LET'S HEAR IT FOR TECHNIQUE
I was fifteen years old, studying ballet with Frano Jelencic. I had my own TV program on PBS called, “Ballet for You ,” and was feeling, well, pretty, pretty good. One day during center floor work, I was doing, what I thought were, beautiful arabesques across the room, when Jelencic screamed, “Sickle foot!” I looked around thinking could he be talking about me? He was. I still remember that moment, clear as day. The sunlight shining through the window, the hush coming over the class. All eyes on me. I was offended at first of course. How dare he? I had my own ballet show? Who does he think he is? But he was relentless and I worked at it everyday until I was “Sickle foot” no more. I understood. Frano was a “technique guy”, and thank God.
Edith Skinner was cut from the same cloth. On the first day of class at CMU. She lined us up and asked us each to introduce ourselves to the class. As I stood up in front of my peers, confident in this simple exercise, I said,”My name is Natalie Disilvio. I am from Pittsburgh, and I want to…” Before I could finish, she yelled, “NO!! NATALIE!! IT’S PITTSBURGH!!! (with elongated 3: sound). “NEXT!” Pittsburgh would remain my nickname for some time. But, again I put my wounded ego aside, embraced the technique and worked the exercises.
I did learn technique in both of these pursuits, thank god, I learned sounds, intonation patterns, AND how to do a proper arabesque. The wounds are now anecdotal. I can only hope now that all my students will forget their nicknames or other expressions I use in teaching voice, speech and dialects and accents, like, “God sew my ears shut!!”
Technique is considered a dirty word to some these days. People want immediate gratification, “feelings”, easy fixes. There are none. It takes years of work and, it is hard. But as Katherine Hepburn said. “Life is hard. After all, it kills you.”
Here we go!!
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