To maintain balance during choreography and movement we need arrange and assimilate data from our vision, proprioceptive and vestibular systems. A weakness in one of the three systems can have an impact on a person’s balance. The intimate relationship between the vestibular and visual systems starts from when we are born. Interestingly the vestibular system is the only fully functioning system that we are born with. In the beginning this system guides our movement, which in turn then leads the development of our visual system. When we are young, movement guides vision. However, as soon as we develop the necessary visual skills, vision begins to guide movement.
Eyes, Head. Shoulders and Hips. Four ways I like to help my central focus i.e. foveal vision. “The foveal system of the human eye is the only part of the retina that permits 100% visual acuity. The line of sight is a virtual line connecting the fovea with a fixation point in the outside world.” (Thank you wiki). Interesting to note the discovery of the line of sight is credited to Leonardo da Vinci – another great arts and science hacker.
I further define these four ways of help into: - Eyes: Line of Sight. Head: Line of Attention. Shoulders: Line of Support. Hips: Line of Effect. By help I mean my ability to maximise my brain and nervous systems relationship to the information I am receiving. The four ‘lines’ that I am referring to here can be all lined up depending on what I need my entire system to do to the information.
For example, I can look at an object with my eyes – my ‘line of sight’. I can remain locked on the object without the support of my head, shoulders and or hips being in direct line with that object. If I need more processing power in relationship to the object. I can also bring my ‘line of attention’ in sync with my ‘line of sight’. Now both my eyes and head are now fully locked on. My orientation of the head allows for my nervous system to start being included in the level of importance I feel my body potentially needs to be involved.
This calibration process of my four ‘lines’ can continue through to include my ‘line of support’ and ‘line of effect’. By including my shoulders: my ‘line of support’ I am now preparing my whole body to start being included in responses and decisions about what to do to this object. My arms are now free and the nerve pathways and firing in harmony based on my orientation. The last calibration is that of my hips: my ‘line of effect’; my power base. Which for the sake of this concept includes my feet. The final inclusion of this ‘line of effect’ means my body is now fully engage and available for all responses and needs in relationship to the object. The orientation of my hips gives me greater stability and options of requirements that I may need in relationship to that object.
This calibration of these ‘lines’ doesn’t seem to hold much meaning until I identify what the object might be. What if the object is just a fly? It might be that all I need to do is watch it with my eyes? What if it’s a mosquito that lands on my arm and I chose to swat it? Now my head – ‘line of attention’ is now included as I need to start engaging my arms to successfully swat the mosquito. What if a ball is flying at me? May be that I must orient my shoulders - my ‘line of support’. What if it’s a tiger? Surely, I now need to engage all my ‘lines’: sight, attention, support and effect. I need my body primed and attentive ready for fight or flight!
What does all this have to do movement for the actor? For me there are many applications but three really stand out.
- Safety. Once something goes wrong or something happens beyond the scope of the choreography or what was rehearsed my level of attention will become heighten. So, to support the level of danger I find myself presented with when things go wrong will inform the orientation of all my ‘lines’.
- Targeting & Striking etc. There is much debate in stage combat community about whether to watch targets, blades or maintain eye contact when sword fighting for example. This could take up a whole musing, but I’ll save that for another posting. At the very least depending upon the choice of my body’s engagement will determine the level of my bodies perceived commitment to the moves needed to support choreographic choices. So, as a performer it would behove me to make conscious choices around what ‘lines’ I bring into the shapes my body makes. For example, the difference between a parry with my shoulders and hips involved verses just my shoulders makes for a very different silhouette in my bodies involvement.
- Dramatic Focus. The orientation of all four ‘lines’ can help to bring about different levels of attention and focus for directing the audience’s eye. I can use the different ‘lines’ to help craft and direct the way physical images direct where an audience looks.
Well this concept is still running around in my mind so if you have any questions or want to seek clarification please free to reach out. Feedback is always welcome.