Wednesday, May 16, 2012

No.187: What is Opera Organically? More than just "staying on"

In my years studying classical dressage horseback riding, I learned a valuable phrase for riding, for singing, and for life:

Ride every stride.

When a rider is truly in tune with the horse, when s/he listens to the horse with mind, body, spirit, ear, eye, and every other sense at every moment with paradoxical simplicity, she becomes like a part of the horse.  Her intention is the horse's intention.  The energy in her body matches the energy in the horse's body.  A rider can LIVE to experience the moments when "all is One", and what was once so effort-full becomes suddenly, naturally, effort-less.

This kind of connection with horse is not possible without riding every stride. To ride every stride means to know as much as possible about the horse you are with.  It means to do what it takes to be comfortable, for both horse and rider to feel safe and free.  It means doing what it takes to allow both rider and horse to remain in the moment so they can create magic together.

In what sense is this important for the singer?  For anyone who has watched a beginning rider, the experience can be anything from comical to terrifying.  The objective for the beginning rider is simply to "STAY ON".  Many of us sing like this, which is neither good nor bad, but can set us up for some rocky singing experiences.  In order to keep ourselves safe as singers, we must know the dangers inherent in being a beginner, in not knowing the things we need to know in order to "ride every stride" or "sing every note" of our voices.  

What are the dangers of not "being at One" with Voice?  Functional challenges can come up.  The voice is not strong enough and trips under us... Emotional bucks and kicks can come from outside and inside sources when we are not prepared to understand.  Even what we hear from our most supportive teachers can make us want to "get off" and never get back on the singing animal again. 

If riding is challenging, I would say that singing is even more so.  The Voice is just as wild-at-heart and earthy as a horse, and yet we cannot see it, touch it, or feel it in the traditional sense.  We cannot calm it with our hands or groom it with our brushes.  There are mysteries that surround this "Vocal Beast" that are hard to wrap our heads around.

Which is why we must let go of our heads and drop into our hearts when we are learning about Voice.  When a rider first experiences the magic of Oneness with a horse, it is her heartstrings which are teased, not only her logical brain.  For there is an element in this balance between wo/man and horse which goes beyond logic.  There is no escaping the pure wonder of an animal so powerful as a horse willingly merging with the rider in movement.  It is the deepest honor to experience, and it is what keeps the torch burning for many equestrians around the world.

What I propose for singers is that we begin to re-learn how to merge with our Voices, to see them as natural expressions of pure power and love, pulsing with life.  These Life-form-voices are ours only with their permission!  And when we are allowed to join with them in the pure, joyful moment of what it means to be alive, we can experience the ecstasy of true connection with a force greater than our individual selves.  When we approach our studies with even the imagination of what it might be like to ride that wave of singing passion, we find the strength and reason to carry on. 

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