Ségolène V. Scheuer leads Conditioning For Performers on 20 November. Here, she writes about the workshop and the importance of developing a routine to look after your main work tool.
Why “conditioning for performers”?
Why not? More seriously, because it angers me to hear/see the lack of mindful support in the performing industry. I have heard too many stories from friends and strangers alike:
“I’m having some back pain — don’t know why.”
“I’m having to do a lot of physical stuff for that part and I feel like it’s taking a toll on me.”
“Jumping from day-job to that role is heavy: I don’t feel like I’m giving this character my 100%”
“My neck is killing me, but I don’t have time to do my yoga or Pilates stretch”...
When you’re in pain, you can’t focus. You just can’t. Your brain is trying to focus but the levels of inflammations are sometimes to high or too deeply rooted. And so having to give your all on a six-week run after an intense four-week rehearsal period takes its toll on your body and mind.
Physical pain, as minor as it can be, distracts you and brings your energy levels down. How are you expected to give 100% to the play/movie/song/project you’re performing in, if 60% is focused on the dull or sharp sensations flowing down your back, arms and legs?
Life is hard enough for Creative Types
So, why do performers get injured? Perhaps because they are bombarded with pressures on all fronts. Perhaps because the industry wants men to have a 6-pack and women to “have a flat tummy” and feel pressured to go on that diet or do 100 crunches or other ab-challenges.
Performers are Artful Athletes, and as such are either expected to cope with:
- Creative Stress: I have to birth this idea now — but how?
- Emotional Stress: going in and out of various feelings; challenging your creative self by pushing your limits and exploring how far you can go within an emotion.
- Life Stress: the everyday “I got bills to pay” vs answering the creative call; “I have to do this otherwise I won’t feel happy”; “will I ever breakthrough?”; day jobs vs real job; “what have I seen you in lately?”; “when will you settle down?”
Add to this the physical aches, no wonder you’re struggling or feeling exhausted and ill at the end of a run! You’ve just imposed high intensity work to a machine that’s had to run on pretty much all the fuel you had. The come-down was bound to equal that
Coming from Injury
After an accident when I was younger, I was half-paralyzed from the neck down for 18 weeks. My life was split between school and acting before that. I tried to not let it affect me, but eventually reality kicked in: I couldn’t move as well before. I took a step back from performing and focused on voice work for a few years. Alongside, I did what I could to improve my physicality and the relationship I had with it through breathwork and Taï-Chi.
Moving to the UK and reconnecting with performance 8 years ago led me to face the big creature I had left to feed of my pain and insecurities. This is when I discovered Laban, Alexander, Grotowski, Yoga and Weightlifting. Odd combination, I’ll give you that! But this is when I realised how if we combined Performing Prep to Posture to Mindfulness and to Health, that you could expand your acting abilities.
After 2 years of exploring the weightlifting world, I focused on Callisthenics, Breathwork (from Pranayama to Wim Hoff) and Animal Flow alongside my Alexander and Laban practice. I worked with physios and gymnasts to understand the mechanics of the body, and quickly realised the connection to the emotions felt on a daily basis, and the ones explored and expressed in performance.
A teacher I encountered at RADA once told us “He who masters the breath masters the body”. True, and as a performer, it takes on a new dimension once you realise that each emotion lives in a specific part of your body. Which leads me to wonder: if performers have a mastery of breath which enables them to perform, why do they still end up injured?
Conditioning for Performers
This workshop isn’t a work-out, it’s the opportunity for performers to reconnect with their bodies and gain new knowledge so they can look after their work tool. Everyone will leave with a tailored routine (encompassing creative, wellness and postural homework) allowing them to expand on their physical abilities and access emotions and characters with ease.
The key areas we’ll be looking at:
- Shoulders & Rotator Cuffs
- Thoracic Mobility & Alignment
- Hips and Directions
- Grounding Feet & Breath
Feedback from Artful Athletes
“All I did was breathing — but that was enough to bring my performing mindset back to a healthy space. I’ve felt a lot more connected to characters, performers and friends alike.” Sophie
“Actress who trained as a classical dancer with all the pains and aches you can imagine, it’s been incredible to play around and bring myself back to alignment without it feeling like torture.” Doña
“As a climber and an actor, I benefited a lot from Ségolène’s teaching. My routine has helped me prevent injuries and shown me how I can get help myself out of pain. Now that’s lovely, isn’t it!” Arthur
“As a singer with spondyloarthritis, I struggle on a daily basis with my back and shoulders. Eventually, I started feeling like it was affecting my singing voice too. I was looking for ways to get my voice back and not let the disease affect me: It’s incredible to see what little movement and breathing can do!” Rackell
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