The time codes below refer to the video time codes at which point you can see that specific phase of the exercise through line. You can jump to a specific point in the video by clicking on the time code.
These are the phases of the exercise through line that was used as the main exercise in the workshop. It consists of both existing exercises modified to fit the aim of this research and towards the end of the through line an exercise designed specifically for this research. Originally this was thought as the main focus of the research, but as the research unfolded the play test emerged as the main result of the research. The result was the use of play test as a training method to train a performer to perform in participatory and immersive performances.
1. Time code 00.38
I begin the exercise by focusing on the senses. This exercise is a variation of exercises I’ve come across my 20 years of training mostly in contemporary dance practice, especially in those related to somatic work. It’s a relatively common exercise which I’m applying here in order to familiarize participants (performers) with working with the senses in a way that would be accessible also to participants with no extensive background in performer training.
In the exercise I’m not trying to get to a ‘neutral’ starting point like in a lot of classes I’ve attended which use this exercise. Of those classes I’m keeping the aim to make the muscle work as functional as possible so that unnecessary tensions wouldn’t block the ability of the body to respond to as wide variety of impulses as possible at a later stage of the exercise.
In the beginning – not seen on the video – I propose workshop participants to take a place in the space in a position they want. Then I propose them to let go of unnecessary tensions.
The aim is also to start in the participants a process to be conscious of the small changes in their musculature and to take agency of their own process in opposition to me telling them the exact form this work would take in their body. They are set up as the expert of their own bodies.
Next in the exercise through line we focus on each sense separately. This is not seen in the video.
Then I move closer to the actual exercise through line starting with the sight. By first focusing on the different senses in the beginning my aim is to open up pathways to use the other senses (besides sight), too in the actions later in the exercise even though we start developing actions through sight. In contexts where there is more time I develop more the focusing on the other senses. In the video the focusing on the different senses is not shown, but I mention it to draw attention to the fact that even though the exercise is seemingly focusing on sight, it ultimately aims to develop a multisensory approach.
2. Time code 01.48
When we have gone through the senses, I propose participants (performers) open their eyes and let the focus move freely in the space. When it focuses on something specific we say aloud what it is that we are focusing on. The aim is to be relatively precise: Not too vague or general (‘that tree over there’), but not so precise that the focus goes too much into words. The words are used to focus the sense perception and to make it conscious. Even though this is preparation for next stages, it’s also already training to be precise with the sensing and how it embeds with the environment.
3. Time code 02.14
The same pattern of sensation into description (as in the previous phase) continues, but now I add walking in space. You describe the sensation and walk to the place you described. This activates the proprioceptive sense and takes us into the space. This change affords subtle changes for the body when the body needs to adjust itself walking in an environment full of roots, rocks, scrubs etc.
4. Time code 03.49
The previous process continues, but now I develop it by transforming the perception into one action. The aim is to let the perception affect oneself as thoroughly as possible so that it triggers an action. The aim is not to invent anything, but to let the action organise itself through the process of sensing and action.
I am searching for an immediate reaction, but at the same time I’m trying to be precise: it is one action, but the interpretation of that one action is up to whoever is the one doing the action. The action doesn’t have to make sense, it doesn’t have to be connected to a role, a conscious through line or anything else resembling a score. It is one precise action that arises from one precise sense perception.
In the clip you see four different interpretations of what an action is from four different persons. The first one is the videographer themselves doing the action and the three others are workshop participants creating an action. These examples are picked because they are the ones that we were able to capture clearly enough, are clear enough in terms of forming one action and show the variety of responses from four different persons.
Note: my comments in the video are not relevant – the videographer has made a decision to include the original sound, but the focus of this analysis is on the action. That’s why my instructions in this video don’t make sense as they are cut short.
5. Time code 04.22
Next I divide a sense perception between two persons (and the environment as also already in the previous phases of the exercise through line). One – in a position of an articipant – describes a sense perception and the other one – in a position of a performer – does one action on the basis of that perception. The aim is for the performer to ‘swim’ into the perception of the articipant. Previously one has experienced and explored a perception by oneself and now that process of perception is divided between two persons in order to dive deeper into a shared perception – one shared between the performer, the articipant and the environment.
This aims to provide a performer precision – in relation to perception – in the very starting point with another person. It aims to train the performer in this particular kind of precision in relation to technique.
Between 04.22–06.22 there are six sets of perception – action combinations. Four of these are captured from an outside point of view and two are combinations of an inside view of a GoPro (using points of views both from the performer and the articipant) and an outside view of the videographer.
In these videos you can see different versions of perception – action combinations. Depending on how the videographer managed to capture the exercises some of these show both the description and the action, but some only show the action. However, in all of these you can see the variety in action which aims to reveal aspects of the technique behind the actions.
The moment at 05.09–05.57 in the video is the best example of the basic form of the exercise both in terms of capturing this moment in the exercise on video and in terms of description of the sense perception and consequent action. It shows both the description from the point of view of the articipant and then the action itself from the point of view of the performer. The description is precise enough and the action is clear. The action also creates a sense of wholeness in having a clear beginning and an end. In this clip I would say the clarity and precision of the description of the sense perception creates a good starting point for the action which is then well rounded.
6. Time code 06.23
In the next phase we turn one action into a participatory action: as a performer you still have the task of doing one action, but now it’s an action that aims to take the other one along, to invite them into the action. We managed to capture only one small part of a perception – action sequence of this part, but the main things of this exercise can also be seen in the next phases of the exercise. I’m including this small part to expose the overall structure of the exercise through line.
The main thing that emerges at this point in the exercise is that previously the action had to stand on its own and it could also use all the space, so to speak. When inviting an articipant into the action, the actions need to enable to articipant to join it. The action needs to create precision – which in my opinion enables the articipant to join -, but also space for their action inside the action. Precision is the main thing here as I would claim precision makes the action intelligible in terms of technique. In terms of intelligibility questions of how an individual action connects to other actions, a role or even a score are separated here on the level of action. If the action itself is clear, it enables the articipant to join the action. And yet at the same time, none of the actions exist in a vacuum. They are arising out of affordances of the environment and connect to the ‘organized activities’ as theorized by Alva Noë. (Noë 2015, 5–6).
One good example of this combination of precision and openness in the action which takes the articipant along can be seen in a later clip at 07.11–07.39. Even though we didn’t manage to capture the description in the beginning, it’s possible to see in the clip how the actor keeps the action clear, but still senses the articipant and the environment throughout the process of forming the action letting both the articipant and the environment affect the action to a meaningful extent.
7. Time code 06.37
In the next phase the aim is to add feeling, emotion or affect. One in the position of an articipant describes their perception and also their feeling, emotion or affect in relation to that perception. With feeling, emotion or affect the aim is again to be relatively precise: not only ‘sad’, but how that manifests exactly. Particular ways to clarify the feeling, emotion or affect in the workshop were: describing a specific part in the body where it manifests, a memory that it arouses or a metaphor. The addition of a description of feeling, emotion or affect is to further specify the perception.
The only clip which shows all components of this phase at 06.37–07.11 is not the best example, because I’m aiming for greater precision in the description and more precise action which would give more space for the articipants to affect the action, but this moment is informative in showing the components of this phase. In terms of action the last clip at 07.11–07.39 for me shows a clarity in action combined with a clear sense of mutual sense of feeling between the performer and the articipant. However, we decided with the videographer to include both as together they show some of the things I was aiming for in the research.
In this last phase of the exercise through line I add a simple line that we used in the performance of The Real Health Center in August 2016. The person in the position of the articipant still describes their perception as before. After they have finished the performer says ‘I would like to propose a test whether this is something we should now concentrate on’. The performer has the duration of that sentence to prepare for the test and then the test starts. The reason for the use of this sentence is to bring out the exploratory quality of the interaction, acknowledge two overlapping contexts – health center and artistic experimentation – and in the form of a sentence highlight the simultaneity of precision and openness.
For this phase we didn’t manage to capture a video clip that would combine all of the things mentioned, but I have chosen one video which shows one approach to creating a ‘test’. It has all the other phases incorporated except participatory action. The action in this clip – A Hairy Test – reflects action as in the phase five (5) of the exercise through line.
This phase (8) marks the end of the exercise through line in the workshop. Especially the relationship of feeling, emotion or affect to a sense of meaning would need more research. However, already this relatively short four-day workshop informed me about how feeling, emotion or affect adds another level of precision into the action and another tool by which to engage the articipant inside the action. Even though the combination of precision and feeling/affect/emotion is familiar to performers, the shift of focus into using it with articipants with no prior knowledge of these techniques makes a difference. I will elaborate this in detail in the video which shows and reflects on the final exercise in the workshop: Scene with the Doctor.
Overall this exercise through line uses some existing forms of performer training with an aim to shift the focus into sensing the articipant instead of the performer. The through line applies thinking around senses, perception and action into new combinations with an aim to dive deep into perception as the starting point for participation, interaction and immersion.
Even though this is the last phase of the exercise through line in the workshop, if we would have more time, I would have introduced one more phase. In this phase we take away the description of a sense perception and the performer is to only sense it from the articipant. This is what the exercise has been training the performer for. In this phase the performer senses a precise focus on a sense perception from the articipant in relation to the environment and then creates an action that engages the articipant jo join the action. The final aim is thus not a particular kind of form – which might well also be possible as a training method – , but a particular kind of sensing of the articipant and the environment.
In the context of this workshop I made a decision to cut this last phase due to lack of time and also because this transition was coming in the very last exercise of the workshop – a play test of the ‘Scene with the Doctor’. The transition would have been smoother if we could have separately prepared this phase before playtesting a whole scene with unknown audience members, but I also knew from previous experience that the jump was possible.
The exercise prepares the performer into a particular kind of performing in participatory and immersive performances. However, in terms of a training method I would claim that the contribution to knowledge is in the last exercise of the workshop which created a situation where the workshop participants needed to apply the technique trained in these exercises into working with an articipant they didn’t previously know. You can see this clip here.