Success After a Year of Skype Lessons
For a year now I have been giving regular Alba Emoting lessons to Chi Tat Li in Hong Kong through Skype Video sessions. Although learning Alba Emoting through computer video conferencing may not be best for everyone, Tat managed amazingly well learning this technique through the internet airwaves. He had a keen sense of control with the patterns from the very beginning, and committed to this learning method quite seriously. He practiced regularly between our sessions, and during each lesson he took detailed notes, and clarified the work by applying precision to the patterns. I realize if we were working in person, and if he were interacting in a group with others, he could probably go even further with the work, and much faster. However, even with the challenge of distance and video, within six months he managed to learn the patterns so well that he earned a CL1 certification.
To my knowledge, this is the first Alba Emoting certification earned through video conference lessons. It was through Tat’s request that I embarked on this method of teaching Alba Emoting. I now believe this is an excellent beginning for sharing Alba Emoting with people around the world, and I am already conducting Skype lessons with others.
After earning his CL1, Tat continued with more lessons, working to master the patterns, and apply them to acting monologues, singing songs, and through movement and activities. He is a college student studying Communications and Theatre, and is a regular play director for university theatre competitions. Since so much of Tat’s studies and activities are focused on communications with others, as Tat’s studies progressed into CL2 level work, we also addressed how to recognize the Alba Emoting patterns in others.
During the months of September through November, Tat was directing a long play for one of the biggest drama competitions between the Hong Kong universities, organized by the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The competition consists of four plays from four university student organized drama societies, and the judges are professional and well-known drama practitioners.
Tat felt very challenged by this project, not only due to the prestigious status of the competition, but the play was longer than he was used to directing, and the cast did not have a lot of acting experience. During early rehearsals he realized the actors were not truly embodying their roles, often coming across stiff, and holding back from fully committing to the roles and interactions with others. He recognized that in order to bring this production to a competitive level, he was going to have to do some acting teaching. Having never taught acting before, and still in training as a director, he was not sure how to approach this with the cast.
When I worked with Dr. Susana Bloch, the founder of Alba Emoting, during my sabbatical in Chile, I learned ways that one can coach aspects of the patterns, without actually bringing someone through a formal Alba Emoting lesson. With this approach, a person who is trained in the patterns, can watch a person in performance or activity and see when the breathing shifts patterns, or when the posture or muscle patterns in the face reveal mixes or lack connection with the pure emotion they are trying to convey. Dr. Bloch would recommend coaching by simply telling actors to try different postural attitudes, or ask questions like, “What if you tried this moment with this facial aspect instead? How do you feel? Does your breathing change?” Over the years, I have found this side coaching method worked incredibly well with those not trained in Alba Emoting, and served as a reminder to those who were trained.
I shared this story with Tat, and encouraged him to try this approach with his cast when he felt they were not coming across authentically, or fully embodying their roles. I stressed that he could not give them Alba Emoting lessons, and should only coach through questions, and suggestions for the actor to try different postural attitudes and facial aspects as they rehearsed. This form of coaching could help them recognize pathways to fully embodying the roles, or specific moments.
During a Skype session later in his rehearsal process, Tat told me he was using these coaching methods in some of his rehearsal exercises, as well as referring to the patterns when he encouraged the actors to embody their roles more, or to react to situations from moment to moment in the play.
He reported that the cast members were surprised with how his coaching helped them realize when they were conveying body language that contradicted what they believed they were conveying. An actor told him that he now realized his own nervousness about acting in front of an audience was keeping him from getting into any other emotion, besides fear. Tat shared that another actor stated, “The postural attitudes and facial aspects of Alba Emoting alert us if we are doing the opposite, when we are trying to express a particular emotion.”
In a November Skype lesson Tat reported, “The competition is over, and we won the “the Best Play” award in the competition!”.
The photo above, showing a two-person scene, shows two actors who won Best Actor and Best Actress in the competition, in addition to the play winning Best Play.
The photo on the bottom right is of Tat with one of the leading actresses.
This story and these pictures are shared on the Breathxpress blog with permission from Chi Tat Li