Documentation: Research Exposition

Title: Gestures and their role in restoring a singer’s performance-focus.

Name: Aimée Hautvast

Main subject: Classical Singing

Student number: 3046729

Date : 26-3-2020



1. Introduction

1.1 Rationale and formulation of my research question

After six years of intense training at one of the best Dutch conservatories, I am convinced that my process of personal learning with regards to how to become a balanced professional in opera singing is still ongoing. One of the aspects I would like to improve is my credibility as a performer. Throughout the years, I became more and more aware of the power an artist’s physical and vocal expression can have, and how it can affect audiences in both a positive as well as a negative way.

During my studies I have received different comments on my performances from audience members. One of these comments became a repetitive issue: namely, my physical credibility. It has been frequently mentioned that my physical movements do not always contribute to the meaning of the lyrics. With physical movements I mean in particular those I make with my hands and arms, which I will refer to as ‘gestures’ in my research. I have heard people calling them ‘meaningless’ and ‘a disturbing factor for the audience’. Realising that this problem will obstruct my development in becoming a classical singer, with both agreeable vocal capacities and an appealing physical performance, I decided to make it the object of investigation for my Master study in classical singing, with the ultimate goal of finding a solution. Based on my assumption that unwanted meaningless gestures during singing can only be eradicated if I am able to develop a technique for focusing on only contributing gestures during speech and singing, I came to formulate as a research question for my Master Study project in Classical Singing:

How can the embodiment of gestures help me to increase my performance focus with the aim of eradicating meaningless gestures during singing, and is it possible to create a step-by-step study plan that incorporates my findings?

1.2 Outline of the study project 

In my second chapter I will give a definition of the term ‘meaningless gestures’ and describe when they occur and what they look like. Several videos will illustrate this. I also will explain the cause of meaningless gestures and under which external circumstances they tend to emerge. Subsequently I elaborate a method by which I can eradicate them. This method is aimed at becoming physically more involved with the text. In the world of singing there are two opinions on how to create a stronger physical connection to the text. I consciously choose the one that allows the arms to move at all times. I argue its effectiveness and in chapter four I give neurobiological evidence to support my arguments. 

The method I developed implied that I should rehearse my gestures step-by-step. I was wondering if my gestures had to be forethought (or fixed) or not for my method. To find an answer to this, I studied the history of singing and neurobiological research, all of which is reflected in chapter three. I concluded that the gestures for my method should not be fixed, but ought to have a spontaneous character. Based on my findings I created a study plan and tested its efficacy under the guidance of movement teacher Fajo Jansen. You will find a documentation of the process I went through in chapter five. Chapter six reflects my conclusions regarding the efficacy of my study plan. In addition, I describe what my collaboration with Fajo Jansen has taught me. 

© Jan Hordijk

Research supervisors: Anna Scott and Fajo Jansen

Master Circle leaderGerda van Zelm

Main subject teacher: Catrin Wyn-Davis

Details presentation: 26-3-2020, 17:00Studio 3, Royal Conservatory of The Hague, Juliana van Stolberglaan 1

1.    Introduction 

      1.1 Rationale and formulation of my research question

      1.2 Outline of the study project 

2.   The problem: Meaningless gestures.

      2.1 What is my description of meaningless gestures?

            2.1.1 Why I understand the comments I received on my gestures

      2.2 What do meaningless gestures look like?

      2.3 What causes meaningless gestures?

      2.4 Are meaningless gestures dependent on certain circumstances?

      2.5 What should I do in order to eradicate my meaningless gestures?

             2.5.1 The first step.

             2.5.2 Why a positive approach is key.

             2.5.3 How do I think I can solve the problem of making      

                      meaningless gestures while singing?

3.   Gestures suitable for my method

      3.1  The history of gesture: Its evolvement and use in the baroque and 

             classical music period.

      3.2. The character of my gestures 

4.   The intertwinement of gesture and speech: Why a singer should 

      be allowed gesticulating at all times.

5.   My study plan

      5.1 The structure of my study plan.

      5.2 Observations from body work dance teacher Fajo Jansen.

      5.3 Exercises for grounding and inner body flow

            5.3.1 Grounding

            5.3.2 Inner body flow

      5.4 Execution of my method

            5.4.1 First SP-session: Testing my method







Master Research in PDF format