A week or so ago I ran into a young woman who had taken part in some short classes I once ran for a group of performance studies students. There were five hour long classes, not compulsory. Some students came to all five, some would arrive late, others would leave early to finish assignments or attend rehearsals. As far as I am aware, this was their only opportunity for voice training. The young woman apologised that she hadn’t followed up on the voice work because she had spent the past six years “working on my body instead”.
I was so shocked in that moment that I had absolutely nothing to say. Thoughts like “I’ve failed!” “I must be a dreadfully bad teacher” floated through my head like rats in a flood.
Then I came across this video. It’s a gorgeous short film, created by master film maker Jon M. Chu (Never Say Never, Step Up 2: The Streets and Step Up 3D, illustrating the power of the body to communicate and move us. It’s inspiring, and I love it.
Here is a reminder of how it is introduced:
“This is what we believe…There are things in this world more powerful than words… movement is the most basic form of communication for every single human being on the planet, expresses what a whole bunch of words never can… It’s not about how many flips, or turns, or how straight. It’s about how far you can stretch the soul.”
Wonderful, isn’t it? Who would disagree with this? I certainly don’t. The problem I have with it is not the way it promotes all forms of dance movement, it’s that its makers forget, or ignore, or are totally ignorant of the fact that voice is part of human movement.
When we make vocal sound, our bodies are also in movement and our voices, just like our hands, or hips, or any other visible part of our beings, express our human ways of being, our culture, and our souls. The only difference is that the voice is not visible.
Voice is not just the words it speaks. Words are concepts, ideas, thoughts made audible so that they can be communicated. Voice is more than the words it speaks.
Words require a mind in order to be spoken.
What is a mind?
What is speaking?
Speaking is the act of giving voice to words.
What are words?
What is a voice?
Voice is the body within the words
Voice is the soul reaching out to touch your body.
We don’t see voices with our eyes, but we don’t just hear them with our ears either. Sound waves do not flow directly out of our mouths and only land in the listener’s inner ear, thence to be translated into signals that the brain interprets. Of course that is part of the process, but there is also the part where sound waves impact upon the listener’s body. The listener is, literally, moved, in subtle but profound ways by the sound of the voice they are also hearing.
So when we train our bodies to be more expressive and communicative, please don’t forget to keep training our voices as part of that process. Give your voice a good stretch each morning, take it for a jog along its length and breadth, challenge it to leap higher, flow longer, dive deeper, twist and flip, bend and straighten. Move your voice to stretch your soul.
Do you agree? Do you have a regular physical training regime that includes vocal stretches or resistance work? Voice trainers, do you encourage your students to move around the room as they do their vocal exercises? Share your thoughts below in the comments box.