Her clients describe her work as ‘life-changing’, ‘exhilarating’, ‘rigorous’ and ‘liberating’. We’re thrilled that movement specialist Niamh McKernan will be working with participants in the last of our autumn workshops: ‘Moving Characterisation: The Performer & The Body’ (10th September). We spoke to her recently about her work.
Niamh, can you introduce yourself for our readers?
My name is Niamh McKernan, I am a movement director and teacher for performers. I teach movement to performers at all levels of their career. I work at conservatoires as well as on professional productions.
You initially trained as an actor; how does this experience inform and enhance the work you do now with performers in movement?
My experience in actor training has a huge impact on my work now. Firstly, I don’t think I would ever have known that a career in movement was possible without going to drama school. I fell in love with physical theatre and all things movement there and decided to change course. For my work now it’s so important that I really understand the performer’s process, both in training as well as during rehearsal and onstage. I always think the more jobs you understand within your industry the better. I have so much respect, admiration and compassion for performers and I hope that they feel that during my classes.
What are your favourite things about your job?
My favourite thing by far about my work is the inspiring people I get to meet and work with. I feel very blessed to be surrounded by such talent so often. I also love to watch students grow and change as they incorporate the movement work. Working with the body gives people a certain kind of freedom and sparkle in the eye, which is great to observe. I feel very privileged to be part of that process everyday.
What are the most common issues you come across when working with performers?
“What do I do with my hands in this scene?!” I’m only joking, although it does come up sometime! Most often, I help performers find alignment in their body and greater ease moving on stage. In character work, I am often asked about moving like the opposite sex or old age. I think the greatest block to movement is that some people decide early on that it’s not their forte, so don’t investigate it much. In fact everyone can learn to move well quite quickly.
What should people expect from your workshop?
The workshops will give participants an understanding of how they can work with their body as performers. The body is a great ally for the performer. Fundamentally performing is an embodied activity. It’s important to understand it so that it can become the best partner it can be in your performing career. Practically we will be looking at specific exercises devised by Jaques lecoq, Feldenkrais and Trish Arnold which are used in actor training.
What do you hope participants will go away with after your workshop?
I hope that participants will leave the workshops with a renewed understanding of how their body can support them as performers and, rather than seeing it as something to be worked out or changed, having learned that it is a fantastic tool for creating character, becoming present and relaxing!
NB: This article was originally published ahead of our Spring 2017 workshops. Niamh led: ‘The Performer’s Body: On and Off Stage’ (29th January) and ‘Inside Out/Outside In: Building a Character‘ (19th February). Click the links for more information about these sessions.