[Perform-talk] Physical aspects of performing?

Julie McGinnity kaybaycar at gmail.com
Sun May 17 01:20:11 UTC 2015

Hi Masha,

This sounds really exciting!  I am going to write a bit about what
I've learned over the years about gesturing, movement, and physical
appearance as a blind singer.  I have been performing since I was
about 11 years old in musicals, operas, in choirs, and as a soloist
both at my church and as a part of my degree programs.  I got an
undergraduate degree in vocal performance and am now working on my
masters in the same.  None of this is to brag...  But so that you
understand that I have been pondering and living with this topic for a
long time.  I have heard lots of bad advice, have worked with teachers
who have no idea how to get a blind person moving on stage, and have
been through periods of time during which I was tricked into believing
different things about my capabilities in terms of moving on stage.

1. You have the same expectations as the other singers.

This means that even if you don't move as much as they do, you need to
look comfortable in your own skin, mean the movements you choose to
do, and internalize the music.  If you are graded on physical
appearance and movement, then find what works for you and what looks
natural on you.  No less will be (or should be) expected of you
because you are blind.  If you choose to get a good repor going with
the band, then that is a great place to start.  And that leads me to:

2. You are your own unique person; do not try to be anything else.

I once had a coach who would try to get me to make certain facial
expressions.  She would attempt to force me into schooling my face
into certain configurations so that it looked "normal."  Now let me
tell you that I do not have an abnormal looking face, but my
expressions are rather unique.  Most tell mme that this is good
because I have a noticeable smile and very expressive faces.  :)  My
point is that you should love being the unique person you are.  Feel
natural in your own skin.  If the music moves you, and your face shows
that, then it will come through to the audience.

So here are some things you can do to work on learning what feels
natural and how to work those things in your performances.  Since we
cannot simply watch videos of other performers or look in the mirror,
we need to feel these things from the inside.  What kinds of gestures
and expressions do you use in your everyday life?  Begin to focus on
those things.  You can also get some honest friends (Be sure they are
honest).  They can tell you what their perception of you is from a
visual perspective.  Remember to take all opinions with a grain of
salt.  Never ever do a gesture that feels uncomfortable or forced.
That is the best way to look awkward.

If you have any other questions feel free to email me off list.  I am
still learning about these things, but the more we discuss this the
more we can learn from each other.

On 5/16/15, Rob Kaiser via Perform-talk <perform-talk at nfbnet.org> wrote:
> I, when I'm singing in a choir, I make sure that the person next to me makes
> sure I'm facing the conductor.
> Rob Kaiser
> email;
> rcubfank at sbcglobal.net
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Marissa Tejeda via Perform-talk
> Sent: Saturday, May 16, 2015 4:31 PM
> To: Performing Arts Division list
> Cc: Marissa Tejeda
> Subject: Re: [Perform-talk] Physical aspects of performing?
> Hi,
> I go to the California School for the Blind.  When I sing in Glee
> Club, and on stage, as I did on Wednesday and Thursday in a
> Spring concert, I stand straight with my hands at my sides.  I
> face the audience and sing.  Occationally, I may sway slightly,
> if I'm feeling the music.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Masha Sten-Clanton via Perform-talk
> <perform-talk at nfbnet.org
> To: Performing Arts Division list <perform-talk at nfbnet.org
> Date sent: Sat, 16 May 2015 18:54:17 -0400
> Subject: [Perform-talk] Physical aspects of performing?
> Here in New England there's a weekly show, Community Auditions,
> which is
> a televised singing competition.  The contestants are usually
> accompanied
> by a band while they sing.  After each performance, three judges
> give the
> contestant feedback, along with a rating from 1 to 10.
> Since I'd like to audition for the show, I've been paying
> particular
> attention to the judges' comments.  A lot of them have to do with
> how the
> contestants come across visually.  Besides their vocal technique,
> contestants are praised or criticized on their enthusiasm, how
> they
> move, and how they interact with the band.
> As a totally blind person, I was constantly warned to be careful
> of
> untoward movements.  I'd like to know from blind singers: How did
> you
> learn to look, and feel, comfortable with your body onstage? How
> do you
> stand in a position that looks natural? What do you do with your
> hands
> (if you're not playing an instrument)? How do you build movement
> into
> your performance? (In high school I wwas criticized for not
> incorporating hand gestures into a song.) And how do you interact
> with a
> band while performing? (I'm presuming that the only way would be
> to
> rehearse with them, and establish rapport, beforehand, so that
> hopefully
> that rapport will be apparent to the audience.)
> I think there was a panel at the national convention about this
> topic
> last year, but I was unable to attend the convention.  Is there a
> recording of it somewhere?
> Any advice would be greatly appreciated -- I'd really like to try
> out
> for this show!
> Thanks,
> Masha
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Julie McGinnity
National Federation of the Blind of Missouri second vice president,
National Federation of the Blind performing arts division secretary,
Missouri Association of Guide dog Users President
graduate, Guiding Eyes for the Blind 2008, 2014
"For we walk by faith, not by sight"
2 Cor. 7

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