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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » Movement and choreography (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Dr_Stephen_Midnight
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The basics of stage movement I derived from theatre classes and the writings of Burling Hull.

Steve
Dr. Lao: "Do you know what wisdom is?"
Mike: "No."
Dr. Lao: "Wise answer."
RandyStewart
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Quote:
On 2005-07-24 19:22, georgefl38 wrote:
The important thing about movement is that it be relevant and appropriate to the show and the performer's persona.


Thanks for that most important reminder! A performer could be in some sort of trouble if the audience member asks why a performer moved a certain way instead of taking it as relevant and appropriate to the performance.
Mick Ayres
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One of my 'heroes' in magic is Max Howard. Once, during a lecture, Max carefully described several changes he had made to a stage prop and the reasons why it made his performance better. At one point, he showed how he had covered the inside of a large cylinder with black velvet...then he started to change the subject. I could see no reason why the velvet inside the tube would help the operation of the effect--so why not just paint it black and be done with it? Max's answer changed the way I prepare and rehearse forever. He said, "I didn't put the velvet in there for the trick or for the audience--they can't tell the difference from where they sit. I did it for ME. When I look at the audience through the tube to show it empty, the velvet is a reminder to me that I have done everything I can to make my show, my props and my effect--the absolute best it can be."

Our young Canadian friend who started this thread is absolutely correct. Throughout my career it has never ceased to amaze me that a huge majority of magicians, who wish to spend their lives performing on a stage, will NOT take the time or effort to learn Basic Stagecraft.

Join a local theatre group. Take classes at a nearby community college or university. Audition for a play. If you don't make the cut, volunteer to work backstage and learn the ins and outs of blocking, scene design, stage construction, theatre effects. At the very least, you will walk away from the experience with a greater understanding of your working environment.

From that point on, your show WILL improve...even if it is ways that only you can see.
THE FIVE OBLIGATIONS OF CONJURING: Study. Practice. Script. Rehearse. Perform. Drop one and you're done.
magicalaurie
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Quote:
On 2005-07-30 11:10, Mick Ayres wrote:
Our young Canadian friend who started this thread is absolutely correct.
... your show WILL improve...even if it is ways that only you can see.




Thank you so much, Mick.Smile
I believe it will improve what the audience sees, also, even if they are not conscious of it. They will see integrity.

It will improve the WAY you see, too. And developing your artistic eye will only help your show. There's always more to see. Be willing to see it. Look for it.
Laughing Otter
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I'm enjoying this thread.

All of the choreography and carefully planned movement on the planet will do absolutely no good if one's basic posture is lacking.

I see poor posture everywhere these days, on stage as much as on the street. When did we stop teaching children to stand and walk correctly?
magicalaurie
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Very true, Laughing Otter. Posture is very important. Again it's about being aware of and in control of your instrument. Good posture is fundamental in that. Good point. And I see Laughing Otter, Boy George, AND Streisand Smile
Michael Baker
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Quote:
On 2005-07-29 17:49, magicalaurie wrote:


... there are times when stillness is what's required. And that can be very challenging also.

I have been watching this thread from the beginning, and finally someone hit the nail squarely on the head. Stillness is essential, as surely as silence is essential. Stillness must not be thought of as something added, but rather the absence of something. This is crucial to aesthetic harmony. Knowing how to move is a craft. Knowing when not to, is an art. How much of each is the question. The viewers' sensibilities, able to detect incompleteness, would react to it still with anticipation or longing (leave them wanting more). Excess sparks a different emotion.

An artist's work may well be unwittingly applauded not by what they have put into that work, but because of what they know to leave out.

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Bill Palmer
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This is an excellent thread.

I think it is necessary to put the Robert-Houdin quote into its full context, because many of us are prone to quote it without understanding why it was said.

The quote is on page 43 of the Routledge edition of Secrets of Conjuring and Magic in a chapter titled "Escamotage, Prestidigitation.

He explains the meanings of the two words, then he states: "A conjuror is not a juggler; he is an actor playing the part of a magician; an artist whose fingers have more need to move with deftness than with speed. I may even add that where sleight-of-hand is involved, the quiter the movement of the performer, the more readily will the spectators be deceived."

Ironically, Hoffmann added this footnote at the end of the chapter -- "The present chapter being a disquisition of the precise signification of a couple of French terms, will have but little interest for the ordinary English reader. It would, however, have been an unjustifiable mutilation of the text to have omitted it."

Why is this ironic? Well, there are several reasons. One is that it is probably the only quote from this book that almost every English-speaking magician is aware of in any form at all. Most of us have no idea where it comes from or its context, just that Robert-Houdin said it.

And we have added a lot of meaning to the original text that may or may not have been intended by Robert-Houdin in the first place.

But were we wrong to do this?

NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Sometimes a tiny fragment of a book will assume a life greater than the book itself. And a whole new approach to an art form will appear because something was gained from an out of context quote.

My own work was helped immensely by three directors. One was the late Albert Baker of the Houston Parks Department, who gave me very valuable advice on stage movement. Another was David Casey of the Brothers Rogue, Oaf and Foole, who was the E.D. of the Texas Renaissance Festival for three years. He was reluctant to make any suggestions, because he thought I thought I knew everything. I told him that I knew what his directorial skills were, and I would accept any suggestions he had. The third was Jeff Baldwin, who put me into a play in which I did no magic at all. It was a great education.

It freed me.

Laurie -- you have brought up an excellent point and expanded on it well.

Oh, one other person I have to thank for some great insight is Howie Schwartzman. I was emceeing a show at a convention where he was one of the acts. He told me how to establish my ownership of the stage. I thought he was a miserable little (anatomical reference deleted) at the time. But I thanked him for it later.
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Whit Haydn
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Quote:
On 2005-08-03 11:10, Bill Palmer wrote:

Oh, one other person I have to thank for some great insight is Howie Schwartzman. I was emceeing a show at a convention where he was one of the acts. He told me how to establish my ownership of the stage. I thought he was a miserable little (anatomical reference deleted) at the time. But I thanked him for it later.



Everything that miserable little (anatomical reference deleted) Howie Schwartzman ever told me turned out to be right as well. I may not have always thanked him later, so, at least here I am admitting it.
magicalaurie
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Quote:
On 2005-08-03 11:10, Bill Palmer wrote:
He told me how to establish my ownership of the stage.


Gotta own it if you want to have any credibility with the audience. BE there. OWN it.

Thanks so much for your input, Bill.

You too, Michael. One of my all time favorite teachers taught me, "Never be afraid of silence onstage." You don't have to "fill it up". You have to do what is appropriate for the moment.

And hope you feel better now, Whit Smile
George Ledo
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Quote:
On 2005-08-03 16:46, magicalaurie wrote:
"Never be afraid of silence onstage." You don't have to "fill it up". You have to do what is appropriate for the moment.

Well said. Silence can be as effective as any other piece of stage business; even more so, if the alternative is meaningless chatter. A look, a pause, a nod, a wink, even standing still for effect can work as long as it advances the action.

Where I might make a suggestion is your comment "You don't have to "fill it up"" You do have to fill it up, but you can fill it up with silence if that's the most appropriate thing to fill it with. I'm a set designer, and I very often think it's sad that so many young designers feel the need to fill a stage with scenery. Physical scenery. Stuff. Flats, stairs, windows, platforms, ad nauseam. Everything in the textbook and then some. What we might call "physical patter." Scenery doesn't make a set: the atmosphere on stage does. Either it supports the action and helps it move forward or it doesn't. I recently filled a stage with white space -- a small physical set backed up by a cyc -- and let the lighting designer have some fun too. For this particular production, it was far more effective than wall-to-wall stuff.

Thanks again for starting this topic. Best wishes.
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magicalaurie
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Thanks, George.

What I meant is you don't have to fill it up with noise. I could have been clearer. Do make the moment FULL. Absolutely.

I agree, it's all about providing atmosphere. And lights are amazing tools. Great points. Thanks again.
Doctor Whoston
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At the risk of getting flamed for wanting to take the easy way and not going out and joining an amateur dramatic club to learn, are there any really good books on this topic?
Particularly ones that DON'T deal with magic.

Thanks,
DW
George Ledo
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There are a number of books out there, mostly on the theatrical shelves at large bookstores and in college textbook stores, but most of them tend to go on and on about theory, history, and academic fluff. Fitzkee's Showmanship for Magicians is good if you can get past the fact that a lot of the material, although good, is very dated.

Books, however, don't let you ask questions or talk with the authors. They also don't give you a chance to try things out and get feedback. A local drama club, or an acting class, for my money, is the best bet by far.
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
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themaestro
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Quote:
On 2005-08-09 10:21, Doctor Whoston wrote:

... are there any really good books on this topic? Particularly ones that DON'T deal with magic. Thanks,
DW


I'm so glad you asked. Smile Two books I would highly recommend are THE MIME BOOK by Claude Kipnis and MIME SPOKEN HERE by Tony & Karen Montanaro, and really believe you need not just one or the other, but both. (A review and discussion of the complementary nature of the two books can be found in my review of MIME SPOKEN HERE on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/det......n=507846

And I make these suggestions not just for those magicians interested in highly stylistic or theatrical presentations. I am actually working on an essay/article about how I believe mime--as represented/taught in these books--is actually more akin and beneficial to the acting necessary for magicians than play acting; after all, both deal with creating physical illusions.

However, as related to this subject, I believe often magicians betray the mood, character, and even mystery they are trying to portray by lack of awareness and control of their body--both in movement and stillness. The exercises in Kipnis'book will give most magicians a much greater awareness and control over their body. At least it did for me--much better than all my movement and acting classes in drama school. The Montanaro book really expands the definition of mime, calling it "physical eloquence," to way beyond the stereotypical no-talking, physical illusions that we think of. It is in essence a specific acting approach--the outside showing the inside--and I think his work and exercises on "premise" is extremely valuable.

Oh and if you decide to buy the MIME SPOKEN HERE book, I'd getting it directly from Karne Montanaro at http://mimetheatre.com/store/main.html That way the author gets more money. And I think it's cheaper too. Smile

Nowlin Craver
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George Ledo
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Interesting idea... you're right in that we often think of mime as a cliche. But it doesn't have to be.

I took a class in Mask, Mime, and Movement 'way back in college as part of my theatre program, and somehow managed to completely forget about it until just now. But so much of what we learned there could be useful when putting together a magic act. Funny thing, though, I often think that my dance classes (mostly about ten years of ballroom, plus some ballet, tap, and jazz) helped immensely when I was putting together a routine a few years ago.

Thanks for the post. It's refreshing to get hit with something out of left field now and then.
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
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magicalaurie
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Quote:
On 2005-08-11 02:37, themaestro wrote:
awareness and control of their body--both in movement and stillness.
Nowlin Craver


I referred to this earlier. I would definitely recommend mime training. It is very challenging. Mimes know how to use their instrument, big time. All about awareness and control. Theatre classes emphasize this, too. Very much so. I think mime work would intensify the focus, though.

Very good point, Nowlin. Thank you.
Bill Palmer
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Nowlin:

Excellent suggestion.

Dr. Whoston:

It never hurts to contact a professional. If you are involved in the University there, you might have a chance to audit some classes. Even observing a few rehearsals can give you ideas.
"The Swatter"

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magicalaurie
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More good advice from Bill.

Thank you, sir. Smile
Bill Palmer
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You are most welcome, Ma'am.
"The Swatter"

Founder of CODBAMMC

My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
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