Flexibility

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Brittani NoelAs I pack my bags for my much anticipated summer adventure to Italy and Turkey, I find myself reflecting back on my last trip abroad to London. I’ve always felt passionately that travel is one of the most valuable (and thrilling) experiences in opening your mind to different ways of life and, in turn gaining a more well rounded perspective on your own. This concept is also strongly encouraged in Capoeira- to travel to other schools or events, locally or internationally, and expose oneself to varying ideas about the art. The more exposure you get to different styles and interpretations, the stronger your foundation becomes to develop your own unique expression.

So, while in London, I branched out of my beloved bubble of Capoeira Brasil LA and ventured off to a class lead by the highly-praised Professor Baris Yazar. This man’s energy was palpable. I knew immediately I was in for a treat.

MojuBaris (as he is nicknamed) comes from a different Capoeira group than I do, so the style was certainly different from what I was used to. One of the biggest differences was the heavy emphasis on ground movements, which, as a side-note, brought a whole new definition to the feeling of burning thighs! But I digress. Kicks were not only much more minimally involved, but seemed to be used more for show in a slow-mo-esque style rather than as a mechanism to force the opponent to duck. I sweated my way through class, trying to soak in as much as I could, but the real lesson came when class commenced with a Roda (or game time).

As I prepared myself to enter into the circle of players, I could inherently tell that I needed to adapt to my new environment and adjust my moves to be in sync with these Capoeiristas and the harmony of the game. But these games were much longer than the ones I’ve played… Because my vocabulary of ground moves was relatively minimal as I was accustomed to more kick-oriented playing, I hit a point of frustration. While I hung in there for a while, my limited knowledge and repetitiveness of ground combinations made me default to throwing a type of kick that did not fit in with the game at all. It was as though we were speaking in English and I had a sudden outburst in French. Voilà! I could feel the rhythm of the game thrown off immediately. Luckily I was playing with MojuBaris himself, so he responded to my misstep with a brief and humorous body language and facial expression that read, “Whoa,” and promptly got us back on beat.

For me this experience highlighted the importance of flexibility, especially for someone in the Entertainment Industry. We don’t work with the same group of people on a daily basis, we are constantly placed in different environments with varying personalities. So it’s important not to be stuck in any one way of doing things and to be able to mold to the situations and people at hand. You can’t just resort to whatever it is “you do” if it isn’t fitting, or you’ll disrupt the flow of things. What’s more important than flaunting what “you do” is being aware and in tune with what’s going on around you and playing in the same arena.

Coincidentally I just watched a SAG Foundation conversation with Edward Norton, who shared his opinions on this as it relates to acting methodologies. He mentioned that a respected teacher of his once said, “every idea has value, and the notion that the breath and diversity of material that you might be asked to interpret or invent within as an actor can all be handled by one methodology is ridiculous.” He then goes on to advise young actors to “be a pluralist. Be a doctor with a range of tools in his black bag and learn to discern between what works within the demands of the piece you’re working on.”

As I embark upon my travels, excited to collect more tools in my “black bag,” I encourage you to get out of the familiar and expand your knowledge. So pack up those bags! Grab your passport. Or even just your driver’s license, because adventures exist around every corner. The rewards of these new experiences are immeasurable. Stretch. Grow. Be open…

I’m off to catch a plane!

Are you exercising flexibility in your life? In your career? How do you open yourself up to different ideas? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Brittani Noel

About Brittani Noel

(Actress/Producer/Capoeirista) Shortly after graduating from USC Brittani produced/starred in her own award-nominated indie webseries Stockholm, written/directed by Emmy & Streamy Nominee Scott Brown. On a mission to give her acting resume a kick in the butt, Brittani began training in the Brazilian martial art, Capoeira. Little did she know how dramatically that decision would transform her entire life. Since starting her training in the fall of 2011, Brittani has co-produced the multi-award winning musical webseries Destroy the Alpha Gammas, is Associate Producer on upcoming webseries gRIDLOCKed, appearing along with Andrew Keegan (10 Things I Hate About You) and Richard Riehle (Office Space, Bridesmaids), and guest-stars in upcoming comedy Disillusioned from Director Shilpi Roy (Hipsterhood). While continuing to take on interesting acting roles, Brittani is currently co-producing Brown’s short film The Other Side and recently moved up a cord level in Capoeira.