The Role of an Understudy | Sg2

Fin, one of our Sg2 apprentices, gives us an insight into his role as understudy for Christian in Chris Pavia's new choreography...

Since September, Fin has been working alongside the dancers for Chris' new project, he talks us through his role and what he's learnt from the process so far...

[Image Description: A photo of Fin and Christian during outdoor rehearsals, they are in matching positions in a lunge, arms spread behind like dragon wings.

My role as understudy is to learn and remember Christian’s material and corrections in case he’s unable to perform. In the studio I work alongside Christian as he creates and is given new material to work on. I learn the exact same things as him and listen and apply the same feedback he gets. I also offer help in remembering sequences and material and also suggest possible choreographic ideas.

A lot of focus and determination is required. You are having to learn not only someone else’s work but also all their corrections and possibly corrections of your own. You need a good memory as you may have to cover for the person you are understudying at any point and you’ll need to know exactly what it is they have been working on and how to do as they do. Finally, you need to be open with the person you are understudying; it isn’t something where you always sit on the side-lines and do as they do. You can offer up so much more - you can allow the person you understudy to see what their choreography looks like; you can offer them ideas and suggestions to contribute to their process; and if there is a movement or sequence you are struggling with, ask them to show you how to do it or work with them to find your own bespoke movement.

On a basic level I've learned quite a few new moves to add to my repertoire but on a different level I've learned a lot about what it means to be an understudy and how I can be most effective in that role. It’s quite a physically demanding bit of material and is very rich in terms of qualities. We change levels a lot going from these very fast and dynamic movements with leaps and tricks and rolls, to soft controlled refined subtle movements in our bodies. I personally enjoy both watching it and performing it.

It’s been a great physical challenge; Christian has an incredible work rate so it’s a challenge to keep up with him at times but it’s very much worth it. He also has an impressive range of movement options some of which I’m not able to do as well as he is, but they are really fun to learn and it’s a great opportunity to ask him how to learn and do them myself. Also, just on the learning side there’s a lot of movement, corrections, qualities and changes that I need to learn but again it’s a very satisfying and worthwhile challenge.

I feel very comfortable in this role. It plays to things I feel I am strong at, which is learning material and remembering choreographic sequences. I also really enjoy the opportunity to learn new movements and also work alongside a main touring company member as an apprentice.

I've learned a lot about how Chris Pavia creates choreography. It’s quite amazing how inspired by imagery he is; he can see a picture or a sculpture or something from a film and create entire sequences and choreographic ideas just from those.

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