Dick McCaw February 2018

Research

 

I have three main areas of research in which I have been interested for some considerable time:

 

1. The Ideas and Practice of Rudolf Laban and his Successors

 

2. Movement for Actors and Actor Training

             Feldenkrais

             How we learn movement

             Relation of the Martial Arts and in particular Tai Chi to Actor Training

 

3. How recent research into Neurophysiology can illuminate Questions of Theatre

 

 

1. The Ideas and Practice of Rudolf Laban and his Successors

Of Laban's successors the one with whom I have worked most is Warren Lamb. I have already edited and introduced The Laban Sourcebook and would dearly like to publish a scholarly edition of his Effort and Recovery which was written in the late 1940s or early 1950s and remains unpublished. Three sections of the 16 were published in the Sourcebook but the whole text deserves publication. 

My other research has been into the Laban materials which writer and teacher John Hodgson gathered until his death in 1997. These are now housed in the Special Collections of the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds. No-one else seems to have gone through all 30 boxes, and I have spent since 2007 working on this rich and varied material. My online catalogue of the materials went live in April 2015

I am currently making an application for funds to reconstruct two of his 1927 ballets - Titan for a movement choir of 60 non-professional dancers, and Die Nacht, a piece for a smaller group. The Laban Collection contains many reviews of these ballets including descriptions of the First Dancers Conference that Laban organised in Magdeburg where they were premiered. I shall try and create as complete a picture of his dance as I can drawing on archival materials in Leeds and the archives in Leipzig and Cologne. I am greatly helped by finding a notation for Titan (a series of coloured drawings indicating each scene and the moves of the different groups) and a detailed verbal description of Die Nacht in the Leeds archive. Once I have sourced, translated and edited all these documents then I shall made a working booklet from which the choreographers and dancers involved in the project can work. Then will come the work of interpretative creation!

In association with this project there will be a Special Issue of the journal Theatre and Dance Performance Training including a substantial translation of one of Laban’s unpublished works, alongside scholarly articles addressing the future of Laban studies. 

I am also planning a book on Laban provisionally entitled Laban and After - A Hundred Years of Movement Study. While it might be the case that many of his ideas are old-fashioned or inconsistent (they certainly do not add up to a Method) I feel that some of his central questions and principles still have great relevance today. Laban worked mostly in theatre when he moved to England in 1938, and my book will focus on the relevance of his ideas and practices to the actor. The biggest influence on my thinking has been Warren Lamb to whom this book will be dedicated. In our many conversations we would explore why he changed much of Laban’s terminology, why he developed his own form of notation, and why he still found Laban a source of inspiration. I shall not only explore people trained in Laban’s different approaches but to philosophers and practitioners whose work illuminates and lends support to his central ideas.

2. Movement for Actors and Actor Training

 

Teaching movement (be it in drama colleges or as a Feldenkrais practitioner) is in itself a form of research. One is always finding out through the process of teaching. Every exercise or game is an experiment for both the student and the teacher. I try and frame my instructions as clearly as possible while leaving as much space as possible for interpretation and discovery. 

 

Moshe Feldenkrais was both a scientist and a martial art practitioner and his writings and practice informs much of my research. His understanding of movement was underpinned by his grasp of human neurophysiology, and this only encouraged my research into how this field can help understand fundamental questions of actor training. .

 

In the 1990s I organised two workshop festivals dedicated to exploring the relationship between the Martial and the Performing Arts: The Performer’s Energy (1995) and The Way of the Warrior (1998). The documentation of the latter is available through Arts Archives:

www.arts-archives.org

Now that I have become a registered Instructor of Wu family style Tai Chi and have been studying it for several years, I have become increasingly aware of the connection with actor training. Although I have no specific project in mind at present, there is something bubbling away in the back of my mind.

3. How recent research into Neurophysiology can illuminate Questions of Theatre

For the past seven or so years I have been meeting regularly with Professor John Rothwell of the Institute of Neurology who specialises in the neurophysiology of human movement. It has taken us all this time to find a language in which we can understand each other. Gradually we are developing a territory in which we can research collaboratively. In 2011 we gave a seminar on how we learn movement at Central School of Speech and Drama. This was well received and encouraged us to continue our exploratory discussions. In April/May 2016 we gave a seminar at the Actor’s Centre to develop some of our ideas. John will also contribute to my forthcoming Understanding The Actor’s Body – A Guide.

In addition to my dialogue with John, I have been introduced to the work of neurologists and writers Jonathan Coe and Guy Claxton through a recent collaboration with Sue (i.e. Siobhan) Davies. 

Once again, I am not quite sure yet where this research will take us, but I know that it is a rich field worth developing.

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