“The more we understand about the body in movement, the easier it is to organize a whole body around a musical intention.”
WEM, revised edition
A whole body! Imagine every person in your ensemble engaged with their whole body. It can happen, but it takes time, patience and persistence.
We can’t engage our whole body without acknowledging and accepting it. We have to create a space where musicians can be comfortable with themselves. For trauma survivors this may mean referring to a team of professional colleagues. In most cases, we can simply teach about the body the same way we teach notes and rhythms. It’s part of the curriculum, it’s factual, important and not optional. Sometimes a few cues are all that are necessary.
Our body maps are what allow us to move easily and freely. When we integrate awareness of our whole body with free and easy movement, we can begin to notice how our whole body responds to any movement. So the first step is working toward an accurate and adequate body map.
Begin with balance of the body by teaching the six places of balance (Choral Mapping Unit One). Spend a little extra time being sure hip joints are accurately mapped and explored. Notice how legs are affected when on and off balance at the hip joint. Explore breathing both on and off balance.
Then, from a place of balance and poised to move (not holding), sing a phrase and ask your choir to subtly shift their weight in their feet. What do they notice in their ankles, knees and hip joints? Now sing the same phrase and allow for movement, but don’t purposely create it. Just be free and allow or notice any subtle response in the legs. Can they let this happen?
Continue to return to a small mapping cue with each warm-up. A question such as, “What are you noticing in your ankles, feet, knees?” is all that is needed to remind your ensemble that they sing with their whole body.