Reflections on Task 11 and Task 12 – Likes and Dislikes

Dear Marie,

many thanks for the task. Below you can find the reflections for Task 11 and further down the description for Task 12.

  • Savasana with book under the head: A symphony of the intestines.

Once the mind quietens down a bit and the space in the neck opens, the body begins sounding. John Cage said that listening to a busy avenue never ceased to surprise him. I would say the same for my bowels: rumbles, growls and gurgles in all sorts of duration and pitch produce. A deep sense of gratitude emerges: ‘thank you for letting me speak. This is the song I have been writing the whole day and now I can finally sing it’.

  • Crouching position (not exactly a yoga posture, looks a bit like Malasana): WOOOAAAA

If I spend enough time in this position and bring my attention to the small of my back, it  lets go. It says ‘Fiiiiiinaly’.

  • Downward Dog: Aaaaaaah

Hamstrings and calf muscles give a big yawn whereas the shoulders make a ‘hamphhhh’. ‘You do realise we have been working all day long’ – they say – ‘and now you push us further’. But after the first complaint they grow quiet, especially when the armpits silence them with another yawn. ‘Ahhh’ the armpits say as they flatten and get a good perspective of the world.

  • Tadasana: Back to mute

I come to standing and this standing feels different from all the standing I’ve done during the day. The heels murmur to the floor ‘I am smitten, I want to become one with you’. The front pelvic rim comes out from its hiding place and says ‘Here I am’. The shoulders lose their grip on the neck and retreat without a sound. The neck says to the shoulders: ‘I appreciate this. I would be really grateful if you stayed where you are. You don’t need to wrap me and hold me. You stifle me, you know? I can stand by myself! I do not need your protection!’. It continues murmuring a bit more – sometimes in a language not fit for a blog post – but I can’t blame the neck. The shoulders can be bullies sometimes. Once it lets off steam, the neck does what it knows best: it puts my head back in its place. ‘Go on you can do all the talking now’ the body tells me ‘and I will withdraw back to absence’.

Task 12 – Likes and Dislikes

The above sequence is one I repeat more or less every day. It feels nice and as you can tell it does not ask a lot of the body, in that it is neither vigorous nor athletic. The task below comes from this place of comfort as well as a certain perplexity I keep grappling with.

I remember my yoga teacher complaining that we (the students) tend to practise the postures we ‘like’ and avoid practising the ones that feel difficult (as you can see in my case, she is right!). There was the assumption that if we only practise those postures that feel ‘nice’ we keep deepening the same old furrows in the body and mind and thus miss the opportunity to move beyond and outside the very habits that the practice is grooving. There is often this sense in yoga, at least in Iyengar,  that a posture, when it really ‘works’, i.e. when it takes the bodymind to new territory, should cause discomfort, a bit of pain, or at least a sensation of unfamiliarity. It should have a bit of ‘grit’. Hence, my teacher’s admonition that we ‘shouldn’t be lying on bolsters!’.  When I started working with somatics, I encountered a different approach. Here comfort was not only accepted but sought for as a ground of exploration. At least, lying on bolsters did not make me feel as guilty…

I have made discoveries in both ways, and I still cannot tell for sure whether one way of working has to offer more than the other. But I do wonder what are the differences between the ‘easy’ and the ‘hard’ way in terms of what and how one learns. So that was my big preamble for a simple task:

Make a list with the postures you like and the ones you don’t. What you like and what you don’t like depends on whether the posture feels comfortable and you want to do it or whether the posture feels hard and you would rather avoid it. You can have a third category with postures that do not fall in any of these two categories. Once you have made the lists, next to each posture write the ‘thing(s)’ that define your predisposition.

Reflections on Task 10 + Task 11 – Absent vs Present

Dear Maria,

Thanks for this task. Please find my reflections below. I am interested in the subjectivity/objectivity of the body and habitual movement patterns we are exploring in our tasks at the moment so Task 11– Absent vs Present, will dig a bit further at this.

 

Reflections on Task 10 – Body Talk

The first thing that comes to mind when reading the instructions for this task, is a scene in the film Fight Club (1999) where the main character discovers a series of articles written in the first person by Jack’s (or Jill’s) organs: I am Jack’s colon. I wondered if instead of me talking about the body, the body could speak for itself? What would the body say if it was able to articulate what was going on as it was engaged in a particular action? I thought of everyday tasks that I do. You mentioned making a cup of tea or brushing your teeth but what would be even more day-to-day than that? What is the most essential activity my body is engaged with? Two things come to mind: walking and breathing.

How does walking speak to me in the first person? How do my legs speak to me when they begin the forward movement of walking? What would my diaphragm tell me if I gave it a voice?

 

I am Marie walking 

I am Marie’s hamstrings that contract and propel her forwards

I am Marie’s knee cap that shifts forwards and leads the movement

I am Marie’s vertebrae C7 that neutralises the movement of the spine to stabilises her head by supporting C1-6, the neck bones

I am Marie’s spine that acts like a wrench to offset the forward propulsion of her legs

I am Marie’s right heel that, with my fat pad, cushions her foot and the entire skeleton when the weight falls down through her right leg

We are Marie’s eyes that work together to keep her balanced as she walks and make sure she steers in the right direction

 

I am Maries diaphragm

I am a large muscle moving like a jellyfish in Marie’s abdomen. I do one simple, continuous movement as I contract and release when I receive a nerve impulse from Marie’s brain. I am Marie’s diaphragm. In my contraction, I pull down which opens up her ribcage. This movement creates a vacuum inside her chest cavity which draws in her breath and fills her lungs with air. I by-pass Marie’s awareness. Until the day she stops breathing I will have done this millions of times and 95% of the time without her being aware of how I supply her heart with oxygenated blood which keeps all her vital organs working. She tends to focus her attention on other muscles that contract and release to satisfy her needs to eat or move. I, on the other hand, move constantly and persistently, even as she sleeps.

 

By letting my body speak for itself I start to question my idea of ‘myself’. If feels banal yet quite profound to take time to really allow parts of my body to have their own experience and to listen to what they have ‘to say’. I’m surprised by the stream of ideas, sensations and thoughts that appear in my reflections from taking time to listen to organs and muscles. It makes me wonder if ‘I’ am simply made up of many different parts each with its own agency? I think about the body as an ecology of agencies where the body as an intricate system of neural networks, organs, blood supply and coordination together create what is me.

 

Task 11 – Absent vs Present

Doing task 10 made me think of Deborah Hay who talks about the body as made up of trillions of cells. In My Body, The Buddhist she asks if ‘I’ is the configuration of my body into fifty-three trillion cells at once?’ (Deborah Hay, 2000, xiii). Task 11 aims to consider Drew Leder’s ‘absent’ body and Deborah Hay’s ‘the body as present at a cellular level’ simultaneously.

This task will also take you back to Task 9 – Do As You Normally Do and start with a yoga routine that you can repeat every day. Your task will be to become aware of the moments in your practice when you feel your body is ‘absent’. When you do the practice notice what parts of your body are ‘neglected’ or not in your physical awareness. This may be a specific muscle or a large or small area of your body, inside you or on the surface. Now try to bring that muscle/area into the ‘presence’. You may want to do this by talking out loud while you practice –as you suggested to me in task 11– or you may reflect on it after the practice. Allow the area/muscle to ‘talk’ for itself and perhaps invite different ‘absent’ areas that have come to your attention to ‘speak to each other’. What will they say, how will they say it and in what way does this affect your yoga routine?

Enjoy the task!

Reflections on Task 10 and Task 11 – Bodytalk

Dear Marie,

many thanks for the task. Below are my thoughts and further down Task 11.

I did the task with Alice Oswald’s poem A Short Story of Falling. Oswald’s poems are intended to be read aloud and following the previous task, I recorded myself reading the poem and then played it over and over again.

It is evening. The studio is a cleared space in a shabby living room. The mover is a cluttered mind in a shabby body. It will do. The poem suggests falling, mentions and sounds like water, follows the cycle of a drop of rain.

Midway through the poem, the cycle is disrupted by an ‘I’ who speaks a wish to be like water:

‘if only I a passerby could pass

as clear as water through a plume of grass […]

then I might know like water how to balance the weight of hope against the light of patience’

It is this part of the poem that had an effect on me – a sense of warmth in the chest – and it is this part that made me choose the poem.

The recording loops on the computer and I move to the poem again and again. A deeply ingrained mimetic impulse kicks in and my first response is to do the movement suggested by the language. Words like ‘falling’,  ‘pass’ and ‘balance’ are immediately kinetic and it is very easy to move according to the meaning of the word. But the task asks for something different.  I try to work away from this immediate response but without imposing another one. There are moments, so fleeting I can hardly register them, where the word amplifies a sensation that is already in the body: ‘every flower a tiny tributary’ enhances a sense of opening as my sacrum rests on the floor; ‘rises to the light’ increases my awareness of an ever so tiny difference between making and closing space at the bottom of the skull.

I re-read the poem and I find in its tale the same paradox that keeps me in an upright position: ‘Oswald’s poem is ‘the story of the falling rain that rises to the light and falls again’. How can something rise while it falls? But isn’t this what happens in standing? When I stand – the words of the poem dripping on me like rain – I feel the back of my heels falling into the floor and it is from this fall that a greater sense of lift comes into the spine. Does this also make me a drop of rain?

Task 11 – Bodytalk

This task is a continuation of task 9 ‘Do As You Normally Do’, in that it focuses on the habitual patterns the body follows in its daily dealings with the world. So, the task invites you to work in and with those moments where the body becomes ‘absent’ (Drew Leder 1990) to the self.

Begin by picking those movements that feel the most ‘natural’, those movements where bodily sensation completely disappears, either because the attention is on the task the body is engaged in or because the mind is entirely elsewhere.  I find activities in my morning routine, like teeth brushing and making tea are like this, probably because I am still half asleep, but you may find that other moments are a lot more habituated and hence a lot more ‘absent’ for you.

Whilst in the doing of such a task, begin to describe out loud what the body/self is doing using a first pronoun (I, my leg, my arm etc) and present continuous tense. Do this bodytalk every day for a few days for the same routine(s). Try to describe those things that come to your attention most immediately. However, as you do the task each day,  see if other aspects of the movement/doing become present to you. Capture them in language, however roughly or quickly. Once you do the task a few times, see if you remember any of the phrases you said during the bodytalk. Write a poem using these phrases.

Reflections on Task 9 + Task 10 – Words that move you

Dear Maria,

Thanks for Task 9. Here are my reflections. Below them you can find my Task 10.

Reflections on Task 9 – Do as you normally do

After the first day of practicing I sat down to document the order of Asanas to make sure I’d remember the sequence for the following day. I looked over it swiftly before my practice on Day 2 and after practicing on Day 3 I started to add some thoughts.

When I described the task to my partner Alan, who also practices yoga, he suggested that I could record my sensory experience as I do the practice: what I see, smell and hear, as an alternative to the more subjective somatic approach of interpreting what’s going on in the body. I decided to give this a go and copied and pasted the order of postures in Sanskrit and added the moments of perception next to the Asana as they stood out for me as I practiced:

Day 1

Green mat, ‘What are we doing?’ Alan asks.
3 x Surya Namaskara A synchronised breath.
2 x Surya Namaskara B
Padanghustasana unsynchronised breath.
Trikonasana
Parvritta Trikonasana
Parsvakonasana
Parvritta Parsvakonasana
Padottanasana shuffle back, giggles.
Sirsasana
My foot slips off my leggings Vrkasana
Surya Namaskara A
Ardha Kapotasana
Paschimottanasana
Purvattanasana I look over to Alan
2 x Urdhva Dhanurasana
Salamba Savangasana
Soft rug Savasana

I was interested in trying out the obstruction that Alan had mentioned but then something caught my attention when I was recording my sensory experience in relation to the posture names. The Sanskrit language of yoga speaks to my senses in a completely different way to the language of English. When I read English, I take on board a meaning of a word or entire sentence through a ‘mental’ cognition. My knowledge of Sanskrit is mainly limited to posture (Asana) names. For that reason, the Sanskrit names of postures do not provide me with a sense of ‘mental’ understanding but give me pictures in my mind and often bodily sensations. I read ‘Padanghustasana’ and I feel my head hanging down and my fingers wrapped around my toes and my belly gently touching my thighs. I read ‘Purvattanasana’ and I see the transition from Paschimottanasana and feel my body stiffen and the stretch over my shoulders as it recalls the effort to lift my hips.

           

Day 2

I’m blinded by big overhead lights 3 x Surya Namaskara A.
Loud Danish kids’ songs.
2 x Surya Namaskara B I try to hear my breath.
Parents looking at phones or minding smaller children.
Padanghustasana
Trikonasana A small boy. I smile at him.
A gust of air as Lisa runs past me.
Alan’s hands on my shoulders Parvritta Trikonasana
Parsvakonasana
Parvritta Parsvakonasana
Silence for a moment Padottanasana then more loud music echoing with the sound of feet running in the hall. The small boy in my vision again.
Sirsasana the sound of a ball hitting the ground
Vrkasana
Lisa interrupts me with a big gym ball. I help her do backwards walkover over the ball.
Lisa on exercise bike.
Surya Namaskara
Ardha Kapotasana A child is crying.
Paschimottanasana
I ask Alan to take a few photos of me Purvattanasana.
2 x Urdhva Dhanurasana
Salamba Savangasana I look into the bright light again. A ball rolls behind.
I lay down Savasana Something flies over my head. I get up.

The juxtaposition of Sanskrit and English became an oscillation between a bodily and mental experience of the practice, of feeling and experiencing postures in Sanskrit through my body and perceiving the surroundings in English through my senses.

Day 3

I take off my glasses. Blurred room.
3 x Surya Namaskara A
2 x Surya Namaskara B
A sweet smell of ice cream. Lisa shrieks with joy.
Padanghustasana ‘Wheels on the bus go round and round.’
The door goes, my dad enters.
Trikonasana ‘How did it go?’ I ask.
Parvritta Trikonasana His account of events.
Parsvakonasana
I gaze towards my fingertips and just see a blur.
Parvritta Parsvakonasana
Padottanasana My dad: ‘That’s very impressive Marie’.
Sirsasana
Vrkasana Fridge door opens – a bottle is being opened. Footsteps: ‘is it not beer o’clock?’ Laughter. Alan and my dad both cheer.
Ardha Kapotasana
The door to the entrance opens. Sound of shoes clicking on the floor. My mum. ‘Hello’, then to Lisa: ‘Har du haft det godt i børnehaven?’.
Paschimottanasana
Purvattanasana cheerful chatter
Alan’s eyes on me Urdhva Dhanurasana
Salamba Savangasana
My mum’s contour above me. ‘hvad spiser I i aften? Savasana ‘det ved jeg ikke’. Eyes closed. She walks off. Loud TV noise of children’s voices. I get up and walk over to Lisa to help her pour a glass of milk. My dad steps on my mat with his shoes. I pick up the mat.

Task 10 – Words that move you

Your task is going to be to seek out a text or a collection of words that have a similar effect on you as to what I describe in my reflections on Task 9: Find words that for one reason or other make you feel them physically rather than mentally. It might be to do with language or perhaps the text brings back a physical memory, perhaps it’s simply their aesthetic appearance that brings on the bodily sensations. When you have found your words/text reenact the physical sensations that the words/text brought on. What is the relationship between the somatic and mental understanding of the words/text?

Enjoy the task!

Reflections Task 8 & Task 9 – Do As You Normally Do

Dear Marie,

many thanks for Task 8. Below you can find reflections to the task and instructions for Task 9.

I was sceptical to begin with about the whole business of opposing the physical relation to the floor to the meaning of the text. My first response was to work with the ‘To Stand’ text lying on the floor. But then I started thinking about planes and how I could explore surfaces that simply would not allow me to stand. I ended it up working with a tree in my neighbourhood I was a bit familiar with. Once I climbed the tree, I first listened to the ‘To Stand’ text while moving on the tree without standing. I then tried to hang from the branches of the tree for as long as I could while listening to the ‘To Be Supported’ text. 

What I experienced often amounted to  a sense of cognitive dissonance: the words alien – but spoken in my voice  – simply did not match my pro-prioceptive reality. Yet, there were quick moments where a phrase or two would fit with my physical sensation perfectly. Amid the midst of dissonance, those flashes of resonance, well… stood out. In those moments, the physical reality deepened and there was almost a relief that the dissonance between physical sense and textual significance had finally stopped. (Quick search on the internet tells me that our tendency is to reduce cognitive dissonance, either by altering our beliefs or by  tailoring reality to our needs. I wonder whether any  word, apart from the exact opposite of what I was sensing,  would have had the same effect of relief. Whether, in other words, I was prone to interpret my physical reality through the text, as long as the two were not entirely contradicting). 

Images by visual anthropologist Vanja Celebicic.

 stand behind

understand

standing into falling

TO BE SUPPORTED

Asthechairimmediatelyaftersupportsmyweightmyheadisheldupbythecolumnofmy

spineandtheblissfulSavasanapositionreverberatesinsidemeSun

Task 9 -Do As You Normally Do

This is inspired by Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), who apparently, from middle age onwards, stuck to the exact same routine on a daily basis. I think he did this so that he did not have to think about all the little choices we have to make throughout the day, and thus he could spend his time philosophising. Or maybe he did it so that he could observe the differences that appear once as much as possible of everything else remains the same.

Think what makes up your yoga routine: the postures, order, duration, pauses, use of props etc. You may not have one single routine that you follow every day, but the task is that you create one out of those things you tend to practise the most. Once you put the routine together, do it every day, preferably at the same time and the same place. Do the same routine even if your body asks for a different one. Try to find and stay in that space between what the routine prescribes and what your body needs. In other words, use the same routine as a form a background that is as flat and homogeneous as possible, so that you can get a better sense of the different body and self you encounter every day. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Reflections Task 7 + Task 8 – read, record, dance, write

Dear Maria,

Thanks for Task 7, that really made my brain curl into funny shapes as a constraint satisfaction on writing. It was fun but not sure how successful I was sticking to your instructions! See my response to the task below and following that Task 8.

 

TO STAND

Stand up, stand in, stand for, stand towards, stand over

Stand down, stand out, stand behind, stand away, understand

Standing is always in relation

Standing as waiting, standing before i move, 

standing into falling…

‘I see it, I want it
I stunt, yeah, yellow bone it
I dream it, I work hard
I grind ’til I own it’*

Just standing can be seen as passive

TO BE SUPPORTED

The mat was laid on, rested on by my body. Before getting to this passive state a long and active cycle took my body there. When yoga is done a sense of relief follows. As the chair immediately after supports my weight, my head is held up by the column of my spine and the blissful Savasana position reverberates inside me. Sun shine is mastered by the universe, leaving me feeling warm and light. The recuperating, recovering, readjusting rest, rolls me into the Friday feeling and it is said that this will mean the weekend is on the way.

*Quote and frame grabs from Beyonce’s video ‘Formation

Task 8 – Read, record, dance, write

Read out and record the two reflections I have made for the previous post: Task 7 To Stand and Be Supported. For the first ‘To Stand’ text make use of the spaciousness between words (in the way i wrote them) and read out accordingly. For the second ‘Be supported’ text ignore any full stops, commas and grammar when you read it out.

Make a gap between the two texts or record them separately.

Then find a space where you can move and use the two recordings as a soundtrack to improvise to. Your obstruction for the dance is as follows:

For the To stand recording you cannot stand

For the Be supported you cannot be supported

What is the relationship between the experience of the words when you look at the text and record? How does this relate to hearing the sound of the text and how it feels to move with them?

Enjoy the task!

Reflections Task 6 & Task 7 – To Stand and to Be Supported

Dear Marie,

many thanks for task 6. Below you can find reflections on Task 6 and instructions for Task 7.

The task made me think a lot about the routes I am taking and my attitude to them. I realise that a route is a means to get from A to B and time is of essence. The route, however pleasant, needs to be completed in the least time possible. The key constraint that has to be satisfied then is time and every possible change in the route I could think of entailed making the route taking more time. The task also made me think about Mithila Folk Painting. The practice originates from Bihar, India, but when I was in South India I remember seeing women, at the break of dawn, drawing with chalk intricate shapes in the front of their house. As I understand it, the shapes were drawn as an offering and a means to ward off evil. I thought about these women and whether time was also of essence to them, in the same way it is for me.

So, this the constraint I came up with:

On a short and very familiar route, I put the timer on my phone to ring every 3 min. The moment the timer goes off, I have to stop and draw something on the exact place I stopped. The first thing I draw is a fish, as done in Mithila Folk Art, but at subsequent stops I play with the texture of the paving stones. At the last stop, I am facing a weak sun, that is just breaking from the clouds. I wonder if my drawing is an offering to this timid autumn shining.

Later in the day I do the same route with the 5 year old. I show her the drawings and tell her that she can add to them and/or do other ones. The constraint this time is this: we do not leave the place until the 5 year old suggests so.

More than the self-consciousness of stopping chalk-in-hand on a really busy road, the suspension of cajoling/instructions/threats to ‘let’s go’, ‘move on’, ‘come on’ leaves both of us confused. The 5 year old looks at me and waits for the usual phrase. I have to stop my self every other second from actually saying those all too familiar phrases (at one point the words come out out of sheer habit before I can stop myself).

Eventually, we move on.

When I do yoga, the move from one position to the next feels as familiar as the route I took earlier in the day.  If anything, yoga is about taking time and making it one’s own. But is time of essence here to? Or is every stop, every position an offering? 

Task 7 To Stand and to Be Supported

Do a set of standing postures, Tadasana, Vrksasana, Trikonasana, Virabahdrasana I and II, all of these poses can work quite well.

Immediately after write a piece of text on standing. What it means to you to stand? What does standing mean? How is the word ‘to stand’ used in language?

Then do a set of recuperative poses, preferably with support, such as Badokonasana, Supta Virasana, Savasana. Write a piece of text about when and what makes you feel supported. See if you can use passive voice.

I hope you enjoy it.

 

 

Reflections Task 5 + Task 6 –Constraint Satisfaction

Dear Maria,

Thanks for Task 5. There was so much in this task and I wish I had been able to spend more time on it, but I had such a busy week arriving in Denmark. Perhaps a Task to revisit?

Reflections on Task 5

I carried out this task on my bike in the town of Horsens, Denmark, where I have relocated. My reflections are a transcription of the audio recording I made on my phone, while carrying out Task 5 –A Word for a Place. I then go on to add some reflections on the yoga posture instructions that followed.

Appendix

‘I’m taking a right turn onto Christian M. Østergaardsvej. I knew straight away that this was the area I wanted to explore when I read your instructions to do this Task in a place that is not familiar. I was born in Horsens and lived here till I was 18 and I have now moved back. There are roads and areas of this town I have never visited because they’re not in the trajectory of movements between my childhood home and school or my gymnasium (Sixth Form) or shops or the train station. So, although this area -where I am now standing- is only 10 minutes cycle from where I grew up it feels like a kind of a… an…

… APPENDIX

That’s a good word. I like it. It’s quite a visceral word. As I’m standing at the side of the road looking towards what seems like a blind area, the word ‘Appendix’ describes this feeling of an unknown place. This place is attached to something else that is familiar but it doesn’t have a purpose or even a function for me. Not yet, anyway.

And there’s something else…

I haven’t got an inner map of this area. It’s a strange feeling. I know most other parts of this town so well and the psychogeography of it; I know where streets are in relation to each other, I recognise potholes and road signs and where the hill gets a little bit steeper and even shops and houses that haven’t changed for the past 16 years. But I haven’t got a sense of this neighbourhood. I’m standing at the cross roads between a very familiar street and an area that is completely unknown to me. I have no idea what to expect. I know it’s a residential area and that a new college was built here recently. That’s all. I feel a bit unsettled, perhaps also because of my own prejudice that this neighbourhood is a slightly rough part of town. Will I lose track of where I am? Will my presence be questioned?’

(15 minutes later) 

Cycling

‘I am now on streets that I don’t recognise: Hybenvej, Pilevej and Bakkesvinget. I get really confused about the ‘left/right side of the road’ driving. I was walking for a while but then as soon as I got on my bike my brain couldn’t decide whether to be on the right or the left side of the road. My body is drawn towards the middle and I end up veering on my bike towards the centre. I know I need to be on the right side but because the streets are unfamiliar I’m confused. It’s almost a cross-wiring of my spatial brain.

I recognise this feeling. Because my movements around the city of Leeds are very much experienced from a cycling perspective, being on two wheels in Horsens, taps into my default relationship with the road, which in Leeds, obviously, is on the left-hand side.’

(15 minutes later)

Losing track of APPENDIX

‘I realise I have completely lost track of the word for the place. It is at least five minutes since I was tracing the ‘N’ in APPENDIX. I set off on this task with the intention of spelling out each letter. Now I have lost my whereabouts in between identical apartment blocks and paths, hedges and trees. I’m confused about keeping left or right…  this definitely doesn’t feel like anything that I know.

(12 minutes later)

I have reached a woodland area and I have a view of the inlet from the fjord. It’s amazing how the relationship between water and land anchors me in a place. I see a path that I recognise, running along the water, but I have no idea whether following this path would take me closer to or further away from home. It is very disorientating. I think I will take a right between the trees and see where it takes me…

(8 minutes later)

Ha… I have come full circle and the path has taken me back to the top of the road where I started the journey. Funny how this new information is instantaneously updated in the map in my brain. And what felt like an unfamiliar neighbourhood –an appendix, something dispensable– has become an integrated part of the town. I will enjoy the final leg of the journey and see if perhaps I can trace the ‘X’ as I make my way back to the start.’

Further reflections from second part of Task 5 –A Word for a Place

It is several days after my exploration on bike that I get a chance to do the second part of Task 5. I lie down for a prolonged Savasana and undo the cycle trip with some yoga postures. I carry these additional tasks out after transcribing the audio recording, so I still feel the residue and imprints of the first exploration.

As I lay down for Savasana I feel a heaviness in my body that I haven’t experienced for a long time in this posture. An image of anchoring comes to mind, like the anchoring experience I had when catching sight of the fjord inlet on my journey. From that image, I spontaneously start to trace my awareness through my body as if I’m mapping a landscape. I follow the curves of the spine and move my awareness into my legs and take a trip through my body to uncover areas that seem like blind spots.

I move into yogasana and follow an instinct to do some challenging balance postures: Ardha Chandrasana and some variations, where I twist the spine and catch my foot. I’m (re)discovering ways of moving in my practice and when different limbs, that haven’t connected for a while, join up, new pathways are created. My body is put back together.

Exploring a new environment and creating pathways is done through the action of physically mapping the terrain with my feet (and bike wheels!). It is while treading this new ground that my prejudice that the neighbourhood I visited is rough and unsafe, is put to shame. I think of the Situationists: This is psychogeography and politics at the same time.

 

Task 6 –Constraint Satisfaction

I wanted to dwell a little further on your task, so Task 6 reels of your Task 5. It has made me think of an article about Constraint Satisfaction by Stephen M. Kosslyn from 2011 from the book This Will Make Your Smarter. The next task is inspired by this article and a blog entry I wrote on it in 2012.

Here is Task 6:

Think of your route to work or perhaps another familiar journey you do most days of the week. Now come up with 3-4 ‘constraints’ that will change how you carry out this journey, and for the next week add these obstructions to your trip.

Here are some suggestions for constraints that you could use:

  • If you usually drive or take the bus, walk your journey.
  • When you pass a bus stop, cross the road and walk on the opposite pavement.
  • Make eye contact with as many people for the duration of the journey as possible.

You can take my suggestions or if you think of some constraints that would be fun, doable -but a bit challenging- that might work better for you, you should use those. You can do all of your chosen constraints on the same journey, one after the other, or perhaps dedicate one to each day.

Doing Task 5 made me think of how exploring a new environment tested my patterns of movement. What happens when you place obstacles on a familiar journey?

After your final exploration, lie down in Savasana and notice the sensations that emerge. What kind of pathways are you noticing in your body?

Then do a few yoga postures with ‘pathways’ as your anchor point.

How do you feel about your route?

Enjoy the task!

Reflections on Task 4 – Pen & Scissors and Task 5 – A Word for a Place

Dear Marie,

Many thanks for Task 4. Here are my reflections. Below the images you can find Task 5.

Out of the studio, right into the corridor, down the stairs, left through the doors, across the car park, into the cab, the dance continues. Even though my body becomes immobile into the seat of the car, the beat of the drums still lingers. The speed of the car matches the inner rhythm. I dance vicariously.

Not this time. This time the cab is late, and the rhythm that is already working inside me becomes frustrated as I scan the empty road and pace up and down. Once inside the car, I am overwhelmed by a sensation similar to the one  I have whilst executing a fast sequence: will I make it? Will I make it on time? In both cases, time feels too fast, while I become despairingly slow.

Reflections on the class can only be written a long time after it and as I ponder on the hasty car trip, I think that to dance is to tame time.

With the collages I tried to capture some of the shapes that the bodies make in the space, fleetingly as they move from one position to the next. I got inspired by Nathan Walker’s talk at the University of Leeds on his recent book Condensations, where he talked about the way the arrangements of the words on the page of his book responded and reflected the landscape from which those words originally emerged and/or were written for.

There is nothing of the fleetingness of the dance in these collages, just words glued on paper. As I cut my reflections late into the night, I think that the breaking up of sentences, the shaking up of the words, their re-positioning is not dissimilar to dance, and yoga: how it can take the body apart and put it back together again. And in this taking apart and putting back together, meanings and experiences become re-arranged, weights shift, and new relations emerge. Yoga and dance as a practice of collage of the self?

Task 5 – A Word for a Place is inspired by Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy, but I wonder if there is a whiff of the Situationists here too. I think it is a good one to do when one visits a new place, but perhaps it is also appropriate for a familiar one. I always had a sense that this is a task for a city, but maybe it can work just as well in the countryside.

Think of a word that captures the sense you have of the place (if the place is an unfamiliar one) and/or what the place means to you (if it is one you know well).

Following the paths, roads and grids that already exist in this place, write the word by walking.  You can trace possible routes on a map, so you can see in advance how you might create the letters. Or you can trace your route on the map afterwards and see whether you managed to write the letters you thought you were writing. (You can also follow your changing position on the map of your phone as you walk but this will not record a  permanent trail).

You can walk the word as many times as you wish and the walk can encompass as much of the actual area as you want/or are able cover. For example, you may wish to cover with one word the entire city or just one neighbourhood. You can take pictures along the way and/or audio-record sounds, memories, impressions.

Straight after you finish the walk, lie down in Savasana and note the sensations that emerge. What kind of imprints did the walk leave on the body and mind, if any?

Then do a sequence of yoga postures of your own choice that undo the imprints of the walk. Take the body apart and put it back together again.

In your reflections, you can comment on the whole task and/or use the material you  have created during the actual doing. I hope you will enjoy it.

Reflections for Task 3 + Task 4 – pen and scissors

Dear Maria,

Thanks for Task 3. It was enjoyable to expand a bit on Task 1. Here are my Task 3 reflections.

08.46 am – first try with ‘Standing on paper’

I feel the weight in my heals and it falls more prominently on my right foot. It feels more like tension rather than a softening. My body recognises that, standing with my eyes closed and my arms hanging down by my side, is really just an upright version of Savasana. I imagine the imprint my body makes on the surrounding air and the room I’m in. How much can I let go of the body in this upright position without collapsing on the floor? If Savasana is one of the most difficult postures to do how difficult is standing with your eyes closed?

2.10 pm – second try with ‘Standing on paper’

I look at the flaming red feet I have drawn on the paper and I’m reminded of the importance of feet as my contact point with the earth. The earth that is ‘fully alive’ and that in its vitality supports my forward propulsion as I push my feet into the ground when I walk. The outline of the foot has become blurred as the vax from the crayon has spread across the drawing. I like the idea that perhaps my feet can become wider and spill outside the given outline of my foot to give me a sense of trust that the earth is supporting me. Perhaps I don’t even end where the outline suggests?

5.14 pm – third try with ‘Standing on paper’

I step onto the paper for the third time completely intuitively without wondering where my feet should be placed. I draw the first outline, then want to move, and make a new set of outlines. I repeat this a few times eventually stepping of the paper. Intrigued by the multiple footprints I grab a green crayon and start drawing on the outlines. It quickly becomes clear that I have lost track of the footprints. One line continues into another and soon I find myself circling the crayon around, following whatever trail it passes. The task you gave me, to pay attention to weight and mark the imprint in the outline, has been replaced by the movement of the crayon across the paper and the emphasis of the imprints’ relationship to each other.

I move back from the drawing and notice a reverse choreography emerging in the imprints. It appears as if the final green print steps into the second red print, that finally settles into the first brown/black print.

 

Task 4 – pen and scissors

What you will need to carry out task:

A couple of blank pieces of paper

Scissors

A pen/pencil

Glue (optional)

My task for you for next week is linked to the dance class you take Tuesday evenings at Northern School of Contemporary Dance, so I hope you get a chance to go this week. If not, you should be able to carry this task out in a different context. I will leave this to you.

After your dance class (or as soon after as possible) sit down for 10 minutes (you can set a timer!) and do continuous writing, noting ideas, sensations, experiences, thoughts that come up from the class. It can be full sentences, words, images, accounts of exercises, whatever comes to mind; most importantly don’t think too much about it and try not to stop writing during those 10 minutes.

This next bit can be done at a later stage:

Cut up the paper so the words and sentences are divided into separate slips of paper. Then mix them together. Take a fresh piece of paper and now randomly pick the words and sentences and place them (or glue them) onto the paper to form a new piece of writing. You can use as many of your cut up words and sentences as you like.

What comes out of this? How did you experience the process?

The reflection may simply be the new piece of writing and/or additional reflections on it.

Hope it makes sense. Enjoy the task!

Reflections on Task 2 & Task 3 -Standing on Paper

Dear Marie,

Here are my reflections on Task 2. Below them you can find Task 3.

At the beginning I felt I needed a lot more instructions/clarifications with this one.

After I have observed my breathing cross legged, do I just sit around, continuing being aware of my breath (for whole five minutes!)?

What on earth is the discriminating mind?

Can I have a book under my head? (And if I do, am I practising yoga or Alexander Technique? Or perhaps the basic position of Alexander Technique is nothing other than Savasana with a book under one’s head?)

I tried to keep the instructions in my mind and follow them, but I forget them along the way. I do the whole thing with my eyes closed and when I finally open my eyes, I realise I am facing in a completely different direction than I thought/felt.

I do let my weight go and I do feel the claim gravity is making on me after a very long day. Giving in feels heavy and thick, a big wave of tiredness coming to finally settle on the floor. The moment I allow gravity to claim me, that moment weight passes through me: it leaves my body and comes to rest on the floor.

Thoughts come and go, including thoughts about how to make this reflection interesting. I let these thoughts go too.

I think I am observing the breath. I realise afterwards that I simply tried to do a very poor version of a pranayama exercise, where the inhalation becomes longer and the exhalation remains the same. I tried to deepen the breath, and the moment I started interfering all flow and synchronicity was lost. I accept that I still find exercises with the breath very difficult, and I decide next time to simply let the breath be.

Why is Savasana the most difficult posture? (Iyengar says the same too).

Where does the difficulty lie? In becoming able not to do? To abdicate from the head, as my teacher used to say?

To inhabit what is otherwise called the corpse posture? I remember Dorinda Hulton talking about Savasana in relation to King Lear’s line when he re-enters holding Cordelia’s body: ‘I know when one is dead, and when one lives; She’s dead as earth’. Dead as earth. Dorinda observed that the earth is fully alive, there is nothing dead about it. Maybe something similar is happening with Savasana? Maybe our conviction that we know when one is dead and when one lives become a little bit unsettled?

Task 3 – Standing on Paper

Stand on a piece of paper with your feet hip width apart. Draw or get somebody to draw the outline of your feet.(You still face a tree, if you so wish).

Then go through the instructions of Task 1. Allow the neck to flow down and create space between the base of the skull and the top of the neck. Feel the scull floating up and the whole head moving forward and up. Let the shoulders melt away from the ears, and the shoulder-blades moving away from each other so space is created in the dorsal spine.

Allow the lower back to widen and lengthen and imagine drops of honey dripping from your coccyx perpendicular to the floor.

Let the soles of the feet spread and open on the floor. Let the Achilles tendon lengthen and feel the back of the heel going into the floor. Feel the cushion between the base of the big toe and the second toe going down into the floor. Feel the outer edge of the whole foot also flowing down towards the floor. Let the metatarsals turn from the little toe to the big toe, and down to that point between the big toe and the second toe. See what happens to the arches when all above points are active.

You can spend as long as you like playing with these instructions. Once you feel you have explored and/or established these points observe where your weight is and the contact between the different parts of the foot (the front/the back/the inner/the outer or any other point that may come to your awareness) and the floor.

Step off the paper and fill in the outline with the different weight imprints.

You can do this task as many times as you wish, but it would be good to try and do it at least twice and preferably at different times of the day, so you can compare between different imprints.

Once you are done you can also look at the imprints in relation to a pair of shoes that are worn out and carry a mark of your weight placement.

Hope you enjoy!

 

Refections for Task 1 + new Task 2

Dear Maria,

So here are my reflections on task 1. It ended up being a longer response than I intended. Below the reflections you will find task 2!

Task 1 reflections:

I stand with my feet on the wooden floor of my living room, take in the view in front of my floor to ceiling window from my flat on the fifth floor, and follow the instructions you have given me: Find space between top of the spine and base of the skull, check. This automatically lifts my skull up and I can feel the shoulder blades release and relax my shoulders. I trace sensations down my spine and reach my coccyx. I follow the ‘honey-drip-line’ down to the floor feeling the back of my calves lengthen as I gently lift up through my legs. My awareness has reached my feet. I observe their connection with the floor and allow them to become wide for a while and at some point, my weight starts to shift from left to right to left to right. For a long time, I simply observe the different sensations of my feet spreading out on the floor, notice the metatarsals of my right foot are tighter and won’t soften down when I shift my weight to the right. It’s a wonderful sensation of tuning in to this subtle awareness and practice not judging or trying to change but simply letting my body find its own way, by giving it time. I envy the tree across the road that stands tall and secure with its big trunk rooted firmly into the ground. The outer branches and leaves sway and bend in the wind, creating a dance that follow the laws of nature, without wondering whether it’s doing it right or not. I guess it doesn’t get to sit down and drink a nice cup of coffee in a minute. There are some perks to being a human being! And then my head drops forward, my spine curves, and as I roll towards the floor my breath suddenly comes in. How could I have forgotten my breath? I let out a sigh and the breath brings movement to the torso, I roll back up and my arms float up into a little dance with my feet still in the same position.

Afterthoughts

As I begin the first task of our collaboration I realise how much I have pre-empted my response to it. Before beginning the task, I have already half written my reflections to you. I have done this task many times before: standing with my feet on the ground, paying attention to sensations of weight, of contact surfaces with the floor and of the skull rising up from the spine. This is in no way a criticism of the task, on the contrary, it makes it more interesting to encounter my own expectations to how I will carry out the instructions. The use of vocabulary is deeply embedded in my own teaching and perhaps for that reason I find it difficult to distract myself from the familiarity with the exercise.

I decide to embrace the comfort of the exercise but then something happens. As I carry out the task a few times, my experience of embodying the task, blends with other thinking processes that are present to me. I am currently thinking about how we as bodies and entities define the edges of our form. Is it the skin that defines the edge of me and the bark that defines the edge of the tree? I have a brief moment –as I stand in front of the window looking out on the giant tree across the street– where the tree and I only exist in the space-time between us. It is only a momentary sensation but I realise, that the metaphor of the tree and I as one and the same –standing, grounded into the earth, moving up and out of the top of our ‘branches’– means that we only exist in our relation to each other. I have been doing this exercise of standing and noticing weight etc. many times, but never has it occurred to me that the tree and I each take form in the interaction with the other.

Task 2

Please read the following instructions in the image below. The task comes from the book The Place of Dance by Andrea Olsen, on the chapter Dance and Yoga, page 219.

Enjoy…

Reference

Olsen, A. with McHose, C. (2014) The Place of Dance. Middletown CT: Wesleyan University Press

Task 1

Dear Marie,

this is your task:

Find a place where you can stand in front of a tree in a distance that allows you to hold the entire tree in your visual field. (A window on the first or second floor of a building would work well). 

You can stand either with the feet hip width apart or feet together. 

Go through the following thoughts/actions: 

Allow the space where the base of the neck meets the base of the skull to open. Allow the neck to flow down and imagine the skull is floating up. 

Allow the shoulders to melt away from the neck and imagine the neck free and the head going forwards and up. 

Imagine that drops of honey drip from your coccyx. Let these drops drip perpendicularly down to the floor. 

Keep the legs straight but make sure that your knees are not locked back.

Let the Achilles tendon lengthen and feel the back outer edge of the soles of the feet moving down to the floor. 

Let the entire sole of the feet spread onto the floor. Observe where the weight tends to go and how it might oscillate.  

Do all of the above keeping the tree in your visual field. Once you go through them, keep these actions/sensations going and bring your attention to the tree, how it is rooted down and how it shoots up. 

Leave the spot and the position when you feel ready to. 

 Hope you enjoy it! 

 All best, 

Maria 

 

 

Two Trainers Prepare

TDPT Blog community, Hello!

Marie Hallager Andersen and I are embarking on a year-long project exploring the space between creative expression and our respective yoga practices (I have been working with Iyengar and Marie has been working with Ashtanga Yoga ).

Our intention is to use this project as a preparation towards integrating different styles of yoga and other art forms in an interdisciplinary pedagogy. We wish to inhabit the edges of our respective disciplines of dance and theatre by using yoga as a shared point of reference and by employing tools from artistic areas we are less familiar with. We will do this by employing a task-based methodology and by sharing the process on this Blog.

The title of the posts plays with the well-known title of Stanislavski’s book An Actor Prepares. Unlike Stanislavski’s book though, we wish to both bring attention to the preparation of the trainer, rather than the performer, as well as emphasise the inter-subjective nature of the current project: we will prepare together on our own. (We are also aware of the images of athletic footwear invoked by the word trainer, but we do not wish to play with this, at least not now).

Furthermore and by making our process of preparation public, we wish to de-mystify the idea of the trainer as an expert and develop, do, and reflect upon a series of tasks the potential of which we do not know in advance.

So, this is how this is going to work: Each Monday one of us will give the other a task that will be shared on the Blog. The Monday after the person who received the task will publish her reflections on the given task and give a new task to the other. The next week we will alternate. You can find the rules we have set up for developing and doing the tasks below.

We invite you to follow us on this journey, do the tasks with us, and/or comment on our process.

Continue reading

Training as a Ground for Creating Community

Stephanie Arsoska is a theatre maker and facilitator living in Scotland. She is currently studying towards an MEd in Teaching and Learning in the Performing Arts at the Royal Conservatoire Scotland with a focus on ensemble theatre practice and has attended residencies with DUENDE for the last three years.

‘We must find the conditions that make it possible to grow, because so many things in the world conspire against growth.’ (Chaikin, 1991, p.80)

I wanted to start with the above quote because three years ago I found myself in a place where I was failing to find the conditions that would make growth possible.  For ten years I have worked in the youth theatre sector and have run several youth companies. I love young performers, their curiosity, their energy, their willingness to try out all the strange stuff that I throw at them, and yet I always felt a sense of dissatisfaction at the space I was creating with them.  It did not seem to matter how seriously we took our work together, and I have been lucky to work with some very highly committed groups, the space still felt superficial.  I could never quite create the conditions where the qualities of risk, permission and playfulness could fully emerge.  Yet when I looked back into my own training for a way of working with them that might help generate the openness, trust and creativity I was looking for, I found my own foundation had been very poorly constructed. In fact my own training had left me full of feelings of fear, insecurity and failure. It was therefore hardly surprising that I was unable to generate the conditions of growth with my youth theatre, I had never experienced them myself. It was from this place that I found Self-With-Others. Continue reading

Tuning: Preparing to Perform Gaudete with OBRA Theatre Co.

This post has been compiled and edited by Eilon Morris with contributions from Kate Papi, Oliviero Papi and Fabian Wixe.  

Each night, prior to performing Gaudete with OBRA Theatre Companymy last task before vacating the stage was to tune my dulcimer. I needed to be sure that the wires had not loosened or tightened, that the strings would ring true in relation to each other when I came to play them in the performance. In much the same way, the last thing we did as an ensemble was to ‘tune’ ourselves; to the space, to each other, to arrive in that particular moment and place, to rediscover a shared quality of being together.

Photo by Linnéa Pettersson – Eilon Morris tuning dulcimer in rehearsals, 2010

Continue reading

Practice, Reflect, Share Event at Rose Bruford College

Dr Joseph Dunne, Research Assistant at Rose Bruford College

The impetus for organising the Practice, Reflect, Share at Rose Bruford comes from a recognition that the research culture in UK HEIs is undergoing significant changes. The program for the day included a keynote presentation by Miguel Mera, a plenary, and round table discussions on the subjects of mentoring, networking and publishing, collaborating, and practice and research.

Taken together, the REF, the increasing student demands on resources and contact time, technological innovations, new government funding formulas, and the as yet unknown impact of Brexit compel academics to reappraise the ways practice, teaching and research activities can co-exist and, indeed, enhance each other. The definition of “practice research” will remain ongoing, fuelled as it is by innovative methodologies and diversifying outcomes of projects. However, it is important that we try to articulate some common understanding of the term in order for genuine knowledge exchange to take place.

In his presentation, Miguel cited Nicolas Till’s critique of artistic practice as research. It is well worth reading for its highlighting of the dangers inherent for artists in justifying their process in terms of theoretical investigation in order to work in a university. This runs the risk of artistic practice being subsumed into a system that overwhelmingly values text-based products over embodied or visual material. Moreover, argues Till, many of the activities described in the rubric of practice research are in fact examples of professional practice, not research. He concludes that a new method of evaluation is required for practice research distinct from theoretical scholarship.

Till’s analysis is intertwined with questions relating to how the value we attribute to knowledge is dependent upon the form such knowledge takes. In order to prove one can ride a bike it is not sufficient to merely state it, it must be done. Books and articles remain the dominant form of evidence in the academy that a research process has been carried out and knowledge has been produced as a result. But documents are more than evidence of a past process; for the reader, they often come to constitute the research because it is the only material made available to them. The means by which the author produced it are not usually made public. For many disciplines this is entirely appropriate; it is in fact difficult to see how a historian or a physicist could open their work out. But all artists know that much of their process is the work itself and so attempts to transcribe the sometimes messy, random, and – especially for performance practitioners – collaborative nature of investigating through practice into text can distort the knowledge they have generated into a codified system that risks distorting it’s meaning.

Issues pertaining to documentation of process and dissemination of outputs was a subject that came up consistently. There was a general recognition that the internet create many exciting new avenues of public engagement but a culture shift needs to occur if it is to be fully utilised. Specifically, the authority of written text acts a barrier to experimenting with the visual formats of video and photography as a means of positing a theory or citing evidence of process. A related issue concerns the publics to which research targets and reaches. Open access online publication platforms are a potential way of increasing the impact of one’s research, but there are risks involved. The inability to oversee the transmission of the knowledge one has generated can lead to its distillation. Moreover, it is worth asking what the other functions dissemination can fulfil beyond impact. Ben Spatz opined that an awareness of the publics a piece of research is intended for can enable academics to build constituencies and communities. This approach certainly increases the likelihood of research being a catalyst for collaborations between different disciplines. It was also mentioned that dissemination can be expressed as a form of inviting people into an ongoing process into knowledge production. The public, in this context, have a reciprocal relationship with an author’s developing corpus.

A page on RBC’s Theatre Futures website has been set up for delegates to share information.

The Wardrobe Ensemble: Working as a Collective Part 2

This is a continuation of the article The Wardrobe Ensemble: Working as a Collective. It takes the form of a diary, loosely following the process of making our new show Education, Education, Education. In tracking our progress through this creation and rehearsal period, I hope to identify some of the techniques we have developed over six years of working together. Continue reading

Reflections of a First Year Acting Student – Part II:

 

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – BA Acting

 By Harri Pitches

This is the second installment in a serialized account of a First Year BA Acting student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS).  It is a first-hand account of the experience of embarking on the rigorous and holistic training offered at that institution and intends to provoke responses from students who undergo such training, or those who teach them.

The End of the First Term

As I come to the end of my first major ‘chunk’ of time at the RCS, ready to throw myself into the challenges and renewed excitement that 2017 at the conservatoire will doubtless bring, I find myself reflecting on what I have learned, and how I’ve found the whole drama school experience so far. The question everyone has asked me since I’ve been back in my Yorkshire hometown for the Christmas holidays has been ‘Is it what you thought it would be?’ The answer to this is not as simple as ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Continue reading

Developing a Risky Practice: Teaching and Facilitating – Reflections of a Creative English Trainer

‘This notion that the leader needs to be ‘in charge’ and ‘know all the answers’ is both dated and destructive… Fear leads to risk aversion. Risk aversion kills innovation.’  Peter Sheahan in Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly.

In my first few weeks as a teacher in a private English language school in Italy, the Assistant Director of Studies ushered the first-timers into an empty classroom, and gave us some advice.

‘Never, ever respond to a question from your students with the words ‘I don’t know.’ Never tell them you don’t know something, and never tell them that you’re new to this. I know. It’s not fair. Everyone has to start somewhere right? But if they doubt their teacher, then they doubt the school. In their eyes at least, you must know everything.’

At the time, I took this as sound advice from a far more senior and experienced colleague who wanted the best for both us and the school. I mean…it makes sense, right? No student wants their teacher standing in front of them lamely doing a goldfish impression when there’s an important exam looming. What I see now, though, is that this ‘advice’ potentially killed a lot of the creativity and spontaneity I may have started to cultivate in my early teaching career, and instead cultivated an aversion to risk in my teaching practice that would prove very difficult to shake off. I quickly gained a reputation for my results-focused meticulousness and for always having a ready explanation. Continue reading

Reflections of a First Year Acting Student – Part I:

 

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – BA Acting

 By Harri Pitches

This is the first installment in a serialized account of a First Year BA Acting student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.  It is a first-hand account of the experience of embarking on the rigorous and holistic training offered at that institution and intends to provoke responses from students who undergo such training, or those who teach them.

The First Lesson – 26/09/2016

My introduction to the RCS in the first ‘official’ week of my training has given me a fantastic idea of the kind of actors this institution hopes we will grow to be.  I have already had the pleasure of the revered ‘freshers-week’ meeting and greeting the wonderful people with who I will share the next three years of my life. Continue reading

Phillip Zarrilli: Pre-Performative Psychophysical Training of the Actor/Performer

Inspired by Jerzy Grotowski but seeking his own pathway as a young theatre director working in Minneapolis, over forty years ago Phillip Zarrilli began a life-long project of exploring an alternative approach to the pre-performative training and preparation of the actor/performer using the techniques and underlying principles of Asian martial arts (taiqiquan/kalarippayattu) and yoga which would move actor training beyond Stanislavsky.

Over the years, Zarrilli developed a rigorous, in-depth, immersive process of training and preparing the actor’s bodymind for performance through the in-depth use of these traditional exercises—applied specifically to acting/performance problems. Continue reading

The Wardrobe Ensemble: Working as a Collective

Background

In January 2017 The Wardrobe Ensemble began work on our fourth full-scale ensemble show, Education, Education, Education. The company occupy a fairly unique space in the UK’s contemporary theatre landscape due to our size (nine-strong, plus a producer and a large pool of associate artists) and collaborative way of working – we have “directors” for project, but the “artistic direction” of the company is shared by all of us. This stage of our creation process, with all or most members of the company Researching and Developing (R&Ding) a large-scale show, is one that comes around roughly every two years. Continue reading

A Response to DUENDE’s Pedagogy: Giving Yourself Permission

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Judita Vivas is a performer, director and theatre-maker, originally from Lithuania, who recently completed her PhD at Kent University. She has attended a number of residential workshops with DUENDE and recently created her first solo show – ‘7 Petticoats’, a poetic response to the life and legacy of Mary Wollstonecraft – in collaboration with John Britton.

 

During a second encounter with John Britton and Duende in 2014 at AuBrana
Cultural Centre in Southern France, I made one of the most significant discoveries in
my professional theatre life. It is a very simple discovery, yet it has had a profound
impact on how I view myself as an artist and how I view my work.

I discovered the significance of giving yourself permission to do things… Continue reading

Featured Companies

Click on the tiles below to navigate to all of the posts discussing our featured companies:

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The inspirational DUENDE is our first Featured Company in the My Training section, and more will follow in the coming weeks.

Training with Ensemble, a journey to meet myself.

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Mei JiaoYin is a  PhD candidate in “Theory and Research in Education”, at The University of Roma Tre, Italy. Her first 20 years of life were in Hangzhou, China, where she studied “Art Education” in Zhejiang Normal University. For the last ten years she has been living in Italy and teaching creativity dance. Mei recently attended one of DUENDE’s training & performance residencies and is now at The DUENDE School for just the first two weeks of the course, before returning to Italy to complete her PhD.

I started to observe my state of body, emotion and movement, without judgment, just simply observe all that is there: fear, qualities and aliveness.

I accept everything that appears though observation, just like an adventure, I don’t know where it will take me, but every moment is so exciting to explore myself. For example, these days in the Ball Game, I notice my body when I react in the moment of catching the ball: breathing becomes rapid, toes grip the earth, sometimes I try to beat the ball. By simply observing the body I can connect with my fear and it is interesting to play with fear. When is the next ball coming? I just focus on my breathing, and a new feeling comes, that moment is so wonderful! This experience gives me the opportunity to discover myself.

Continue reading

Self (Criticism) with Others

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Hannah Waters is a UK-based performer. She studied both BA and MA (Physical Acting) at The University of Kent. Her Masters dissertation explored ‘Applying the systematic principles present in constructivist artwork to a method of physical theatre composition’. As part of her time at Kent Hannah also studied at the University of California.


I came to the DUENDE School of Ensemble Physical Theatre this autumn dragging all the traits of a life spent in formal education in the UK with me, traits that I am beginning to address, unpick and challenge as I approach my third week of training at DUENDE.

This is my first foray into vocational training after four years at university: I previously undertook a BA in Drama and Theatre Studies and an MA in Physical Acting, the latter of which I completed a matter of weeks before I made the journey to Athens to begin my work. And so I have made the leap from the world of academia to another, very different world, where my perceptions of myself and my work have suddenly been challenged in ways they never have been before.

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Educational Applications of Ensemble Physical Theatre Training (DUENDE)

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The DUENDE School of Ensemble Physical Theatre is meeting in Athens, Greece, through the autumn. Each week a contributor to the school will write a short reflection for this blog.

This week’s post is written by Manjari Kaul. Manjari studied Arts and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi before becoming a Primary School Teacher, Performer and Director.

Manjari attended The DUENDE School in 2015 and has returned in 2016, at the School’s invitation, to explore in more detail the pedagogy of the work – with a view to running DUENDE training sessions in India and perhaps organising an iteration of The DUENDE School in India in the future.

Manjari is one of DUENDE’s Associate Artists.

This post is an attempt to understand how my training in Ensemble Physical Theatre might be used as a tool by school teachers in the classroom. I will explore the possibility of viewing a Primary/Middle School classroom as akin to an ensemble that must be alive in the here and now, responding to ever evolving dynamics.

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Futures (and pasts) of Performer Training: by Murray, Evans and Pitches

Anyone attending the Future of Performer Training conference at Coventry on November 4th and 5th 2016, might want to take a look at this joint paper by Simon Murray, Mark Evans and Jonathan Pitches.

And if you’re not coming, then we’d love some feedback. It’s a layered vision, imagining the pasts and possible futures of performer training.

Download it here: theatre_training_beyond_theatre_ideas_ch

 

DUENDE & The DUENDE School of Ensemble Physical Theatre

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I set up DUENDE in 2010 – intending to nurture a loose collective of artists who shared a core training (Self-With-Others) and yet brought distinct and individual skills to the company. From the start DUENDE was committed to international and intercultural exploration and to a core belief in the idea that principles of ensemble lie at the heart both of live performance and of the pedagogy through which the skills of performance might be passed from generation to generation. DUENDE is committed to honouring and extending lineages across generations and collaborations across borders.

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