The Definition of Avant-Garde
In Twentieth Century Theatre from the time of the Renaissance on, theatre seemed to be striving for total realism, or at least for the illusion of reality. As it reached that goal in the late 19th century, a multifaceted, antirealistic reaction erupted.
Many movements, generally lumped together as the avant-garde, attempted to suggest alternatives to the realistic drama and production. Paralleling modern art movements, various theoreticians turned to symbol, abstraction, and ritual in an attempt to revitalize the theatre. Although realism continues to be dominant in contemporary theatre, its earlier functions are now better served by television and film.
The originator of many antirealist ideas was the German opera composer Richard Wagner. He believed that the job of the playwright/composer was to create myths. In so doing, Wagner felt, the creator of drama was portraying an ideal world in which the audience shared a communal experience, perhaps as the ancients had done. He sought to depict the “soul state,” or inner being, of characters rather than their superficial, realistic aspects.
Furthermore, Wagner was unhappy with the lack of unity among the individual arts that constituted the drama. He proposed the Gesamtkunstwerk, the “total art work,” in which all dramatic elements are unified, preferably under the control of a single artistic creator.
The avant-garde choreographers can be characterized by, in general having a less formal attitude towards dance than the previous generation. While their predecessors were obsessed with conveying angst and emotion, these dancers seemed to have more fun. Their frivolity could be attributed to the fact that as dancers, they were no longer on a crusade to legitimise their art.
The avant-garde choreographers felt free to experiment. They questioned the frontal aspect of creating a dance that was inherent in ballet and early Modern dance; why couldn’t dance be in a round, why must the audience be directly in front? Their explorations of ways in which theatrical space affected the dance led to some avant-garde choreographers presenting their works in small community theatres and in other unconventional locations.
The avant-garde choreographers began to ponder the traditions of music, makeup and costumes. Costumes began to take on a unisex look, as choreographers felt it less relevant differentiating men and women. They also questioned the necessity of music in dance and makeup in theatre.
Technology was once again affecting dance, and many avant-garde choreographers embraced it. It came in the form of computer synthesized music, film and modern materials. For example, in Merce Cunningham’s piece, “Rainforest,” helium filled balloons made by Jasper Johns share the stage with the dancers.
Merce Cunningham was one of the first choreographers to challenge the conventions of the founding generation of modern dance. He had studied with the Graham Company for a number of years and eventually formed his own dance group in the 40’s.
American Composer John Cage had a profound influence on avant-garde music and dance. He studied with the American composers Henry Cowell and Adolph Weiss and the Austrian-born composer Arnold Schoenberg. In 1942 he settled in New York City. Influenced by Zen Buddhism, Cage often used silence as a musical element, with sounds as entities hanging in time, and he sought to achieve randomness in his music. In Music of Changes (1951), for piano, tone combinations occur in a sequence determined by casting lots. In 4’33” (1952), the performers sit silently at instruments; the unconnected sounds of the environment are the music. Like Theatre Piece (1960), in which musicians, dancers, and mimes perform randomly selected tasks, 4’33” dissolves the borders separating music, sound, and non-musical phenomena. In Cage’s pieces for prepared piano, such as Amores (1943), foreign objects modify the sounds of the piano strings. Interestingly Cage wrote dance works for Merce Cunningham.
Following Cage’s lead, in the late 1950s and ’60s composer Gunther Schuller, together with the pianist John Lewis and his Modern Jazz Quartet, to fuse jazz and classical music into a “third stream” by bringing together musicians from both worlds in a repertoire that drew heavily on the techniques of both kinds of music.
Also active during these years was the composer, bassist, and bandleader Charlie Mingus, who imbued his chord-progression-based improvisations with a wild, raw excitement. Most controversial was the work of the alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman, whose improvisations, at times almost atonal, did away with chord progressions altogether, while retaining the steady rhythmic swing so characteristic of jazz. Although Coleman’s wailing sound and rough technique shocked many critics, others recognized the wit, sincerity, and rare sense of form that characterized his solos. He inspired a whole school of avant-garde jazz that flourished in the 1960s and ’70s and included the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the clarinettist Jimmy Giuffre, the pianist Cecil Taylor, and even Coltrane, who ventured into avant-garde improvisation before his death in 1967.
From my research and these findings I had a good idea of the avant garde movement, and was able to put this knowledge into practice when it came to devising a twenty-minute performance with a group of my fellow students. We watched a video and to assist us we looked at the theory by Richard Schechner – ‘Five Avant Gardes or none”, Schechner talks about the process of life going from being out of balance to balanced, to achieve this a change must be made i.e.- not just from A to B but the actual journey between A and B. Schechner states that the form of Avant Garde is made up of the five following types, that in Avant Garde performance today there is elements from all five – Historical, Current, Forward looking, Tradition seeking and Intercultural. From this I learned that actually Schechners theory was that in actual fact this was the make up of Avant Garde, that performance in the genre of avant garde could not happen without thinking back to the early examples and adopting trends. As there currently is not a particular style so performers need to use elements from the past, create new ideas using modern technology mixed with traditional aspects, along with ideas from other cultures.
Schechner’s Five Avant Garde’s
Naturalism – Realism
Excellent quality, refined by 2nd and 3rd generations of artists
Heir to Historical avant-garde
Multimedia, video hook-up, interactive telecommunications, mega sound, laser light shows, cybernetics, hyper or virtual time/space
From the video, and using Schechners theory, we brain stormed together as a group, we liked the ideas of Historical avant garde using symbolism, expressionism and realism mixed together, as well as including multimedia and mega sound from Forward looking avant garde. We decided quite early in our devising process that we wanted to include all of the elements of performance – Drama, Dance, and Music.
The fundamental key to our performance was the theory Schechner had of life going from out of balance to balanced, we talked about the process of this happening and we basically came up with a phrase ‘ that in order for something to become balanced then a sacrifice must occur, one must give something up’ we came up with the word purification, and devised simply that to go from being out of balance to balanced purification must happen. From this we thought of birth – from the womb to life, because we decided that for a foetus to never live out side of the womb this would warrant the danger of becoming out of balance, the fact that a foetus gives up the safety of the womb for the dangers and the unknown of the world warrants a sacrifice and that birth itself is the purification leading to the balance of life.
So our theory behind our performance was that as a foetus we start life of as balanced, however if we do not make the transition from womb to world then there is obviously a danger of becoming out of balance i.e. – the foetus may die, so before that danger becomes apparent we are born, a sacrifice is made, a risk is taken a purification takes place – birth, and we remain balanced.
In our performance we used the music of Massive Attack, ‘Teardrop’ which is about a foetus in the womb, we chose a poem about sacrifice, change and love, and we took the form of a foetus making the journey from womb to world. Visually our performance was simple; we combined movement and drama, with the poem being read over the music. Although simple because we had five different people displaying their personal interpretation of the journey, we allowed the audience to choose what they looked at or focussed on, also we wanted the performance to reach peoples senses so that even if a member of the audience closed their eyes, we felt we had created such an apt atmosphere that they could still recognise what was happening. We wanted to create a calm, slowly paced experience, enabling the audience to take in all aspects of the piece, in hindsight I feel that the repetitive nature of our piece added to the atmosphere and nature of the piece where as at first I personally thought it could possibly be a hindrance, I feel that we achieved what we set out to do and put together a simple yet complex performance of our findings.
- The Twentieth Century Performance Reader, Edited by Michael Huxley and Noel Witts, Second edition – Published by Routledge, 2002.
- The Definition Of Avant Garde, By Margaret Rubik, Published By – Macmillan Press LTD, 1998.
Tennessee Williams’ Play A Streetcar Named Desire
How does Tennessee Williams build up dramatic tension between Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski in Scene 10 to make it a theatrical climax of A Streetcar named Desire
By cchungl 17 Tennessee Williams achieves dramatic tension in the play through the interactions between characters, symbolism of characters. effective use of music and sound effects, words and setting. He does not use Acts, but divides the play into eleven scenes, as with all other scenes, Scene 10 naturally leads to a dramatic climax.
He creates dramatic tension in “A Streetcar Named Desire” through the antagonism between Blanche and Stanley.
Blanche’s dislike and condescending opinion towards Stanley are shown through the overheard conversation she had with Stella in Scene 4. when she unreservedly degrades Stanley by drawing parallels between him and a “survivor of the Stone Age”, she further says, “there’s even something- sub-human” and “ape-like about him”. Immediate antagonism Is created as Blanche dehumanises him and despises him for his “bestial behaviour”.
Stanley sees Blanche as a threat to his normal lifestyle, and resents her Interruption, Infringing upon their privacy, as shown in Scene 8 when Stanley says, “You remember… Them nights we had together? ___when we can make noise In the night that way we used to.
_. with nobody’s sister behind the curtain to hear us”. Stanley feels threatened by Blanche’s attack on his authority and wants to remove her disruptive presence. Tension Is created when they are jostling for power and influence in their battle for Stella’s heart.
As an audience, we are aware of Stanley’s violent, forceful nature as he hits his pregnant wife In Scene 3 under the influence of alcohol, and Blanche’s constant threat of violence from Stanley puts her emotions on edge, heightening the tension s she reacts with a contrasting manner, which furthers infuriate Stanley. For example when Stanley screams “(booming) Now let’s cut the rebopl” this dramatic outcry and instantaneous release of tension that shocks the audience, but Blanche reacted differently In a playful manner, by squealing “(pressing hands to her ears) Ouuuuu! Moreover, the music and sound effects play a significant role as a mood setter and a source of characterization. In scene 10, a light-hearted “honky-tonk music Is heard”, this gives a false sense of security to the audience that nothing extreme will happen. However, it disproves audience’s assumption and shows the overt contrast In mood in the beginning and end of scene 10. The “blue piano expresses the spirit of life which goes on” in “New Orleans”, hence is usually invoked in scenes with passion.
It is most 1 OF3 and Stella have their active, passionate relationship. Also in Scene 10, before Stanley rapes Blanche, his passion is amplified as the “blue piano begins to drum up louder”. Although interrupted by “the roar of an approaching locomotive” which symbolises Blanche’s fear to face the reality and the breaking of the norm, the “blue piano’ resumes. It signifies the continuation of Stanley overpowering her fear. When it is played louder with a faster tempo, the aural effect escalates the tension and creates a tenser atmosphere for the audience.
The theatrical climax is delivered with “the hot trumpet and drums” which “sound loudly’. The “hot trumpet” represents Stanleys triumph over Blanche, as trumpets are usually played when victory is won. The drums denote the pounding heartbeat of Blanche, as she fears the intrusion of Stanley. However, the sound produced by both instruments is loud, violent and intrusive, along with the drastic change from blue piano to this disruptive din, the ising noise of “inhuman Jungle voices” and the penetrating noises as Blanche “smashes a bottle”, tension is intensified.
These sound effects do not Just create ambience but they also seem to fill the Kowalski’s apartment with tumult, making it more cramped thus adding to the climax. These noises are not comforting as they keep Blanche from finding a moment to relax, making her feel uneasy. Tension builds, as she is unable to control her emotions. With the claustrophobic setting, tension is ratcheted as the confining space with the hot steam from the baths heats up the tiny apartment. Blanche avoids Stanleys onfrontations because she is aware that Stanley knows of her past.
However, it is inevitable for them to avoid each other with such a compact apartment, which puts Blanche under stress and fear that Stanley will make known her promiscuous past to Stella and Mitch, thus creating tension. From their language, we can see their culture difference. Stanley speech is littered with slang, he talks in a primitive, colloquial and crude way, as if he is hammering the sentences. For instance, miou going to shack you from Blanche? ” Blanche speaks eloquently with articulation and her constant literary references, like I’m looking for the Pleiades, the Seven Sisters” shows her sophistication.
Instant tension is created through their opposing language as Blanche is not used to being spoken in this way and it throws her off guard. Even from their appearance, they antagonise each other from their contrasting apparel choice. Stanley is dressed in Mvid green silk bowling shirt” which symbolises his bold, physical character and serves as a reminder of his violent treatment to Stella in Scene 3. Whereas Blanche is dressed in “white satin evening gown” “tiara”, this irritates Stanley because it reminds im of “Belle Reve” and their “superior” social background, which he detests.
This heightens the tension, as they are both aggravated. In scene IO’S opening, Blanche is “murmuring excitedly as if to a group of spectral admirers”, this shows her neurotic state of mind, how emotionally unstable she is. When Stanley sarcastically says “with that-gorgeous-diamond-tiara? ” he is deliberately teasing her, in order to get herself to confirm her own deceitful lies so he “biting his tongue which protrudes between his lips” and “softly’ saying “Come to think of it-maybe you wouldn’t be bad to-interfere with… ” The underlying sexual onnotation terrifies Blanche.
This line suggests to the audience that Stanley has an ulterior motive, as audience we are aware that even from Blanche and Stanleys primary encounter they have had a sexual attraction. It is illustrated in scene 2 when Stanley says, “If I didn’t know that you was my wife’s sister, I’d get ideas about you”, therefore tension ensues. This tension escalates throughout the play, gaining momentum until the scene before the rape. During this scene, Stanley finally gives in to his animalistic instincts under the influence of alcohol, making it a theatrical climax of the play.
In conclusion, Williams has successfully accumulated tension through Stanley and Blanche’s resentment, aural effects, language and dialogue; leading to an outburst of the tension- the brutal rape. Even Williams himself addresses that “the rape is pivotal… without which the play loses its meaning”. The melodramatic climax is essential because without it the tension built before is suspended, disappointing audience’s expectation. The climax profoundly affects the emotions of the audience because it changes the perspectives of the audience completely from accusing Blanche for her downfall to sympathising her as a victim.
A Play Baal by Bertolt Brecht
A review of a performance of the play “Baal” by Bertolt Brecht
I saw a performance of Baal, written by Bertolt Brecht and directed by Evan Parry. The play was not an emotional play, but an intellectual play. It caused the viewer to think about the existentialist nature of Brecht1s writing and the underlying meaning of the play. Although I have studied existentialism and followed the play intently, I still could not fully understand what Brecht was trying to say through Baal.
My interpretation is that Baal represents man and his desires and what those desires can lead to. At the beginning of the play, Baal is in good spirits and loved by all. He has doors open to him; he is asked to publish his poetry and sing his songs at a bar.
Through the play, his life gradually becomes worse because he drinks too much and has many girlfriends. People start to dislike him and he loses his apartment.
Then more and more people start to dislike him and he moves from job to job and location to location with nothing but Ekart to see him through. But then he realizes that he is finally in love – with Ekart, but she doesn1t love him and makes it obvious by having other men and women in her life. So, Baal kills her since he can1t have her for his own. By the end, Baal has nothing but himself to blame for his condition. His drinking problem and his problem of seducing every woman he meets drives him to his death, and causes everyone to repudiate him. The acting ranged from not-so-great to very good.
The only problem was that since not all the actor1s names were used, it was difficult to figure out who was who in most cases. Baal, played by Robert Seay, was in the very good part of the spectrum. The amount of lined he had to memorize was great and he didn1t stumble on them once. His emotion was clear throughout the play and his focus was obvious. The way he played drunk was great; his hair and shirt were disheveled, but he wasn1t stumbling all over the place and slurring his words. He acted just like a drunk person trying his hardest to pretend to be sober. When he spoke you understood what he was feeling and saying because he spoke clearly, slowly and loudly which helps, but he also understood what he was saying, which helped the audience understand what he was feeling.
At the end, when he was dying, the audience understood that he was dying alone, with nobody to help him through and that his life had held no meaning. The audience knew this because of his actions and because of the tone of his voice. Ekart was also very good. In the beginning, when she was trying to persuade Baal to sleep with her, she was seductive and conniving. She tempted him to leave the woman who he made leave her husband for, but Baal resisted. Her tone of voice was what I found to be her greatest asset because it told so much about her. Her tone of voice made her objectives clear. Whenever she spoke, I found what she wanted to be clear. Her movement was comfortable onstage which made it easier to watch her. It was easier because since she was comfortable, I wanted to follow what she was doing at all times.
When she was with Baal, she acted indifferent, and when she wasn1t with Baal, it was obvious that she didn1t care for him as much as he did for her because she was not faithful to him. In the end, she acted the same way Baal did at the beginning. And the way she did it was with precision, she indulged in whatever she did, just like Baal. I felt that Ekart1s acting was very good because she was understandable and easy to follow. The girls who shared words in sentences were also very good. The way they followed each other and the way they made their voices to sound the same was what pleased me the most.
There were no uncomfortable silences in between what each girl said, which meant that they were very well prepared. If they weren1t as prepared, they wouldn1t have been able to follow each other as well. Their preparation was also quite clear because there were no uncomfortable spaces in between what each girl said. They did not have much physical acting to do, but the way they used their voices and the way they followed each other so well impressed me. The acting in Baal was good; the acting ranged from the priest, who wasn1t all that great to Baal, Ekart and the chorus girls who were great. I found Baal to be interesting and realize the acting was difficult to take on, but it was obvious who prepared the best for the play. Those who were prepared were good, but those who weren1t either didn1t have a good performance or didn1t warm up until late in the play. Overall, I felt the acting and the play were both successful.
Exploring Russian Folk Dance
- 1 Introduction
- 2 1.1 Background Information
- 3 1.2 Aims and Objectives
- 4 1.3 Research Questions
- 5 1.4 Russian ballet
- 6 1.5 Contribution of choreographers
- 7 1.5.1 Vaslav Nijinsky
- 8 1.5.2 Michel Fokine
- 9 1.5.3 Petipa along with the Russian Ballet
- 10 1.6 Russian Ballet & Pushkin
- 11 Chapter 2- Literature Review
- 12 2.1 Soviet Union and Folk Dance
- 13 2.2 Isadora Duncan dance: the revolution of an artist in Russia
- 14 2.3 Ballet dance of Ludwig Minkus
- 15 2.4 Partnership with Marius Petipa
- 16 Chapter 3- Research Methodology
- 17 3.1 Introduction
- 18 3.2 Aims and Objectives
- 19 3.3 Research questions
- 20 3.4 Paradigm for Research
- 21 3. 5 Research Strategy Used
- 22 3.6 Method to Collect Data
1.1 Background Information
Russian people think that the Russian dance is a celebration of their lives. Russian folk dance and folk music discloses the feeling and an expression of spirituality. The visit to Russia is becoming an experience of this new land.
Russia is known as an attractive destination due to the scary size along with an interesting history of Europe. It is considered as an ultimate tourist destination and the country is one third part of European countries with the diverse musical background. Russian dances are full of individual and huge performers (Chitranshi, 2009). Russian dances are the human activities which constitutes all properties about human. Thus Russian dance exists at this land along with their terminology, sayings, proverbs and conversations. In Russia, classical ballet is a ruler. There is no training for the modern dances and also there is no performance space along with some modern schools. Russian folk dance was common among the peasants, commoners and the lower class people living outside the city (earlier than the rule of Peter). The higher class people did not dance but they were getting pleasure from the enjoyable performances of dancing trainers.
The major differentiation among social classes within the culture of Russian dance took place as a historical event. That attack had broken the peopleâ€™s way to live life and it also it changed the progress of Russian dances by stumbling its logical sequences. Russian classical ballet dance is very popular dance all around the world and it remained very popular since the nineteenth century (Chitranshi, 2009).
1.2 Aims and Objectives
The researcher here aims to understand the concept of Russian folk dance and the reason for conversion of this into Russian Ballet dance. While the objective of this study is to analyse the concept of folk dance in Russia and various types of Russian dances which are famous in the country.
1.3 Research Questions
In order to attain aims and objectives of the research, researcher has designed below stated research questions:-
What are the various forms of folk dance in Russia?
What is the history attached with Russian folk dance?
How did Russian folk dance transformed to Ballet dance?
How the dance, as source of entertainment had converted into professional dance?
Who are the famous people linked to Russian folk and Ballet dance?
1.4 Russian ballet
The actual ballet dance did not invent in Russia but the country has contributed very much for its development and currently Russian ballet has gained popularity all over the world. Various ballet dance performers along with the ballet companies have raised out of Russia and ballet theatres are attracting people in larger number. Ballet came into Russia during 1700s and in 1734, first ballet school was introduced (AlbrÑ–ght & DanÑ–Ðµl 2004). After few years, an imperial school of St. Petersburg found first Ballet Company in Russia. It was first dominated by Italian and Russian dances as well as chorographers. In 1800s Russiaâ€™s Ballet dance incorporated some ideas from folk dancing. The higher class people did not increase and promote the art by supporting some companies. The French choreographer named as Marius Petipa and he was renowned for inventing ballet of Tchaikovsky. Russian ballet took place and observed in new era in the 20th century. It has been identified in previous studies that Michel Fokine (choreographer), Vaslav Nijinksy (dancer), Sergey Diaghilev and Alexandre Benois (designer) set up the ballet company in Russia. At that point of time, superb dancer Anna Pavlova was taking the place. At present Russian ballet is known throughout the world and attracting lots of visitors. There is several ballet companies are operated in Russia such as Kremlin Ballet, Perm ballet and Imperial Russian ballet academy. The well known cities have established their own ballet orchestras and theatres and that are focused by number of supporters. The role of Russian ballet to the classical dances cannot be undervalued. It has been known from past many decades and considered as the indicator of the classical dance. It leads other type of dances. Young girls are becoming ballerinas and their dreams have been powered by the famous Russian dancers. Thus Russian ballet dance has captivated large number of audiences all around the globe.
1.5 Contribution of choreographers
1.5.1 Vaslav Nijinsky
This choreographer is renowned as the male dancer of all times and he has also called the god of dance (Parker and Derek, 1988). After the long time of female dominance in the field of ballet, he overtook the ballet dancers of those times such as Pavlova, Karsavina and KschÐµssÑ–nska established superiority in the within the male dance stage in twentieth century. His career in the ballet dance field has ended from past ten years due to his mental disease. But legendary of Nijinsky will continue until the appearance of such type personality who will overtake the ballet generation. Pole became the hero of an imperial Maryinsky theatre just after completing his studies from St. Petersburg school at the age of 18 years. He was the inspiration for the ballets in the western side. Then Fokine invented ballets for Nijinsky and other people like Ravel, Debussy and Stravinsky prepared music for him (AlbrÑ–ght, DanÑ–Ðµl 2004).
At the time of First World War, Nijinsky as a Russian citizen was interned in Hungry. Diaghilev got success in getting him out of the country for the purpose to visit North American tour in 1916 and then he choreographed his main part in Till Eulenspiegel. Indicators of dementia praecox became clear for the members of the company and then became sacred of other dancers (Anthony, 2002). The first ballet of Nijinsky named as â€œLâ€™AprÃ¨s-mÑ–dÑ– dâ€™un FaunÐµâ€? has become a milestone within the history of ballet Russes of Diaghilev. That ballet was marked near to the period in which Fokine was the biggest dancer. Thus the dancer Nijinsky emerged as a choreographer and his thoughts stimulated the doubts raised by Diaghilev and it ran contradictory to the classical folk dances of Russia. The production of first ballet was totally based some choreographic scores and they were recorded by Nijinsky in his dance entry system. It remained for many years and he became unavailable due to his mental illness for reproducing the work.
1.5.2 Michel Fokine
Michel Fokine got training from the Imperial school in St. Petersburg and then he joined Ballet Russes of Diaghilev in 1909. Then he went to United States in the year 1923 where he performed for the American Ballet theatre and Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Fokine considered some artificial as well as random traditions along with the methods and techniques for expressive and natural choreographic styles. This style is known as the recurrent topic in the field of ballet dance. His new ideas and thoughts led the success of the Diaghilev Company. He choreographed so many ballets and Chopiniana that led Balanchine for trying the ballets which became his brand name. The classical ballet dance or folk dance has become unlimited since the days of Fokine and the people thinks that his choreography is old fashioned. So his ballets remained unproductive and suffered from deformation. He was surprised and shocked that it would happen in his career (Michel Fokine, 2011).
1.5.3 Petipa along with the Russian Ballet
Marius Petipa was the leading dancer and the choreographer along with the ballet of St. Petersburg in the year 1962. At that time he invented multi- acted ballet for the imperial theatre of Tsar. That ballet gave directions to other ballets and it was considered as classical ballet. In 1869, Petipa took the position of the master of ballet to the Tsarâ€™s imperial theatre. Then he created so many single and multi act ballets for the presentation on the Russian stages. Then he created and developed Don Quixote type for the ballet in Moscow. He choreographed large number of dances along with numerous types of ballets.
1.6 Russian Ballet & Pushkin
The present days consider importance of Russian ballet at quite a notable rate. Bolshoi and Maryinsky are among the most renowned companies and training schools for teaching of ballet. These are well known all across the world for their remarkable practices. It is appreciable to note that the tradition of Russia is into existence even in present era. The firmness among dancers and choreographers along with the support by audience has resulting in attainment of this position. However, the past of virile nature represents the main factor for survival of this dance. The ballet of Russia was imported from France though; it admiringly attained its own position in the culture and dance. The dancers and choreographers of Russia considered themselves as equivalent to that of Western countries. However, Alexander Pushkin was the main cause for writing style by Russia.
The involvement of this man had resulted in portrayal of characters and story telling by utilizing themes of Russia that fits with the stage and survived for more than two centuries for Russian ballet. Western Europe was the main contributor to Russian ballet dance since the nineteenth century. However, the end of nineteenth century has resulted in formation of Russian ballet dance that differentiates itself from all over the world and become a leader in the arena. Didelot, the person well known as â€œRussian Balletâ€™s fatherâ€? (Steinberg, 1980), in the year 1816 along with explored Pushkin also termed as talent at local level, Russia started making strides for development of its unique form of ballet dance.
There was overlap between the Didelot and Pushkinâ€™s era at St Petersburg for Imperial ballet. In comparison to the ballet dance of Western European countries, ballet dance of Russia lied far behind in the field of art. Talented Didelot along with Pushkin had resulted in foundation of unique dance of Russian ballet. In spite of the reason that these two individuals were not able to see the domination of Russian ballet, but they deserved appreciation for their efforts. The main characteristics for Russian ballet include as follows (Nickles & Kalman, 2008):-
There is an opposition existing between gender and nationality. Here nationality means the Western European and Russian region.
Storyâ€™s location for Russians
Music composition of Russians
Attitude against nation to reflect work of individuals.
Unique dancing steps supported by choreography illustrating special characteristics for Russian dancing.
On unfolding the ballet dance of Russia, the efforts by Pushkin in his development is influenced. The composition of music and theatrical efforts had been quite unique in Russia due to the talent of Pushkin. On combining these aspects, there raised development in new arenas. The effect of Pushkin to develop Russian opera finally resulted in improvement of Russian ballet. The ballet is usually dependent on music for most of the countries. However, as per Slominsky (1947) stated that there exists strong relationship between these characteristics. The experiments by Pushkin along with the fresh rhythm had resulted in creation of challenging situation among composers. As per Gerald Abraham, the Russians in this century enjoyed favourable time due to better lyrics in spite of pseudo classicism related to Derzhavin that are related to love poems resulting in new song in Russian for Pushkin (Abraham, 1985).
However, this was inspiring to note for the dancers and choreographers. The influence by Pushkin allowed in recognizing ballet of Russian for recognition of unique genera and not the import of talent belonging to different countries. The influence of Pushkin had helped in influencing the Russian ballet dance to be recognized all over the world with own image. The influence of Pushkin and Didelot had resulted in enhancing history of Russia to provide a strong background for artistic power. The involvement of Soviet along with arts had resulted in better improved arts.
The companies created in Russia, by imperial decree had gained favour from government to result in better learning experience. This had resulted in giving an opportunity along with the challenge. The support by two companies had further resulted in higher value of material found and helps in improvement of opportunities for research, but shall be well defined to ensure that there is no conflicting situation.
Chapter 2- Literature Review
2.1 Soviet Union and Folk Dance
The Soviet Union concerns for the study of folk dance as an important arena in addition to drama art and music. However, there was lack of recording that would have helped the dancers to develop their skills (Blacking & Kealiinohomoku, 1979). Prior to the revolution, there was no focus laid on folk dance. An individual needs to be aware of choreography, philology in addition to musical folklore (Blacking & Kealiinohomoku, 1979). Lack of recording system resulted in not availability of recording for choreography. The history of folk dancing in Soviet has been into existence from the 1920s to 1930s (Blacking & Kealiinohomoku, 1979).
The composers from Ukraine had been involved in this arena and the country was among those who started this concept of folk dance earliest among Soviet Union. The efforts by cultural groups have resulted in good collection of wide range of roles from all across (Bukland, 2007). After the formulation of Russia, the country was left with two choices: outward choice to follow western tradition, and inward trend to follow their culture and tradition (Schultz, 2000). That had raised the urge to have a thorough plan in such a manner that there exists a good balance between the two.
The ballet present at St. Petersburg had been considered as Bolshoi too. The development of Maryinsky theatre at St. Petersburg in 1860s followed by the imperial ballet that performed at new theatre in the year 1889, and the company was named as Maryinsky Ballet Company. Thereafter, the name of ballet at St. Petersburg was changed due to the assassination by Sergei Kirov in the year 1934. Thereafter, Soviet Politburo was favoured for replacement of Josef Stalin. There was the opposition for Kirov, by left opposition party (Treadgold, 1995). Renamed ballet institutions had been compounded due to imperial city for Soviets.
The ideology from patrons had acted against Russian ballet, and that raised the concept of training of dancers for demonstrating the Bolshoi Theatre and Maryinsky. The seats were restricted for higher official authorities. The subject however had to face censorship resulting in ballet dance as being quite conservative (Dees, 2004). That acted against the introduction of this form of dance as a professional business. Individuals willing to carry on the operation for their profession had to face this as the major barrier against growth of industry and individuals attached with it. However, there still persisted the importance for all the ballet training centres. Moscow Company was among the famous training centres for the name of step child in the end of 19th century.
Talented pool of people gathered at Petersburg however due focus was laid on Maryinsky Theatre. This was the main cause of Petersburg Company leading quite ahead of Bolshoi Company and resulted in its brand value in European context (Bailey & Ivanova, 1999). Regulating institutions too became an uneven situation. The Bolshoi Ballet was not as tough to be carried on as compared to Maryinsky Ballet. Therefore, the latter had to make available all the resources along with the support provided by imperial court. Therefore, Bolshoi court enjoyed freedom of art. That was too tough to find out when the ballet dance in Russian context came to be known all around the world. The native dancers had to be well renowned at that instance to bring awareness among the genera.
The dancer named as Theophile Gautier at St. Petersburg, belonging to Imperial school had stated that the institution of dance results into remarkable group of soloists, incepting the corps for ballet which was same as for movement speed, precision, and unity. That was the moment of joy for the group to disband the right moment for reforming in quite a unique manner. The movement of those feet in perfect manner with proper match among the group, without any confusing stage were the causes of this success. The laughter and chattering were never there. The pantomime for dumb with no action, had the frame as per Lifar (1954), and his studies. That was the unique form of Russian ballet dance for executing during the mid of 19th century. Additionally, the starting of 1844 was the time when ballet dancers of Russia got trained at their place to start formation in West Europe for applauds.
Though the dancers were applauded both at national and international level, non Russian choreographers belonging to different locations had formed the dancing groups. Number of dance historians at those times stated that the ballets of Russia are not too different than those of French ballets for the Northern wind (Lifar, 1954). Additionally, the researcher had pointed that the dancers of Russia get training and learning from outside sources. The choreography training in Russia too was not of good standard. Therefore, the training and development was though noted in the country for Russian folk dance followed by the ballet dance, there still lacks the trainers. In case there would have been good number of trainers in the country, there can be improvement in ballet dancers of Russia.
The Russian dancers were one or the other way linked to non native place (Lifar, 1954). The learning from those locations results into convergence among Russians including Pushkin, various choreographers and composers for establishment of Russian ballet. There raises the importance to make an effort to improve the chronological sequence for ballets in Russia. There need to be a strong link between the choreographer, composer and writer. For this purpose, ballet dancers had to be compared with that of western counterparts to compare and contrast relationship between the two. Charles Didelot was among the most famous choreographers in his times and was in link with Pushkin. However, previous ballet dancers too had worked to explore the poems of Pushkin to develop ballet dance.
2.2 Isadora Duncan dance: the revolution of an artist in Russia
Isadora Duncan dance is known as revolutionary person of modern type of dances who made the first Russian show or presentation in the year 1905 in St. Petersburg at the Marinsky theatre. That was the time making event that had changed the grand Russian ballet tradition. Serge Diaghileff was the founder of the ballet Russe and he told about Isadora that she have given the permanent shock to classical Russian ballet dance and she had pointed the ways which were followed by them (Netti et al., 1991). Then Isadora returned to Russia for six times in her life time and found inspiration of the Russian workers. It has been revealed in the researches that after several years, the people will make the professional as well as personal journey in the country to bring the gift of American Duncan dance to the Russian people or dancers and also they will find that what would be remained within the art of Isadora in modern St. Petersburg. CEC international partners which is a Russian company and it sponsors for an artistic exchange between Eastern and Central Europe.
Isadora established a training school in Moscow by getting invitation from the commissioner of people who made efforts for brining art in front of the people. An ideology of Soviet anti-capitalistic requested to disappointment of Duncan with the millionaires in America who failed to fund the schools in Germany, France and Greece (Lomax, 1959). There was little stability within the training for current dancers outside the world of ballet of the Bolshoi and Kirov. From past so many decades, after the communism, an imitation of modern dance has been seen. It was the work of Martha and Graham and her European contemporaries along with the training in Jazz.
The dance of Isadora Duncan has brought together another dancers named as Michelle Vazquez Kickasola (Ivette Sotomayer and Cuban American) are elevated in Miami where the Cuban community acts as anti communist party. There were bothered about the choreography of red tunic dances to the red army songs and that may be disgusting for the people who have reformed themselves in the Russian countries in twenty first century (Hilton, Alison, 1995). It has been viewed that so many people have learned the dance as well music being as the main part for their history. Number of old people from independent states like Uzbekistan and Georgia has lamented the lives of people economically and politically under the communism.
2.3 Ballet dance of Ludwig Minkus
Ludwig Minkus was one of the biggest musical composers in the mysteries. He was having powerful posts in the imperial ballet theatres in Russia in the nineteenth century. He was known as an antecedent of Tchaikovsky but he was delicate being as a musician. Despite the obscurity, Minkus can never be forgotten. In early 1990s, the imperfection by Natalia Makarova and Rudolf Nureyev, the name of Minkus began to go outside again. Then Richard prepared the ballet recordings that presented some dumpy passages from the Minkus work and thus it provided surprising and wonderful things. From past so many decades, the words came to know about the music of Minkus and it was the traditional part in Soviet Union. That was linked with the legendary of ballet master, named as Marius Petipa. These works such as La Bayadere and Don Quixote were the two choreographers who carried by some valid protection from eighteenth century to the present day (Corona, 1991). They were presented first time to the people all over the world.
To ignore the expression of regret, the ballet was proved as successful. That success was consolidated and now it has been carried out by many companies from the federation of Russia. Thus it has resulted into the transformation of old ballets to new type of ballet. The success of these ballets with other types of ballets has laid within the power of score for bringing the emotions of the people and dance of life. Thus Minkus neither published nor revised but played several arrangements that have become very popular in all over the world. It needs a new life for the people who had given up the hopes of their lives.
The musical power and authority of ballet has become surprising for the people. These ballet stories has the real power and human demand in which the choreography attracts the esteem of Balletomanes, attracts music in its regularity, the beauty of the music keeps the attention of many people and it engages everyoneâ€™s heart. Don Quixote is a comedy and known as one of the most touching novels in the world and it is about the beauty among the ordinary things. La Bayadere is a tragedy that keeps an eye on the sorrows of people in case of love with full of passion, unfaithfulness, separation and death. It talks about the two things together shows a satisfying symmetry. The ability of the musician responds to the effectiveness of both the sides such as dark and light of the human being touches the main demand of the drama. The life of Minkus and the compositions of ballets and the works are poorly diagnosed and documented, thus the proper and right investigation is needed for them to explore the historical and critical material. The studies provided the help of George Verdak of Indianapolis and it made the copes of this material from the collected ballet scores. It continued by his inheritor before her death. Some major contributions gave by a professor who made scores of La Bayadere.
2.4 Partnership with Marius Petipa
The rich success of his work of Don Quixote have taken a part as a major step in the career of Minkus and his first appointment at the imperial Russian theatre in St. Petersburg in the year 1872 as the first court composer of ballet (Degh, Linda, 1965). The death of other choreographer named as Pugni led Minkus to take his place. He became responsible for musical devices as well as library in the Bolshoi theatre. Then he was told to compose music for ballet dance for the opera Mlada. It was commissioned by the director of imperial theatre. Then the projects was ended, Minkus revised prolonged his materials after some years for the development of ballet. That was followed by ballet one after another and Minkus appeared at the Maryinsky and Bolshoi theatre and it was all the choreography of Petipa. The researches have revealed that between the year1869 and 1886, Petipa generated only 4-8 ballets without composing any music by Minkus and that was the important partnership of these two artists.
Chapter 3- Research Methodology
The chapter here explores research methodology used to complete this dissertation. Researcher explores the type of study undertaken at this instance and the approach used for analysing results. The researcher also explores the type of data used in the research and the approach used for the dissertation. The researcher has also explored aims and objectives of the research followed by research questions to achieve these.
3.2 Aims and Objectives
The researcher here aims to understand the concept of Russian folk dance and the reason for conversion of this into Russian Ballet dance. While the objective of this study is to analyse the concept of folk dance in Russia and various types of Russian dances which are famous in the country.
3.3 Research questions
In order to attain aims and objectives of the research, researcher has designed below stated research questions:-
What are the various forms of folk dance in Russia?
What is the history attached with Russian folk dance?
How did Russian folk dance transformed to Ballet dance?
How the dance, as source of entertainment had converted into professional dance?
Who are the famous people linked to Russian folk and Ballet dance?
3.4 Paradigm for Research
For this research, researcher has used interpretative approach for research. Therefore, the interpretations acted as the main source for data analysis. In addition to this, the descriptive nature of approach was used for research purpose. Researcher has made an effort to collect secondary data from various sources to have a clear thought process for the subject under study. The folk dance in Russia, right from its history to present times is analysed. Various famous personalities were also covered in the research to understand the philosophical approach in the country. Although it is preferred by researchers such as Richards & Hall (2000) to collect both primary and secondary data while carrying on the research process, secondary data was chosen hereon by the researcher due to complexity attached with primary data collection approach. Collection of primary data would have added too much to the complexity of this project.
First of all, researcher had a clear understanding of the research topic to understand all the concepts related with Russian folk dance. This helped in designing clear aims and objectives of the research. Thereafter, secondary data was analysed further to formulate the dissertation sections and integrate them well to ensure the logical flow of discussion. Then researcher had made an effort to attain the aims and objectives of research by answering research questions. This helped in final conclusion to demonstrate the findings.
3. 5 Research Strategy Used
The researcher has made use of case study as research strategy by designing of complete research process. This helped in clearly defining research problems that relate with the subject under study. The use of case study helped in gaining solution for the research. This had helped in acting as main cause for decision making stage to attain the aims and objectives of research. Theories related to folk and ballet dance of Russia were discussed to have a sound understanding of the subject under study. Therefore, case study was taken as a favourable approach for determining the research and evaluating it thoroughly (Robert, 2003). This approach helps in analysing results based on the theoretical framework prepared for the research.
Case study is used widely as per researchers such as Robert (2003) to analyse the outcomes due to high reliability and consistency associated with the concept. These help in exploratory study of the subject topic using numerous case studies for using the replication process to analyse based on the theory collected (Yin, 1994). The conceptual methods have been explored well through the use of case study method to analyse the results (Yin, 1994).
Through case study method, theoretical background of folk dance in Russia would be created to know about the existence of this traditional approach, which had resulted in Ballet dance introduction and the conversion of dance into professional dance. Therefore, case study seems to be the reliable tool for getting results within short span of time. This would also help the researcher to get rid of any sort of biasness due to different beliefs.
3.6 Method to Collect Data
For this research purpose, researcher has taken secondary data as the choice. Number of books, and magazines were referred along with journals and various internet sources. These would help in formulation of strong base to carry out research process. The results would be obtained thoroughly through this strategy to attain outcomes.
Chhau dance-drama as a folk art in Eastern India.
What are the elements and origins of the masked dance-drama of Seraikela Chhau and Purulia Chhau of Eastern Indian and to what extent are they significant to the Indian culture as a folk art?
India is a country with a rich range of various cultures and traditions. Each part of India has different ways to preserve those cultures traditions such as folk and classical dances. Folk and classical dances play a big role in the Indian culture as a way of communication. One of the dance-drama folk art that is performed in India is the Chhau dance-drama of Eastern India. There are three types of Chhau dance-dramas but this essay will focus on only two types:Â the Seraikela of Bihar and the Purulia of West Bengal. Both Chhau styles are masked dance-drama forms that are unique. To understand the significance of this folk art for the Indian community, it is important to first understand the elements and the origins of the Chhau. The Chhau is very significant to the Indian culture because it is both a religious and mythological practise that has been passed on thought many generations. Not only is the Chhau dance-drama used for festive celebrations but is also used as a way to communicate moral message by the portrayal of stories from the Indian mythology. The portrayal of stories is where the theatrical aspect comes in the picture. The Chhau characters are mute so therefore, movements and masks are used instead of dialogues to show certain emotions and feelings to bring the story forwards. The study of the origins, history, costumes, music, staging, music and performers brings to the conclusion that indeed, the Chhau dance-drama is a folk art that is very significant to the Indian culture and the Indian people.
I would like to thank my supervisor Tamojit Ray for his extraordinary help in guiding and advising me through the writing process of my extended essay. As Tamojit Ray is from the Eastern part of India, his advice and knowledge on the Chhau dance-drama were very useful to guide me in my essay.
I would also want to thank Tamojit Ray for putting me in contact with the Chhau dance-drama Master Chandi Mahato, and his role as a translator from the local language of the area resided by Mahato to English during the telephonic interview.
Table of Contents:
1 )Introduction- Folk dances in IndiaÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 5-7
2) The history and origins of ChhauÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 7-9
3) Masks and CostumesÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 10-16
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â a. MasksÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 10-14
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â b. CostumesÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 14-16
4) Music and stagingÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 16-18
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â a. MusicÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 16-17
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â b. StagingÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 17-18
5) Performers and performing techniques Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 19-20
6) Interview with Chhau master Chandi MahatoÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 20-22
7) ConclusionÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 22-23
8) BibliographyÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 23-24
9) Appendix 1Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â p.25-30
1) Introduction- Folk dances in India
India is one of the very few countries in the world to possess a rich range of different cultures and traditions. Each and every region of India has a unique culture that has passed through many generations for centuries.Â What I find really interesting about India is that they have well preserved their cultures and that even today, they are still practising certain traditions compared to other countries that have lost their cultures by evolving into a more modernized civilisation.Â Cultures and tradition can be passed on through generations by many ways like paintings, written scripts, music, theatre and dance. Folk dances and folk theatre play a big role in the Indian culture as they are art forms that are a very efficient way of expression to the community. Folk dance is an art used to convey the local culture, legends, myths and religious beliefs of a specific region and as India has many different cultures, the folk dances vary from one region to another. Indian folk dances are the products of a variation of socio-economic classes in India. They are usually performed by ordinary people rather than professional dancers in small towns or villages where people gather together to celebrate special occasions such as harvesting, marriages, religious holidays, festivals, birth of a child etc… Since in India all those festivities are celebrated quite often if itâ€™s not every day, folk dances have become an essential part for the Indian culture.Â
Some folk dances which are performed in India also incorporate theatre in their dances.Â Those dance-drama forms are a rural extension of the ancient theatrical tradition found in the Nathya Shastra .Â Among other dance-drama traditions in India like Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Kathakali and a few more, Chhau is a rare and unique colourful masked dance-drama form. There are three types of Chhau named after their geographical locations; the Seraikela of Bihar, the Purulia of West Bengal and the Mayurbhanj of Orissa (Figure 1). This Essay will focus on the elements and the origins of the dance-drama form of Seraikela Chhau and Purulia Chhau and to what extent they are significant to the Indian Culture as a folk art. Why did I choose this rare form of dance-drama among others? Simply because I thought that my temporary stay in India would be the perfect occasion to discover a totally new and unknown form of art for me that is directly related to the Indian culture. Since I am a theatre student, I think that exploring a rare form of art is an excellent way to broaden my knowledge of theatre through different cultures. I chose to write an in-depth essay about the Chhau dance-drama of Eastern India among many others also because I find the Chhau very interesting in the way it combines dance and theatre together to tell a specific story or mythology by using rhythms, movements and masks instead of dialogues like most of the theatrical forms use.Â
 Figure 1: The orange shaded area of this political map of India represents the Eastern part of India where the three types of Chhau dance-drama originated from.
2) The history and origins of Chhau:
The origins of the Chhau dance-drama are still not certain as is the origin of the word â€œChhauâ€?. The dance is known as Seraikela Chhau in Jharkhand, Mayurbhanj Chhau in Orissa and Purulia Chhau in West Bengal. If we look at the basic differences between the three different styles of Chhau, the Chhau dancers of Purulia wear highly stylized masks, in Seraikela the masks are smaller, while in Mayurbhanj the dancers do not always use masks. The word â€œChhauâ€? is interpreted in different ways by different quarters and persons. Most of the people say that the word ‘Chhau’ arises from the Sanskrit root â€œChhayaâ€? which means shadow and that the art originated in West Bengal. On the other hand, some people disagree and think that it had arisen from the word â€œChauniâ€? which means camp for soldiers and that it originated from the state of Orissa. The reason being the hypothesis that the word â€œchhauâ€? derived from the word â€œChauniâ€? is that the Chhau originated in the mock fights of the Oriya paikas (warriors) who fought rhythmically to the accompaniment of indigenous music instrument . Basically, there is a confrontation between the good and the bad and this confrontation is portrayed by characters in the Chhau dance-drama. However, with passing of time the dance-drama started being used for many other occasions and celebrations through the year in the different states.
3) Masks and Costumes:
Characters from the Indian mythology such as Lord Shiva or Ganesh are mythological and therefore, superior to the human being. It was not easy playing such characters using only the human facial expressions and features and that is the reason why in the early periods,Â different shapes and symbols were used as facial painting or body painting by the dancers to emphasize the characteristics of the different mythological characters .The practise of covering the face and the body with painting gradually gave birth to masks and bright coloured costumes in the dance performances to personify the God and Goddesses of the Hindu mythology.Â
â€œThe mask is made not to hide or to conceal, but to expose. As an instrument of metamorphoses, the mask permits man to lose his identity, and allows the gods to manifest themselves with an uncovered face. To mask oneself is to give life to a superior beingâ€? 
Masks have been used for many centuries throughout the world for both ritual purposes and traditional theatres especially for the expressivity they add in a characterâ€™s performance. Masks are often used in folk arts because they are a part of a costume that adorns the whole body and embodies a tradition important to the religious and/or social life of the community.Â Unfortunately, I was not able to watch an actual Chhau dance-drama performance but I got to experience I quite similar style of dance during my trip in the island of Bali in Indonesia. As the community from Bali follow the Hindu religion, they have mythological stories resembling the Indian ones. The performance Iâ€™ve seen in Bali was a dance-drama style of performance as the characters were telling a story using dance, movements and gestures to act a story. The dance-drama constituted five acts telling a story using the good ones and the evil ones which is till now very similar to the Ramayana and Mahabharata epics. In the Balinese dance-drama, the characters were wearing masks as well but not all of them compared to the Chhau dancers of Purulia and Seraikela where it is compulsory for all the characters to wear masks. In the Balinese dance-drama, only the superior characters wore masks to express their power and their high status while the other characters were only covered with colourful full-face makeup. As a member of the audience, I can say that the masks helped a lot in creating an epic style of atmosphere on the stage and also in creating a connexion between the characters and the audience which is the reason why I think that masks are used by all the characters in the Chhau dance-drama. The performance that I have seen in Bali helped me a lot in understanding the purposes of the use of masks in the Chhau dance-drama as the Balinese dance is performed for religious and mythical purposes as well. Figure 2 shows an image of the characters in the Balinese dance taken during a performance while Figure 3 shows the characters of the Chhau dance-drama.Â The similarities in the masks used to portray superior beings can be noticed between both dance-drama forms. Even though both forms use masks, the masks are different in the way they are made and the way they look.
Figure 3: Masks in Chhau dance-drama of Eastern India
The Chhau dance-drama enters in the category of poor theatre as all the materials, costumes, masks and accessories are made out of small expenses. . The Chhau masks are made with low priced ingredients such as river soil, newspapers, thin pieces of clothe, little bit of lime and paint. The facial masks are mostly manufactured by the artisans of the villages of the regions of West Bengal or Jharkhand as the Seraikella and the Purulia are the only styles of Chhau that uses masks as a compulsory part of their costumes in their performances. In Seraikela for example, the craft of mask making is an art that is handed down from father to son through many generations. The techniques and the fundamental nature of the Seraikela and Purulia Chhau dance-drama are based on the use of masks. Not only does it add beauty, color and life to the dance but it also evokes bhava (mood) and rasa (aesthetic sentiments) in the audience. Masks have a big role to play in the relationship between the performer and the audience.Â In Chhau, every performer has specific masks according to their characters. The Gods and Goddesses usually wear small pieces of decorative glittering materials in the facial masks accompanied with feathers and jewels while the evils or demons like the characters Ravana or Mahishasura wear grotesque masks.Â The masks used in the Chhau dance-drama are also used to interpret expressions. As the Chhau dance-drama is a speechless form of performance, the expressions given by the masks becomes essential. As the use of masks eliminate any form of facial expressions, the Chhau dancers use head gestures and neck movements to express any sort of feelings or emotions. I think it is really interesting how the portrayal of a story can be done using only body language and masks instead of spoken language and facial expressions. From a theatrical point of view, it is not common and that is what forms the uniqueness of the Chhau dance-drama in the world.Â The figures 4, 5 and 6 bellow illustrates example of Chhau masks used for different characters.
Like the masks, the costumes are made out of inexpensive local materials. The costumes that the Chhau performers used at the time the dance-drama started being performed are not known so therefore, we cannot tell if the costumes they are using today have evolved or stayed the same since the early years of the performances. Today, the costumes that are used in the Chhau performances are from various bright colors and designs as it is a performance that is supposed to evoke joy during festive periods. The costumes for the lower part of the body differ for the performers playing the Gods and the ones playing the demons. The artists that play the Gods (Devas) characters usually wear pajamas of light colors like green, yellow or red or a mixture of colors to make the characters look more attractive and alive; whereas those playing the role of the demons (Asuras) wear loose trousers of darker and deeper colors such as black. The costumes for the upper part of the body are made out of various designs and are as attractive and colourful as the costumes of the lower part of the body. For the performers that play characters such as animals or birds, suitable types of masks and costumes are used to portray the specific types of animals or birds.Â For example the character of Lord Shiva will be displayed by a tiger skin costume and his son Ganesh with a dhoti (Figure 7). The costumes also consist of many jewelleries and anything that look extravagant as those costumes are supposed to portray inexistent mythological characters.
Figure 7: Dhoti
Figure 8: Colourful costumes used in Chhau.
4 ) Music and staging:
As the Chhau dance-drama is performed on festive occasions with a gathering together of a whole village community, there is no raised platform or dais being settled down for the performance. With the aim of keeping the traditionalism of the event, the Chhau dance-drama usually takes place in an open air ground where the spectators are divided into sections of women and men and sit in a circle surrounding the area where the Chhau is performed. The stage used for the Chhau performances is decorated in a colourful and joyful style to create a festive atmosphere among the villagers and is usually lit by torches or oil lamps that serve as lighting which once again are made to adhere to the traditionalism of the event. The staging of the Chhau is organized in a style that encourages people from any social or economical class to gather together and celebrate. The fact that the Chhau dance-drama remains a local and traditional event after so many years is fascinating to me as many other dance or theatrical forms evolved to become more of an entertainment or money based purpose practise than a traditional one. It is very interesting how the Chhau is staged in a way to form a joyful atmosphere in a folk environment.
Like other ritual dances, the music accompaniment is a really important part for Chhau. The music style and the rhythm produced by the accompanying instruments are one of the key factors that characterize the uniqueness of the Chhau dance-drama. As the Chhau dancer is mute, the music and the lines sung by the orchestra are really important to introduce the performance. They create the right kind of mood and atmosphere for the scene to be enacted. The most important instrument accompanying the Chhau performances is the use of drum. The two main kinds of drums that are used in the Chhau performances are the Dhol ( Figure 9) and Dhamsa (Figure 10) which are played by local drummers of the area who also dance as they play. As for the tradition, the drummers themselves make the instruments and the tones used for the Chhau dance-drama based on the Hindustani Ragas wish is a Hindustani classical music concept. Ragas have a particular scale and specific melodic movements; their sound should bring delight and be pleasing to the ear. Reed pipes such as Shehnai (Figure 11) are also used by the orchestra along with the drums. The drum beats are important in the Chhau performances because they are used in the beginning of the dance-drama as an invocation to Lord Ganesha sung by a singer from the orchestra. As soon as the invocation to lord Ganesha is over, the drummers and musicians walk in to create an environment prior to the dance before the Lord Ganesha makes his entry followed by the other characters.
Figure 11: Shehnai
5) Performers and techniques:
Even though the Chhau dance-drama is a folk form of dance, it also includes some elements from the classical form of dance of India like the navarasas. The navaras are basically nine emotions that are used in the Indian classical dances and dramas to make both the dancers/actors and the audience appreciate the meaning of the lyrics and the movements that are being portrayed by. The nine rasas goes as follows:
1) hasya (happiness),
2) krodha (anger),
3) bhibasta (disgust),
4) bhayanaka (fear),
5) shoka (sorrow),
6) veera (courage),
7) karuna (compassion),
8) adbhuta (wonder) and
9) shanta (serenity).
These nine emotions have been mentioned in Nathya Shastra and all dance and theatrical forms in India use these emotions extensively.
As there are no spoken dialogues in most of the Indian dances including the Chhau, the navarasas are usually portrayed by using the eyes, the face, the muscles and the body shifts as a whole. In the case of Purulia and Sereikela Chhau, the movements of the eyes and the face are not possible as it is compulsory for all the characters to wear masks so the focus is on the body movements more than anything else to portray the nine different rasas. Since the Chhau dance-drama evolved from martial arts, the movements are very specific and important. The mask movements usually show anger while the shoulder and chest movements show joy, depression or courage depending on the way the dancer portrays it. The movements of the lower part of the body of the Chhau dancers are very quick and strong while the upper part of the body barely moves and the head rests in a slanted position. Jumping in the air is a movement that is often used in the Chhau performances because they serve as a gesture of attack in war scenes between the good ones and the evil ones. The kind of jump seen in the Chhau performances is known as â€˜ulfaâ€™ which is an indicator of the physical power and acrobatic skills of the performers. As we can see, the body language plays an essential role in the folk dance-drama Chhau.Â In relation to the theory of knowledge, Chhau is very interesting in the way that it uses body language as a way to communicate with people.
6) Interview with Chhau master Chandi Mahato:
Chhau dance-drama is a very rare and not commonly known form of folk art. Published books and web sources are not enough to properly study this art form in depth and therefore, I thought that an interview with an actual Chhau dance master would be ideal and effective to pursuit my exploration on the topic. As I live in Bangalore, a city in the state of Karnataka in the south part of India, a face to face interview was not possible so I sort this problem out by having a telephonic interview with the Chhau master Chandi Mahato. Chandi Mahato is a middle aged Chhau master residing in the remote village named Baghmundi in the Purulia district of West Bengal. He comes from a long lineage of Chhau dancers and teachers and has trained a lot of modern Chhau dancers including his son Lalit Mahato. An otherwise almost illiterate person, Chandi Mahato has learned a lot from his experience with Chhau dancing and at 67 years old, Mahato has performed in all major cities in India several times. Mahato is a farmer for most part of the year but he also engages himself in training theatre troupes in India working with the methods propounded by Jerzy Grotowsky. After asking Mahato nine questions about his experience with Chhau and the Chhau art in general, I felt more enlightened about the Chhau dance-drama form. The answers I got from Mahato are very interesting (See Appendix 1). Like most of the Chhau practitioners, Mahato learned Chaau from his father Gurupada Mahato who also learned it from his father and Mahato also taught it to his son Lalit Mahato which confirms that the Chhau is a tradition transmitted from father to son through many generations. Chhau is usually learned form a young age because when one grows older, the flexibility of the body becomes weaker. Mahatoâ€™s training techniques are very specific and challenging because dancing and acting using acrobatics is certainly not easy. Chandi Mahato persisted on the fact that the specific training is essential for Chhau practitioners and that consequences such as injuries of the performer or misinterpretation of the character could follow after a bad training. Drama is incorporated in the Chhau by the acting of a story without the use of any spoken language but instead body language. Mahato says that he uses a lot of typical exaggerated actions, movements, and gaits accompanied by music and rhythms which are easily recognised by the audience to carry the story forward. The Chhau master Mahato agrees on the fact that Chhau dance-drama as a folk art is very important to their community and cultural identity. Most of the people from those villages are farmers living in poor conditions. Therefore, they stick to this art form to bring joy and colors to their daily routines and they also use it as a way to express their emotions either the positive or the negative ones in a creative way. Chhau is also very important to their community because it is used to convey eternal moral messages. They use mythological stories to convey these moral messages for goal to educate people from those villages. Mahato is therefore stating that Chhau as a folk art is important to the Indian culture and is very significant as well.
After an in-depth study of the elements and origins of the Chhau dance-drama, it is therefore evident that this folk art is based on traditional and cultural elements. Chhau is an integral part of the culture heritage of India and itâ€™s an indigenous dance form created with a typical Indian psyche which is deeply rooted in the scriptures that are followed by all major Indian dance and dramatic forms. The Chhau is an art that is not only used for festive purposes but also as a way of communication with the community to convey certain messages using mythological stories. The Chhau is mostly performed for an audience that is typically Indian including sons and daughters of Indian soil, brought up with typical Indian values. As explained in the film by Vikrant Kishore â€œDancing for themselvesâ€?, the states where the Chhau originated from are states in where poverty is a big problem and that is one of the reasons the residents of those states are very attached to the Chhau and work hard on preserving it. Lalit Mahato who is the son of the Chhau master Chandi Mahato features in the film â€œDancing for themselvesâ€? and explains through the movie how important Chhau is for him and his culture. Lalit Mahato said “Whatever it takes I’ll teach my son Chhau Dance, no matter if I’ve to just eat boiled rice”; this quote shows the importance of Chhau as a cultural aspect for the lives of those villagers. The Chhau dancers do not practise this art only to entertain an audience but they also use it as a creative way to express their feelings and emotions. It is incredible how the different states of India Including the ones practising the Chhau dance-drama preserved their cultures intact. What we also have to take into consideration is the fact that those areas have not yet been touched by the fast movement of modernization. What would happen once modernization touch those areas? Will it affects their culture? Will they still perform the Chhau dance-drama as it is performed today and would it still be as significant for their culture? Those are questions that one should have in mind. I personally hope that those states donâ€™t lose their culture because I think that the Chhau dance-drama is a unique and fantastic form of folk art that should be preserved the way it is.
1) Mahato, ChandiÂ “Chhau dance-drama.” Telephone interview translated by Tamojit Ray. 24 Feb. 2010.
2) Devi., Ragini. Dance dialects of India. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1990. Print.
3) Gajrani, S. History, Religion and Culture of India. Vol. 4. Dehli: Isha, 2004. Print.
4) Schechner, Richard. Between Theater and Anthropology. New York: University of Pennsylvania, 1985. Print.
5) Chhau Dance Performances : The Ramayana:Love and Valour in India’s Great Epic. Google Video. Web. 09 Dec 2009. <https://video.google.ca/videoplay?docid=1062051219352271391&ei=1D-JS5uoDY38wQPV28nwBQ&q=chhau+dance&hl=en#>
6) Chhau dance promo. Youtube. Web. 05 Dec. 2009. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MFrcqODoVo>.
7) DANCING FOR THEMSELVES… A film by Vikrant Kishore. Dir. Vikrant Kishore. Youtube. 16 May 2007. Web. 11 Dec. 2009. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXPHQ0Hdnf4>.
8) “Chhau dance.” Orissa Government Portal. Web. 11 Dec. 2009. <https://orissa.gov.in/culture/chhau.htm>.
9) “Chhau , Indian Folk Dance.” Indianetzone. Web. 10 Dec. 2009. <https://www.indianetzone.com/1/chhau_dance.htm>.
10) Chhau.” India.gov. Web. 10 Dec. 2009. <https://india.gov.in/knowindia/chhau.php
11) Courtney, David. “FOLK DANCES.” Chandrakantha. Web. 09 Dec. 2009. <https://chandrakantha.com/articles/indian_music/nritya/folk_dance.html>.
12) Courtney, David. “Natya Shastra.” Chandrakantha. Web. 10 Dec. 2009. <https://chandrakantha.com/articles/indian_music/natyashastra.html>.
13) “Folk Dances of India.” Iloveindia. Web. 09 Dec. 2009. <https://dances.iloveindia.com/folk-dances/index.html>.
14) “Folk Dances of India.” Web. 11 Dec. 2009. <https://folk-dances.tripod.com/id10.html>.
15) Kamat, K.L. “The Chhau dance.” Kamat. 08 Sept. 2001. Web. 11 Dec. 2009. <https://www.kamat.com/kalranga/wb/chhau_dance.htm>.
16) “Masks in Serikella Chhau Dance.” Acharyaseraikellachhau. Web. 11 Dec. 2009. <https://www.acharyaseraikellachhau.com/mask.htm>.
17) “Origin of Indian Folk Dances.” Indianetzone. Web. 10 Dec. 2009. <https://www.indianetzone.com/18/origin_indian_folk_dances.htm>.
18) “Seraikella Chhau: An Introduction.” Acharyaseraikellachhau. Web. 11 Dec. 2009. <https://www.acharyaseraikellachhau.com/serai.htm>.
19) Ponmelil, V.A. “India – Introduction to folk dances.” Web. 09 Dec.2009. <https://www.newkerala.com/india/Dance-Forms-of-India/Introduction-to-Folk-Dance-of-India.html>.
20) “West Bengal Chhau.” Indialine. Web. 12 Dec. 2009. <https://www.indialine.com/travel/westbengal/chhau.html>.
9) Appendix 1:
Telephonic Interview with Chhau Master Chandi Mahato Transcript:
1. How did you learn Chhau dance? Is the practice passed through generations?
Ans: Yes. I learnt dancing from my father. His name was Gurupada Mahato. He was a well known Chhau master in his time. He learnt it from his father. It is a tradition with us. I have taught my son Lalit from a very early age. He is now performing all over India and sometimes abroad too.
2. Is there specific training necessary to perform the Chhau?
Ans: Definitely. First of all, we need to know how to balance ourselves properly on our backbone. There are a lot of movements involved in Chhau dancing. We need to train ourselves on that. Chhau is a vigorous, manly dance form, which depends heavily on acrobatics. If we do not train on that, we will not be able to perform properly and end up injuring ourselves permanently. Chhau has typical style of movements and gaits â€“ those need to be learnt as well. For instance, in Kirat Arjun, a traditional play where Lord Shiva confronts Arjun, the third Pandava, while hunting, there is a character of a wild boar which both want to hunt down. The wild boar has a very typical, traditional way of moving on the stage, If one does not receive training on that, the character will not be portrayed properly. Then, again, depending on the play, there is a distinct difference between portraying a male or a female character. One definitely needs to learn that. In addition, we have to perform our dance according to typical rhythm patterns. So, a lot of vigorous training is necessary to become a Chhau performer and the training starts quite early in life because as one grows older, the flexibility of the limbs becomes weaker.
3. How do you act stories without using any spoken language?
Ans: You have asked a very interesting question (laughs). As with most other dance forms in India, we use a lot of gestures and postures which typically convey a meaning. We also use a lot of typical movement and gaits while performing which carries the story forward. We also use animated and exaggerated actions which are easily recognised. Using all these, Chhau, over the ages has developed a language of its own and we try to use it as effectively as possible. You should also keep in mind that we use music and rhythms to accompany us.
4. To what extent is the Chhau dance-drama important to your community as a folk art?
Ans: It is extremely important as Chhau dance represents the cultural identity of our community. The geographical area that we live in is very rough. We have to live a very
vigorous lifestyle here. We go to the jungles and cut trees in order to get fuel. The rivers in our area are very shallow and are mostly rain fed. So all the year round we face acute shortage of water. It becomes extremely hot and dry in summers and the winter is also very tough. Most of the people in our community have very little or no land to cultivate of their own. We most often have to earn our food by ploughing other peopleâ€™s land. Moreover, living in close proximity to the forests, we have to save ourselves from wild animals like elephants. So you can well understand that we live in extreme poverty and have to live a tough life. All of that is reflected in our dance. We try to express all our miseries, happiness, sorrows and agonies through our dance. We may adopt the mythical stories to do so. But nevertheless, those mythical characters become one of us while portraying them during our performances. We are normally farmers when we are not dancing. The harvest season in our area is usually around the springtime. That is when we have our festivals and the landed gentry, after making profits from the fresh harvest, are in a better position to indulge in cultural activities. So they organise night-long Chhau competitions all around the region. It gives us opportunity to showcase our talents to people and earn some extra money. The spring, in our region comes with a lot of colours â€“ that is represented in our art through the colourful masks and costumes.
5. To what extent is it important to you?
Ans: I just told you â€“ it is very important. I can express myself in a creative way through the medium of dance. I am able to showcase my talents as a dancer. This gives me recognition within our region. After I have performed well in a competition, people immediately recognise me wherever I go in the area and treat me with an amount of respect. I have gained more respectability from the time I have become a master. I train up the younger generation who are interested in becoming performers. They perform my compositions on stage. Beside the creative satisfaction, I also earn respect from people as the leader of the team. In the more recent times, Chhau has given me the opportunity to travel to different parts of the country to perform. I feel lucky to have been able to represent our art to the people of this vast country. I have also performed in Europe and USA. I feel proud to be a part of the diverse culture that my country has. I am glad that I could present Chhau, which is a folk art form in the remote corners of India, in front of the audience abroad â€“ most of whom were non Indians and had never experienced what Chhau is.
6. How do the Chhau performances affect your community with their mythological stories?
Ans: We try to convey some eternal moral messages through our performances, like the triumph of good over evil. We use the mythological stories as allegories to convey these messages. The reason for doing that is â€“ most of the rural people who watch our performances relate immediately to the mythological stories taken from Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas as they are familiar with these stories from their childhood.
And as I have told you earlier, during a performance, the characters we depict through our stories do not remain mere gods and goddesses â€“ they become mortals just like us who suffer pains and agonies just like we do. So conveying the message becomes easier for us. But I must also tell you that all these thoughts are the results of talking to educated people from the cities. Otherwise, when we perform, most of us are not conscious of these effects.
7. Do you think Chhau as a form has been able to retain its traditional values through all these years that it has existed?
Ans: That is not totally possible.With time certain ways of presentation have changed owing to various factors. During the time of our ancestors, the length of a single play was much longer. You must understand that Chhau was the only form of entertainment in those days in this remote area. Nowadays, we have to compete with cinema and television. People do not want to sit through the lengthy performances. They get bored. So we have had to shorten the performance time. Also, with the advent of the electronic media, the tastes of our audience have become more commercialised. They want more lilt in the presentations and want to see us dance with the popular music they hear on radio and television. We have been forced to incorporate some of those elements in our performances for sheer survival. However, in essence we do retain the traditional format and have not changed much in terms of look and feel.
8. What is the significance of Chhau as an art form in your point of view?
Ans: India is vast country with a lot of cultural diversities. Each region has its own unique form to contribute to this diversity. When we bring these diversities together, only then do we realise how beautiful our country is and how culturally rich we are. We, as Indians, represent an age old heritage to the entire world. And Chhau is an integral part of this rich heritage. We â€“ the Chhau performers â€“ feel that it is of utmost importance to keep this tradition moving. Nowhere in our country would you find a dance form like Chhau which is folk-like in appearance but has an intrinsic classical nature. I call it folk-like because of the masks and costumes we use. And I also call it classical because, with time, we have been able to develop a language for the form using very specific gestures, postures and movement. It is a unique form practised by a handful of people in a remote corner of our country. But if you look around, you will not find too many dance-theatre forms like Chhau all over the world.
9. What makes the Chhau unique among other similar forms of dance in India?
Ans: As I told you a little while ago that Chhau is a dance form which has over the ages developed a language of its own. When you compare it with other similar types of dance, you will find that no other Indian dance forms use the mask to completely cover the face of the performer. So the performer, in those forms, has the advantage of using their facial expressions along with the other attributes to convey an emotion. However, when it comes to Chhau, we are standing at a disadvantage. Our facial expression, due to the masks, is fixed and cannot be changed throughout all the emotions depicted in the characters we present. So we have to use different types of gestures, postures and gaits to express them. That is the most unique thing about Chhau.
 Courtney, David. “Folk Dances of India.” David and Chandrakantha Courtney’s Homepage-Indian Musicians. Web. 05 Dec. 2009.
 Courtney, David. “Natya Shastra (Natyashatra or Natyasastra) Ancient Indian Text on Stagecraft.” chandrakantha.com – Music of India. Web. 05 Dec. 2009.
 Folk Dances of Eastern India.” Iloveindi.com. Web. 05 Dec. 2009.
 “INDIA MAP.” Map. INDIA MAP – POLITICAL, TRAVEL MAP, MAPS OF INDIAN STATES. Indianomy. Web. 09 Dec. 2009. <https://www.indianomy.com/images/map-of-india.gif>.
 “Chhau.” Orissa Government Portal.Â orissa.gov.in Web. 15 Dec. 2009.
 Chaitra is the last month of the year in the Hindu calendar and is also associated with the spring season which is an auspicious time.
 The Mahabharata is a book written by the poet Vyasa. It is the epic tale of a quarrel between the Pandavas and the Kauravas that culminated in a fight. INDIAN EPICS.” THE RAMAYANA , THE MAHABHARATA – EPICS OF INDIA. Web. 17 Dec. 2009. <https://www.indianchild.com/great___indian_epics.htm>.
 Ramayana Sanskrit epic by Valmiki, based on the story of Rama, son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. The epic is divided into seven episodes or parts. INDIAN EPICS.” THE RAMAYANA , THE MAHABHARATA – EPICS OF INDIA. Web. 17 Dec. 2009. <https://www.indianchild.com/great___indian_epics.htm>.
 Deva â€“ Dictionary definition of deva.” Encyclopedia – Online Dictionary. Web. 15 Dec. 2009. <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.
 “Asura -.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web. 17 Dec. 2009. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asura>.
 Jacques Brunet. The excerpt is taken from an article originally edited by Cherif Khaznadar and published by Maison de la Culture de Rennes, France. It was reprinted in “The Drama Review” (Winter 1982), p.68.
 “Mask.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web. 16 Dec. 2009. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mask#Masks_in_performance>.
Â Masks in the Balinese style of dance-drama., Bali, Indonesia. Personal photograph by author. Dec. 2009.
Â “Chhau , Indian Folk Dance.” Indianetzone. Web. 09 Jan. 2010.
Â “Chhau , Indian Folk Dance.” Indianetzone. Web. 09 Jan. 2010.
Â “Masks in Serikella Chhau Dance.” Acharyaseraikellachhau. Web. 11 Dec. 2009.
 “Masks in Serikella Chhau Dance.” Acharyaseraikellachhau. Web. 11 Dec. 2009.
 “Dhoti.” Tradeindia. Web. 15 Dec. 2009. <https://product-image.tradeindia.com/00308219/b/0/Dhoti.jpg>.
 Picturesindia. Web. 11 Dec. 2009. <www.picturesindia.com/media/dance/09_000028.jpg>.
 Sahani, Girish. “Concept of Raga in Hindustani Classical Music.” 09 Dec. 2006. Web. <https://www.hss.iitb.ac.in/courses/HS463/RagaMusic.pdf>.
 Instrumantra. Web. 15 Dec. 2009. <https://www.instrumantra.com/catalog/images/dhol.jpg>.
 Anagrasarkalyan.gov. Web. 15 Dec. 2009. <https://anagrasarkalyan.gov.in/gallery/Cultural-Museum/Dhamsa-(Drum)—-Santal-Tri.jpg>.
 Courtney, David. “Shehnai.” Chandrakantha. Web. 15 Dec. 2009. <https://chandrakantha.com/articles/indian_music/shehnai.html>.
 Matu, Sangeeta Kaul. “The origins of Indian Dance: The Natya Shastra.” Classical Indian Dance: Origins, Elements, Slokas & Links. 26 Aug. 1999. Web. 19 Dec. 2009. <https://www.angelfire.com/ma2/bharatanatyam/Origins.html>.
Analysis of the Portsmouth Theatre dilemma
- 0.1 Introduction
- 0.2 Strategy Overview
- 0.3 Strategy elements:
- 0.4 2008 Situation
- 1 The Portsmouth Theatre Dilemma in detail
- 1.1 Pestle Analysis
- 1.1.1 Political factors
- 1.1.2 Economic factors
- 1.1.3 Sociological factors
- 1.1.4 Technological factors
- 1.1.5 Legal factors
- 1.1.6 Environmental factors
- 1.2 Porter’s Five Forces
- 1.2.1 Degree of rivalry
- 1.2.2 Supplier power
- 1.2.3 Threat of substitutes
- 1.2.4 Buyer power
- 1.2.5 Barriers to entry
- 1.3 SWOT Analysis
- 1.3.1 Strengths
- 1.3.2 Weaknesses
- 1.3.3 Opportunities
- 1.3.4 Threats
- 1.1 Pestle Analysis
- 2 Conclusion
This study examines the complex strategic dilemma faced by Portsmouth City Council, in its popular bid to save its two landmark Grade II listed theatres. This complex journey continues to involve a diverse range of stakeholders, the majority of which are highly attached to Portsmouth’s theatre heritage. The ‘Two Theatres for Portsmouth Project’ was clearly hugely challenging from the outset and was hampered by lack of effective strategic planning, limited funding, changing consumer trends and its ever developing, successful competitors.The project has taken the council into conflict with stakeholders as well as into significant debt and the future of Portsmouth’s beloved theatres is arguably no more certain than when the dilemma began in 1999.
In 1999, due to changing consumer behaviour trends and increased competition for Portsmouth’s live theatre industry, Portsmouth Council developed its ‘Two Theatres in Portsmouth Strategy’. The project budget was to be stretched across two different theatres, offering quite different entertainment products and targeted at different audiences. Originally this strategy aimed to fill an ambitious 2,000 seats per week, all year round.
- Kings Theatre â€“ 1,500 seating capacityFocus on major popular entertainment products including for example musicals and major UK touring productions. Set up as a non-profit theatre trust in 2001, this theatre was managed by the company ‘Kings Theatre Southsea Limited’ until its bankruptcy in 2003
- The New Theatre Royal â€“ 500 seat capacityFocus on smaller commercial productions such as experimental drama. Theatre also managed by ‘Kings Theatre Southsea Limited’
Funding for the project was a seriously contentious issue from the outset. It focused on possible grants from The Heritage Lottery Fund and The Arts Council of England. Although worth millions, these grants would not cover the further estimated Â£4 million required for essentials such as putting disabled access in place and installing new lighting systems. These significant costs would need to be met by Portsmouth City Council. It is important to note that although The Arts Council did agree to provide grants amounting to several million pounds for this stage of the project, no money was actually released. From the case study evidence, it seems unlikely that Portsmouth Council would ever have been able to meet its financial commitments to the two theatres project. For example, its leisure budget was already under heavy pressure from existing approved projects including a new swimming pool and the City museum. These initiatives represented an expenditure of Â£13 million over five years. Ultimately such financial pressures would put the two theatres project in danger. Little consideration seems to have been given to how the two ailing theatres were going to attract sufficient audiences in order to secure viability. For example, no specific market audiences were targeted; instead hopes were pinned on Portsmouth’s existing core group of loyal theatre goers. From the outset, key players in the project recognised this group was insufficient to fulfil commercial needs or to enable the two theatre strategy to become sustainable and profitable. Nevertheless, the problem was not tackled. The initial two theatres strategy positioned The King’s Theatre as Portsmouth’s main commercial theatre, which would attract major touring companies and bring in the most revenue possible. This aim was unrealistic as the theatre was unable to cater for such touring companies as its facilities were so out of date and insufficient â€“ it was therefore unable to fulfil its basic purpose. Furthermore, two of The King’s Theatre’s nearby competitors (Mayflower in Southampton, Festival Theatre in Chichester) were already able to attract such artists with vastly superior facilities, which did not need heavy investment. It can therefore be argued that even a renovated, updated King’s Theatre would be unable to compete with key local rivals. It was doubtful that the Portsmouth strategic plan was ever going to break even with the city subsidy of only Â£135,000 per year. It is important to note that a quarter of this annual subsidy could be risked in one week alone, through the practice of offering guaranteed revenues to attract large scale productions to The King’s Theatre. Although officially no direct explication was given, the offering of such risky guarantees was one of the most likely factors behind the bankruptcy suffered by the limited operating company in March 2003. Other additional factors included the consistent inability to reach the audience capacity target of 70% as well as management’s lack of financial control of the project. Eventually the Council was forced to consider making a complete U-turn and pull away from its original two theatres strategy altogether, with its new plan to sell off The King’s Theatre and direct its limited funds towards The New Theatre Royal. This plan would commit the Council to a more manageable annual subsidy of Â£130,000 per year to be backed up with ‘other’ significant funding which remained to be confirmed. However, ultimately this plan was rejected and the Council voted to keep both theatres going under subsidy, for a further three years.
After major interior restoration work, funded by the Council and a separate restoration appeal, The King’s Theatre reopened and enjoyed a well-supported programme of live theatre. The New Theatre Royal is also doing relatively well although it has suffered staffing issues.
The Portsmouth Theatre Dilemma in detail
- Portsmouth’s theatres are run by the local city Council but are operated within limits and guidelines as defined by national government
- The Council is run by Councillors, who are elected local politicians. The Council has some element of choice in managing its arts provision including how it allocates its limited budget for such activities
- The threat of closure for The King’s theatre became a major political pressure for the city Council
- The Council was hung and there was little enthusiasm from councillors, to take locally unpopular decisions to, for example, close the King’s Theatre
- Portsmouth City Council has an annual budget of Â£200 million from which to draw funds for supporting its arts activities such as the theatres
- Insufficient restrictive funding for the modernisation of the two theatres was provided by for example, The Heritage Lottery Fund. Portsmouth Council and its citizens were also required to raise a further Â£4 million, in order to top up grants
- Portsmouth is a major tourist venue supported by major employers including IBM and its European HQ
- In the past, arts activities including live theatre, have been underfunded in Portsmouth
- The total population of Portsmouth is over 170,000
- In line with general UK trends, the public are consistently turning away from live theatre in favour of more ‘fun’ entertainment options including nightclubbing
- The spread of mass car ownership opened up the competition to include other theatres and rival venues from outside Portsmouth
- To become competitive, significant investment in updated operational technology is needed by both theatres
- The New Theatre Royal was partly destroyed by fire and so has extremely limited operational facilities. For example, the theatre is unable to accommodate even basic large scale scenery.
- Both theatres remain at least partly un-modernised and out of date and could therefore arguably fall short of legal requirements such as current health and safety measures etc.
- Bankruptcy of the theatres management company in 2001, threw doubt on the entire viability of the two theatres project
- The King’s Theatre is particularly poorly situated in Portsmouth
Porter’s Five Forces
Degree of rivalry
- According to The Arts Council for England, Portsmouth’s two major theatres did not appeal to the specialist niche markets which it needed to reach, in order to become viable. Key rival theatres and other venues within reach of the city were far better positioned to fulfil the needs of these markets.
- Portsmouth city itself provides fierce competition for its theatres, these rivals include numerous comedy and night clubs, sporting venues and The Guildhall Concert Hall
- The Arts Council for England, a major funder of the arts provision in Portsmouth, did not agree with the ‘Two theatres for Portsmouth’ strategy from the outset. Funding and support for the project was therefore difficult to obtain
Threat of substitutes
- The Arts Council for England warned Portsmouth Council that there was insufficient consumer demand for two major theatres in the city. This would suggest that there was a significant flaw in this strategy from the beginning.
- With the advent of mass car ownership and the trend towards more accessible ‘fun’ pastimes, live theatre still finds it challenging to compete and attract audiences. Customers now have far more choice as to how, where and when to spend their money on live entertainment.
Barriers to entry
- Funding for the two theatres project was stretched from the outset and so it can be argued that the project was always going to be financially fragile
- On top of initial investments on acquisition of the theatres, Portsmouth Council also initially needed to raise around Â£4 million to top up possible funding grants for its project
- Experts in the field of arts development such as The Arts Council for England predicted that the theatre market would be particularly tough for Portsmouth and that niche target marketing would be needed for strategic success. This advice seems to have been ignored by the theatre management in Portsmouth.
- Although much diminished since its heyday n the 1950’s, Portsmouth still has a devoted live theatre audience
- Both theatres are historically much loved, Grade II listed arts venues
- The King’s Theatre was re-launched in 2001 but its subsidiary commercial operating company was unsuccessful and became bankrupt only 2 years later
- Portsmouth’s loyal live theatre audience still exists but is much diminished and is not sufficient to fill the 2,000 seats needed each week, for the ‘Two Theatres for Portsmouth’ strategy to be financially viable and sustainable
- The flagship King’s Theatre, although an impressive Grade II listed building is poorly located, away from the city centre, with inadequate parking facilities
- Portsmouth’s two theatres were unable to compete on ticket price with key rival theatres. For example, King’s tickets sold for up to Â£10 each with Southampton and Chichester theatres averaging a ticket price of up to Â£14.
- The Portsmouth population’s interest in live theatre has clearly dwindled over time. For example in 1950, the city boasted four live theatres which were so popular that they were full every performance night. By the end of 1990’s only two major theatres remained plus a smaller arts theatre which was relocated in 2003 due to lack of funding.
- Portsmouth’s ‘ two theatres strategy’ has the public’s backing
- Leading decision makers such as former Council leader Frank Worley, publicly recognised that Portsmouth is a city with cultural ambitions and thus a desire to support cultural activities (such as live theatre)
- Both theatres require substantial investment in order to modernise them and to enable them to compete with successful rivals such as The Mayflower Theatre in nearby Southampton. For example, The King’s Theatre initially required an investment of up to Â£13 million and The New Theatre Royal required Â£5 million.
- Key competitors include the large, modern and well located city centre theatres based in nearby Southampton and Chichester as well as popular local town venues and numerous Portsmouth based rival live entertainment venues
- The development of mass car ownership has enabled once faithful Portsmouth theatre goers, to travel to competing theatres
- Other forms of entertainment have become more fashionable than live theatre – these include television as well as nightclubbing. The trend for more ‘serious’ entertainment as offered by live theatre, including opera, drama and ballet, are on a continual downward spiral.
- Following bankruptcy in 2003, The King’s Theatre still carried over Â£200,000 of debt
- Councillors are elected politicians which can arguably be swayed by vote winning policies rather than by purely altruistic objectives, such as keeping theatre alive in Portsmouth
- An Arts Council for England study argued against the two theatre policy from the outset, claiming that there was simply not enough customer demand to support two theatres in the town. The Arts Council wanted Portsmouth to focus its resources on the smaller New Theatre Royal which was in a stronger city centre location.
- Ultimately lack of funds could force the sale of the well-loved King’s Theatre, to a brewery chain
Portsmouth Council’s two theatre strategy seems to have been doomed from the start. It is clear from the case study evidence that the strategy was financially unsound with wholly insufficient funding. Expert advice was ignored by the theatre’s management and obvious strategic measures, such as targeting niche audience markets and putting together a strategy to compete effectively with stiff growing competition, were left un-tackled. The strategic mismanagement of the project forced Portsmouth City Council to make two entire strategic U-turns in the space of only four years. Although both theatres are currently operating, it is clear that they still face an uncertain future.
Performance Theory Essay
Discuss ways in which Richard Schechner’s ‘Performance Theory’ may be of use to contemporary practitioners. Illustrate your answer with reference to at least one dance or theatre performance which you have seen ‘live’. The influence of Richard Schechner (b. 1934) on both theatre production and academic theory has been profound and, in some ways, revolutionary. Schechner has consistently challenged traditional practices and perspectives of theatre, performance and ritual for almost half a century. His principal contention is that drama is not merely a province of the stage, but of everyday life, and is a cross-cultural phenomenon. ‘It is important to develop and articulate theories concerning how performances a regenerated, transmitted, received and evaluated in pursuit of these goals, performance studies is insistently intercultural, inter-generic and inter-disciplinary’. (Schechner, 1995) As with all academic studies, performance theory is founded on certain key principles, which include such terms as ‘presentation of self’, ‘restored behaviour’ and ‘expressive culture’, and incorporates social drama and ritual. His concept of performance, which contrasts sharply with previous, principally modernist, approaches to the arts, asserts the importance of different ‘systems of transformations’, which vary enormously from culture to culture, and throughout historical periods and movements. The radical nature of performance theory is demonstrated by its all-encompassing, even holistic, approach to theatre and performance, with popular culture, folklore, and ethnic diversity incorporated into the cross-disciplinary mix. In examining the ways in which the theory can be useful to theatre practitioners, it is important to examine in more detail the main strategies it deploys, including the concept of ‘performativity’. The word ‘performative’ was originated by J.L Austin, a linguistic philosopher, who coined the term for the first time during lectures at Harvard University in 1955. Expressions such as ‘I take this man to be my lawfully wedded husband’ are an example of an action in itself, rather than simply the description of an action. As Austin put it, ‘to say something is to do something’. (Austin, 1962) ‘Performativity’ as a concept is closely related to postmodernism. The postmodern view does not see the idea of ‘performance’ as intrinsically artistic or theatrical, but as something that pervades the fabric of the social, political and material world. It is an inalienable part of what constitutes power and knowledge. Teaching and lecturing, political speech-making and religious sermonising illustrates this characteristic of performativity. The postmodern view of things posits a standpoint that culture has become a commodity in itself, rather than a critique of commodity. It is inseparable from the context of post-World War II Western society, where new goods and technology, and corresponding cultural developments, emerged from the rubble of post-war austerity. This shift from modernist to postmodernist thinking in the arts can be located in the 1950s, with movements such as abstract expressionism, modernist poetry and existentialism in literature and philosophy representing a high flowering of the modernist impulse. The postmodern world, originating in the 1960s, represented a blurring of distinction between high art and popular, mass-communicated mediums, formerly derided as ‘low art’. ‘Recognising, analysing, and theorising the convergence and collapse of clearly demarcated realities, hierarchies, and categories is at the heart of postmodernism. Such a convergence or collapse is a profound departure from traditional Western performance theory’. (Schechner, 2002, P. 116) In the Schechner universe, the previously solid foundation of modernism, with clearly defined borders of reality and representation in performance, has been wrenched away, and many of the assumptions in the western artistic tradition, from Plato and Aristotle on, such as the notion that theatre reflects, imitates or represents reality, in both individual and social life. ‘Representational art of all kinds is based on the assumption that ‘art’ and ‘life’ are not only separate but of different orders of reality. Life is primary, art secondary’. (Schechner, 2002, P.116) In Performance Studies, Schechner asserts that ‘performing onstage, performing in special social situations (public ceremonies, for example), and performing in everyday life are a continuum’. (Schechner, 2002, P. 143) His contention that each and every one of us is in some sense a ‘performer’ is difficult to dispute. Engaging in ‘real life’ is often indistinguishable from ‘role play’, and in today’s ‘surveillance societies’ of Western culture, with CCTV cameras seemingly everywhere, the scope for performance as an extension of simply being has never been wider. The evident logical development of this is the ubiquitous ‘reality TV’ show, as well as the do-it-yourself webcam and personal websites on the internet, both of which have contributed a new dimension to ‘the style of being’. 2 Pop artist Andy Warhol would surely have embraced the new media’s possibilities for exhibitionism, and reflected wryly on his own pioneering role in this phenomenon. His films of the1960s and ’70s were forerunners of reality TV, and his mantra of ’15 minutes of fame’ has never seemed more applicable. At first glance, Schechner’s hypotheses appears to fulfil both Warhol’s philosophy and Shakespeare’s oft-quoted ‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players’ as an approach to performance. The key concern of the drama ordnance practitioner is to place this into the context of performing a in a way beyond simply ‘being in itself’ to the portrayal of a self-contained ‘thing in itself’- an abstract presentation of a text or idea, for the purposes of entertain mentor education. (E.g. Theatre-in-education) The actor or ‘player’ is not alone in presenting self-contained performances, with a beginning, middle and end. As Schechner observes, various figures in the public arena adopt strategies of performance and role play, such as politicians, religious leaders, and businessmen and women, conducting presentations at meetings: ‘Paid performers all seeking attention, adulation, re-election, and money’. (Schechner, 2002, P. 146) They all have their own strategies and scenarios to achieve effects, towards a specific goal, and, like the theatre/performing arts practitioner, their performances are predicated on self-consciousness. ‘ Across this very wide spectrum of performing are varying degrees of self-consciousness and consciousness of the others with whom and for whom we play. The more self-conscious a person is the more one constructs behaviour for those watching and/or listening, the more such behaviour is performing.’ (Schechner, 2002, P.146) The application of role playing in many contexts, from psychotherapy sessions to teacher training exercises, follows similar approaches as drama improvisation classes, albeit with different objectives, but no less in addressing the self-conscious and unconscious impulses which lie at the basis of performance. It reflects the in-built routines, rituals and conventions of everyday life, instilled from birth, and through childhood experience. The Jungian theories of archetypes and the collective unconscious would suggest that the individual’s mind is not a tabularasa (blank page) at the time of birth – the implications of which are potent with creative possibilities for the practitioner/performing artist. The concept of ‘performing in everyday life’ is a central aspect of performativity, as envisaged by Schechner. ‘Performativity is everywhere – in daily behaviour, in the professions, on the internet and media, in the arts and in the language’. (Schechner, 2002, P. 110) It is a natural progenitor of role play and improvisation. The expression ‘showing off’ is heard frequently throughout childhood, but is equally applicable to adult behaviour. Certain jobs and professions have evolved traditional codes of conduct, some of which have emerged as specific character traits, behaviour patterns and tones of voice. These have in turn been stylised into stereotypical representations: the roles of dignified clergyman, ardent reporter, solemn court judge, et al. They usually adhere to custom, but have evolved into modes of performance. The implication is that many individuals, going about their ‘everyday business’ are not being themselves all of the time. They are acting out roles, predetermined to the point of being programmed in some cases. ‘Performing in everyday life involves people in a wide range of activities from solo or intimate performances behind closed doors to small group activities to interacting as part of a crowd.’ (Schechner,2002, P. 175) Schechner observes that the social codes of our daily lives are adapted to greater or lesser degrees by everyone. The unconventional or rebellious resist the rules, but only revolutionaries seek to break them to achieve permanent change – a principal equally applicable to artists. The arts, and particularly the theatre, have always made use of stereotypes and archetypes, often parodying or subverting them. Those practitioners who set out to achieve truthful performances, to ‘get under the skin’ of a character, can identify with these typical representations, as role play exercises reveal, but the underlying personality lies a layer or two deeper. ‘In the theatre the actor and the audience both know that the actor is not who she is playing. But in real life a person is simultaneously performing herself and being herself. The matter is, of course, nicely complicated because in some methods of realistic acting, actors are taught how to use their own selves to construct theatrical roles’. (Schechner, 2002, P. 177) In approaching the role of , for example, a science teacher, and avoid a one-dimensional portrayal, an actor must discover the character as not simply a teacher, carrying out a teacher’s role, but as an individual when ‘off duty’ during times, as Schechner puts it, when ‘the performance aspect of ordinary behaviour is less obvious, but not absent’. (Schechner, 2002, P. 177) 4 The actor can draw on his/her own experience, be it of a personal kind (i.e. they may have previously been a teacher) or from memories and observations based on an actual person, or persons. (E.g. a teacher who had taught them) Naturally, this approach places more demands on the actor, enabling him/her to enact a performance of a person who is also a science teacher, rather than simply a science teacher with no identity beyond his/her teaching duties. A-Gender, produced in 2004 by Joey Hately, artistic director of Transaction Theatre Company, was a postmodern theatre piece that adopted many of the elements of new theatre and performance theory very effectively. Ostensibly a presentation of gender politics portrayed as a personal case history, A-Gender presented the issue of transsexualism in a powerfully theatrical manner, deploying methods of performance outside the restrictions of conventional theatre. The use of the ‘one man (or one woman) show’ format (a prototypical popular cultural form) and the ‘stand up ‘routine, interwoven with visual media (video sequences) and other performance modes, enabled the artist/performer to convey the confusion, pain and anger of person whose gender identity causes them to believe that they have been born in the wrong body, the wrong gender. A-Gender adopted a modus operandi of style and performativity that placed it squarely in the new theatre approach. Its subject matter determined this, and evident devices to unsettle, or even alienate, the audience were adopted by Hately effectively. Some of these devices were not exclusively of postmodernist origin, having close links to the Theatre of the Absurd and Brechtian strategies of alienation, but the multi-media technique of juxtaposing live theatre with pre-filmed video sequences, was pure new theatre. In fringe, community, and street theatre performances, the scope for applying Schechner’s performance theory is virtually limitless. The roots of street theatre are varied and eclectic, having both a primitive, ritualistic dimension, with antecedents in ancient and tribal cultures, as well as avant garde origins of performance art at the start of the 20th century (e.g. surrealism, dada, etc), culminating in the pop art, post-modern dance and ‘Happenings’ of the 1960s, a movement from which Schechner’s early work in the theatre emerged. Street theatre performances contain some elements derived from Happenings, which Allan Kaprow outlined in The seven qualities of Happenings. (Kaprow, 1966) There are essential differences. Street theatre is usually played out for the benefit of an audience, albeit one of a generally random nature, some of whom may become participants, but not in the same way as in Happenings – with everyone performing and no audience. One element they do share is the idea of the ‘found space’, which is crucial to ‘environmental theatre’. Kaprow stated, ‘it doesn’t make any difference how large the space is. It’s still a stage’. (Kaprow quoted in Schechner,1977) Schechner elaborated on this principle with his axiom that ‘the theatrical event can take place in a totally transformed space, or found space’. (Schechner, 1977) Whereas traditional theatre restricts the ‘special place’ to an area (the stage) marked clearly as the space for performance, new theatre creates a space that is ‘organically defined by the action’. As in the Happening, and street theatre, space is transformed by the participants, who discover their own sets and scenery, using their surroundings, the various elements ‘found in the environment of the space, including décor, textures and acoustics. Outdoor stage performances have adopted this principle, with many touring theatre companies using castle ruins, woodland clearings and riversides to stage Shakespeare’s Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Merchant of Venice. This use of transformed space is perhaps a more conservative application of Schechner’s theory, as it retains many of the conventions of traditional theatre. The theatrical stage is simply substituted for its outdoor counterpart. Much of street theatre approaches adopt a radical use of space in the environment. There are innumerable ways in which performance theory and new theatre are a useful alternative to traditional theatre. The application of other (visual) media has already been noted, as in the example of A-Gender. Schechner proposes others: ‘I suggest other tools, other approaches. Mathematical and transactional game analysis, model building, comparisons between theatre and related performance activities – all will prove fruitful.’ (Schechner, 1988, P. 27-28) This demands a high level of intense physical and mental rigour from the practitioner, as Schechner sees theatre as alive, experiential, organic, rather than something that merely replicates or reconstructs reality. His theory offers many practical methods for both student and practitioner to follow, in the form of both things to think about and things to do. These are inter-disciplinary and encourage an expansionist outlook, which is cross-cultural, as well as making explorative use of the inner life of the performer. This dynamic and multi-faceted approach can be adopted by the full range of performing arts, which the theory so comprehensively reflects. For both actors and directors it creates new space and new possibilities, especially to the experimental and fringe theatre practitioner.
Theatre Management Technicians
- 1 Investigating Arts Management Practice
- 2 Introduction
- 3 Literature Review
- 4 Methodology
- 5 Finding and Discussions
- 6 Conclusion
Investigating Arts Management Practice
This report will look into technical jobs in the theatre industry. Looking at the people who work as technicians. Do they have a technical theatre degree or did they get into the job by gaining ‘hands on’ experience.
The report will show if there are specific requirements for technicians e.g. to have a degree to work in the west end on a ‘high profile’ show or if to work in a regional theatre that has a variety of small scale shows, would ‘hands on’ experience be preferred, as they would not just be working in one area on a show, they will need the knowledge to work in all areas of backstage in a theatre. Research was compiled by emailing questions to production and touring theatre companies, interviewing the technical managers of two regional theatres, and from sourcing information from job adverts in ‘The Stage’, on careers advice websites and on theatre forums specifically for theatre technicians. The findings show that technicians who work in the regional theatres mainly started out as casuals who then gained experience and applied to the job full time, where as the production and touring theatre company do not necessarily look for people with degrees but if they are applying for a manager or head of department job then it would only help their application, or if they were wanting to work as a stage manager then preferably studying a specific stage management course at a drama school would also be benifical. To conclude although a degree is not needed to get into the industry if you were wanting to go into a management position then having a degree could help you application as the company would know that you would have had some level of ‘paper based’ learning which would have involved for example financial studies.
This report is based on the question: ‘To work in the theatre industry is it necessary to gain a technical theatre degree or is experience preferred’ This subject has become an increasingly talked about topic within the theatre industry. Older theatre managers nowadays never had the chance to gain a qualification, as there was no such thing, some still feel that it is a waste of time to go the academic route as the job is practical and this is the way to learn it. This topic is discussed a lot on the technical forum ‘Blue Room’. Where technicians can speak to each other asking questions about the jobs backstage, or how to get into the industry. One member of the forum answers a similar question about which university courses give the best training to get into the industry: ‘I don’t believe the best way to get involved in this industry is to take an academic course – production/sound is a very practical hands on job that benefits more from experience than teaching.’ ‘Gareth Young, Freelance lighting designer & sound engineer’ This is the way a lot of people think in the industry but as there is now more choice of specific courses to study to get into theatre, a lot of people are taking these up. ‘The industry is changing as there are now more and more specific technical courses. I think that the non-University route is a valid one and I know many people who have been successful without going to Uni.’ ‘3Pens – Blue Room’ After speaking to the technical manager at the regional theatre Wycombe Swan, who did study a degree in drama said on the topic ‘It helps to get a degree if you want to go into teaching, but 10 years ago the industry laughed at people who went the university route, but people are slowly beginning to realise that it might be a good idea, not necessarily to become a technician but if they ever wanted to become a technical manager’ Sebastian Petit – Technical Manager at the Wycombe Swan
When researching this topic a lot of information was found on the technical theatre forum ‘Blue Room’ (bringing backstage online). This is where people who are specifically interested in the backstage jobs of a theatre can talk to other people about any questions they have or just have a general chat. Topics include general chats about productions, non-technical chats about insurance, working overseas etc, technical forums for each technical area, stage management, lighting, props etc and another for training and qualifications, ‘A forum for the discussion of Training and Education issues’. This is where the research information was sourced. Many people have joined this forum asking question such as ‘Interested in the industry – Where to start?’ These questions are usually asked by younger aged people deciding what to do after GCSE’s or people who are at the age to go to university and are asking what is the best option to get into the industry, a degree or experience? In one of the forums ‘Industry Training, Interesting comment from L&S International’ ‘Paulears’ talks about an article that was printed in the monthly journal ‘Lighting and Sound International’ added 22 April 2007. “One thing that I am very keen to do is head off as many kids as I possibly can from taking the college route. We do have quite a few people here from LIPA and Liverpool Community College, but they will all tell you, more or less, they have wasted three years of their life attaining a piece of paper that, when they walk in here or anywhere else in the industry, isn’t worth anything at all. They might be able to give me a brilliant description of the polar pattern of a microphone but they can’t even put up a mic stand properly or wind a cable.” ‘Andy Dockerty, the Managing Director of Liverpool’s Adlib-Audio’ This shows that in his company experience is preferred, that although the student could explain technically they couldn’t do the job practically, therefore would have to gain the experience after gaining the degree, setting them back 3 years that they could have had that experience. This topic has also been discussed in the weekly newspaper ‘The Guardian’. In the guardian education, there was an article ‘Playing in the mud’ This article is discussing ‘the future of live events is threatened by a lack of technicians … Step up the new skills academy.’ They are discussing the future of the live music business: ‘No Glastonbury festival, no Radiohead tours and no Brit Awards … that could be the future of the live music business, according to research for the National Skills Academy for the creative and cultural industries’ Allan Glen – The Guardian The popular live music industry has bought major opportunities both for the education sector and the live music industry. Thus allowing a variety of courses to be set up, but there are some strong views about this within the music industry “What you don’t want is someone breezing in waving a degree and telling everyone how to do their job.” Geoff Ellis, director of DF Concerts, The company behind T in the Park festival and the Glasgow venue King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut. This is how the technical manager at The Civic Centre Aylesbury feels, as he doesn’t have a degree, he feels that people do not have the practical knowledge to do the job, even with the ‘piece of paper’. Also mentioned in the article was Chris Hill, director of Wigwam Acoustics, who launched ‘the company’s Charlie Jones sponsorship programme at the School of Sound Recording in Manchester’. Talking about the company he works for, and the school he set up: “All the CVs we receive from kids on music courses go straight in the bin, our programme at least allows students to be taken seriously by prospective employers.” Chris Hill The general vibe of the article is that going down the education route does not gain you any idea of what it is like to actually work in the industry, it is no good knowing that you have to do something, but not actually be able to do it. Andy Reynolds a university lecture and a tour manager explains, “The live event production industry is very sceptical of graduates, they are often not prepared for the reality of what they will be doing, which is cleaning mud off speaker boxes that have been at Glastonbury for a week.” Frazer Mackenzie who also works as a lecture in music management and production feels that “If the industry feels graduates leave university without the necessary skills, it should contribute more actively to the education process,” Due to this the government are speeding up the opening of the National Skills Academy (NSA) for live entertainment and the DCMS are to launch an apprentice scheme. The course will concentrate on courses in lighting, sound and backstage skills, therefore allowing students to get the ‘piece of paper’ as well as learn the skills practically. The idea of bringing back apprenticeships gives everyone to do both routes, whether they are academic or not.
To conduct this study my idea was to look at two regional theatres and two London theatres. The two regional theatres that were researched were the Wycombe Swan and Aylesbury Civic Centre, these venues are receiving, so they have a variety of performances by different production companies. Their technicians are not hired to do a specific job, for example stage management; they need to have the knowledge to work in all areas of technical. To find out if their technicians have experience or degrees, they were interviewed, simply asking about their technicians, and how they got into theatre. To find out if technicians in the west end had degrees, e-mails were sent out with these questions:
- If people who enquire to you about work have either the qualification or experience,
- If the majority of people who work for you have a degree or have gained the experience instead?
But with no reply, contacts were then made with a production company, who contract staff to theatres for the run of a show and a touring theatre company. Information was also gathered from collecting programmes from the west end venues that have biography of the lighting and sound operators; these were then used to see if they had attended university. ‘The Stage’ a newspaper for the performing arts industry was also used a source, where adverts for technicians are placed, these describe what their person specification is, what they want from an employ. Research was also done by looking at careers website for example learndirect and prospects.
Finding and Discussions
I wanted to find out if technicians in either regional or London theatres have degrees or experience. From the interviews that were conducted with the technical managers of the regional theatres it showed that none of their technicians had done the educational route. At the Wycombe Swan many of the technicians were casuals while at school, then became full-time once finished. At the Aylesbury Civic Centre all of the technicians are older, a couple of them came from other theatres, one whom used to work in London loading and unloading the trucks for shows, the others just applied with no theatre experience. Because e-mails were not sent back from the two London theatres that were contacted, contact was then made with production companies that contract our staff to these venues. Companies that were contacted and replied were PSL “one of the leading rental and event production companies based in the UK”. Darren Glossop, a director of the company answered: ‘Generally we are not bothered whether people have degrees or not as mostly they are irrelevant to what we want. What is important is the drive and the enthusiasm to be successful and of course fit the job profile, which is the most important thing. So long as people are organised, are intelligent, motivated and have common sense that is good enough. For education generally we look for English and Maths GCSE’s. We have taken on graduates but not because they had degrees but more because they were the right fit for the business.’ This shows that for their company a degree is not necessary needed, they just need to be able to show that they can do the job. For another side of the industry contact was made with the Northern Ballet touring theatre company, the same e-mail was sent out and this was the response from Diane Tabern, PA to the Directors: ‘For some areas of theatre work, e.g. lighting, stage, wardrobe etc. degrees are less important than practical experience – though these can only add strength to an application as Heads of these departments need to balance budgets, manage staff etc. as well as the practical work involved. The Government are currently looking into Creative Skills Apprenticeships for such areas and hopefully this would lead to academic/practical courses for each area. For other departments e.g. Stage & Stage Management degrees do exist already so naturally having one would put you above a candidate who only had practical experience. I would imagine in our technical departments most have gained experience in their chosen field rather than degrees.’ This answer shows that degrees are not needed to become a technician but if they are wanting to progress into management then they would be needed to strengthen their application, she also mentioned about the apprenticeships that were said before in the guardian article, mentioned in the literature review, thus showing that this would be a better option for people to get into this industry as it gives you both the experience and the academic side of job role. Also mentioned was that the technicians that already worked for the company had fallen into the job and gained the experience rather then the study route, suggesting that they are probable of an older age. This company shows that they do accept people with degrees, rather then at the regional theatres who would prefer people who had gained the experience practically as they have to be able to do the variety of backstage jobs, whereas the production and touring company only have people for specific roles, for example if they are hired to be a sound engineer then this is all they will do, they wont need to know about lighting or stage as they will not work in them areas. From looking at ‘The Stage’ job vacancies you can see that there is only one (Appendices 1.0) that is advertising for a theatre technician. This specifically asks for the person applying ‘to be educated to a good standard’ and need ‘relevant experience’. This shows that they are looking for someone who has a degree, or at least a level of higher education, with relevant experience that would have been gained while doing this. From the other job vacancies (Appendices 2.0) you can see that the majority of these are for technical manager jobs, for a deputy chief electrician, and a theatre technician. This asks for ‘a minimum of one years experience’ and to be ‘multi-skilled in all aspects of technical theatre’. All of the others say ‘previous experience is essential’ or with ‘a minimum of three years experience’ This shows that they are looking for someone who has experience rather then a degree, as they would have gained more experience working. If someone has a degree this would then mean having to gain three years experience after three years studying, where people who have studied for the degree would then no want to start at the bottom gaining the experience which they could have been doing instead of the degree. Looking at the careers advice websites you can see that for technical crew jobs it says that you do not need any formal qualifications to become one ‘You would often start as a casual technician’ Learndirect http://www.learndirect-advice.co.uk/ It does say that if you want to progress into technical and production roles, for example specifically stage management you could enrol in a technical theatre or stage management course at a university or drama school. This shows that although you do not need the degree to get work in a theatre, you may find it useful to study a specific stage management course to get into that job role. From the prospects careers advice website it states the following entry requirements for a technical stage manager: It is still possible to enter theatre stage work from any degree discipline, but candidates with relevant qualifications are often preferred. If you are interested in technical theatre, you should ensure that your degree has considerable practical content. Prospects –https://www.prospects.ac.uk/cms/ShowPage/Home_page/Explore_types_of_jobs/Types_of_Job/p!eipaL?state=showocc&idno=463&pageno=3 This suggests that it is better to get into the job with a degree, but preferably with a relevant one, that has a practical content. These are usually best from a drama school, or a university with facilities to support the practical content, for example a theatre. It also states that it is possible to get into the job without the degree, but practical experience is needed. Entry without a degree or HND is sometimes possible. Practical experience of performance-related work and technical skills in sound, lighting or carpentry can be helpful. Some stage managers come through acting or writing route. Prospects – htttp://www.prospects.ac.uk/cms/ShowPage/Home_page/Explore_types_of_jobs/Types_of_Job/p!eipaL?state=showocc&idno=463&pageno=3
From the research I undertook to answer the question ‘To work in the theatre industry is it necessary to gain a technical theatre degree or is experience preferred’ it was shown from the interviews I had with the technical managers of the two regional theatres that their technicians were not a degree level, and had ‘fallen’ into the job by starting as a casual technician, gaining experience then starting full time, thus showing the company that they are competent at working, and already have the skills to do the job. From the e-mails that were sent back from the production company and touring Theatre Company it was shown degrees are not looked for when a person is applying for the job, that they are less important then practical experience but for the touring theatre company if they were applying for a head of department role, or specifically a stage management role then a degree would strengthen their application. From these results and the adverts that were placed in the stage the report shows that it is not necessary to gain a technical theatre degree to get work in the industry, but if someone did want to progress into technical management then a degree could only help. This could be because there is a significant amount of paper based learning when studying a degree where the applicant would have these skills, for example most technical theatre degrees have a module of touring their own show. In this module they have to put together a budget, and know about licensing issues, and although this could eventually be learnt ‘on the job’ they would already have some knowledge of this from going the academic route. Also seen from the results if someone wanted to go specifically into a stage management role it seems that they would be better off studying a specific course for example at a drama school. This could be because the job, although ‘hands on’, it is also a management position, where you will have control of a stage and technical team beneath you. This job also involves knowledge of budget and licensing issues, which are taught in university and drama school modules.
You Are Perfect, I Love You, Now Change
The above titled film was a comedy movie based on music which was written by Joe Dipietro and the music by Jimmy Roberts on August 1996. The comedy received its first award in 1997 as the longest running off-Broadway in the outer critic’s circle award. The movie premiered at the Westside Theater for twelve years before its closure on the 27, 2008.it had a perfect music style and a right combination of sounds.
It was the favorite of many until now most people who watched the comedy wish it could come back again. The leading directors of the comic were Joel Bishop. The crew who cast the comedy featured Melissa Weil, Robert Roznowski, and Jennifer Simard. The comedy was first done in Teaneck, NJ. This was the hometown to the writer of the comedy, Joe Dipietro.
After its production, the series was first featured by the American stage company theatre under the directors, Glenn Cherries who was the then managing director and James Vagius as the artistic director. The theatre was located on the main campus of Fairleigh Dickson University. At this first premiere, the music was from the Churchill Theatre, Bromley in the United Kingdom, London. The premiere was again followed by a short season which was cast at the West End Comedy theatre in 1999 for a period of two months, from July to September. The season was directed by Joel Bishoff, and the cast featured many members of the crew. Some of the crew members included Shona Lindsay, Gillian Kirkpatrick, Clive Carter and Russell Wilcox.
The second premiere ran at the Jermyn Street Theatre in London for six years. The season aired from March 2005 to the end of March. The series was now under the production of Popular Productions Limited. In 2011, the comedy featured at the Bridewell Theatre. Following the cast was the Mandarin which debuted Beijing in June 2007. The comic was performed English inn version in Taipei at the Crown Theatre in the early November 2007. Up to now, the premiere is available in more than 17 languages. The series has shown casted productions in many parts which include Los Angeles, Tel Aviv, Mexico City, Milan, Rio De Janeiro, Johannesburg, Dublin, Buenos, Berlin among others. The comedy was also played by the Kookaburra in 2008 at the National Music Theatre which visited the NSW in Australia. The production had an Australian accent as many of the residents were deeply rooted in Australian language. The recent stage of the comedy was in London at the Leicester Square near West End. The comedy featured Gina Beck, Julie Atherton Samuel Holmes, and Simon Lipkin.
The costume design of the comedy was perfect as it could reveal the movie. The love story and loneliness are clearly depicted from the character costumes. The costume design of the characters contributes a lot to the artistic nature of the premiere. The costume design also reveals to the audience the visual world which is compared to the theater. The characters in long red garments were a symbol of love, and it played an enormous role in making one understand the comedy. The costumes used in the comedy depict the historical moments.
Different designs of costumes are used in theatre: modern costumes, historical and dance costumes. The clothing in comedy also predicts the era it was produced as both male and female characters are in long robes which are colorfully made. The clothing was perfect for the events chosen for the comedy.
The language used in the comedy is one of humor. The comedy is about love and the use of burgeoning romance in humorous terms makes the audience focus more on the comedy. The language makes the audience want to know more and keeps the audience in suspense of the events. The use of comedy language portrays characters who are ridiculous. The sound used also depicts the situation in the movie. The use of low tone can depict sorrow and loneliness of the birds who lone for love. The comedy also uses sounds which depict love situations and moments which arouse the viewer discretion. The main aim of the sound is a connection between the characters and the movie. Sound and music played also reduce boredom in the comedy.
It is also essential to know the role of music in the comedy. The music played also depicts the era and the experiences of the characters. Smooth music help recoup the light moments of the comedy. The playback music also helps the audience to retaliate the actions of the movie. Music usually soothes audience; it is used to steal away the sad moments of the audience and put back joy, in this way it will connect the audience with the show. The love music also in the comedy shows or predicts the comeback of the characters in the show. The result is achieved after the music play.
Evolution Of Theatres During The Renaissance
Theater has evolved marvelously throughout the ages. Although every era has contributed massively to how theatre evolved, the Renaissance era, which is known as the period of European cultural, artistic, political and scientific ?rebirth after the Middle Ages, contributed considerably more than any other era.
During the Renaissance various changes were made to how plays were presented to the people. Just before the 14th century, actors in Italy were performing in stages without decoration except for a row of curtained booths. Nearly 100 years later complex painted scenery was being used in play productions. (Barker, George 2018) The Renaissance brought changes as to where the stage could be located as well as new innovations involving perspective, which allowed for a more creative and enjoyable show through the use of scenery.
The theatrical innovations that were created during the Renaissance era was due to the high success of theatre. Scenery and theatrical effect saw the largest amount of change from new technology and schools of thought. Through the use of depth, even if it was just an illusion, and perspective scenery was revolutionized. One of the influential figures of this era was Sebastiano Serlio, an Italian architect who built part of the Palace of Fontainebleau, wrote a series of books, Architettura, one of which included a section dedicated to the architecture of theatres that included his theories on perspective drawing and painting and the art of recreating three-dimensional objects on a flat surface. (www.preceden.com/timelines/168318-theatre-history–italian-renaissance) For his theories Serlio used Vitruvius ideas regarding the vanishing point. Through the use of the inclined rake of the stage floor he created the effect which made everything that was upstage look as if it were farther than it really was. Although his designs became very popular, he did not limit himself to the use of scenery, perspective, and painted backdrops. Serlio became involved in the construction of theaters as well. He drew from neoclassical ideas of Greek and Roman theater designs. (Italian-renaissance-theatre.weebly.com/Italian-renaissance-scenic-design.html.)
As an example of what theatres looked like at the beginning of the Renaissance era we have to go back to the late Middle Ages, when the charitable institution of the Confrerie de la Passion converted a hall in the Hopital de la Trinite into a theatre. Nowadays, it is unclear whether the theatre has an end stage arrangement, where the audience was seated around the three sides of the hall with a large standing audience in front of the stage, or whether it had an arena arrangement, where the actors used the central floor area as a stage with the audience seated around them. This type of theatre known as a theatre hall became dominant during the Renaissance era even after several innovations were introduced Members of the nobility, who were competing against one another as to who could put on the most lavish spectacles, undertook formal experimentation, as well as entrepreneurs and charities who wanted to make extra money by providing theatrical performances for the public. (Hildy, 2018)
After Julius Pomponius Laetus, the founder of the Roman Academy, received one of the first printed copies of Vitruvius De Architecture in 1481 he set out to discover the nature of the original staging of Roman plays, which started the experimentation of the different forms of academic theatres. Laetus focus on design and the usage of scaenae fons led to the popularization of a modified form of medieval simultaneous staging. This new form had a wide but shallow raised stage that covered either four or five openings. It was angled forwards so that the central one or two openings were closer to the audience and the rest of the openings were angled towards them. Since the curtains were hard to differentiate signs were placed above them, which indicated the homes of a central character. This then became the standard pattern for curtained openings in academic theaters all throughout Europe.
1508 was the year where the first known use of perspective scenery was used on a large painted backdrop. In the course of the 1540r’s, square panels that had been connected to make the shape of an L had been organized at uniform intervals alongside every side of the stage. Three dimensional architectural details, which supplied a continuous perspective that gave the general image greater depth, had been put on the angled wings; furthermore, the floor of the stage was angled upward toward the vanishing point of the backdrop, which created the present-day designations of what we now understand as upstage and downstage. For the first time in the history of theater, perspective now dictated that stages should be deeper than they were wide. However, even though a lot of innovative things were discovered, actors still restricted themselves to acting on the side of the part of the stage that was nearest to the audience. Perspective became such a fascinating subject that not even academic theatre could resist it. For an example, we can look at the famous Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, Italy. The Teatro Olimpico is the oldest existing theatre in Europe. (Hildy, 2018) It was designed by the Italian Architect Andrea Palladio to fit into a pre-existing hall, which opened 5 years after his death in the year 1585. (www.preceden.com/timelines/168318-theatre-history–italian-renaissance) The most elaborate reconstruction of a Roman scaenae frons can be seen in the Teatro Olimpico which had 5 doors. Behind 4 of the doors there is a forced perspective vista of a city street, while behind the largest door one can see 3 of the same vistas. Unfortunately, such a theatre was too expensive to copy by any average institution and since it didnt allow for the changing of the perspective that was widely used during court it was not widely imitated. (Hildy, 2018)
Very little is known about the permanent theatres that were built at Ferrara in 1531 and Rome in 1545, except that they were most likely court theatres that were built as a theatre-in-the-hall type. One of the most dominant theatre types was the theatre in the hall style that even when the Confrerie de la Passion opened the first public purpose-built theatre in Europe since the Roman era, known as the Theatre de lHotel de Bourgogne, in 1548 it followed the theatre-in-the-hall model. The most significant innovation seem in the theatre was the second-level stage that was located at the back of the main stage. Eventually, the Bourgogne was followed by purpose-built theatres across Europe. (Hildy, 2018)
The evolution of theatres across Europe was diverse. In 1565, the first public theatre was built in Venice, Italy, but it is unknown whether it was a freestanding theatre or one in an existing hall. In 1567, the Red Lion was built in London in a garden with seating risers and a large stage backed by a tower. In 1575 and 1576 the playhouses of St. Paul and Blackfriars respectively, were adaptations of existing halls. Meanwhile, a charitable society in Spain opened a public theatre in a courtyard in Calle Sol in 1568 and in 1574 the first purpose-built public theatre in Spain was built in Sevilla as a courtyard theatre. (Hildy, 2018)
The Theatre in London was the first truly innovative design to be found on a playhouse. The Theatre was built with its central area in an open-air style. What was amazing about it and truly innovative is that it was built in the shape of a polygonal, while most theatres were built in the shape of a rectangle. Its innovative shaped has about 20 sides that were around 12 feet deep and contained 3 levels of seating covered by a roof. The audience stood around a large stage that was 5 feet high and integrated into several bays at one end of the theatre. Behind the stage was the backstage area, called a tiring-house. This basic design became the standard for all open-air theatres in London and helped it became one of the most successful examples of theatre design of the time. Unfortunately, The Theatre only had its doors open for 20 years, and in 1598 it was taken down. However, its timbers were used to build what we know now as the Globe Theatre, which became popular due to William Shakespeare most of his plays were performed on its stage. (Hildy, 2018)
During the renaissance we also saw a lot of improvement to the capacity of people that a theatre could hold. By the 17th century The Globe could hold an audience capacity of 1,500 but since audiences tended to crowd outside the theatre the number was expanded to 3,000 people. (m.bardstage.org/globe-theatre-audience.htm) This was the average size of Elizabethan theatres which were designed in a style similar to the Coliseum, but a smaller version of it. Their dimensions were different, ranging from 20 feet wide 15 feet deep to 45 feet wide to 30 feet deep, and since they all were in an open arena style people often got wet when it rained.
The Teatro Olimpico was built to have a capacity of 1000 people, although it only has 400 seats available as of today. Plays during the Medieval period were performed outside so it is unclear as to how many people were able to see or hear the play at a single time, but it is most likely that at most 100 people at a time saw the same play. In other words, during the Renaissance we saw the stage for plays get a more formal space. The Renaissance was an era of rebirth where people were interested in discovering and innovating themselves and the things around them.
Furthermore, since the nobility were competing on who could put on the most lavish and spectacular show, architecture was of most importance. Some theatres had designs on its walls and on its archways. Some like the Teatro Olimpico have statues on it walls, which made it look more beautiful and rather classy. Balconies and galleries were also focused on since it was used by the nobility. There were galleries known as the Lords rooms, which were considered the best seats in the house, even though it had such a poor view of the stage. (m.elizabethean-era.org.uk/architecture-of-Elizabethan-theatres.htm.)
In conclusion, we saw a lot of changes being made during the Renaissance. Artists as well as architects became more inspired and created a lot of innovative things in theatre. Before the Renaissance era artists looked only for a stage, but as people became more interested in the arts experimentation led to creating beautiful scenes that revolutionized theatre. Nowadays, how you present a stage is part of a play. Props, background, even music help the audience experience a play more in depth. Not only does it help the audience, but they also help the creator of the play enhance the vison of their work. We also saw modifications being made to theaters so that now actors can work in theatres that can house more than a thousand people, while back a couple hundred people at a time would have been able to see a play.