At the University College Drama Program, if you’re taking a Performance course, then you’re taking Voice and Movement. They go hand in hand. This is my third year taking Performance at the UCDP, and so this is also my third year with Voice and Movement.
I’ve learned a lot over the past 3 years in V/M. Though they’re really two separate courses, there is plenty of overlap. One of the most interesting things about these courses is their similarity to physiotherapy. In these classes, we’re challenged to become more articulate with muscles that most people take for granted, or don’t even know they have.
So how do you get students to discover new muscles? This is the challenge I didn’t understand two years ago – the challenge that the instructor has in guiding students to these areas of the body/brain. Every student is different, and each could have their own way of understanding the mechanical workings of their own bodies – it’s really hard to tell.
So how did they do it?
Metaphors, believe it or not. Images and metaphors. I remember thinking that these classes were really…kind of strange, with all of the speaking in metaphors and images…
“Now, imagine that your soft pallate is like one of those automatic-pop-up tents….now POP it open!”
“Imagine more space in your hip flexor…breathe into that space…”
It might sound spacey, or floaty, or like nonsense, but believe it or not, this stuff works.
Probably the best example was in my voice class this year, when the instructor was getting us to find ways of getting our voice over obstructions in our mouths. In this case, our obstruction was our own tongues – we had placed the tip of our tongue against the lower portion of our bottom teeth, and were pushing the middle of our tongue out of our mouths.
Now try to get sound out. It might sound like you’re talking into a tin can.
The instructor then got us to try and “arc” our voices out of our mouths – and here’s where the really interesting part came in – he got us to arc our arms forward at the same time. And it worked.
He said that there are many ways of communicating with the brain, and that one of them – that is often overlooked by academics – is through the body. It’s called kinesthetic learning. By arcing our arms away from our body, we were reinforcing the feeling of what he wanted us to do with our voices.
And in doing this, I actually discovered new muscles in my throat. No joke. They don’t move much, and they’re very subtle, but they’re there, and they affect sound, and those are what he was trying to get us to find.