Motion-capture performer Terry Notary trained the stars and stuntmen playing primates in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” opening Friday. And he says he can teach almost anyone how to be an ape. Just follow these simple steps to discover your simian side:
1. Undo human social conditioning by being still and doing nothing. Let your brain soften so natural instinct can take over. “Ape school first day is a little bit about the philosophy,” Notary says. “Actors come in and they want to know how to be an ape. And the first thing is you don’t do it — you allow the ape to come out of you. You find it. You don’t do anything. You don’t put anything on. You’re not putting a costume on. You’re just getting back to being a child … that natural human animal that we are.”
2. Drop your intention into your gut. Apes have a “grounded, economic, circular gut-driven drive,” he says, with a center of gravity lower than a human being’s. Think of the gut as the engine and inspiration of movement, and lock it into your hips and legs.
3. To walk on all fours like an ape, Notary uses short, crutch-like tools he calls “arm extensions” in each hand. He begins in a position not unlike a yoga downward dog, but with his shoulders raised higher by the foot-long extenders. The quadruped walk involves alternating and angling arms and feet with each step, a process that becomes more natural with practice.
4. Howl, swing and play.