Just recently in my studio I reviewed one of my student’s performance video recordings of them as “Willy Wonka” in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory The Musical. My talented student did a fantastic job with his vocals, we applauded his achievements, but we also agreed that he could have been more strong in his body movements.
He said that the Director told him when to cross the stage, but otherwise the movement and blocking was up to him to create. He said he wished he had more direction around the movement, and I told him that every director is different. Some directors stage every move, choreograph every line, have charts and scene sketches. Others keep it loose and can be a bit vague about what to do with your hands, feet, pretty much your whole body.
So how do you create movement for yourself that is engaging and feels right for your performance?
Here is a fun physical exercise to get some ideas flowing in your body. It’s important to connect to your physical being, both for your vocal instrument and for your stage persona. We want you to zing the audience with your physicality!
So here is a simple 3 step physical exercise:
Step 1: Pick a song from your production or song repertoire and perform a physical, “Over the Top” performance run through of your song. This means you are making big guestures and continuously moving your entire performance. You are like a shark who has to move to breathe. The goal is to capture some good movement ideas that make sense for your song and character. If a performer feels stuck, I have them first start by walking as they sing without stopping to get them more connected with their body. Then add in hands and your full body movements. Think of having the “moves like Jagger” and let your body just go. Don’t plan it out, go with your instinct.
Step 2: Now sing a run through and do the opposite, “A still life” version where you move as little as possible. The only exception is your face. You can be as expressive as you want to be with your face, but do not move your body. Notice which version feels easier for you to do, the “Over the Top” version or “The Still Life”? Which gets you out of your comfort zone? Which version better suits your character? In the case of Willy Wonka, the more movement the better.
Step 3: Finally, you get to find a good balance of movement that feels right, feels like enough, but not too much for your performance. Your physical performance says as much as your vocal one, you want the two to work together for you. A bonus step is to record yourself doing these three steps to decide what you want to achieve for your final physical performance. Make sure you are communicating well with your body and you will mesmerize your audience!