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10 Pages

Units

In the Friday session I teach several fundamental exercises which establish the basis for the form and style of my theatrical work. When Friday is over, the students come to the rest of the weekend with enough basic techniques and skills, as well as a common vocabulary, to be able to achieve excellent theatrical pieces, both structured and freely improvised, as solos or ensemble. New and varied techniques are learned subsequently, but what is taught on Friday is the pillar on which all others are erected. “Units” is the “can’t do without” technique of my work, one of the most important forms I teach in the DbD Experience. Simply put, it’s a choreographic “must” that we see in almost every production of dance there is. A Unit, in my teaching, is two people, or more, who perform the same movements, as in “Mirrors” and “Shadows”. As abstract movement, they are a dance ploy. As representing a recognizable entity, they are what I call “a story”. They can be parts of the same entity, as for instance, several players portraying a tree by embodying the branches, or they can be individuals that are part of a group, as wolves in a pack. The unison can be precise or not, so long as it is recognizably similar, and the performers are close to each other. The further away from one another they are, the more precise must be the unison work, to make it clear that they form a Unit. You can see unit work in ballet, in jazz, in the Rockettes, in musicals, in world theater, in contemporary dance. You can see Units in everyday life, if you look for it: people waiting in line, people working in factories, people grouping themselves in demonstrations, in sports, in tourism, marching in armies. There are Units everywhere. On stage and in improvisation, it becomes a major technique for organizing the space. If all participants in a group piece perform as soloists throughout, the composition of the stage becomes distracting, muddled, chaotic and difficult to follow. Or you have the fashion show effect, with players as models on the runway, showing off their costumes and their individual personae. But with even a feeble attempt at forming Units, the improvisation appears structured, readable, and shaped. Units are not rigid. They may form and disband. They may appear briefly, or create variations on a theme. They can function as rhythmic counterpoint; they may meld into each other, or be small or large at will.