Lessons from Norman Taylor

After many years of hearing about the Lecoq technique, I took a master class with Norman Taylor through the Movement Theater Studio this past week. Norman is a brilliant teacher who has more energy than anyone I’ve ever met and he’s 67 years young. I think I learned as much about the work as I did about leading a group from being with him. He kept things moving and wasn’t afraid to go off the lesson plan, if something more interesting happened.

Steve Martin once said something along the lines of “talking about art is like dancing about architecture.” This isn’t always a good idea, as Mr. Martin would attest. But here are some of the things I learned or encountered anew this week:

1. Keep what you do in front of you. That way you’ll be present in the space.

2. There is an opposite that happens. We lean to the side before taking a step forward. So when you are going to play a love scene on stage, work up anger before going out there. It makes things more interesting.

3. The work is a combination of effort and repose.

4. Undulation, reverse undulation, opening and closing. Everything else is only a variation of those things.

5. You have to observe what people do in real life and be able to repeat it.

6. Celebrate mistakes. They open a door to something.

7. Art has a connection to real life when it is something that is observable + identifiable and therefore accessible.

8. There are only 2 vertical things in nature: humans and trees. Sometimes you have to be the tree.

9. When gesturing with hands and arms, don’t let them go lax and just slap on your thighs. It kills everything if you do that.

10. When panning across the audience, don’t close your eyes. If you close your eyes, it’s like bringing down the curtain.

11. Norman felt there was a tragedian under my clown waiting to come out. It can happen when I relax my face and throat. He said the more time I spend doing that, the deeper my roots will grow into the ground.

12. He would tell people frequently, “Don’t do it the way I do it. Do it the way you do it.”

13. This work has real value. It feels like it extends life and it impacts and transforms those who do it.

Bonus: Movement teachers love to talk.