Posted by Thom Smyth, May 1st, 2013
Words: Storm Helmore, Reflect performer
Over the past few weeks we have had the pleasure of working with Bill Handley as part of the lead up to performances. His focus is on focus – where do we look when we perform? Why do we choose to look there, if we chose to at all? How does our eye focus affect the performance; both our experience of it and that of the audience? And how do we, as performers, confidently take on the task of decision makers in this aspect of the work.
We begin with restriction. Our first direction from Bill is to walk through the beginning of the work, at all times keeping our eye focus low, at about 45 degrees down towards the floor. This immediately goes against our performative instinct of directing our focus outwards, towards the audience, and proves to be quite a difficult task. The mood shifts, I feel sad, sombre and more serious than usual. At the same time I am anxious at having to resist the urge to look up, open up, to the (not yet there) audience. But then, a tiny bit of comfort sneaks in; I enjoy this section of dancing more when I don’t have to look up, I realise that my focus is always down in that moment, or actually, this just feels right. Then I relax my focus, I loosen the fixed, intense gaze I just noticed I had, and begin to explore the room at 45 degrees. There is definite relief upon finishing this task though – I can look at my cast mates again, can connect with them, am able take in the whole room, not just the floor and the chairs – the sadness and seriousness that I felt during the task begin to subside. I wasn’t the only one that experienced this shift in mood. And this is nothing compared to when we revisit this idea in a few days time.
This task repeated, but in a different section of the work. I am almost crying at one stage then I get so angry my jaw hurts from clenching. Bill asks us how it felt. I reply that I wanted to shoot somebody. Sue says slyly, that’s how you should feel by the end of that section… Now how to bottle that feeling, and the movement quality that came with it, and recapture it (perhaps not so intensely) next time? Bill seems genuinely excited that we all felt angry and/or sad during this task, and he asks us next time, to make room for the emotions that arise. Make room for them instead of resisting them. Life lessons learnt in the studio.
Here are a few more of those lessons which have taken me by surprise or have been reinforced during this process…
Filling someone else’s shoes is hard work, but making yourself comfortable in them so you can walk your walk (or in this case, dance your dance) is another thing altogether.
Take time to notice what you notice. More and more detail will be revealed to you.
Your time is precious – not only to you but also to the people in your life.
By restricting our options every now and again, a wealth of opportunities can be revealed.
Simple changes may result in huge shifts.
Sometimes what you think you are doing, is not what others perceive you to be doing.
Being surrounded by amazing people can only be good for you. Surely we absorb awesomeness from others by osmosis if we stand close enough right?!
It is hard to stay sad or angry when you are laughing.
Storm Helmore will perform in Reflect from 3 – 11 May 2013 at the State Theatre Centre of WA Studio Underground.
Click here for tickets and info
Storm grew up dancing in country Queensland before moving to Brisbane to undertake a Bachelor of Science degree. At the completion of her degree, Storm returned to dancing and was soon performing and teaching regularly in Brisbane, mainly in hip hop styles. In 2008, she successfully auditioned for a place in the Bachelor of Arts (Dance) degree at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) and made the move to Perth. Storm completed her training at WAAPA in 2011, having had the opportunity to perform in works by Dean Walsh, Matthew Morris, Sue Peacock and Xiao Xiong Zhang during the three years of training. Since graduating, Storm has worked on creative development processes for Sue Peacock, Rachel Ogle and Isabella Stone. She has performed as a dancer in West Australian Opera’s production of The Pearl Fishers, alongside French company Les Commandos Percu for the opening event of the Perth International Arts Festival 2013 and in Sam Fox’s workPersonal Political Physical Challenge at the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne.