I never studied acting. Of course I have a uniquely experienced teacher right in the house.
When Todd Bolender (one of Balanchine's leading male dancers who also choreographed) was creating "At the Still Point" for Mark Ryder and me, JC directed me. There was a section at the start of the 2nd movement of the Debussy music, where I stood downstage center. Doing nothing, just seeing, envisioning the couples dancing behind me upstage.
JC's directing which added a slow motion gesture, a twist of my head, did not fit with what Todd wanted. He wanted zero, utter stillness.
When JC and I worked on his role on Broadway, in "On a Clear Day," after he told me what the director had been pushing him to do , I mirrored back to JC, what I saw and felt from what he was doing as an actor.
And that has become our pattern. JC directs me like a director. I direct him, by being a mirror.
It changed when JC directed my play, "People in Show Biz Make Long Goodbyes." He cast me as Theresa, a reclusive pianist who earns a meager living making orchestrations, hasn't been outside since she fell in the subway and developed white blotches on her face -- it's a pigmentary problem she blames on the government, the city, the state, the MTA.
Director JC's more of a stickler, a drill master than most of the choreographers I've worked with. He drove me crazy with his intellectual ideas, his detailed precise blocking. I wanted to improvise and find the blocking myself, not be told what to do, but I did manage, finally, to give a performance that pleased him and the critics.
What I learned, however, was how to get to a feeling within myself, by going right to it. I have to describe it as "gloving." Putting on a personality of someone else, becoming that person, as if you slid on a glove.
That's not a Stanislavsky technique though it relates to "method" acting, to knowing who am I, where am I going, what am I doing, what do I want. If you ask those questions, you can arrive at the emotion your character is feeling, produce the tears, the anger, or the blah state ... whatever.
I "glove" the character. I do that instinctively when I meet people. I see them, get a sense of them, by "gloving" them. It's easy to do with females; but I do it with males as well -- workman, mailmen, repairmen, tech guys – connect with the person by "gloving."
Sounds sort of sensual, sexy It's not that. It's focusing. Listening, hearing, seeing the other person. Try it – now that I've told you my secret, try it sometime.