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ELOCUTION AND ACTION.
The Speaker's Position.
The best position for the speaker is that in which he can speak or read effectively for the longest time with the greatest ease, and which, at the same time, allows the greatest freedom of movement.
A speaker in a constrained position is always more or less embarrassed, because his attention is called continually to unpleasant sensations in his hands, feet, or head, as the case may be ; on the other hand, a comfortable position puts both speaker and audience
Without a correct and graceful position the gestures will be awkward and unnatural, and the voice will be constrained; therefore, it is necessary to acquire this first of all.
Stand in an animated manner with the weight of the body upon the right foot, which should be firmly planted on the floor; have the chief part of the weight upon the ball of the foot, but do not let the heel rise. Do not let the right leg sag and, on the other hand, do not stiffen the knee.
The RIGHT HIP will tend outward a little at the side. This is its natural position; do not draw up the body so that the hip is straight above the foot.
The SHOULDERS will incline slightly to the left, just sufficiently to balance
the outward position of the hip. If the shoulders are kept exactly even, the right side of the body will seem to overbalance the other side. If the hip and shoulders are rightly balanced, the notch in the collar-bone (which is just half-way between the shoulders) will be exactly over the instep of the right foot. This will not be the case if either the hip or the shoulders are out of position.
The HEAD should not be held stiffly erect, but allowed to incline a very little toward the right shoulder.
The Arms should hang loosely and naturally at the sides, with the palms of the hands toward the body.
The LEFT FOOT should be about opposite the right foot at the side, and at a little distance from it, the left leg being passive. If the attitude is perfectly easy and natural, the left knee will fall slightly inward.
Practise this position with the weight upon the left foot also. You should be able to stand equally well on either foot.
In the description of an exercise we usually speak of the foot which supports the weight of the body as the strong foot, and the corresponding side of the body as the strong side. The other foot we call the free foot because, if the body be properly balanced, it will have complete freedom of movement in every possible direction.
In this position, as we described it, the right side was the strong side, and the left the free side, or, as it is sometimes called, the “weak” side. When the weight of the body is transferred to the left foot, that becomes the strong and the right becomes the free foot, and of course the positions of hip, shoulders, and head are reversed.
The Speaker's Position.-Continued.
Be careful that the KNEE of the strong leg is firm without stiffness.
The HIPS should not be thrown forward, which gives one a pompous appearance, nor drawn far back.
The CHEST should be active, that is, expanded but not necessarily inflated with air.
Do not pull the SHOULDERS back, nor draw them forward. Do not draw in the ChiN nor lift the HEAD, but look straight forward toward the audience.
Be sure that there is neither stiffness nor limpness anywhere ; try to have a springy, animated condition of the whole body, both in this and in all similar exercises.
Avoid nervous twitchings of the face and hands, picking with the fingers, twisting about on the ankle, in a word, all unnecessary movements of any part of the body.
The important element in every position is the proper balance or poise, as it is called, of the body. If the notch in the collar-bone be kept exactly over the middle of the strong foot, the body is properly poised or balanced, and the arms and free foot can move freely in all directions without cramping or distorting any part. If, on the contrary, the shoulders incline too far either to the right or to the left, there is danger of losing one's balance, while if the hip be drawn in, there will be stiffness and constraint.
Sit erect, with active chest and animated carriage of the whole body. Keep the feet near together, one slightly in advance of the other. Let the hands, if unemployed, lie easily and naturally in the lap. Do not lean against the back of the chair, nor sit stiffly erect, but sway the body slightly forward. TO THE TEACHER:—Illustrate by example both correct and incorrect
attitudes. If pupils are familiar with the law of gravitation, call their attention to its application here. Do not take up any further work in position until these lessons are thoroughly understood; but do not wait for perfect precision before going
Point out glaring faults as they occur, but do not strive for ideal perfection in attitude ; or, for that matter, in expres. sion of any sort, in the beginning; the result will be loss of spontaneity, which is more valuable than grace or mechanical perfection. If the habitual attitude approximate to the ideal, the less said about details the better. Leave much to nature, especially with very young pupils.