GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE TECHNIQUE
TALAWA TECHNIQUE™: ANCIENT POWER-MODERN USE
Talawa Technique structures elements of African & Caribbean practices uniquely designed to facilitate poly-centrism, multiple movement qualities, grounding and poly-rhythm. Talawa Technique deconstructs and reconstructs these practices in such a way as to reveal the quality of each unique element by themselves as well as the added accumulative potential achieved when these elements are intentionally recombined.
The Talawa Technique is an Africana Technique that gives access to the technologies of Africana dance creation. Technology is often described as the collection of techniques, skills, methods, and processes used in the production of goods or services or the accomplishment of objectives, such as scientific investigation. This definition could also be applied to artistic creation or artistic research. The Talawa Technique is a way to navigate, systemize and access the many skills, methods, processes and techniques that are found in the practices of Africana dance production. Many of these practices are “poly”/multi-layered.
Talawa Technique uniquely combines rhythmic structures, a specialized approach to grounding and Africana movement qualities. Such as: trembling, shaking, vibrating, undulating, winding and pulsating.
The Talawa Technique™ makes a clear distinction between aesthetical and technical choices. This allows the dancer to develop full ownership of their bodies natural bends and curves. Connecting them to history and culture in an empowering way. Dancers are guided to skillfully master multiple isolations and polyrhythmic articulations, alongside breaking down mental and cultural barriers, in order to free movement. The technique uses knowledge and culture as a liberating tool, creating confident performers, who embrace their own identities as well as the multiple identities of Africana movement.
The Talawa Technique was systemized based on an extensive research and adaptation process. To ensure that the technique covered a sufficient amount of “foundational” Africana movement vocabulary, positions, placements, isolations and movement approaches, 286 dances were chosen. These were notated according to the positions of arms, torso, feet, hips, posture, approach to grounding, use of poly-centricity, and so forth. This process created a comprehensive notation system that has proven to be a hidden gem in and of itself. Notating these dances revealed certain recurrences of positions, placements, concepts and qualities. The most common of these are what we would call “foundational” in that they seem to be load-bearing common structures in much of the Africana vocabulary. We write “foundational” in quotation marks to communicate that we are not talking about one style, set of concepts, practices and aesthetics.
Talawa Technique certifies both instructors and performers.
THE NOTATION SYSTEM
In the notation system we used algebra as a foundation. Algebra could facilitate the cumulative aspects of Africana Technique and could serve to write down aspect of rhythm to movement ratios. It allowed us to multiply certain qualities, tempos and rhythms with specific body-parts.
The notations were fed through a computer, revealing which positions were most commonly used in relation to each other and specific movement qualities. This uncovered the aforementioned commonalities as well as position “choices”, which might be due to technical rather than aesthetic factors. Out of these initial 286 dances, 81 African and 56 CircumCaribbean were selected to test our fundamental theories and assumptions. It was found that with the help of 32 arm positions, 15-stances, seven levels or origins of isolation in the spine, 21 movement qualities and 16 turns, it was possible to reconstruct the 81 African and 56 Caribbean dances. In addition to these base placements (in the technique referred to as Akimbos), the technique has 158 movement research phrases designed to train specific qualities, coordination, musicality, and more. These then became the foundation on which the cumulative technical system is based. This system is now called the Talawa Technique with the slogan Ancient Power – Modern Use.
THE MYTHO-TECHNICAL ANIMAL
A MYTHO-TECHNICAL APPROACH
A Mytho-technical approach is an approach that acknowledges movement practices as both manifested in the seen and unseen world. The approach draws from both science, mythology and cosmology. Many Indigenous Movement Systems are Mytho-technical; a modern example would be the folkloric Cuban technique. The movement of the Orisha deities is the source of the technical information both de-and-re-constructed in the movement practice and performance modes.
A mytho-technical approach allows us to have the body move as if it’s poly-souled even without reaching that state. We can, therefore, restructure and reshape our movements for secular stages. This approach affords us the ability to keep the type of presence demanded by contemporary stage performance while retaining the movement qualities, power and vitality of ritualised Africana dance. The lines between the secular and the sacred within Africana forms are not strictly drawn. Accountability, research and respect are how to engage with ancestral practices.
THE MYTHO-TECHNICAL ANIMAL – THE SPIDER, THE BIRD, THE OCTOUPUS AND THE SNAKE
The Mytho-technical approach in the Talawa Technique™ also serves as a way to organise movement practices, qualities of movement, performance modes, cultural information and anatomical imagery to facilitate movement. The multiple techniques and knowledge that are active, often simultaneously, in the Talawa Technique™ are stored under the Mythotechnical umbrella of The Snake, The Octopus, The Spider and The Bird. These are not separate elements but instead form a mythical “animal”, binding the mind, body, spirit together in movement. The Talawa-trained body is rendered as a Mytho-technical entity, embodying many qualities simultaneously.
THE SPIDER- 32 POSITIONS OF THE ARMS – PRINCIPLE OF COMMUNICATION
Anansi is a well-known character all through the African Diaspora and also on the continent. He is a cunning trickster and storyteller. Anansi is known as the one who brought stories and storytelling to humans, from the Sky God.
Like our hands can draw in, open dimensions, create an illusion and animate our storytelling, the gestures of the Talawa Technique™ are attributed to the principle of the spider, the storyteller. The 32 parallel arm positions of the technique, therefore, are organised under the spider.
The bases of the arm positions are 32 parallel positions. They form 1024 possible pose combinations. These are again organised into patterns which train the most common paths that the arms, wrist and elbows trace when performing the Africana dances which form the base of the technique. Pre-programming these paths give precision and clarity to gestures even when engaging in improvisational practices or when moving to a high tempo and energetic rhythms. The Talawa Technique™ focuses on choice and making these choices readily available to the dancer in high-speed movement involving multiple body parts and centres.
THE BIRD – 15 FOOT/BASE POSITIONS – PRINCIPLE OF ADAPTABILITY
The bird is a creature that is a friend to the AIR, the LAND and the WATER. Believed to fertilize the land, it also draws out the energy from the sun by pecking at the ground. Birds are known to migrate, have an impeccable sense of direction and balance. The foot positions are, therefore linked to the principle of the bird, which is adaptability, balance and dynamics. This principle fills every space with possibility, drawing from the ground and giving back at the same time. The bird moves to adapt and make its presence known.
The base positions engage the spine and pelvis, and the transitions between them are pelvically based. This trains the poly-centric approach to movement and balance, as well as shifts the weight of the body up to 16 times in every position. Training the 15 positions is as such dynamic and encourages intelligent muscles that are able to adapt quickly to minute changes in weight and body-stance.
THE SNAKE – 7 LEVELS OF ISOLATION IN THE TORSO – PRINCIPLE OF VITALITY
The snake is believed to be incarnations of people who were particularly wise. In many West-African and African Diaspora cosmologies, the snake has a special position and is considered to be central to life and healing. The snake represents embodied knowledge, instinct, intuition and grounding. In the Talawa Technique™ the Snake is also the principle of movement, and movement represents life. What does not move, does not vibrate, does not exist. The snake is cold-blooded and must be energised (heated up). We do this by moving it. Dance celebrates and or reflect life. Therefore, we move the spine.
THE OCTOPUS- MODES OF SENSING – PRINCIPLE OF INTELLIGENCE
The Octopus is an adaptable dynamic and ancient creature. It´s design is so perfected and versatile that it has survived for millions of years without having to change much. The oldest octopus fossil found with the same design as today is 262 million years old. The Octopus is, therefore, the principle of intelligence in the Talawa Technique™. It governs both how the technique is structured as well as the mission “Ancient Power – Modern Use”.
Three Hearts: The Octopus has three hearts one which pumps blood to the organs and two to pump blood to the extremities. In Talawa Technique™ as well as in several Africana Dances, the dancer learns to adapt heart rate and breath, to accompany movement and rhythm. The dancer actively uses undulations and contractions to guide bloodflow, shape movement and release tension.
Intelligent Body and Poly-centered movement: The Octopus’s body is independently intelligent. Meaning two-thirds of its neurons are in their arms. This allows them to think and problem solves independently. Similarly, Africana dance and the Talawa Technique™ uses both poly-centric movement and poly-movement. Polycentrism is both that the body can have multiple centers activated at the same time, but also refers to having numerous centers initiate movement or be of equal focus at the same time. The poly-movement or many simultaneously moving body-parts can reference different centers and require a level of coordination which speaks to cooperative independence (working independently in a way that adds to the whole). This principle allows each body-part to act similarly to the rhythms in the poly-rhythmic composition. Each rhythmic thread has its own signature, and individuality yet plays well with others so to speak.
Body-sensing and vibro-sensing: these are various modes and abilities which allow us to learn by observation through the body, to navigate space, balance and to sense and mimic movement qualities. This also combines with the snake’s ability to sense vibration. We have an enzyme in our eyes which allows us to see color. The Octopus has this enzyme in their entire body, and this allows them to “see“ or more specifically sense light and light qualities (such as color) with their whole body. This is how they can camouflage themselves and mimic their surroundings, even those behind them. Note: sensing vibration also belongs to the Snake.
The technique uses vibro-sensing, amongst other things to coordinate rhythm and to be aware of ones own body in relation to other bodies in the room. There are a variety of exercises to train this. We also use this in relation to understanding rhythm and to communicate with the drum, both physical and metaphysical.
The forces that play on the body: Africana dance, its poly-rhythmic and poly-centric orientation, as well as its propensity for speed and propulsion, exposes the body to have to adapt to quick changes in pace, direction, moving body parts and space orientation. The body must be trained to calculate and assess these elements at a speed that makes it seem as if it’s instinctual and innate. However, this is a highly honed and trained skill. In many traditional societies, these skillsets would be honed from a very young age and would be a norm in social and art interaction. However, our modern lives, based in large on a western organization in part, has made many of these skill-building activities less accessible to many of us. We must, therefore, find ways to train these in a studio or classroom setting through drills and exercises.
Morphing: Mimicking nature, other people, even inanimate objects is a huge part of Africana Dance. Even the movement qualities of modern robotics have become part of the genre. Transforming or becoming in other ways is also a staple within various styles, such as possession or dancing various masks or characters. Becoming more and or “other” than one’s pedestrian self, seeming larger, smaller, wider, thinner, stronger, weaker, happier, angrier, the ability to become and to transform, to morph is central and is a principle belonging to the Octopus section of the Technique.
MOVEMENT QUALITIES, TURNS, AND ADDITIONAL CODIFIED ELEMENTS
Talawa Technique™ is a complex and comprehensive technique in which we have attempted to keep both African and African Diaspora naming practices alive. We believe in the play of associations and in naming things according to what they are or what they are associated with. The Talawa Technique™, in addition to the Bird, Snake and Spider codified 29 movement qualities, 22 turns, and a wide range of rhythmical approaches. We name the 29 movement qualities and 22 turns below.
29 MOVEMENT QUALITIES
Trembling, Shaking, Contraction, Extension, Undulation, Flexing, Twisting, Turning, Rocking, Swinging, Pulsing, Bouncing, Swaying, Grounding, Winding, Rolling, Grinding, Ticking, Tocking, Rotating, Quaking, and the additional nine movement qualities predominantly found on the hip: Jukk, Jack, Stab, Jab, Leggo, Push Back, Hice, Drop Dung.
22 TORNADOES (TURNS)
Butterturns, Lick Foot Turn, Round Kick, Cuttknee, Flyturn, Sweep, Low Sweep, Sweep’n’switch, Chat-bout, Machete, Eleggua Turn, Kissass Turn, Wheel Ń Tun, Tornado, WingTurn, Freeride, Too Inna Turn, Mek Room, One Slap Warnin, ́ Lockhip Diamond, Stepround, and Tightup spread.
THE MAIN COMPONENTS OF THE TALAWA TECHNIQUE™
The core of the Talawa Technique are:
- 32 arm positions,
- 15 foot positions,
- 29 movement qualities,
- 22 tornadoes,
- The Talawas: an advanced set of custom strength and alignment exercises.
- Movement Phrases: a set of especially designed movement studies designed to activate the above modes and train them when activated poly-layered and poly-rhythmically.
TALAWA TECHNIQUE: RHYTHMIC CONCEPTS-AN INTRODUCTION TO TALAWA TECHNIQUES THREE RHYTHMICAL CONCEPTS
Talawa TechniqueTM has a conceptualization and way of approaching rhythm which is designed to assist in decodifying and deconstructing the intersections between rhythm and movement. We divide our understanding and use of rhythm concepts into three main categories.
- Visual Representation of Rhythm: Deals with how rhythm is represented both rhythmically on and by the body.
- Rhythm Physics: Use of rhythm as movement quality, for movement efficiency and propulsion.
- Rhythm Reception: The effect of rhythm on the audience/ perceiver.
VISUAL REPRESENTATION OF RHYTHM.
We divide this concept into two main umbrella categories: Rhythmic Creation and Rhythmic Representation.
Four activities fall under these umbrellas: (1) Second Rattle Mode (2) The Percussive Body, (3) Collaborative Direction of Sound and Movement, and (4) Optic Rhythm. The individualised interpretation of these elements shape Rhythmic Personality and facilitate Rhythmic Competition.
Is described through the three concepts Rhythmic Momentum, Rhythmic Coordination and Rhythmic Capacity and serves as a way to understand the technical and physical uses of rhythm in movement quality and propulsion.
Is as a way to analyse how our rhythmic output is received and perceived. This is measured through the concepts of Rhythmic Value and Rhythmic Capital. This allows us to isolate our various Rhythmic Investments through which reception and affect determine the Rhythmic Power of our dances and choreographic works.
These are the multiple concepts around rhythm and movement that have been developed over our 25 years of teaching and developing the Talawa TechniqueTM and the accompanying approach to rhythm and rhythmic movement
Talawa TechniqueTM is also known for its use of practices drawn from the Africana Diaspora Water Dances. These are dances where a cup, vase, bottle or bucket of liquid is placed on the head of the dancer. The dancer is then challenged to perform intricate poly-centered movement.
In modern Western living these practices are less common. Therefore Talawa TechniqueTM has a series of unique exercises designed to draw learning from these practices and to train the movement qualities inherent in people who daily balance objects on their heads. These excercises have become a central part of the Talawa TechniqueTM brand. After videos of the excercises went viral on the internet, many have started to follow our example, borrowing from videos and classes. However, the water dances are technical devices integrated into the overall construction of Talawa TechniqueTM. The technique acknowleges the water dances as sacred ancestral retentions and as a unique way of training body and centre awareness