Evan Bortnick http://musa-vocalis.de/
It’s always been a particular fascination of mine how singers move. The raised shoulders, the furrowed eyebrows, the tensed upper lip, the pelvic wave all have both an emotional expression AND a very specific technical, functional correspondence for singers. I remember in my student days ALL those years ago, that there were phrases in arias that HAD to be accompanied by certain very specific gestures and body positions. I notice that with my students as well. What I’ve also noticed is that with experience and practice these gestures and movements evolve. I can remember directors saying to me “Less is More!” That seems to be the direction of evolution. In myself and in my students these movements become more and more succinct over time. In trying to describe this important phenomenon in pedagogy classes I’ve been using a functional distinction between “Mobility” and “Motility”.
Mobility, as I’m using it here is the movement within a given process. Motility is the movement potential within a given process. So while mobility is the movement itself, motility is the ability and readiness for movement, even without the movement. So it’s possible to experience stillness and motility at the same time. That’s the crucial point for singers!
Every movement we voice teachers see in our students which we would label as exaggerated or unnecessary is the expression of some functional wish. When this wish becomes conscious, either through words, through pictures or through tone-qualities, it’s then possible to accelerate this motility-evolution. Then less really does become more. The quality of movement becomes simpler and more effective. Gestures, facial expressions and general body language all become more authentic and congruent.
Here’s an example; numerous times I’ve experienced singers who during performances or rehearsals, when a phrase becomes emotionally intense, automatically raise their shoulders. When they become conscious of this, visually, sensorily or both, the inherent wish behind it is has usually to do with emotional expression and/or the second innervation of the diaphragm (what the bel canto school calls “inhalare la voce”). There’s something about raised shoulders which signals emotional involvement or emotional display. While breathing out, if we wish to increase the inhalatory tendency to better regulate sub-glottal pressure, we feel lateral expansion in the rib cage. This translates as raised shoulders. HOWEVER, shoulders which raise from increased diaphragmatic innervation is much different from shoulders raised through increased tone in the deltoids, trapezius and serratus muscles. The former brings the larynx flexibly down, the later tends to stiffen and raise the larynx (among other factors). So an increased consciousness of the emotional and physical needs of this mobility allow it to evolve into increased motility and a higher degree of vocal efficiency.
This principle carries over, of course, into life and consciousness itself. That makes it crucial in any coaching context. As an example, anyone who’s practiced Alexander Technique recognizes the principle of turning extraneous movement and muscle tension into an increased flexibility or movement potential, thereby releasing unnecessary tension. To use another example; Dr. Les Fehmi’s “Open Focus” techniques increase a sense of well-being through just this principle of subtly releasing movement habits (including mental focus movements) into motility, or flexible movement potential.
An ever increasing understanding of how any movement expression evolves over time to make itself both more efficient and more potent is crucial in guiding both singers and non-singers towards an increased quality of life!
Evan Bortnick http://musa-vocalis.de/