Sunday, May 10, 2009

Balancing Lecoq and the Lauensteins
(now including the Quest connection!)

Take a look at the brief description below...

"...theory developed by [French mime and movement teacher] Jacques Lecoq that actors must recognize the dynamics of the stage. One of the Lecoq exercises asks the actors to imagine a platform. When one person steps on stage, the person opposite must compensate as if the platform might tip. The actors need to understand keeping the stage in balance."

Which came from this web page about a contemporary stage production of Sartre's No Exit.

Does it remind you (my regular readers in particular) of anything? That' right... it sounds like the Lauenstein's film Balance - one of my favorite animated films, and I know a favorite of a lot of people. I've long pondered what makes the film so universally loved, and while very simple in some respects, it's got a lot going for it. The symbolic nature of the balancing platform and the small society who live on it for one thing.... makes you think about group dynamics in both the micro and macro scales. Families, friends, war, politics, etc. But another factor making it compelling is simply the delight of watching the physics in action.

In my reading of Lecoq, I ran across his description of the above mentioned exercise for placing actors in a Greek style chorus. (I grabbed the rather sparse description from that website because it was the only decent reference I could find online, and I didn't feel like laboriously typing out the whole thing from the book myself). So.... a startling similarity between lecoq's concept and the Lauenstein's film.... could it be a coincidence, or is it possible the German brothers had encountered the Lecoq technique somewhere? I know the Lauensteins and Thomas Stellmach (famous for the stopmotion short Quest) were taught by Professor Paul Driessen - well-known and highly respected cartoon animator from.... somewhere in Eastern Europe (sorry, too lazy to look it up right now!). Could he have maybe recommended studying Lecoq's techniques of physical Theatre to his students?

I'm not suggesting they "ripped the idea off" or anything so crass.... the reason I was so struck by this is that it makes me feel like I'm on the right track. Balance being one of my favorites, and now seeing the Lecoq connection, it reinforces the feeling that I'm definitely embarked on the right course of study. But fear not... my animation exercises continue... I'll be posting more soon -- just wanted to break for a moment to post this real quick.

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There may also be a connection between another Lecoq exercise and Thomas Stellmach's film Quest (which I've always felt was somehow connected to Balance). The exercise... it's the first of Lecoq's Neutral Mask exercises, designed to make actors express entirely though their bodies, no voice and no face --- the actor, wearing the mask, awakens and begins to explore the space around him (the studio). The idea is to explore and interact with every object there... climb onto the tables and ladders, etc.

This connection obviously isn't as clear cut as the above (Balance), but it's pretty darn close. Close enough, taken in conjunction with what I wrote above, to make me strongly suspect Professor Dreissen DID encourage his students to study Lecoq's methods, or even recommended these particular exercises as great ideas for stopmotion films (a thought I agree with).


StopmoNick said...

Absolutely the first thing that I pictured when I read those words - yes, that quote alone, or the concept in general, may well have sparked off the idea for Balance. Or not - ideas seem to pop up in several places when their time has come.
I've been learning to do balancing movements when animating a single character - typically, as he leans forward, a hand goes back. But also in a less literal sense - as he looks up or turns his head, it seems to work visually if his hand or something moves in the opposite direction to compensate, even though that doesn't affect his centre of gravity. But I hadn't extended this to the idea of the whole stage being in balance (despite the Lauenstein film being a favourite, and spelling it out for me). You've given me something to think about here!
So maybe we'll see something with 2 characters in an upcoming exercise, with one's movement balancing the other?

bRYEnd_of_the_schtick said...

(^ done any research into Alice universes and cheshire charges off wiki?

the balancing act is very `intreguing` on the quantum level.

mirrored universe not same as an alternate (parallel) one.
back = forth

(^ so a distorted mirroerd UNverse?

0Wt = !n (if "!" = shifted 1 )
back slap = side comment

lots of diferring balances.

even floating oddly off kilter almost CAUSES balance by default!
weIerrd huh?

Darkstrider said...

Yes, interesting fulcrum for thaught! Thanks for another bottle from the bRYEverse!

bRYEnd_of_the_schtick said...

(^ bottle hmmn? oh why not.

this all relates to invisible threads and magnetic pulls.

these links ALL have to do with motion detection
and what tracts vs DIStracts.

(^ from
Alice universe

In theoretical physics, an Alice universe is a hypothetical universe with no global definition of charge. What a Klein bottle is to a closed two-dimensional surface, an Alice universe is to a closed three-dimensional volume. The name is a reference to the character in Lewis Carroll's children's book, Alice Through the Looking-Glass.

An Alice universe can be considered to allow at least two topologically-distinct routes between any two points (it is doubly connected), and if one connection (or "handle") is declared to be a "conventional" spatial connection, at least one other must be deemed to be a non-orientable wormhole connection.

Once these two connections are made, we can no longer define whether a given particle is matter or antimatter. A particle might appear as an electron when viewed along one route, and as a positron when viewed along the other. If we define a reference charge as nominally positive and bring it alongside our "undefined charge" particle, the two particles may attract if brought together along one route, and repel if brought together along another - the Alice universe loses the ability to distinguish between positive and negative charges, except locally.

As with a Möbius strip, once the two distinct connections have been made, we can no longer identify which connection is "normal" and which is "reversed" — the lack of a global definition for charge becomes a feature of the global geometry. This behaviour is analogous to the way that a small piece of a Möbius strip allows a local distinction between two sides of a piece of paper, but the distinction disappears when the strip is considered globally.


In another nod to Lewis Carroll, charge with magnitude but no persistently-identifiable polarity is referred to in the literature as Cheshire charge, after Lewis' Cheshire cat, whose body would fade in and out, and whose only persistent property was its smile.

(^ too many words. not enough diagrams graphs chrts and pictogramophoenetics .

In physics, a charge may refer to one of many different quantities, such as the electric charge in electromagnetism or the color charge in quantum chromodynamics. Charges are associated with conserved quantum numbers.

More abstractly, a charge is any generator of a continuous symmetry of the physical system under study. When a physical system has a symmetry of some sort, Noether's theorem implies the existence of a conserved current. The thing that "flows" in the current is the "charge", the charge is the generator of the (local) symmetry group. This charge is sometimes called the Noether charge.

but back to the graphics:

Magnetic Liquid is Crazy

Darkstrider said...

Alice universes.... cool ideas!

I wonder if there are any Prosserverses out there? Nah.... goes against the laws of probability.

It can be very mind-expanding to read about these theoretical universes. Can inspire strange, very unusual ideas for films etc.

In the clip I'm shooting now, I now see there's a balance struck by the puppet and a background element, which goes out-of balance when he gets pulled away from his position. I haven't reached that point yet (long shoot in progress) but I thin it'll be effective.

Those off-balance compositions are powerful and unsettling... great for a climactic moment.

people in gorillasuits said...

Anybody reminding 'Batman' from 1966: All the scenes with the criminals(Joker, Catwoman etv...) ar shot in an (estimated) 30 degrees angle - until Batman and Robin come into the sequence, smack the bad guys up and re-establish the balance...
And how about the 'Evil Dead' series: All the weird angles, when stuff gets weird ?

There is a german ídiom for 'the world turning upside down' that you can translate as 'unhinging the world', when everything wents head over heels and the walls come tumbling down like a cardboard house and so on...

Just my ten cents about balance between actor and his surrounding...

Darkstrider said...

Thanks *Suits*!!!

Great food for thought!!