I’ve started an international online community for vegan performing artists of all styles and their supporters! Here’s the site in all its raw, undeveloped glory. You can join under “Touch Us”:
1. To voice the movement of energy through the body.
2. To allow movement to affect vocalization in order to form melodic potentials which the ear can specify.
3. To embody music, vocally and physically through integrated movement and song.
example: Let us singdance.
1. a choreographed composition that is created in such a manner that the movement affects the voice to form melodies.
2. a choreographed composition which embodies music in such an integrated way, that it looks and sounds as if the movement affects the voice to form melodies.
example: How do you like my new singdance?
singdancing, noun: the act of those who singdance.
example: I love singdancing.
singdancing, verb (gerund). example: She is singdancing.
I love contra dancing for so many reasons and I highly recommend it as a way that anyone can enjoy dance!
1) It’s a painless way to start developing memory for choreography. It focuses on interesting, simple, pretty patterns. The movements are easy to learn and are called by a caller so you don’t have to remember them. Other people in the dance help you as you go, and making mistakes is just another way to laugh and enjoy the experience! The patterns themselves are awesome because they occur in two long lines that could in theory repeat infinitely! Someday I want to see a contra dance that extends across an entire city!
2) You get to hold a lot of people in your arms without getting too close. The stance is at arm’s length, allowing touch and motion through the hands and shoulders, without the overt intimacy of pelvic action. Due to the patterns in the dance, the people in your arms change every few seconds. You start and end the dance with a partner but you are encouraged to find a new partner with every dance.
3) Wonderfully jiggy live music is played, mostly English and Celtic folk tunes via acoustic instruments such as fiddle and guitar. Beautiful, both melodic & rhythmic, and intellectually stimulating as well as foot-tappingly fun! I usually sing along with a counterpoint.
4) It’s fantastic exercise that most anyone can do! Based on brisk walking, it is cardiovascular and can get as energetic as you like when you add creative hopping flair! People can do it pretty much lifelong and many elderly people become spritely on the dance floor.
5) Did I mention spinning, which is therapeutic for my ADD brain? Everytime you swing a partner, you get to spin! It’s easy to keep from getting dizzy though, by looking into your partner’s eyes- or at their ears if you’re shy!
Ashland, Oregon hosts a monthly contra dance, usually on third Saturdays. All ages attend. The next one is this Saturday, October 18th. Next dances are Nov. 15th and Dec. 13th. Instruction for beginners starts at 7 p.m. so you can learn things like what’s a do-si-do or an allemande left, and how to “swing” your partner. The dance itself begins at 7:30. The location is the Grove in Ashland, which is at the corner of East Main and Garfield St. $9, and you get a coupon for a free second attendance.
Swing you there!
is a spiraling loop of infinity.
Singdancing is a whole new genre of art, which needs a whole new generation of composing choreographers.
I am here to begin their training.
~A SINGDANCING MANIFESTOOOOO~
Vanessa Nowitzky, innovator of singdancing
To singdance is to voice the movement of energy through the body. Breath is choreographed, motion is etched in sound, and vocalizing is composed into music.
To singdance is to allow movement to affect vocalization in order to form melodies.
First I choreograph movement, inspired by the impetus of emotion and exaggerated into its most beautiful and/or powerful manifestation. Then I notice when, within that movement, it feels good to inhale or exhale. Then I voice the exhalations, and allow the movement to affect the vocalization. Forces of motion throughout the body propel the breath, affecting the pitch and volume of the expelled air, creating rough melodic shapes as I vocalize. My composer’s ear then specifies the borders of these shapes into actual melodies, referring back to the original emotion for harmonic differentiation.
Singdancing is holistic self-expression. The act of singdancing is rooted in a deeply satisfying, primal or infant-like direct vibratory expression using the entire body and voice. As a holistic combination of composer, choreographer and storyteller, I heighten this “voice movement therapy” (Paul Newham, The Singing Cure) into the realm of music and dance. A holistic renaissance is emerging as modern humans are reaching for fulfillment on all levels. To singdance is to feel and express emotions through the twin channels of body and voice, simultaneously. The release can be incredibly enjoyable.
Any movement can form the basis of a singdance. I have even coached acrobats to sing while tumbling. Sing those back handsprings! Are the possibilities of modern dance endless? Is the potential of modern choral music infinite? Will the symphony orchestra ever be exhausted? Certainly the future capacity for singdancing repertoire is no more limited than these classic models.
Singdancing is musical theater on the right side of the brain. Ideas felt with the body tell stories more immediately and viscerally than those told verbally. Accessing voice with the intuitive mind frees the performer to explore greater singing range than he or she thought available. The integration of motion and song offers a full palette to the artist and a rich experience to the audience.
Popular and folk music is always dance music. Children vocalize their movement all day long. It’s natural to move and sing and it feels wonderful! Why has the experience been lost to intellectuals? Was it religious restraint, or overly mental methods of education and work that disenfranchise one’s own kinesthetic sense? These excuses melt away, for here’s a completely intellectual way to exercise!
Singdancing bridges learning differences. Intertwining dance so closely with music helps musicians learn dance, gaining healthier bodies, and helps dancers access their voices. Vocal range, power and stamina increases with each physically-based exercise. Theater students, who must develop both their voices and bodies, will benefit from the practice of singdancing. Voice students, who are called upon to move while acting in operas, will learn how to integrate their instrument. Composers, choreographers and directors will understand what they can ask of performers. Blocked writers suddenly know what they want to say. Any artists, even those who do not normally sing or dance, can clarify their artistic expression with singdancing, because the improvisations free up energy and clear emotional channels.
Two formidable arts, that of dance and a cappella music, each requiring many years of study, are inexorably intertwined in the act of singdancing. Students who are drawn to singdancing can begin the long road of their training here. The successful composer/ choreographer must produce and master a form of movement that incorporates breath, and understand how to map dancers through space, while simultaneously creating the melodic motion of vocal line and effectively harmonizing each part. Creators of singdance must be highly self-motivated, to rise above existing organizational structures and launch their dreams. Each one becomes a leader and a teacher, coaching his or her performers to extend their abilities beyond their comfort zones.
Singdancing is an empowering affirmation of human creative nature, for the vibrations we create by singing, we also hear and respond to with our dancing, which then physically affects our voices, which make our music. In one continuous loop, the music from our own mouths becomes the rhythm and harmony of our vibratory environment, which in turn stimulates the act of our dance. Whether harmonious or dissonant, we create this environment, and we are responsible for our actions. As modern humans, we must all take responsibility for the environment we create. Singdancers show audiences harmonic visions, and synchronize everyone’s breath. As my composition teacher Stephen ‘Lucky’ Mosko once told me, “The purpose of art is to help people heal.”
The world needs singdancers.
The world is ready for singdancing.
Have you singdanced today? Take a moment to breathe into your body. Where are the tensions? As you inhale, imagine sending breath into those places. On your exhale, vocalize freely. How does it sound? Keep breathing into movement and allowing the movement to affect your voice. Take your time.
If you like, you can let me know how it feels below.
Yes, I developed my own technique—but I didn’t start dancing until I was 20!!!
I grew up sitting in trees reading books. I never did any sports. I grew up singing beautiful madrigals because my parents were Renaissance musicians, and I liked watching the beauty of ballet, but I wanted to be an actress and express my emotions. However, in acting school they forced us to take ballet. I hated it. I made no bones about it– I thought they were wasting their time with me, because I was a complete klutz.
But one day at school a guest artist came who was a modern dancer. She did a solo, and I realized that dance wasn’t just beauty as in ballet, it could be a form of communicating any emotion– a language I could express myself in. So I started taking modern dance improvisation.
Improvising dance opened my awareness of emotional expression through the body. My own movement felt good, I grew in confidence and decided to take ballet, jazz and tap too, to improve my chances of being hired in musical theater. It seemed a reasonable idea. After all, I’d been singing all my life and acting since I was young.
Though I became stronger and achieved better alignment, I lacked coordination when learning any combinations of moves. In tap class, I was especially frustrated with my inability to use my feet to match the rhythms I could hear or sing perfectly.
And if truth be told, I didn’t really like musicals! I knew I wanted to write my own musicals, for I had always thought the story and music could be more integrated. The stories and music of traditional musicals bored me, and they had always looked to me like a bunch of “singing heads, and dancing bodies, and never the twain shall meet.” In 1995 I had a vision in the center of my forehead, of musical sounds coming from the mouths of moving bodies—even bodies doing flips and spinning leaps and fast whirling gymnastics. The vision was intriguing but seemed utterly impossible to me, who was a bookworm and a complete klutz. “Wouldn’t it be cool if… But I can’t do that.”
During acting school I had written a musical, which had a successful readthrough/ singthrough at the Ashland New Plays Festival in 1994, and since I wasn’t getting regular work as an actress, eventually I went back to school for music composition. But I took dance as my electives, and realized I wanted to work on manifesting my impossible vision. I made up the word singdancing while I was at Cornish College in 1997, when I stood on my head while singing a song from the second musical I had started writing.
After transferring to the California Institute of the Arts for various reasons, I continued to take dance and the classes got harder. I found more problems. I ran out of breath easily and had to sit down. I sometimes got motion sickness and had to leave the room! Gradually I figured out why: I couldn’t focus on the movement because the sound was always turned up so loud for the dancers, who couldn’t seem to hear the beat. To my musician’s ear, the movement didn’t even go with the music. The vibrations of the music conflicted with the dance. In fact, both the music and the movement I was learning brought up emotions within me that I didn’t realize I could express, by improvising a little bit right then. I was unconsciously repressing my internal vibrations in my effort to learn the dance. All these conflicting vibrations in my gut, plus lack of oxygen, created nausea.
I started improvising on my own, late at night in the dance studios when the “real” dancers were danced out and had gone home. I vocalized my emotions and allowed my body to move along. I released and healed many emotions, and I found that vocalizing while moving helped me hear the dance. I discovered that certain moves lent themselves to inhaling, others to exhaling. I realized that if I decided when I was going to breathe during a dance, I would always have enough oxygen. Then, if I vocalized during the exhale, I could hear that the movement itself affected the voice and made it clear to my ears which move I was doing. This way I was able to use my auditory sense to remember a dance. My composer’s ear was wild with delight trying to figure out how to repeat moves in a way that would bring the same melodies back.
At the same time, I had created an independent study for myself so I could get credit for singdancing. I had a mentor, Noah Riskin, who videotaped my sessions once a week. Watching the videos, while my ears were getting excited, my eyes were finally waking up to the fact that dance was a visual art form that I needed to learn how to control. In the dance classes I took, I still couldn’t remember the same phrase from week to week. I couldn’t even remember it on the same day unless the teacher was in front of me—and this was after eight years of classes!
Meanwhile, due to personal relationship problems, my need to understand the human mind and expression grew volcanic in its pressure. I had discovered in the worst way that I was unconscious to my own movement— I would do something against morality and wake up the next day not knowing how I had done what I had done. I craved to understand, why do some people act out their expressions in movement, while others melodize their emotions in passionate voices, and still others use logical linear words? Don’t we all, as humans, have all of these abilities? Why are some modes of expression unconscious for some, overly manipulated for others?
I graduated college and returned to my hometown to take dance with Suzee Grilley. Her style combines with capoeira, a Brazilian martial art form using upside-down moves including cartwheels, twisted flips, walking on hands, etc. Now my vision of gymnastic flips became a possibility, and now I understood why it works: the movement of a cartwheel shakes the vocal apparatus around so much, that the force applied to the vocalization creates an instant melody.
Finally freed from music theory homework, which had just gotten way too mental for me, I began to map out the materials of dance: space, direction, left side, right side. I started corresponding the mental categories in dance to those in music. For example, I realized that dancing a phrase starting on the left, after I’d already learned it on the right, was similar to changing the key of a melody. Every new discovery thrilled me. I was now skilled at handling my physical problems by deciding when to breathe, my emotional conflicts by just improvising a bit freely while the teacher was thinking or talking to someone else. The act of improvising helped me own the moves I was learning, just like jamming on a riff. I could even hum under my breath to keep track of the moves. At last I was beginning to remember phrases. At last, I could make them up myself. I took choreography with Suzee and my emotional expression became more focused as well, as I learned how to channel my expressions into repeatable phrases. I created simple forms for emotional solos, using an awareness of time to shape pieces. At last, I could speak in movement.
Now that I have achieved control of, due to awareness of, my movement, I can create phrases in which the force of my body’s movement (affecting my vocal apparatus) elicits melodic shapes that my ear can refine into exactly pitched melodies. Now that I can remember phrases, I can string them together to make longer pieces—singdances—and I can have many singdancers at once, in homophonic harmony. The linear aspect of music and time used to annoy me, but now that I have discovered that time is the grid with which we come together, I can see time in spatial dimensions, and create polyphony by showing simultaneous, differing and overlapping actions.
New challenges appear, new questions inspire me. I am crazy about the particle-wave theory, and wonder if that can describe a vibration traveling within me, becoming a note and a shape, or a series thereof. I burn to unravel and show more of the ways that we create our own realities.
Yet most of all, I feel such elation that I have conquered my urges of unconscious action, without losing my truth. In fact, I have channeled my wilderness of emotions into forms of clear, beautiful expression. I have transformed my weaknesses into strengths. I can have greater intimacy with others because, joy of all joys, I know myself.
I hope my words have inspired you to believe that you can dance and understand your own body’s movement. Feel free to contact me for any reason.
Vanessa M.M.A. Nowitzky
June 24, 2004