Jennifer Hamman:  daily reflections

Jennifer Hamman: daily reflections

Way Out West (WOW) is an annual intensive in Vancouver offering in-depth somatic study through daily classes based on the exploration of multiple physical systems, including technique,  improvisation, experiential anatomy, performance, and yoga. WOW 2013  is in session this week, led by MascallDance Artistic Director Jennifer Mascall.   We welcome four  guest TALK contributors – Jennifer Hamman, Ashley Johnson, Elysse Cheadle and Rianne Svelnis, all currently in the WOW studio. Jennifer Hamman kicks off the participant’s eye view with some responses to the week : 


Today I feel like the biggest thing I learned is how many questions I have, and how many things feel unknown.  

Jennifer Hamman



I’m excited to be back to WOW again this summer and to continue researching the body through the perspective of experiential anatomy.  After taking some time off this summer, today felt like a beautiful returning home to the studio.   This summer I began studies at the European Graduate School, the first semester of my MA in Expressive Arts Therapy. Coming from that to WOW has brought me new perspective.

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Already, as we began to investigate the fluid systems of the body, I felt new awareness and sensations.   We were given time and attention today to dig into the material and reflect through poetry, drawings, discussion and journaling, which I appreciated.  Improvisation class got me thinking about what it means to authentically react to impulses, and how important that is when dancing with another body.

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The work we did today has me revisiting questions that have been on my mind all summer concerning the connection between mind, body and soul. 

How are the internal processes of my body related to my thought processes?  In what way do they affect each other? How do my thought processes affect my movement and my dance? How does my movement affect my emotions?   

I wonder about the integration of these parts of self.   I believe physical, mental and emotional health results from a true integration and understanding of these parts of self.   I think that these questions will be incredibly important to my future work, both as a therapist and as a dance artist.

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Today I feel like the biggest thing I learned is how many questions I have, and how many things feel unknown.

A theme appearing for me this week is how to access my most “authentic self” as a dancer in creation, improvisation and performance.  

What I am learning from Jennifer is that finding this authentic self involves discovering true embodiment, learning how to identify and react to impulses and an awareness of the internal systems that are guiding your movement.

I’m sure this list will continue to grow as the week goes on.  

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Today we were exploring the cell and the interstitial fluid. We also examined the idea of a membrane between people and how it feels for the membrane to be open or closed.


photo by Yvonne Chew

This idea is closely tied to the concept of embodiment that we have been exploring, as it raises the question ” how can I be aware internally, or have an authentic flow as a mover (and person!) while still being present in the world and interact with another dancer?”

This is particularly important for improvising, when choices are made in the moment and authentic impulses are crucial. How can you tune into your own impulses while staying open to another body?

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I danced an improvised duet today that explored a concept of particular interest to me: the spaces between. Our duet centered around this idea, and challenged us to be both internally aware and externally conscious of the space between our two bodies.

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I am fascinated that it is possible to have lots of space between two bodies yet still maintain connection and energetic space, and inversely it is possible  to be touching but have no meaning or energy between. It takes being truly present in the moment to create the kind of tension between two bodies that is interesting both to dance and to watch.

In discussion after the duet, Jennifer Mascall summed it up beautifully, suggesting that when this ‘space between’ is tended to, the dancers create an architecture in the space that draws an audience in. It becomes a trio:  the space becomes the third member in a dance between two bodies.  

Those spaces between are the most exciting for me; spaces between bodies and spaces between movements. There is an anticipation in those spaces where anything is possible.  It is a concept I will continue to research in my pursuits in dance making.

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3MD WOW MOn. Tue, 2013 010As long as my body is alive, there will be constant movement inside me as different fluid systems travel their intricate pathways.  I was struck by the thought that “stillness” isn’t actually a thing.

During the intensive I’ve had a few moments where I tuned in to different fluid systems, notably the lymphatic system, the arterial blood and the venus blood.  Perhaps the way authentic, embodied movement becomes a reality is through developing an ability to anchor onto the movement that is already there.  

These things inspire me, as I move on into researching the incredible complexity of the body and learning to tune in to the intelligence that is already there.

As a dancer, I’m challenged by overwhelm. While trying to dance and make in-the-moment choices, I over-analyze.  I want to continue cultivating an analytic and critical thinking mind.  But there’s a balance I need to find.  Letting go and trusting of my instincts and impulses would serve my dancing greatly.  One of the biggest things I am taking away from this week to grow into. 

Join the conversation at WOW and stay tuned for more TALK from Jennifer Hamman and colleagues.