Conducting and Tai Chi both use energy and intention to produce gesture that is complex, beautiful, and meaningful. In master practitioners, the purposefulness of each is a result of conscious and unconscious awareness and will. Both are inexorably connected to breath. This foundation of similarities means the study of Tai Chi can reinforce the best kinesthetic habits in conducting.
Tai Chi for Conductors
In this session, participants will follow a Tai Chi practice session, including a set of movements derived from Tai Chi forms designed to maximize the benefit for conductors. Each slow movement will provide an opportunity to move energy and examine its effect on the body. This examination has the potential to create an immediate sense of buoyancy and balance, leaving participants calm and vibrant at the end of the session. Beyond the convention, regular practice naturally guides towards centering, grounding, and freeing. The slow, easy movements can be performed in any attire, and participants will be invited to remove their shoes.
And the general response to that is that, yeah, conducting and tai chi seem to be related. But I’ll tell you what I told Roger Jahnke when he asked me if I had figured out the connection.
Both practices derive their movement from intention, which is communicated through the center out to the extremities. When I taught the undergrad conducting class last semester, and when I wrote about Singing Redefined, I was thinking of the imagination being communicated through gesture as it is through the voice. But, since I’ve worked intensively in Tai Chi some more, I see that it’s wrong. The voice is not like gesture. The voice really is linked directly to the imagination. Whole-body movement is not. There’s a lot that can interfere between the brain and the body. When your whole body moves, that movement must come from the center–ask any dancer or martial arts teacher.
So the discussion I must have with myself, and consequently the interweb, is this: intention communicates with the center and is expressed through the whole body. More on that to follow when I start getting my head around it in a communicable way.