The last time I posted a blog was several months ago where I boasted of the sunshine of the Hollywood hills as I wrote my piece about why everyone should take up Stage Combat.  I’m now sat down munching on my cereal overlooking Central park (equally as glamorous, just a lot colder) as the rain pours down on the unfortunate few caught outside (haha suckers!)  On the TV in the background is Tchaikovsky’s swan lake ballet, I can’t help admire the story telling, the synchronisation, the discipline of these performers and then a series of thoughts begin to shower my mind.  I think of a new opera I watched several years ago “Monkey: Journey to the west,” where these incredible performers from China who could sing, act and Dance (a holy trinity of skills for someone in the performing arts), were able to fight too!

What if these all these Swan lake ballerinas could fight as well?  Think of the damage they would do?  Surely they could, they have the core skills to do so.  How about if I flipped it around?  What if all the fantastic actors I’ve worked who with, who are able to master the most complex choreographed fights, were put into a ballet?  I mean I’m not expecting  them to hold up against Russian Ballerinas, I’m just saying would they have an ounce of the confidence to portray their characters in the same way they do when they go on stage and convey master swordsmen?  The two are similar disciplines (despite the urban myth that fencing derives from ballet or visa versa), you could think of them as being cousins as they share a number of positions, a focus on discipline, stamina & flexibility to allow the body to relay either the art (ballet) or the strategy (fencing) at our minds command.

I then think back to when I was a student at drama school.  I of course excelled at Stage Combat, however I was terrible in my Dance classes.  I had never corillated the two until one day one of my dance teachers saw me perform an intrinsicly choreographed fight to which she said “If you could use even 10% of those movement skills in my class, I wouldn’t be giving you such a hard time!”

Then as I went onto teach Stage Combat at the same school a number of years later, I had these fantastic dancers in my classes who could not convince me that they were able to carry out a simple punch or thrust or cut attack with their swords although I knew they had the technical skills to do so.  Extra time would be spent around the punch bag or on intentions behind their lunges mirroring the extra attention spent on me for my kick ball change, double piroeete or timesteps in my dance classes

Both disciplines obey to rehearsed choreography which can relate to a script or a piece of music or not.  The idea of movement in different directions and to a certain cadence is the same, so wheres the difference?  What I’ve come to learn from the point of view of teaching someone more naturally inclined to dance is the focus should be on the intention, WHY am I attacking?  What am I wanting to achieve by each and every single move?  It’s that attention to detail that makes for great acting and I believe the same for convincing fight choreography.  I’m not sure if that works exactly the same the other way round but if I was able to apply that to my pas de bourree in my younger years, I think I could have saved myself a bit of the torment of not being one of the worst in my class.

Now there are many performers out there who have bridged the skills together and have used them to amazing success in their fields, I am merely trying to offer the lost few (like myself) on either side of the river with a simple theory but please feel free to comment below and let me know your thoughts if you have any on the matter.  Also if you can think of an example where dance is used fantasticaly in a stage combat orientated piece, where fights look like dances or where choreographed fights have hightened a dance related performence.  Below are a few examples where I think this has been the case.



WHO AM I – JACKIE CHAN FIGHT (looks like a swing dance at times)

West Side Story opening scene

We’ll be bringing you more blogs in the months to come, so if there are any special subjects you would like us to focus on, then please let us know too.
Rachid Sbitri , Co-Director of True Edge Stage Combat.