As an extremely shy child who shunned most social interaction, I spent an enormous amount of my early life observing. Maybe I should clarify that statement. I’m still shy, I still avoid most social interactions and I still spend a lot of my time observing the people around me. The only difference between then and now is that I don’t panic as much when I have to meet new people.
Something that has always fascinated me was points of focus. Why do some people stand out? How does a crime victim get selected from a larger group of people? How can you disappear when you are in a group of people? From the performer standpoint, I have always been aware of this principle. Some performers stand out on stage while others seem not to exist. The same principal occurs in the rehearsal room, some people stand out and some, I really have to remind myself that they are in the room. Surprisingly enough, many of those who “disappear” in the rehearsal room are often strong performers who shine on stage (I was one of those people).
As a teacher and a coach, one of my goals is to get these “disappearing” dancers noticed. All of them will have to deal with the audition process and if they cannot get noticed, they have a slimmer chance of getting a job. What few people realize is that throughout my career, although I spent only six months unemployed, I never passed an audition. I was always hired either after a director or choreographer saw me perform, or on the recommendation of a mentor or rehearsal director months after I failed to pass a formal audition. This is not a legacy I want to pass onto the next generation because it’s way too stressful. I would like the dancers around me to begin to understand the principles of focus and use those principles to their advantage.
Some of you might be aware that for the past year, I have been exploring those principles of focus in a new work, entitled The Eyes of Helios. Helios was the Titan god of the sun who presided over the various facets of the solar body, from the measurement and divisions of the day, the year and the seasons, to the powers of heat and fire and the gift of sight. The Eyes of Helios is about the manipulation of the viewer’s focus. Throughout this process, I have played with many different principles of focus and while some of the results were expected, some have amazed me. What I find particularly fun is when the entire cast and those watching know how I’m about to manipulate their focus and yet when it happens, they are surprised. Knowing what is going to happen and seeing it happen are two different things.
I am showing a draft of The Eyes of Helios at the Winchester Street Theatre on May 6th and 7th, 2013 at 8:00 p.m. For this production, I have hired the dancers who right now are inspiring me to create and explore the principles of focus – the senior students of the Oakville School of Dance. Tickets are “Pay What You Can” and I am asking those attending to please bring their phones, etc. because this is an “all electronic devices on” event. I want to know what you see. As we get closer to the show, I will post some of the different focus principles that I have tackled. Some of these insights will give you an awareness of how your focus is shifting during a specific section of Helios and some will challenge you to catch the focal changes.