Carriage and Silhouette

From her first appearance on stage, before an artist has done anything to prove her talent, her posture will inform the audience. Even the grandest of introductions from a master of ceremony will be compromised if she walks on slouching. The performance begins with the first part of her that enters – her big toe, her index finder, her forehead, a prop – and ends with the last thing to leave – her heel, her rear, her index finger, her coat, her skirt.

A singer must know how to move on stage, how to hold the head, the shoulders, the hands, where to place the feet. This isn’t always taught in voice classes, but it is taught in the theater. And one can study it in the mirror. It is said that a singer is ready for the stage when she is able to sing in front of a mirror naked.

Joe's Pub 2

How to hold oneself upright and what to do with the body, ought to be partly rehearsed and partly left to the moment. Being comfortable on stage, in one’s silhouette or costume, and feeling relaxed and in one’s power is what creates natural movement. Nervousness is expressed through awkward movements, fidgeting and lack of intention.

Sometimes a gesture or some patter will emerge from the creative flow and feel completely wrong. One should commit it to memory as a thing not to be repeated. Sometimes a gesture or some patter happens that feels completely right. It should go into the reference manual in one’s mind, ready to be accessed again. If something really unique and sublime happens, it should be taken home and rehearsed until it is natural. Grace is a thing you can learn if you aren’t born with it.

As important as carriage is the silhouette: how a singer looks, what she embodies, her physical style, her costume. I found my silhouette among the characters and the era of my songs. I love details and the era provides an abundance of them. Since my repertoire is diverse and rangy, I must choose an ensemble that will suit the many songs in the program. It is important that one’s silhouette reveal something of what one feels inside. Clothes can be worn or they can be expressed.

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About Karen Kohler

Born in Frankfurt and raised in New York, Karen began her professional music career in Austin. Since returning to NYC in 2001, she has been a leading exponent of the cabaret arts as performer, director, producer and historian. Her performances blend multiple genres - classical, cabaret, jazz, blues and folk-rock - in six languages. She is founder of the award-winning ensemble, Kabarett Kollektif, and producer of Kabarett Fete, a celebrated international cabaret festival. Karen gives private lessons and conducts master classes in stagecraft, the art of public speaking and creativity coaching. View all posts by Karen Kohler

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