innopac

Use of the eyes

29 posts in this topic

In the Japanese tradition dance and acting are deeply intertwined, and the vocabulary of dance movements to which specific qualities and meanings are assigned is far greater than that of balletic mime. (I think. I'm not an expert on either.)

The smallest things have significance. There are, for instance, eight fundamental vertical eye levels, and seven fundamental horizontal focus points; these are variously employed to show all the different things one could be looking for or at. Low-ranking characters have faster and showier eye movements, high-ranking characters move their eyes and their heads together, slowly, elegantly. There is also a separate vocabulary of three-part head movements, which are codified according to age, sex, and rank. The eyes are usually closed with the first part of the movement, and opened suddenly at the end as part of a grand pose.

To be honest I have a hard time telling all these things apart, but I'm used to watching for and pondering them -- and so I find unemployed eyes one of the ultimate turn-offs in a dancer, in any style.

My apologies if this is too off-topic. I just wish more schools, more companies, would give their dancers a bit of Japanese-style eye and head training, or, better yet, invent a Western-style, ballet-specific eye and head technique as a basis for dancers to branch out from in expressing their emotions. It's no good feeling something on stage if you can't put it across.

... And I'm thrilled to have been able to assemble from this thread a list of fine-eyed dancers to look up! Obviously I need some Anthony Dowell. :)

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Shirabyoshi, I love the term "unemployed eyes" and very much appreciate your summary of how central they are to classical Japanese art and theater. I might add cinema, especially the historical films of Kurasawa and others.

Puppytreats, you raise the issue of huge auditoriums and far-off seating. In recent years I find myself choosing to sit close to the stage if I can, and even if there is only a partial view of the entire stage area. I can't prove it, but it seems to me that the failure to engage the eyes is often a symptom of a deeper slackness of connection with either the music or the choreography, and sometimes even with fellow dancers.

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Shirabyoshi, I love the term "unemployed eyes" and very much appreciate your summary of how central they are to classical Japanese art and theater. I might add cinema, especially the historical films of Kurasawa and others.

Puppytreats, you raise the issue of huge auditoriums and far-off seating. In recent years I find myself choosing to sit close to the stage if I can, and even if there is only a partial view of the entire stage area. I can't prove it, but it seems to me that the failure to engage the eyes is often a symptom of a deeper slackness of connection with either the music or the choreography, and sometimes even with fellow dancers.

Yes, Japanese actors are masters of the language of eyes.

This thread caught my "eye", primarily because I haven't been able to forget how well Ekaterina Kondaurova used her eyes in dancing Odette-Odile with the Mariinsky this past week in Costa Mesa, CA.

As Odette, her eyes were barely noticeable with lids drawn part way down - creating an 'interior' character whose mind is difficult to fathom, but we are touched by her gestures of grief and remonstrance. But when Kondaurova danced Odile, besides the technical fireworks, her eyes were wide open and she gazed full face at the audience, and the Rothbart character, and it is a powerful effect. Mesmerizing really. So Swan Lake provides a nice example of the importance of using the eyes and face to enhance/change character.

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