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The Arts Unit @home Art Bites – Characterisation – 5. Character and Laban Movement Analysis

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JANE SIMMONS: Hi, everyone. I'm Jane Simmons from The Arts Unit, the Drama Performance Officer for the Department of Education. This is episode 5 of our Characterisation series. So far we've exploited stereotypes, stock characters, acting in melodrama, status and now we're moving on to more ways to develop characters through movement.

We're going to play with a simple version of Rudolf Laban's movement theories to help us explore character, movement and status. There's a lot more to it than I'm going to do with you today, so if you're interested in finding out more, look up Laban movement analysis. It's also really helpful if you study dance or drama because being able to use the language and terminology of movement is important in your drama literacy.

Laban documented varieties of human movement and broke it down to body, shape, space and effort. So we're going to deal with a trimmed-down version of his theories of effort. When we refer to effort, you might also call this movement dynamics and intentions.

And if we broke that down even further, think about the reason for movement. Punching and reaching both require an extension of the arm, but have very different efforts, intentions, strength and timing, and they affect the body differently as well. So Laban summarised movements into eight categories. So let's start with punch.

So once again make sure you've got a clear space. And I want you to walk right now as if your feet wanted to punch the ground every time you take a step. Go on, give it a go.

Are you impelled to walk in a quick pace? Are you focused and heavy? It's almost like you're stomping as you walk, yeah? That's punch. Do not mess with a character who's a punch.

Next up is dab. So now, think of your feet like paint brushes, just dabbing the ground like a dot colour on the canvas. Walk as a dab. As your feet touch the ground, are you just using the top half of your feet?

Whereas punch requires you to use the full force of your foot, dab is a much lighter touch. Still, give it some pace and intention. But you can feel how much gentler a dab character is.

Next is press. Not as forceful as punch. Press has more of a consistent or sustained walk. So you're walking with force, but it feels deliberate in placing the weight of your feet on the ground. A character who walks with press knows what they want but they're not impulsive.

Let's try glide. Glide is exactly as the word suggests. Does it feel like your feet are constantly close to the ground and you aren't bending your knee as much? But maybe there's a freedom in how you feel as you glide around the space. It's a sustained movement but also light and liberating.

Slash, Walk with the impetus of slash. There's something unpredictable about slash, as if your feet were swords slicing through the air and the ground. It's quick, it's heavy, it's unfocused. Maybe a little bit dangerous. I always think of Kramer from 'Seinfeld,' but I think I might be giving away my age with that reference.

Next up is flick. So walk with flick. How is that different from slash? The energy is different, right? While slash is still felt hard and violent, flick feels lighter. You have to keep the feet gentle, barely touching the ground, and with little force. If you think of how you flick your hair, transfer that into your feet. Flick as you walk.

Wring is next. So walk with the intention of wring. So think of when you have to wring out a wet T-shirt to get all of the moisture out. Try that with your feet. Heavy, yeah? Slightly aggressive, like a bull about to charge.

A last one is float. Be as light as possible, free as a bird. Float is like one of those vague characters that has no idea what's happening, and has just breezed into the room. Float feels young, unhindered by any of the world's problems. So float that walk.

All right, so we had punch and dab, press, glide, slash, flick, wring, and float. Which one did you enjoy the most? You can play with a character who moves differently according to what's happening in the scene.

For instance, if they're sneaking home and trying not to wake anyone, what movement might they use? If they were very late to an important meeting, which Laban movement might they be? What if they had just got in trouble for doing something that they didn't do?

So now I'm handing it over to you. I'm going to give you a scenario to practice and then I want you to create your own short scene using at least two of the movements we've explored today. And then I want you to also show your character's status in the scene.

So, you ready? Here's your scenario. We can do this together. You've just woken up. You feel fantastic, as if nothing could get you down. You are the king of the household.

Now, give everything a good wring to get those muscles moving. And then dab into the kitchen to have breakfast. As you get your things ready to have your breakfast, maybe have a look for your cereal.

Your favourite cereal is gone. Someone put the box back, but nothing's in it! And the only cereal left is the one you hate. It's probably All-Bran. Oh, dear. Slash as you take it to the table. You are not happy.

Now glide your way to the fridge. Is there at least milk? Yes, thank goodness. Open the lid. Oh, dear Lord. What is that smell? That milk is way past its use by date. Throw in the bin.

Is there any other milk? Only your sister's diet, long-life, rice, macadamia, cashew, coconut, almond, soy, oat, pea protein milk that tastes like dirty water, but you know, beggars can't be choosers. So what choice do you have?

Press your way back to the table. Now pour your milk into your cereal, and eat. Reluctantly take a bite of your cereal. You have fallen as low as you can go. You are low-status, pathetic right now.

Suddenly you are not as hungry as you were. In fact, it's revolting. Punch your way over to the compost bin and scoop it in. As you turn around, why there's your favourite cereal and milk on the counter. Ah-ha!

Float over to it lovingly and hug it. There's even a note from mum telling you that there are freshly-baked brownies for morning tea. You are the king again! So give us a flick with your feet to show us your excitement.

That wasn't too hard was it? Hopefully that was even fun. So now it's your turn. Use your favourite Laban movements and come up with a two- to three-minute scene to show your family or your teacher. Have fun with it.

You don't have to use them all, but try to choose some of your favourites in your scene. You can join me next week as we continue our character series and look at more movement, choices and leading body parts.

So thank you for watching, and I'll see you again next week.

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