This is a multi-part series on the art of performing.
Science and Art
Science is the intellectual and practical activity of observing, understanding and codifying the structure and function of the physical and natural world in order to care for it, and survive optimally within it. The end product of science is the improvement of life and living compatibly within the real world.
Art is the creative process of developing culture, beauty and understanding in a society. The purpose and product of art is inspiration, catharsis, education and amusement in an effort to understand and evolve life and civilization.
Both art and science have the same goal of improving civilization by preserving what is great from the past and uncovering and creating what is great in the present in order to have a better tomorrow. As an artist, I have devoted my life to creating a better world through the art of dance – in particular, cultural dance.
Dance itself is inspiring because the body, mind and soul of the dancer come together to lift the limitations and depravities of humanity through a synergy with music. Dance is music in movement. Cultural dance has the added benefit of educating as well as inspiring because it brings understanding and appreciation of other cultures, and understanding brings peace.
Performance vs. Fine Arts.
The performing arts (acting, dancing, and singing) are distinguished from the fine arts (painting writing sculpture, poetry) by these two factors: 1. The fine artist uses an external medium and 2. Their work is solitary; their audience is not immediate and personal. On the other hand, the performing artist is the medium and they have an intimate and usually immediate relationship with their audience. And, like any relationship there are boundaries, rules, expectations and communication from the performer to the audience. All these things must be learned, understood and followed in order to be a good performer. So what are the things the performer must be, do and have in order to be a great performer?
Because I am a dancer I will use dance as an example for this, but there is a lot of crossover between dancers, actors, and musicians. The three things all performers use are their minds, their emotions and their bodies. Dance is primarily concerned with the body and personality of the performer.
Performers use themselves as conduits to reflect the universality of life. They think, emote and behave when they perform, in order to lift their audience out of the reality of their daily life and so be inspired, educated and/or released from the subjectivity of living. In other words, a performing artist is a mirror.
The challenge of doing this is being able to access one’s own mind, emotions and manage one’s own body, voice and “beingness” in order to effectively impact the audience. A performing artist needs to be believable, (if an actor), solicit empathy if an opera singer, move to ecstatic heights in rock and roll, strike awe with a leap or turn, or inspire deep thought with a poetry reading. This starts with understanding the human experience, the components of being human and understanding themselves in order to perform well. The inner workings of human life are the thought, emotions and behaviors of people. And the king of this is thought.
Thought is the product of the spirit. The internal concepts/conversations we as spiritual beings have when we observe, consider or decide. Thoughts are the product of the spirit and remain behind as the content of the mind.
The mind is made of Mental Image Pictures. These pictures contain precise memories of every moment-by-moment experience from childhood on. Mental Image Pictures are the warehouses of thought, emotion, behavior, pain, pleasure, decisions and viewpoints. Our pasts are memory warehouses which performers use to access material to perform. Performers are constantly opening their hearts and minds (memories) in order to perform with passion and purpose.
We are all spiritual beings, which means we are the conscious entities that perceive, consider, decide, intend (will) and emote in order to behave and survive. Of these, the most critical component of the spirit is WILL. Will is the Intention we use to decide, emote and behave. Unwavering will is essential to our success in life because it does not contain doubt, hesitation or fear. It kind of floats above the emotions and ego shooting out powerful signals that dictate what happens in our lives. It is not concerned with outcome because it never fails in bringing about outcome if it is truly unwavering.
Intention vs. Desire
Desire is simply our preferences in a passive state. The difference between intention and desire is, one is active and the other is passive.
E [Latin: ex or out]
Motion [Latin: movere – moving
Emotion is outward moving energy or feeling.
Emotion is a natural energetic state of being, derived from one's past, present experiences and relationships with others.
Emotion is the buffer between thought and behavior.
Emotion is a state of being that motivates or moves us to act or react. Experience creates emotion in us and we create experience because of our emotions. They are the wheels that turn our lives depending on how we feel. They are the grease that makes our relationships smooth and pleasant, or not. Emotions reflect how well we are doing because of the pain or pleasure of our feelings and moods. Understanding emotion is the key to being a good performer – whether an actor, musician or dancer.
There are three types of emotions:
Acute Emotions – Temporary Feelings.
Set Emotions - Set Emotions are chronic; they are feelings we live with every day because of our upbringing and experiences. These are “set” because they are chronic – they don’t change and they define who we are to the outside world. We can’t see our behavior very well, so the things we say and the way we behave is often an enigma to us. But, others see us objectively and they define us by our behavior, which is dictated by our emotions.
Emotion and Behavior
Every emotion has behavior and an attitude that goes with it. For example, an angry person is known for being cruel and chronically hostile; a shy person is known as a meek person – indecisive and often wishy-washy. A passive-aggressive person is known for being a back-stabber- someone who does not say what they truly think or feel – especially when they are angry – but instead, stabs you in the back.
Changing a set emotion pattern is very difficult, but possible. It is harder as we age, so learning to be a perform at an older age can be very challenging because we are, as they say, “set in our ways” – and this includes emotions. So, the earlier we learn a subject the easier it is to master it because our minds, emotions and bodies are malleable and we are emotionally facile. A performer has command of all emotions on the Emotional Scale from the top down and the bottom up – she can be in a rage one minute and sweet and docile in another. Leaving these roller-coaster rides of emotion “at the office”, so to speak, can be a bit challenging, which is why performers are considered quirky, wild and free-spirited!
Emotion is felt in a linear fashion with the lowest emotions being apathy, sorrow, fear, anguish, dread and anger. When we are stooped in negative emotions we cannot act positively. We cannot think positively. When we are upscale and happy we act and think positively. Here is a general outline of the scale:
Peace/Serenity - Calm
Joy – Fun and free-spirited
Cheerful – Friendly, Helpful and Kind
Boredom – Impatient,
Frustration – Hostile, Rude
Anger – Mean-spirited, Rager
Passive-Aggressive – Back-stabber, heartless. (Fear+ Anger)
Fear – Anguished, Wishy-Washy- Distracted - ADD
Grief – Sad and Despairing
Apathy – Depression, Unfeeling and Inactive
These are the primary emotions and each has a degree or shade of itself, as well as behavior that goes with it. People become stuck in one of the other of the emotions, through life experience and so are fixed in their viewpoint and behavior. Performers have the advantage of being able to step outside themselves and become emotive in any part of the scale, and able to express emotion and behave with passion and power. This is why we love them.