In this series of posts, we’re looking at the various stages of learning your fight scene.
Reminder: this blog is full of helpful hints, but you can’t really learn this art form in isolation. At some point, you need a teacher to help you build strong foundations, and guide you to your excellence. Be sure to seek out a qualified professional in order to reach your highest potential.
So let’s dive in to some details on where you can put your focus during the choreography rehearsal in order to make the process easier and more efficient.
The first focus is to have an attitude of ease and joy. This puts you in a mindset to easily receive information, and to effectively connect with your scene partner. Many folks mistakenly try to be “badass” during these rehearsals, but this layers your choreography with a baseline of tension. Once that tension is set, you limit your acting choices. That tension will likely be in your way of some potential choices, and have to be unlearned. The tension also tends to promote an inward focus, rather than a being able to focus on both yourself and your partner. It’s not a fight solo, it’s a partnership.
Points And Pathways
Remember the targets for attacking and parries, as well as how you got there. We call this “points” and “pathways”. We can give our minds a structure for the choreography by anchoring into the the Points: what is the target of the attack, and what part of the weapon is making the attack. From there we can add on some of the nuances: where the weapons (yours and your partners) are meeting, and what distance and orientation you need to be in for that to be successful and sustainable. As for the Pathways, that’s the part is what most people forget. Generally, we tend to describe our choreography entirely by the targets, and don’t necessarily talk about the specifics of the time in between them. However, that’s where the story happens. In the Pathways is when the audience gets to wonder about what happens next. That’s when the performers find themselves expressing their character choices through their manner of movement, so the pathways deserve a bit more focus. In the Pathways, you should note the route of the attack (it might go behind your head, or it might stay in front of you), the timing of the attack, any speed changes, how the distance might change, any nuances of movement that help you and your partner organically find your way to the next moment.
Remembering The Order
There are a number of different strategies for remembering the order of your choreography. Ideally, the choreography is built in such a way that the sequence makes sense, which makes it easier to retain. Even so, you can speak the conversation of your text by talking through the choreography, either aloud or in your head, depending on whether that throws off the other people in the room or not. Speaking “I cut to your left shoulder, you parry four, bind and thrust to my right hip. I pass back and parry two, croisé, and thrust to your right ribs…” engages an additional manner of learning and recalling. It also helps to keep your focus on both partners and so reinforces that the scene is dependant on the partnership. You may discover that it’s easier for your partner to remember their choreography because you are remembering — and perhaps subconsciously moving in a a way to facilitate — their next move, too!