Students will be able to demonstrate their knowledge of the Suzuki idea of centering the body by creating their own body-centering Suzuki exercise in groups.
Anticipatory Set/Hook Have the students do 3 minutes of Rhythmic Stomping to music or a drum (see Lesson 2 for description). After they have collapsed on the floor and returned to a vertical position, transition into the Throwing Feet exercise (see Lesson 2 for description). This will be a good chance for any students who were not there during Lesson 2 to catch up.
Transition: Today we will continue working towards centering the body and connecting through the ground. This next exercise is called Fumikae—Stamp and Change (write this on the Suzuki Method chart). It is the second basic exercise of Suzuki.
Instruction/Group Practice: Stand in line in the back of the room or in columns at evenly spaced intervals so you can progress forward. The knees are bent with the back straight, feet and legs pressed together and the center of gravity low. With a rapid movement, the right leg sweeps forward to show the sole of the foot to an imaginary partner opposite you and is then pulled back, bringing the bent knee in as close to the body as possible with the foot flexed upwards. This is done as a single continuous move, during which the level of the torso and head must stay constant.
In two moves, you then stamp directly down and slide the foot forward along the floor until the back leg is straight, with the back foot flat. The hips must finish positioned over the front leg, which takes all the body’s weight. You then shift up on to tiptoes and down, as two isolated movements, taking care to centralize the suspended weight over both feet and maintain a sense of connection to the ground. You swap sides and lead with the left leg, pulling it through from behind the body. The sequence continues with alternating legs. The arms should be as they are in Throwing Feet—at the sides as if holding two poles.
Guided Practice: Have the students practice the Stamp and Change exercise as a group with actual music or drum beats. Spend as much time as needed until they get it and have repeated it for a minimum of three minutes.
Transition: Now we are going to learn one more centering/grounding exercise. It doesn’t have a fancy Japanese name. It is simply known as Basic Number Four (write this exercise on the Suzuki Method chart).
Instruction/Group Practice: This exercise opens up your use of space, which correspondingly makes precision and speed difficult. The starting position is like a tennis player waiting for his opponent’s serve. From a crouched ready position with legs apart (head held and not relaxed) and with knees partially rather than deeply bent so that the center is slightly raised, you pivot very fast on one foot (initially to the left). This move opens the body to the right to face the opposite way from the first position. You finish, standing focused ahead on a distant point, with the feet apart, back straight and knees soft, re-establishing contact with the ground after the swift upward sweep.
On command you return to the crouch and then pivot on the other foot, opening the other way by turning to the left. You repeat this symmetrical pattern but alternate by stopping with the torso pointing forward and with the feet and legs tight together rather than open, but with the knees still slightly bent. You must project the same level of energy in both open and closed positions. Guided Practice: Have the students do the 3-minute Rhythmic Stomping exercise. After they return to a vertical position after falling on the ground, have them do Basic Number Four for 3 minutes. Then, call out different moves to do—Stomping, Throwing Feet, Stamp and Change, or Number Four. This should be done while a beat is being maintained. The actors should be focusing on their centering and grounding. Their breathing should remain constant and deep. Their upper bodies should be relaxed. Point out to students when parts of their upper bodies are getting tense. This should be quite a workout.
Group Discussion: Give the students a rest while discussing some of the following points. How are you feeling right now? What do you feel in your body? How do you feel your connection to the ground has changed? Do you feel one as a group? How do you see these exercises connecting to Suzuki’s main ideas?
Transition: During our first lesson we mentioned that a lot of theater companies and groups have taken Suzuki’s ideas and made them their own, even creating new exercises that apply the same principals. This is what you will now be doing.
Group Practice/Assessment: Divide the students into groups of three or four. Try to have students who are in competition pieces together in the same group. Instruct them to come up with a Suzuki-inspired exercise like the ones they have been learning that will help apply and test the concepts of centering and grounding/connecting through energy from the ground and the feet. Give the groups 5 minutes to come up with their new exercise as well as its name. Then, let each group introduce and demonstrate their new exercise in front of the class while the class tries it out in front of them. Give each group member 5 points if the exercise does indeed cause the doer to apply those two Suzuki concepts.
Group Discussion: What was it like creating your own Suzuki exercise? Did you feel like you were being true to the original artist? Do you think if an exercise was not created by Suzuki that it should not be considered ‘Suzuki’? There are not right answers to these questions, but they are meant to get the kids thinking about their creation of art and its relation to the art that inspired it. Relate this back to what the ultimate purpose of creating acting “methods” in the first place.
As the students, leave …………..O-tsukare-sama deshita (see the end of Lesson 2).