Lifting people onstage, regularly, safely
July 14, 2016 5:49 PM   Subscribe

Do you lift people regularly onstage? If so, what are your best tips for doing so safely? In the opera I'm currently rehearsing, I have a comedy fight scene which involves lifting another singer. So far it's going well-- the liftee is happy, I'm feeling no ill effects, the fight/movement director has given us the OK, and the lift works well in the context of the scene. However, we have four more weeks' rehearsal ahead of us, and I'd like to stay uninjured and safe during that time. Hit me with your tips.

The lift is pretty easy: mid-fight scene, the soprano is standing on a chair; I go over and (pretend to) shoulder her in the stomach; she folds over my shoulder and I carry her around until she grabs my hair and I let her down. Right now we're rehearsing slowly and repetitively, which means doing the lift multiple times during a session.

The soprano is conveniently portable and I check with her often to make sure she's OK. I am pretty strong and am being mindful of physical stuff: keeping my spine aligned, core muscles engaged, lifting with knees not back.

I regularly (with their consent!) lift my more portable-sized friends and swing them around, but it's been a while since I lifted anyone onstage. I would love any advice from dancers, actors, athletes, etc. who do, or have done, this regularly, on safety, good physical practice and avoiding any possible pitfalls.

(Bonus question: I do some strength training at the gym. How do I fit this around days when I rehearse the lift? Do I avoid working out on the same day I lift the soprano 6 times? Does it matter?)
posted by Pallas Athena to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The only thing I can think that you might have left out is twisting, and woodchoppers are great for that.
posted by rhizome at 6:02 PM on July 14, 2016

In stage combat classes, lifts have always been taught to me as the "liftee" should do as much of the work as possible, and the lifter should concentrate on position that doesn't cause harm. It sounds like, with the chair arrangement, you're doing just that. I'd be careful of any sudden bending at the waist that could cause lower back stress suddenly.
posted by xingcat at 7:01 PM on July 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Pay attention to the dismount--that's where I've seen actors hurt themselves. It's easy to remain focused on the "picking up the person" phase, and then later, when it's time to lower the person, you can get careless since you're tired/looking forward to the lifting part to be over, and either injury yourself or the liftee.
posted by geryon at 9:22 PM on July 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Hello! I am an acrobat, and I lift people a lot.

You seem to have a lot of the basics under control: straight back, engaged core, avoid arching, use your legs. One thing that also helps is to think of tucking your butt forward and squeezing it.

With someone over one shoulder, you will also want to lift that shoulder against their weight. Think about keeping your shoulders square.

Checking with your partner is good. Both of you should keep in mind that while you are obviously leading the movement in the carry, her part is also really important. Sudden movement and unexpected shifting of weight can throw you off in a dangerous way.

Pay attention to your feet, and the extra momentum when changing direction or turning around. You can't let the momentum of the person your are lifting twist you or break the connection between you. That means you have to handle momentum at your feet.

I would say that if your strength training interferes with your lifting, then the lift is too much to do six times safely. So that's your call. But you should never feel too tired to safely exit or to hold good form.

Don't be afraid to take a rest or pause rehearsal if it doesn't feel right. That's what rehearsal is for, not for proving anything.

ETA: big agreement on paying special attention to the dismount. Lower with your legs, and make sure she has balance before you let her go.
posted by Nothing at 5:27 AM on July 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh, and I am sure your director will be giving you these tips, but of course when carrying someone over your shoulder, you will have to think about how two people appear to the audience. A lot of movement I do has to do with getting the right one of us to face the audience
posted by Nothing at 5:37 AM on July 15, 2016

Metafilter: soprano is conveniently portable

Lol, I remember a summer dance production where I had a fun turning lift with the woman in an arched jete, she had good timing and was strong but over the rehearsal period it just kept getting harder. My sister told me years later that the dancer gained a good bit of weight that summer...

Good advice so far, my one thought is when you get to dress take the soprano aside an walk through the sequence a couple times quietly to make sure you're both synchronized (and a reminder to take it seriously).
posted by sammyo at 7:11 AM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Run it before every show and don't half-ass it or mark. Do at least one run at performance quality, in costumes/shoes etc. on the actual set/stage surface if at all possible.

Never skip that step.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 10:17 AM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you're both comfortable, consider alternating sides. With a lift like the one you're describing, it might be manageable. I've found that in a long run it can be very helpful to do so, provided that you're both comfortable with the change (that can be disorienting as well, which isn't good if you're not both ready for it).
posted by eyesontheroad at 10:59 AM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you to everyone who took the time to answer! Especially to Nothing; your answer is super useful and I've marked it as best.
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:13 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

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