On Music And Movement, Part 1: The Performer

Music is invisible. Dance is visible.

So far, so obvious.

But as a performer, it’s only when you’re made to think about the other realm - whether the invisible or the visible - that you really notice this. As this project has taken shape, in rehearsals and conversations, so has the notion of how one affects the other.

Musicians are used to their art being invisible, which means they become semi-visible. It’s an appealing thought to certain personalities - you can create something which leaves you, the object of attention is elsewhere, and you can admire it alongside the audience member.  

Dancers are looked at. Yes, the shapes they make become something else - an impression which can burn onto your retina divorced from the object that created it - but their body is still creating that impression.

o what happens when you ask a musician to play and, at the same time, move in a set, choreographed way which renders them more than visible?  

It’s a bigger challenge than first imagined. On a basic level, there is the practicality of it: technique, on a classical instrument, is about stance and positioning, ingrained and perfected over years and years of practice. Once you've perfected that technique, everything note you play after that is played within a physical structure. Deliberately. 

Similarly, some musicians will move their instrument whilst playing, some play stock-still, but both ways the heart rate remains in the same realm (give or take a few beats for a difficult passage). If you suddenly raise your heart rate through physical exertion, this changes everything - the way you move your fingers, the control you have over your arms, the way you count time.

On a second level, there is suddenly becoming more aware of how you do move as you play - and then being told to change that. You may not have realised how you express something in moving, subtly, as you play. Can you still play the notes as you want them to sound if this is taken away from you?

And, more pressing for the less extrovert of musicians, the ones who want to hide behind an instrument and present an invisible creation, like a gift, to the audience; can you still focus on the invisible object with all the concentration and precision you need if you’re forced to suddenly become visible?  

[Rosie Davies]