Artistic Director Danielle Micich has just returned from four weeks of training with the SITI Company in Saratoga Spring, New York. The training comprised speaking, movement, dramaturgy, composition, Suzuki training and View Point modules, each led by a company member. Danielle writes about some of her experiences in the training room…
Who ever thought that counting to ten could be difficult!?! My very first speaking class with Ellen Lauren of SITI Company proved it to be.
Ellen asked me to count to ten whilst walking in a straight line down centre-stage. It was way harder than I thought it would be, and I think my inner monologue became louder than my speaking voice!
“Well that’s not a very good start… “Gee I can’t see the audience from here… “Hmm three sounds a bit nasally… “Ooh I didn’t think my voice could go that deep… “That was good… “I’m running out of breath!! “Thank god that’s over!”
While I was walking and talking – and thinking away – Ellen was busily writing down notes in the darkened auditorium. I was very curious to know what she’d written about me, so on our last day together I asked her. “Nice voice, tentative, lacking depth, mature, has potential – I sense openness,” she said. I think it was a good assessment – not glowing, but something to work from.
During the sessions Ellen showed us how to effectively coordinate movement with text and with breath. For example, we were taught a fairly simple phrase of movements that we had to work text into – again, not as easy as it sounded. When we’d finally ‘mastered’ the coordination of text and movement, Ellen gave us a specific breathing pattern to use whilst moving and talking. This added yet another layer of complexity.
As the training continued we were given long, sword-like sticks that we used to cut the air with large, swinging actions. We then had to coordinate text and a specific breathing pattern with this swinging. For the first three weeks of training I had to sneak in breaths in order to get through the text. However, over time, with Ellen’s consistent instructions and detailed explanations, I started to feel a shift happening in my body. I began to see that coordinating movement with breath added power to my voice.
Ellen talked a lot about the ‘plug’ – the connection from the ground to the lower body to vocalisation – and how its coordination impacts on the sound that is produced. For example, posture can make a huge difference to sound. Ellen demonstrated with different postures and you could really hear if she was ‘plugged’ into her lower body or not.
Throughout the training experience I found it utterly compelling to watch Ellen work one on one with individuals. Once she had set the parameters of a task she would coach each person towards perfection. I watched people fall apart, forget lines, fall over, get frustrated and then refocus. Then I would start hear glimmers of their true voice – coming from or connected to their lower body. This was extraordinary to hear.
There is something to be said about having someone give you motivation and inspiration during training and Ellen gave that in abundance. Training on your own is difficult and I now have a voice in my head as reference when I’m looking to challenge myself and stay focused.
I think if I were to count to ten now, I would speak with a very different voice – one that is more connected to my body and one that has more depth, range and resonance.
Following on from my time at SITI Company I’d like to keep on investigating and eventually develop my experiences into company training.