UWS alumnus Rick Sordelet teaches stage fighting

Rick Sor­delet Teaching

A full-fledged bar­room brawl went down in the Exper­i­men­tal The­ater Thurs­day March 14. It was women ver­sus men knock-down drag-out fight­ing, and the ladies really took it away. Sur­pris­ingly no one was hurt; it just so hap­pens that it was all staged. UWS was lucky enough to have famous fight chore­o­g­ra­pher and Yale pro­fes­sor, Rick Sor­delet, lead a work­shop for the uni­ver­sity the­ater depart­ment. Rick Sor­delet is a UWS alum­nus, who grad­u­ated in 1982 with a degree in Com­mu­ni­cat­ing Arts and The­ater. Sor­delet has been chore­o­graph­ing fights and action scenes since 1993. 54 Broad­way pro­duc­tions have been chore­o­graphed by Sor­delet includ­ing Annie, The Lit­tle Mer­maid, The Beauty and the Beast, and A Street­car Named Desire. The Game Plan star­ing Dwayne “the Rock” John­son, and Dan in Real Life with Steve Car­rel are two of his most pop­u­lar works.

Sor­delet taught a work­shop for UWS stu­dents to attend. The basics to stage fight­ing were the prime focus of this two hour extrav­a­ganza. Sor­delet opened with the ques­tion “what is act­ing?” After some prod­ding the responses began flow­ing, react­ing being the pri­mary answer. We then began dis­cussing how act­ing is “behav­ing truth­fully under imag­i­nary con­di­tions.” This idea cov­ers all aspects of act­ing, includ­ing fighting.

The ini­tial task Rick gave was walk­ing. It sounds sim­ple enough; how­ever, we were asked to be aware of our entire sur­round­ings; fill­ing the space prop­erly and not crash­ing into other peo­ple while walk­ing at ran­dom. He would occa­sion­ally ask us to freeze so he could show us that a large empty space had formed some­where within our walk­ing para­me­ters. Aware­ness is the key fac­tor to safety, which is a very impor­tant aspect of stage fight­ing. Open­ing the work­shop with fight­ing would have left us with injured peo­ple due to lack of aware­ness. Things only got more inter­est­ing as the time passed. The walk­ing at ran­dom grew more intense as 180 degree turns were added. We advanced from walk­ing at ran­dom to ini­ti­at­ing con­flict with each other while con­tin­u­ally mov­ing. It advanced from shov­ing to push­ing, then to grab­bing hair and throw­ing each other onto the ground. Chok­ing peo­ple out was next, fol­lowed by punch­ing peo­ple in the stom­ach, pound­ing them on their backs while they were dou­bled over, and kick­ing them after they hit the ground. Addi­tion­ally, we learned how to punch and simul­ta­ne­ously make the cor­re­spond­ing noise, as well as how to react real­is­ti­cally to the spe­cific type of punch. We went over how to do straight punches, upper­cuts, back­hand, and hooks.

“Being from this region, I want to sort of deliver a mes­sage to the stu­dents that I’ve been teach­ing that peo­ple from this area can com­pete and do com­pete,” said Sor­delet. “It’s easy to get a lit­tle bit of an infe­ri­or­ity com­plex. You’re from where you’re from. And it’s what you do with the infor­ma­tion you receive, and what you do with your­self that makes you into who you are. There is no since in defeat­ing your­self before you start the race, so I’m here to say run the race and run it well. It doesn’t mat­ter where your from, it’s what you do with it.”

Per­son­ally, I loved the work­shop. It was highly instruc­tive and will def­i­nitely play a role in my future act­ing endeav­ors. The par­tic­u­larly enjoy­able part of this work­shop was fight­ing friends. It did not mat­ter who you picked to fight because you always had con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion and you were not going to get hurt. I could fight other ladies or the guys. Of course, there was always the option to let them beat me up too. Tak­ing a punch in the gut, get­ting smacked on the back, and kicked in the butt was way more fun than you would expect. We referred to the kick­ing as a booty kick. Sor­delet explained later that the “booty kick” we kept using could be altered in such way that it can appear quite fright­en­ing. When directed at the chest or face, as he demon­strated, it is quite real­is­tic. Need­less to say, any future fights in the UWS The­ater Department’s pro­duc­tions will be fantastic.

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