my favorite part)
  • Toss the chick peas in a little olive oil and maybe some cumin and toast in the oven
  • I used a few hazelnuts because that’s what I had on hand but I think without the quinoa for texture and to add substance, I won’t skimp on some slivered almonds.
  • I loved the creaminess of a little sprinkling of goat’s cheese but that stuff is pricey. I’m tempted to try other cheaper cheeses, like maybe a bit of Feta (also lower in fat).

Wishing everyone an authentically wonderful evening- with respect and prayers for anyone in Boston or those with loved ones in Boston, or you know what, all of us in general. Sometimes it seems like there is more madness than method out there- or maybe we all just need to carefully consider what role we take on.

Someone was hungry- Nathalie Lete plate from anthropologie

Someone was hungry- Nathalie Lete plate from anthropologie

I'll have what she's having!

I’ll have what she’s having!

For now, I’m just Jess– trying to create some art and some dinner.

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