Stage Combat Sequel Excerpt 2
GENRIFICATION: stage combat style categories
Part of being an effective fight choreographer (or performer, for that matter) is knowing what the feel and style is of the show in which your fights appear. The type of movement, the weapons used, the style of combat, and the mood of the fights all need to match what’s happening in the show as a whole. I have constructed a two-column structure that is useful when diagnosing the genre or style of fights you’re looking at. Here’s how it looks, sans explanation:
1 realistic. a comedic
2 expressionistic. b dramatic
3 stylized / dance c swashbuckling
Combinations between the two columns can be made ad infinitum. For example, a fight that’s 2a would be the big group fight in Anchorman. 3b would be the opening rumble in West Side Story. 1c would be the Ballad Duel in the Depardieu Cyrano.
Here is what all six of these genrifications mean:
the fight sounds and looks realistic or physically plausible. Note I did not say “real” but “realistic.” no theatrical fight actually looks real–fights are far too small and fast for an audience to be able to follow the action. We’re talking reaLISM, not reaLITY. So a realistic fight has plausible physics, fatigue/pain is acted the way a person would realistically, according to what’s happened to her.
Example: fight scenes in Fight Club
there are some over-the-top moves, fights may be a little longer and/or prettier. It’s still
violence, but maybe the pain/fatigue factor isn’t there.
Example: the famous sword fight in The Princess Bride
movement is abstract, symbolic. Movements are not fighting moves, but dance that symbolizes the violence.
Example: Romeo and Juliet, the ballet. (also the opening sequence in West Side Story: what does the snapping represent?)
the fight is meant to cause laughter. Actors shouldn’t indicate pain in a way that will cause the audience to feel sympathy–that’s when it’s no longer funny. (famous Jenn quote from class: “big men, falling down = funny.”)
Example: Three Stooges, Looney Tunes, Anchorman
the fight is meant to cause tension, be a serious conflict between characters. There should be real fear of pain/death, real fear of harm.
Example: Shakespearean drama (RnJ, MacBeth), Rob Roy
this is the attitude I call “La!” It’s not funny necessarily, though it may cause delight. It’s not heavy or serious, either, though a sense of danger may be present. The characters are actually having fun fighting, though they still have a strong objective, or need to win. Think of the shift in attitude from c to b in the final Laertes/Hamlet duel.
Example: Zorro, Three Musketeers, The Matrix dojo scene
Think of your favorite fight scenes and pick one of these characteristics from each column to diagnose it. What made you choose those designations? Whenever I pick up a new fight direction/choreography gig, this is the first thing I do, as I read the script–I make sure I have a precise idea what direction I should be going in as I begin the fight designing process. ~Jenn