Performance Skills & Process: Musical Ensemble

Description

Ensemble performers play an integral role in bringing the world of musicals and operas to life. They perform intricate dance parts, add harmonized vocal parts to full-company musical numbers, and act out background parts that flesh out the main story.

Ensemble performers have been central to theatre as an art form since its inception. However, their role has changed throughout the centuries. In Ancient Greece, the ensemble formed the Greek chorus, while early Broadway saw ensemble performers become the professional dancers of vaudeville-style shows. Today, musical theatre ensemble members are the so-called “triple-threat”, known for their excellent acting, singing, and dancing abilities. In contemporary shows, specialist tricks and skills are also sometimes incorporated into ensemble performances, such as playing musical instruments (e.g. Once), acrobatics (e.g. _Pippin), and even sword-swallowing (e.g. Moulin Rouge!).

Terminology

  • Coordination: The ability to utilize different parts of the body in unison with great control. Within an ensemble, each individual must coordinate their movements with the rest of the group.
  • Timing: The ability to not only move to the beat, but also feel the beat of the music with one’s mind and body.
  • Harmony: When two or more notes are played or sung at the same time.
  • Synchrony: Simultaneous movement or occurrence.
  • Communication: Exchanging information and conversation with another through speech, behavior, or movement.
  • Track: The onstage existence of the actor performing a role e.g. blocking, choreography, direction, etc.