New Victory Arts Break: Music and Character

As those globetrotting clowns the Acrobuffos return to the New Victory with Air Play, on stage and on demand, we’ll be spending a few weeks exploring activities inspired by their artistic (and comedic) genius! First up, we’ll use music to awaken some original characters. Let’s get moving!

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New Victory Arts Break: Music and Character

Some of the videos in this Arts Break were filmed at the New Victory Theater. We acknowledge that New Victory resides on the seized homeland of the Lenape people and the intertribal territory of many First Nations. We celebrate and pay deep respect to all Indigenous peoples, past, present and future.

Character Choreo

Whether you’re alone in your room or surrounded by family and friends, a good song always sets the mood. As a storyteller, you can use music to inspire your next creation, from character to mood to movement. Let’s follow along with New Victory Teaching Artist Marisol Rosa-Shapiro as she creates a character inspired by music and then choreographs a scene using everyday objects.

Materials: A device to play music, a backpack with a few everyday items inside

Step One: Select a piece of music, ideally something with few or no lyrics. While listening, think about what sort of character the music could inspire. Then fill out the following template to help guide your character creation:

Because of the (tempo, instruments, etc.), this music makes me feel  . I imagine a character who is (character trait), moves with (a particular style or attitude) and who’s feeling very (character’s state of mind). Their name is  .

Step Two: Get a backpack ready with a few different items. These can be items you normally keep in your backpack, or any other props you have on hand that might fit.

Step Three: In an open space, decide where center stage is and head there with your backpack prepped. As the character you imagined, remove each item one at a time and react to it. Think:

  • How does this item make your character feel?
  • Is there a moment in the music that you can time your reaction to?

Once you are done showcasing your items in character, take a bow and exit the stage.

Step Four: Try to remember the moves you did for each item, and when in the music you moved the way you did. Can you repeat them? Keep the same moves for each item, in time with the music, and repeat them until you’ve memorized them. Now you have a bit of choreography that you can perform for an audience!

Have fun choreographing to all different kinds of music, inspiring a variety of characters that can move, dance and react in unique and beautiful ways.

Pass the Playlist
Music is a whole mood! Playing a tune can put some extra pep into any everyday movement, from reaching for the salt to putting on your coat. Let’s play a movement game inspired by different pieces of music—a mixture of hot potato, musical chairs and interpretive dance we call “Pass the Playlist!”

Materials: A device to play music on, a small item to pass around

Step One – Roles: Gather your friends or family and decide who will play the DJ. All the other players will be passing an item around during the game. Choose a household item to pass, and be sure it isn’t fragile or dangerous—we suggest a pair of socks or a rubber fish!

Step Two – Prep: The DJ should find three or four songs they love and arrange them in a playlist. The other players should get ready to pass the item back and forth without hesitation. When all players are ready to begin, the DJ will play the first song.

DJ Tip: Never start a song from the beginning. Starting from somewhere in the middle leads to a greater surprise.

Step Three – Gameplay: Whoever is holding the item first has to start moving or dancing in a way that is inspired by the first song. Every time the DJ changes the song, players must pass the item and switch up their groove. The DJ can change the song as often as they like.

Step Four – You’re out!: Once a player starts dancing, they must continue to dance until the music completely stops. Hesitate between dances or stop dancing prematurely and you’re out! Likewise, when the DJ stops the music completely, everyone must freeze. Any movement during a freeze and you’re out!

Looking for some inspiration? Check out this clip from Air Play to see how music inspires the Acrobuffos to move and interact with objects.

Character Costumes

Dress it up or dress it down—costumes add a lot to a character’s persona on stage. They can inspire how a character moves and even form the basis of choreography! In this activity, we’ll gather some costume pieces and let them lead the way.

Step One: Grab a few pieces of clothing to create an outfit from head to toe, but don’t put it on just yet. Have fun picking a variety of items—they don’t have to match!

Costume piece examples

Step Two: Now, put each article of clothing on one by one. As you do, pick a different movement for each one. Maybe as you put on your hat you do a little shimmy, or as you put on your coat you do a little spin. You could…

  • shoulder shimmy
  • body twirl
  • side step
  • head spin
  • windmill arms

Step Three: Now put on some tunes and don each costume piece in order from head to toe, combining the moves you chose into a seamless piece of costumed choreography!

LEVEL UP: Have a friend or family member shout out the names of your costume pieces in random order. As they name them, perform your corresponding move. “Hat!” “Vest!” “Belt!” “Vest again!” Can you keep up?

Take some inspiration for your character’s movement from this classic Monty Python sketch. Are you daring enough to take a trip outside and perform your costumed choreo in public?

New Victory Arts Break Supporters

New Victory Arts Break is funded, in part, by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council,and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.