Today I had the pleasure of taking a fresh batch of BFA Freshman through an introductory exploration of the 4 Effort Factors. As you can see in the picture of my class notes, Effort is the category of movement analysis that analyzes the HOW of an action, the quality of the movement. Its an amazingly useful tool for actors to have, and I love how quickly speaking the same vocabulary can unite an ensemble and facilitate specificity in the movement work.
While I was teaching today I was reflecting on the importance of the words used to guide students into an exploratory experience of Effort. I’m currently leaning towards using the word Force instead of Weight to describe light and strong movement. I find that when I use the words “strong weight” during an exploration that students don’t immediately connect to whats going on. I often use the image of needing to work harder against gravity as well, but I find that the combination working against gravity and the words strong weight immediately take students into a situation where they are moving with passive strong weight. Even without using the word heavy, they seem to internally go to a “heavy” place where their body is heavier and harder to move. Today I used the words strong force much more prominently than the word weight, and it resulted in a much more active exploration in the class. As they explored I slipped in the word weight, but I’m considering just switching to using force exclusively. The word itself is more active, whereas students tend to relate to the weight of their body with a more passive attitude- as if their weight is something that acts upon them- instead of exerting the force of their will with the weight of their body. I know this is an ongoing discussion in the Laban community, and I wonder if the context for the words weight and force has changed significantly in the last 20 or so years to necessitate a closer look at this vocabulary.
On a completely different note, I’ve gotten to the point where I never teach Effort Factors without including the associations of Weight/Force – Intention, Space – Attention, Time – Decision, Flow – Control. I also am trying to include the word how more consciously so that the students can continue to connect back to the definition of Effort, that it describes how something is done. For example connecting the vocabulary word Time to “how you make decisions?” to “you make decisions suddenly” to moving seems to be a phrasing that immediately gets my students moving within the Effort Factor that I want. I’m finding that it allows me to guide them with greater specificity, and I get better results! I can’t wait to see how this improved way of introducing Effort improves their future ability to apply the Effort vocabulary to their work!