The transition is the true telltale of a seasoned performer. It is what separates a good performer from a great one. For example, I love to watch actors when they are not speaking – especially stage actors. I love to see how they hold their bodies, how they react to what’s happening around them. When an actor says a line and then ceases to be that character until s/he speaks again, the illusion is lost. It’s hard to be drawn into the story that’s unfolding when what happens in between the spoken lines drops the illusion or an actor looks unsure of what to do. If they don’t believe it, why should you?
It is also true of a dancer or a singer. The performer may be a wonderful technician and execute different movements or vocalizations beautifully but if the performance simply looks like a series of movements or just sounds like a series of notes it doesn’t pull you in. There needs to be a continuity, a continuous flow of energy that connects one movement or one musical phrase to another. Each movement needs to grow from the last in order to create a compelling movement piece. Each note needs to be connected to those that came before and those that come after, just like breathing.
This same idea can be applied to the time between scenes or numbers in a show. Transitions between numbers or scenes need to be efficient and smooth and propel the momentum in order to keep the audience’s attention. If the scene change takes too long, the audience can lose interest or the continuity of the story can be lost.
As educators we know how precious transitions are. It is an art to be able to make smooth transitions between activities with students. So much time and energy can be wasted if the time between lessons or activities causes students to lose focus. A great educator is one who can smoothly orchestrate transitions and/or can empower the students to independently move through those transitions so no time is wasted getting the whole group “back on track.”
Just as we orchestrate and plan for transitions in our classrooms and just as we teach children how to create transitions in their writing to have one paragraph connect seamlessly to the last, we need to teach our students to create those transitions in their performing art. Of course, if you have ever taught writing to young people, you know how difficult it is to teach the art of the transition. It takes work, it takes lots of practice, it takes good modeling and it takes time. However, the sooner we start teaching transitions and the more we support that skill and emphasize its importance the stronger the writing and the performing of our students becomes.
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.