I taught a class at CnCStudios yesterday - called the ACTORS VOICE - and worked with a great cast of primarily actors who are looking to invest in their voices and their instruments. It was a successful class from all accounts, and this question came up.
When we, working in our individual disciplines, decide to cross-discipline, what can we expect? How can we prepare? What do we need to know to begin the process?
As a teacher of singing - especially within the business of music theatre - I meet many who are not singers first. They are actors first or dancers first. Yet they seek out, or are told to seek out, a teacher of voice and of singing, to begin to discover another discipline and how they intersect.
Is it always successful? It depends on how you define success.
Success has to do with how informed that dancer or actor is walking into a voice studio. If they are not informed about what to expect, from the study of voice or from themselves in pursuing it, it isn't stupidity. You can't be stupid if you've already invested and developed a discipline.
It is simple ignorance and it is a choice. You do not need to be ignorant. You choose that. And why? Why the disconnect between disciplines?
If I was given money for every time a dancer has stood in my studio and said "I need to learn to sing for an audition next week, can you teach me?" I would be a ridiculously rich woman.
Is it necessary to walk into another discipline with this ignorance? Absolutely not. It is a choice. If it wasn't a choice, then there would be a different set of questions.
The disciplines of singing, dance and acting are interconnected if by nothing but the fact that the instrument has a physical and athletic base line. That physicality and athleticism needs SPECIFIC training and development. Each discipline requires a specificity and so just because you have one developed, doesn't mean the others are going to be easy!
If it takes years, hours, work, classes, study, exploration to acquire competence in ONE discipline, why would it not take the same amount of energy/time/study and development for another?
You said "DUH!" - I say, ah but you'd be surprised...
Perhaps you are a dancer, or an actor, that has never studied voice or singing. You cannot really say you are a singer. Perhaps you LIKE to sing. Just like I LIKE to dance. That doesn't make me a dancer.
Perhaps you think coming in for a voice "lesson" once a month or once every few months suggests you can sing and have developed a discipline of voice and technique. Perhaps you would be wrong.
I would ask you - if I go to a dance class once or twice a year - have I developed an instrument that can do what is required to call myself a dancer if I have never studied before? If I go to a monologue class and 6 months later, go to a commercial class and have never studied the craft of acting, can I call myself a classical actor?
And you would blink at me like I had lost my mind.
When a dancer says "Can you teach me to sing for next week?" I answer with "Can you teach me ballet and how to do the splits in a week?"
And why should I have to even ask that?
What is the disconnect between disciplines?!
ANY discipline, to achieve a level of competence demands a CONSISTENCY. You cannot have a lesson once in awhile, or a class occasionally and think you are ready to take on that discipline.
If you do not know what is required - THEN ASK. Ask what you need to do to find success in this discipline. ASK a professional in that discipline. This is RESPONSIBLE DEVELOPMENT.
"Singing the right notes" is NOT being a singer!
"Singing in tune" is NOT being a singer!
Just because I can kind of stand at the barre and move my body parts through ballet positions doesn't make me a dancer! Just because I can read the words out loud from a play doesn't make me an actor!
When we move into another discipline, we must be prepared to acknowledge there is another skill-set and craft that will take TIME and ENERGY and COMMITMENT AND CONSISTENCY!
If you are not willing to acknowledge that and commit to it - then you are choosing ignorance and frankly it's insulting.
You are insulting those who are professionals in a discipline that you think you can simply claim without knowledge, study or development.
Why is it so difficult to realize that? You are simply hiding in plain sight.
If you call yourself a professional in your field, and choose to be a business that demands you to work with cross-disciplines, why wouldn't you be aware and want and choose to explore another discipline with as much attention as the one that got you this far?
How do you respect yourself and anyone you query about developing craft in another discipline?
YOU ASK WHAT IS REQUIRED. You either commit to that requirement, or you walk away and quit pretending.
You either develop a skill fully, or not.
You call yourself a dancer with one or two classes in your lifetime and walk into a dance call with dancers who have lived, eaten and breathed dance forever and watch how you don't fit in - REALLY FAST!
You call yourself an actor with a class or two and no sense of craft and walk into an audition for a Shakespeare play that requires skill and language and physicality and watch how quickly you are dismissed for lack of technical ability or craft.
Your responsibility is to find out what is going to be DEMANDED of you. Then you find out how you need to meet that demand. If you cannot or choose not to meet it, then you simply limit yourself as an artist and need to explore your craft in another venue.
If you are a dancer who is classically trained and will always be in the corps or in concert dance, then no, singing will not be a demand you need to face.
But if you are a dancer exploring music theatre in ANY venue then you will be asked to sing. If you cannot or CHOOSE not to discover the discipline of voice and how it manifests itself in YOUR physicality, then you have made a choice to ignore what is required of you in that theatre.
It IS your choice. Please do not misunderstand me.
Just remember, your ignorance is seen as choice as well. And if you make a query, prepare to recognize what is required to make the CONNECTION in order to discover how you can best succeed in that other discipline.
Continuing with a self-involved ignorance that may end up biting you in the ass may cause you to wonder why you aren't getting a job or why no one is returning your calls.
My guess is, if you are beginning to recognize the connection between the disciplines of theatre and ask a teacher in a "new to you" discipline:
What can I expect and what should I expect in this discipline?
How can I prepare to become successful in this discipline?
What do I need to know and need to DO to begin training in this discipline?
You will be on your way to breaking the negative stereotype associated with dancers and actors who "have to learn to sing" to be in the business!
Again - your choice.