Sometimes a very energetic performance does not actually energize the audience...why is that?
I wanted to elaborate on that problem, and what teaching pedagogue Helen Brunner had to say about it last week at a series of master classes she gave in Pasadena.
If a performer directs energy outside of himself or herself, the result can manifest with stamping, walking around, swaying wildly, dipping.... Though the acrobatics may be visually interesting, the energy does not come out in the music. Instead, the energy goes into the physical movements of the performer.
Not that performers should stand stock-still; movement is fine, as long as the energy is not misdirected.
Helen Brunner described how to harness that energy by describing something very similar to a tree pose in yoga: from the belly button down is "root energy." The energy goes down and stabilizes your foundation. From the belly button up is "up energy," this is our energy for thinking, doing, and raising us upward.
She said the energy should be centered in a place about an inch below the belly button. She had everyone stand up, root their energy downward, stand up straight, and find the place just below their belly button.
"That's your dynamo!" she said. "You need to keep your energy inside; keep it in your tummy."
That is the place where rhythmic drive comes from, she said. In fact, she has quoted Suzuki, saying that rhythmic problems give you a bad feeling in the stomach, and pitch problems give you bad feeling in the head.
If you are sending energy all over the place, it's very possible you are not rooted, not standing upward, and that the center of your energy is much higher.
And here is a little something about teaching energy, since Helen is a trainer of teachers and spent a good deal of time as a teacher trainee with Shinichi Suzuki.
"Suzuki felt strongly that everyone should do every piece in repertoire (his Suzuki books), but he was open to other things," she said. "He was passionately interested that each person take his principle and make it his own."
What I take from Suzuki's ideas and from Helen's example is this:
There is no one, true method.
If you go looking for it, you will not find it. What you will find, if you look, is your own method. You will find it only when you put your energy into it, and only when you put everything you ever learned into your teaching.
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