LESSAC KINESENSICS NEWSLETTER
Welcome to summer! It’s that effervescent and radiant time of year, filled with, as Longfellow says, “a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.” We at the Lessac Training and Research Institute hope you may be able to embrace more than a few child-like days during the coming months, offering the opportunity to pause and inhale the sweet fragrance of summer while it lasts.
June 15-Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference
June 23-July 19-U.S. Summer Intensive
June 23-24 and June 26-27 Croatia 2-Day Workshops
July 7-27 Australian Intensive
Have you ever been so excited about something that you just can’t sit still, or received a compliment that left you shimmering with delight? Imagine that you’ve planned a surprise party for a loved one, who is about to enter the room. Can you sense and feel the tickle of butterflies in your belly? The excitement, the sheer pleasure, the delightful anticipation, this is the feel of Radiancy energy!
What is Lessac Kinesensic Training?
A comprehensive, creative, and holistic work aimed at the development of voice and body strength, agility, and expressiveness. Finding the unique and tension-free expression of yourself is what Kinesensics is all about. Building on ancient wisdom, backed by modern science, Kinesensics encourages you to use the simple but natural behaviors of your body, such as yawning or humming, as organic instructions towards improved physical and vocal expression and health. Each simple step builds on the previous one, creating a concrete pathway to success. No matter what your line of work, Kinesensics can help you overcome obstacles and release stress and strain to be your authentic self.
Where may I apply the principles of Kinesensics?
Whenever you speak or move, Kinesensics will work for you. Arthur Lessacbelieved that a little change of mind is all that’s needed to remind us that when we speak, we are singing, and when we walk, we are dancing. We find specific applications of the Work in all of life’s endeavors, from the boardroom to the classroom to the parent reading a child a bedtime story. But the following areas represent ways the work is being used today:
Communication (speech, public speaking, speech language pathology)
Socio-Culture and Language (ESL, second language acquisition, accent acquisition, multi-lingualism)
Education (applied theatre, theatre education, voice & movement development for all ages)
Performance (singing, acting, movement/dance)
Health and wellness (fitness, aging, vitality, self-realization, optimal health)
When you unite voice, body and imagination, you will have created the most fascinating canvass in the world from which to work.
Kathleen Dunn-Munzingo, Festschrift
I got the Arthur Lessac process and for thirty years or more it has sustained me. I have never lost my voice due to strain, overuse, or, more importantly, misuse. I have been able to project it in any auditorium. It has given me infinite vocal freedom. It works, and once acquired it will do the same for you.
Frank Langella, Foreword, The Use and Training of the Human Voice
FEATURED ARTIST: JO LENHART
Anita Jo Lenhart is Professor of Theatre and a voice specialist at the University of Memphis, where she’s taught since 1987. She was hired to develop a voice track for the BFA in Performance, but Jo admits that her most significant experiences with vocal training came about a decade later, when she first met Arthur Lessac in 1997. She recalls that, despite early success in opera and in her work as a voice professional, various experiences “led to a huge crisis, when I had to say, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m eclectic, some things are effective, but it’s not working…I’m not in my own body.’” Lenhart began exploring various physical methodologies, and determined to cultivate her own signature voice/body method.
She studied all the seminal texts on voice work, but when she picked up Arthur Lessac’s Body Wisdom book, she was “stunned and enthralled—my first thought was, ‘Oh, no! This is my book! But that’s a laugh—even if I developed my work for 30 years, it would never be what this book is.’” (At this point in the interview, Lenhart began to cry as she recounted the wonder and exhilaration she felt.) She looked up Arthur in Santa Monica, called his phone number directly, and someone answered, “HellooOOO!” This was Arthur’s habit, and an extended vocalization he dubbed, “the Call.” After hearing about the deep impact his book had made on her, Arthur replied, “Oooh, then you are one of us.” In a few weeks, he flew to Memphis to work with her.
Lessac Kinesensics transformed Lenhart’s work thereafter. She lived and worked privately with Arthur for 6 weeks in 1998 and then began to incorporate Kinesensics into her curriculum at the University of Memphis. Lenhart’s health challenges at the time also began to work themselves out as the result of her work with Kinesensics: “healing began with yoga and Lessac body work.” Lenhart credits the Lessac body energies) with helping her through a grueling teacher-training program for Bikram Yoga. Without regular use of Buoyancy, Radiancy, and Potency energies, she declares that “I would have either had to quit or they’d carry me out on a stretcher.” (Three of her peers in that training did have to be carried out on stretchers.) Lenhart continues to teach yoga and her own students struggle with many of the postures or poses, but breakthroughs come once she instructs them to employ a body energy while doing the pose.
Lenhart is coming to the end of a year’s “developmental leave” from the University of Memphis, during which time she has performed and directed with Thingamajig Theatre at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts in Colorado. During the Christmas season, she played “the most deliciously severe Aunt March in Little Women that folks had ever seen,” according to critics. Lenhart is 5’3” and was the smallest actor in the cast, but “Potency made me the heavy on stage.” Lenhart adds that “Aunt March was an experiment in Potency, a very interior, still Potency,” that was so effective, people noticed. She says she felt as if she were filling her inner space with Potency while drawing the performance space toward herself, also with Potency, “like a black hole sucking everything into a very still place.” With other roles she found herself moving easily between the body energies, such as when she played Mrs. Meers in Thoroughly Modern Millie. When Mrs. Meers pretends to be the fake Chinese dragon lady, a funny, body humor Radiancy energy fit perfectly. Then Lenhart switched to Potency when Mrs. Meers was dealing with her henchmen.
Lenhart credits kinesensic training and its vocal energies for much of her success as a performer in musical theatre. She is a coloratura soprano and admits that “there’s not a big demand for that in musical theatre!” Prior to working with Arthur, “the lowest note I ever would sing in public was middle C.” After learning Tonal energy and the YBuzz, one of Lessac work’s primary vocal explorations, she expanded her lower range by one-half, and “then I began to win roles in musical theatre.” One was the Countess Charlotte in A Little Night Music. One evening some of her students came to see the show, and sat on the back row. During the challenging number, “Every Day a Little Death,” Lenhart’s microphone malfunctioned. Her students couldn’t believe she wasn’t miked, as they heard every word she sang. “I’m singing very low roles now, such as Fraulein Scheider in Cabaret and others like it. Lessac work opened up a musical theatre career I didn’t have before.”
Lenhart believes that Lessac work is foundational to all other voice and movement pedagogies: “If you understand the NRGs, you’ll be able to employ them to enter into any other work.” She adds that whether you’re tap dancing, learning new blocking for a show, or practicing some kind of martial art, kinesensic work applied produces greater ease and flexibility to the task at hand. She has certainly found this to be true in her study of Bikram Yoga: “Now that I’ve been with Lessac work for over 20 years, and as I presented at the inaugural Lessac conference in Denver, it is my assertion that Arthur Lessac, through his work and research, intuitively and independently developed an authentic occidental yoga. His voice and body NRGs and the trinities reflect and resemble the trinities of energies found in the yoga sutras of India.”
Lenhart’s life and work are testimonials to how Lessac work is the doorway to getting optimal results in your vocal and physical life, in whatever your field of endeavor. She asks her students, “What are the primary colors? How many colors can you get out of them? Infinity—so it is with the Lessac energies.”
THE LESSAC INTENSIVE WORKSHOP
You will find opportunities all over the US and the world for learning LessacKinesensics, but perhaps the backbone of the Lessac Institute’s offerings is the Intensive Workshop. Although conditions may vary, most of these intensives are conducted in retreat-like settings over three to four weeks so that participants can immerse themselves fully in the process of learning. Three intensives workshops are on this year’s calendar. The first of the year was held in Pretoria, South Africa, in January, and another international intensive is upcoming in Sydney, Australia, July 7-27. Most US trainers and practitioners receive their training at the annual intensive in Indiana. The Lessac Summer Intensive at DePauw University in Greencastle, IN, is coming up soon, from June 23 through July 19. Master Teacher Crystal Robbins and Certified Trainer Caroline Good will be instructors for a collection of participants from all over the US, as well as Croatia and Chile.
What can you expect at a Lessac Intensive Workshop?
Master Teacher Crystal Robbins explains that while each intensive is unique, they all tend to follow a similar syllabus. The first two weeks are about understanding the origins and foundations of Lessac voice and body work, and during the last two weeks, participants actively apply the work to specific texts, tasks, and contexts. In Lessac Kinesensic training, body work is always connected to vocal training, as voice and body must work together for optimal quality of expression.
Each day of the intensive starts with body work, followed by a large voice class. That larger class then divides into two smaller groups for more concentrated time with an instructor. A break of a few hours follows, allowing participants to lunch, rest, meet with their assigned buddies for assignments and/or meet with a teacher privately for coaching. The intensive day ends with a second small group class.
The Intensive is so named for a reason; the days are full and much material is covered. But the evenings are free and the Greencastle community offers much by way of restaurants, parks, and places to bond with your peers and absorb the material in conversations about the events of the day.
What kinds of activities can participants expect at an intensive?
One of the most popular explorations is the Final Body Project, which is a culminating event of the US and some international intensives. The Body Project is a group project; partners work together to create a 3-5 minute body event with a theme that answers the question, "What are the body NRGs [Energies] and how can I use the events learned in body class in a creative way?" This broad prompt leaves the event wide open for group experimentation and expression. Body projects typically include music, and can also use props and costumes, if so desired. Some of these performances tell a specific story; others are made up of a sequence of events that flow one from one to the other—using movement and lyricism that Crystal finds to be, “a beautiful thing to watch and experience.” Lessac trainers find this kind of collaborative event to be a powerful experience for participants; with focused concentration on the body work, students discover new and unique applications of the explorations covered in body classes. Robbins finds Lessacbody work to be “one of our greatest tools as Certified Trainers…In twenty years of teaching this work, I can vouch that because of the body projects I've had confidence in choreographing, staging different kinds of styles of work, in ensemble training and directing, and using the body work in private sessions with students to help with specific issues where I've sensed a bodily freedom would engage a vocal freedom.”
The Intensive experience tends to produce lasting effects and friendships. Like so many Lessac trainers and practitioners, Robbins reports that she is still friends with most of the people from her Intensive years: “I have enjoyed working with them professionally and having them as vital members of my personal and professional life. As a teacher at the Intensive three times, I've found that has not changed and is one of the joys of teaching it every year! There is a story with every participant. The Intensive is an experience that rarely comes along nowadays and I just encourage anyone looking for something that will kick start a new thing inside of them to consider coming! The experience of what the Intensive yields will pay off creatively in ways one may not expect.”
The International Intensive Experience
Long ago Arthur Lessacdreamed of expanding kinesensic work beyond the borders of the US in order to facilitate a kind of cross-cultural communing. Since then, Lessac workshops have been offered in such diverse locations as the Philippines, Croatia, Ireland, Puerto Rico, South Africa, and Australia. While the intensive experience in general tends to follow a certain rhythm, the international events are compressed into three weeks instead of four. The international intensives also offer both participants and instructors new perspectives and different kinds of explorations, due to diverse cultural and multi-lingual contexts.
South Africa. The first Lessac Intensive in South Africa was held in 2013, and since then the event has sported an international faculty of trainers, such as Master Teachers Marth Munro and Certified Trainer Morné Steyn from South Africa, Certified Trainer Valentina Lončarić from Croatia, and Master Teachers Nancy Krebs and Deb Kinghorn from the US. Steyn describes the intensive as an event designed to “find ways in which we can expand common humanity through kinesensic play and interaction.” In the January 2019 intensive, the training was in English, but participants brought multiple languages to their explorations, such as isiZulu, Afrikaans, Xitshonga, isiXhosa, isiNdebele, Setswana, Sesotho, and Sepedi. Steyn admits that this made the workshop facilitation difficult at times, “as instructors had to be acutely aware of possibilities of appropriation and patronization.” He adds, however, “the complexity of working with different languages also stimulates critical discussions about how the pedagogy of Lessac Kinesensics works inclusively.”
Nancy Krebs, who was an instructor during the 2017 South African Intensive, recalls that this language diversity filled each day of the workshop with exciting discoveries and observations: “Our 'aha' moments came when we asked for everyone who desired to do so to prepare and work on a monologue from his or her own 'language of the heart' as Marth called it—meaning one's first language. Hearing Structural, Tonal and Consonant NRG (Energy) begin to emerge in a language that I couldn't understand, but saw and heard myself demonstrated, was exhilarating to say the least.” Students who chose a monologue from their native languages experienced “a profound series of discoveries about how the Lessac Kinesensic training enhanced, empowered and gave additional melody or beauty to a student’s first language without changing its inherent qualities and strengths. I was brought to tears many a time in small group as I heard an Afrikaans participant using more Structure for the first time, and how this gave more timbre to his voice, or the Zulu man experience Tonal energy and felt its power and expressiveness.”
On the intensive’s final day, students’ multi-lingual body/voice projects were filled with all the languages that everyone spoke, creating “powerful poetry in motion that I will never forget. Arthur's dream of 'cross cultural' communing was present within this Intensive—and it meant the world to me to finally see it in action.”
The National Institute of Dramatic Arts in Sydney is hosting this year’s LessacAustralian Intensive from July 7-27, 2019, and Master Teacher Nancy Krebs will be traveling almost 11,000 miles to serve again as lead instructor. The first Australian Intensive was held last July, and Nancy is excited be working again with NIDA in beautiful and cosmopolitan Sydney with its dramatic skyline. Joining Nancy will be Certified Trainer, Katerina Moraitis, Head of Voice at NIDA, one of the premiere theatre institutions in Australia. Krebs thoroughly enjoyed the supportive NIDA environment with its beautiful facilities for learning and exploring: “Our participants came not only from the graduate voice program of NIDA, but also from New Zealand, other parts of Australia and the United States. Included among our participants was a graduate student who was Aboriginal, which gave a whole different flavor to the study of language in our session, as well as one person with a Chinese language background. It was a wonderful experience, filled with joy, fun and daily discoveries in how to apply our training to theatre, teaching and different languages.” Nancy looks forward to enjoying “the gorgeous city of Sydney, its lovely and welcoming people, and participants ranging from singers, actors and performers to teachers of voice and movement specialists. I can't wait to return.”
How do I learn more?
Any questions concerning this summer’s Lessac Intensive in Greencastle, Indiana, may contact the onsite coordinator, Certified Trainer Tim Good, at Tim.Good@LessacInstitute.org or Crystal Robbins at Crystal.Robbins@LessacInstitute.org.
Regional Conferences 2019
During the past year, the Lessac Training and Research Institute began offering regional events around the US every other year, rather than holding an International Conference annually. The move was made by the Institute in order to reach a broader constituency with the power of Kinesensic work. LTRI’s next International Conference will be in January 2020 at Kent State, but this year’s move to smaller, more flexible regional events has yielded some exciting results.
“A Movement Bauhaus” was the theme of the Los Angeles Regional Lessac Conference, which was held last January at the University of Southern California. Instructors and 26 participants dressed to move during this half-day event, and explored the freedom that movement can give in informing both actor and life choices. Presentations and activities played with connections between Kinesensics and various other movement-based pedagogies and activities, such as Louis Colaianni’s Phonetic Pillows and Marcela Widrig’s Fierce Embodiment Movement Work, which uses movement and deep body awareness to help patients move beyond trauma and learned limitations.
On June 1st, Lessac trainers on the other side of the US hosted an enthusiastic gathering of participants at the first one-day Northeast Regional Lessac Conference at the University of New Hampshire, Durham. Some presentations focused on kinesensic applications specific to theatre work, such as Practitioner Michael Cobb’s workshop on applying Consonant NRG (Energy) to scenes involving stage combat. Presenters also addressed corporate and personal uses of Kinesensics. Jamie Clavet shared ways to use Lessac principles to create and deliver interesting and dynamic business presentations, even when covering the driest material. Trainer Melissa Hurt’s presentation looked at commonalities between Lessac Kinesensics and Hatha Yoga Asana practice, a combination of resources that she uses to support and nurture her prenatal and post-natal students.
This weekend, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Lessac Conference will be held on June 15 at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA. This one-day event will include six sessions of presentations and interactive explorations, and the day culminates with a “Bauhaus” celebration of participants’ talents. Participants will enjoy such diverse theatre topics as how to utilize Lessac NRGs (Energies) in directing, in the performance of Japanese Noh Theatre, in the job of the Managing Director, in acting Shakespeare, and improvisation.
The Institute’s regional events also include workshops for professional development. Master Teacher Deb Kinghorn led two short workshops in New York City during the month of April. The first was entitled, “Restorative Strategies for Working Professionals,” a three-hour workshop, and then came the two-day workshop on “Embodied Voice.” Deb will offer two additional two-day workshops in Dubrovnik, Croatia, June 24-25 and June 27-28, as part of an education program the Institute is establishing with the Midsummer Scene Shakespeare Festival there.
Every regional event is designed to support and share the Institute’s Core Values of Inclusivity and Collaboration, sharing a vision of how Kinesensic Training enhances the quality of life. Whatever your field of endeavor, Lessac Kinesensics will help you do your work with greater ease by showing you how to release body and vocal tension in safe, organic, and fun ways.
For more information about Lessac workshops and conferences, please visit our events page.