Flow of movement is strongly influenced by the order in which the parts of the body are set in motion. The control of the flow of movement is therefore, intimately connected with the control of the movements of the parts of the body. Body movements can be roughly divided into steps, gestures of hands and arms and facial expressions. Steps include leaps, turns and runs. Gestures of the arms comprise scooping, gathering and strewing, scattering movements. Facial expressions are connected with movements of the head that serve to direct the eyes towards objects from which sense impressions are expected. Spine, arms and legs are articulated, i.e. subdivided by joints. The articulation of the spine is more complex than that of the arms and legs.
The astonishing structure of the body and the amazing actions it can perform are some of the greatest miracles of existence. Each phase of movement, every small transference of weight, every single gesture of any part of the body reveals some feature of our inner life. Each movement originates from an inner excitement of the nerves, caused either by an immediate sense impression or by a complicated chain of formerly experienced sense impressions stored in the memory. This excitement results in the voluntary or involuntary inner effort or impulse.
The weight of the body follows the law of gravitation. The skeleton of the body can be compared to a system of levers by which distances and directions in space are reached. These levers are set in motion by nerves and muscles that furnish the strength needed to overcome the weight of the parts of the body that are moved. The flow of motion is controlled by nerve centres reacting to external and internal stimuli. Movements take a degree of time that can be exactly measured. The driving force of movement is the energy developed by a process of combustion within the organs of the body. The fuel consumed in the process is food.
The subconscious evaluation of other peoples’ movement is practiced by almost everybody but the artist is interested in all the deviations and variations of movement. Extraordinary movement combinations will often fix the focal points of a dramatic conflict as well as in a dance performance where the action is symbolic, expressing emotions through the body that otherwise might be inexpressible through words. This inner world, too deeply moving for speech may well answer the inner needs of people generally as movement can say more than words. The actor/dancer are real people doing real body actions where the inner intentions of those actions are waiting to take coherent form. Although the actor/dancer may use the same movements as ordinary people, they will be arranged into rhythms and sequences that are symbolic of the ideas that were the inspiration behind them.
A performer’s job is not that different from any other human activity. A ‘working’ person must deal with material objects and must know what to do with them, using bare hands or a set of tools. Hands are tools attached to our bodies and the handling of tools or implements involves movement. The performer works with the body as a tool and any properties used are simply accessories to the movements executed. The actor/dancer must be able to show movements that characterise behaviour and growth in a variety of situations through the training of body and speech, controlling personal movement habits. The inner movement of feeling and thinking are mirrored in a person’s eyes and in the facial expression and use of hands. The public are rarely consciously aware of the actor or singer’s movement. It is taken for granted that the performer moves from one place to another, that sitting down and getting up, even falling down onto the floor is part of the general action as long as it’s executed well. Many members of the audience believe that movement is the least important aspect of a theatre production but in order to be effective as a performer, an actor or singer needs to pay meticulous attention to bodily movement. Effective expression and restraint of movement is only possible by those who have learned how to give free rein to their movements.
The urge to play and dance has developed into an astonishing variety of movement traditions in all fields of human activity. Dance has been used as a pleasurable aid to work as in rhythmic teamwork such as Japanese rice-planting dances. Dance has in some ways become linked to fighting, hunting, loving and many other areas of human life. In dancing, people may first have become aware of a spiritual aspect to movement and therefore specific, often poetic movement has found expression in sacred dance.
Movement in pure dancing does not have a narrative story with characters, epochs and specific situations as in dance-mime which is really acting without words, nor is it social dance performed on stage as part of setting the historical, social or geographical context of the work. Pure dance seek to create its own patterns of style born out of internal motivations whilst striving to express intangible and often indescribable values.
Dance as movement generally, is a form of communication and expression. It is the transformation from ordinary, functional movements to extra-ordinary movement for specific purposes. An ordinary action such as walking is performed in dance in a patterned way for example, in straight lines or in a circle, perhaps to a specific rhythm and can occur in any context. It may have a specific movement vocabulary without any particular meaning or may use very symbolic gestures such as are found in many Asian dance traditions. People of different cultural backgrounds, dance in many different styles for various reasons whether as art, ritual or recreation. Dance can tell a story, express moods and emotions and can be used as a social, political and religious tool as well as for enjoyment and keep-fit. The body is capable of many actions such as bending, twisting, rotating, jumping and stretching and by varying the dynamics, people can devise an infinite number of movements. The main elements of dance include
1) the use of space (personal or general), floor patterns, the shapes of the moving body and the designs in space made by the limbs;
2) the use of the body’s weight by working against gravity in order to execute light and graceful movements, surrendering to gravity with heavy or limp movements or exerting the body’s weight against gravity with strength;
3) the use of time, tempo, the length of a dance, rhythmic variations and the attitude towards filling time from taking one’s time to making quick stops and starts;
4) the use of energy flow, tense, restrained or bound movements to free flowing motion. From these, every culture selects and emphasises certain features and in some societies, dancing might lead to trance or altered states of consciousness where those ‘possessed’ may perform remarkable feats of strength, endurance, danger or it may be an opportunity for emotional release by disadvantaged members of a particular society.
There are two main kinds of dance. Dances for participation where no audience is needed and dances for presentation that are designed for an audience. Participatory dances include work dances, religious dances and folk and social dances that usually consist of repetitive step patterns that are easy to follow. Presentational dances are mostly performed in royal courts, temples and theatres. The dancers have trained over a lengthy period of time as the dance/movement content is complex.
As in Latin America where many dance forms have combined African traditions with both Spanish or Portuguese rhythms and indigenous American dances to create a specific style, more and more dance and theatre companies will borrow or be influenced by dance and theatre forms from other countries and traditions, creating new styles and new ways of perceiving the performing arts and expressing movement content.
Stage performance was developed out of mime, the representation of inner movement by visible outer motion, according to Laban. From mime, dance and drama developed. Dance is accompanied by music and drama by speech. Musical sound arouses emotion and the spoken word express thought. However, movement permeates miming, dancing, acting and singing as well as in painting pictures and playing instruments. Orchestral music is produced by the most precise bodily movements of the musicians and conductor and although these are working movements where skill is more important, it adds to the aesthetic whole of a performance. Human movement with all its physical, emotional and mental implications, is the common denominator of the dynamic art of the theatre. Ideas and sentiments are expressed by the flow of movement and become visible in gestures, audible in music or words. Nothing remains static for instance, in music, one sound succeeds another and the actor’s lines and the dancer’s movements are in a continuous dynamic flux with occasional pauses until it ceases at the end of the performance