Way Out West 2015 student journalling
TEXT by Avyen Playaway (intensive participant) SKETCHES by Willis Wong
We warmed up with movements accessing the fluids of the body. Moving my body in these ways felt nice and quite natural, albeit awkward – the movements were outside of my “norm”. Jennifer facilitated a space of non-judgement, relieving to someone with little dance experience. We were directed to go to different places in the room according to our feelings: “Go the place that represents grief, joy, comfort, discomfort.” I found the discomfort interesting. What is discomfort? If I’m willing to sit in a place of discomfort, is it really discomfort? Can I voluntarily exist in discomfort without any relation to comfort?
We opened the pedagogical talk with holding hands. We spoke of body fluids, and learned about cells and cell membranes, and explored listening to different types of fluids within our own body and within others, in partner work. The space was very safe and the information was/is quite tangible and subtle.
We examined frames and framing. What is a frame? what are the value of a frame? I thought about how this relates to dance and performance.
With partners, we worked on how to utilize frames to tell a story, any story, using only a simple object. It was gratifying to focus on the frame rather than what is in it. In theatre there’s usually a big focus on how we empower the objects (people, props etc.) in the frame to make a story. But in this exercise, all we had to focus on was the frame. The stories that people made were just as engaging and fulfilling to watch, a container as simple as a piece of string representing the frame.
As the second day began my immune system felt low – as if toxins have been released, as opposed to the onset of cold or flu. Perhaps opening up the fluids the day before had this effect.
We opened with the technique section of the class, an hour and a half of structured movement – awesome moves I started to recognize. Jennifer taught the class with precise open discipline and a consistent beaming smile. My body felt sore – the good kind, that makes your body feel animal-like – you can feel individual muscles.
We again opened the pedagogy circle with holding hands and centering. Jennifer guided us through the evolution of a baby’s movements. From the most basic movements forth, I felt that my body was remembering and/or restructuring itself. The focus was on the bone structure of the skull. We felt our skulls and felt the different qualities of each plate’s bone density, and through moving each one we were stimulating the spinal nerve. Each plate moves differently, that’s crazy cool. We held a partners’ head and felt the breath and motion of the skull plates.
The dynamic relaxation and relaxed dynamic explor/action is a good mix.
Come back from lunch and do this exercise:
Walk in a group line with 180 degrees perception. No one leads – yet we move together across the room. It was fun. After a while, I got frustrated – it was interesting to witness my bodies reaction and listen to the excuses my mind came up with.
We drew this experience, exchanged papers, drew in an audience, formed groups and made a scene by amalgamating all the papers of one group – an experience of “quick devising”. Our group split the class into four groups and we played with different senses. I got light: I had 3 people look out each church window into the sun. Others had scent, visuals, and sound. We brought all of them into the center and ran around them yelling, dancing and spraying rose water. Fun! The goal was to change the perception of the audience.
We were taught the value of hunkering. Sit and process.
Then we did a group blind walk, holding a rope, and taking in the sounds. We came back in and danced our experience in partners: one blind, the other wore scent. The blind person did the dance of the outside and followed the scent as we’d previously followed the rope.
There was a talk on giving proper feedback, questioning whether the feedback one gives is feedback that manipulates the person into one’s own personal agenda? Or is it encouraging the player to focus on the work and encouraging play?
We ended class with 30 minutes of yoga.
Great way to end a class – so quick and effective: no need for yoga mind frame, you just go ahead, breath and benefit.
We opened with technique class. Now I am sore. I am getting these motion and repetitions. I can feel a momentum in these moves – when you ride the wave of the momentum, it’s really fun. We entered the movements through our organs.
Pedagogy looked at sympathetic, parasympathetic and social vegas nerves. Holding each other from the back (because through the back the vegas nerve can relax) we worked in pairs, and it was very nice to be held and to feel where I am holding on and tense. The whole time, being held. It was also a cool experience to fully support someone physically as they completely relax. Switching partners, we ran our fingertips along the front and back side of the body, bringing the energy down to the earth. Next, we pulled on their jaw and relaxed a specific muscle. Explored many facial muscles, we played with movements – and consequently expressions – of the face.
We shared our expressions with partners and with the group. I liked this – we all made faces at each other without trying to be funny or clever, simply moving facial muscles; purely technical…. but funny. All of our faces glowed afterwards.
We began by framing boring objects with string. We had a few minutes to devise a piece. The point was to have the frame be the animator, as opposed to rather than what’s inside the frame. This resulted in many smart and interesting pieces.
Then we went on a sound walk with one other person, totally focussing on sounds and the effect of the sounds on you. (It was amazing! The sound walk is a blast. Everyone should walk around with blindfolds on all the time! ) We were tasked with making a piece based on this to show the following day.
Ended the class with yoga. We moved into the asanas via our organs. It was nice to move into them that way compared to a muscular way.
We arrived at class late, and watched technique section just finishing up – people were jumping like frogs and spinning like dervishes.
Pedagogy was opened and we drew pictures of ourselves and how we feel. Then a partner held our drawing as we danced our picture for them. Then, since we are different following the dancing, we redrew a picture of ourself. Then we danced our partners picture for them. Half the class moved to the center and were not to perform but to move whatever way our bodies wanted to. All the while working with the knowing of being watched. The outer circle watched the others thoughtlessly and through a baby’s eyes i.e. as the present moment sans attachments or agenda.
Steven and Jennifer had us pair up and make a dance in a few minutes. We presented them and talked about the concept of framing with each one. Steven and Jennifer are skilled at exploring concepts and devising exercises to examine such concepts. We were able to actually see that tension or attention is achieved though relationship of space and of partners.
Then we presented our sound walks from the day before. Each piece was presented with the audience’s eyes closed. People played with sounds in very creative ways. My partner and I were interested in how we felt safe and unsafe walking around outside without sight. So we had everyone stand on chairs, ran around making sounds. Then we put everyone on the ground and ran around and made sounds. Some were in shivasana and some were in fetal position. We wanted to see which posture felt more safe before and after we said a blind person was now to lead a blind person around the room. Great discussions after each presentation.
We ended the class with yoga. My body feels great. The yoga and the movements are bleeding into my time outside of class.
The day started with technique moves. We went through all that we learned this week. I did the butterfly kick! It’s so cool to do these dance moves coming from a background of little to no dance.
Opened the pedagogy circle with holding hands. We held water balloons to get an idea on how to properly hold an organ. The talk was about the pancreas. We partnered up and searched for our partners pancreas when we found it we played with the range of vocal quality in order to find the resonance of this particular organ. Then the person with the pancreas resonated with what they felt then the two resonated together. The person then moved from their pancreas. Each organ has a motion, feelings, tone and qualities associated with it. We danced from our organ and spoke from it as well. It was cool to see everyones take on the experience and qualities was similar to mine.
We moved to the edge of the labyrinth (which is painted on the floor of the high ceiling’d room we were in) walked around it and then walked it. Felt like life, twists and turns and you think you are going in and deeper -but you’re actually moving across the edge. So beautiful… We all hunkered afterwards, in silence.
Then the next exercise played with the olfactory sense. I sat in the center of the room and wore a scent and someone entered and tried to find me through scent. It took a while for them to find me.
We presented our piece from the day before. an added extra parameter was to simply add to the sound that is already there. We had 8 or so minutes to devise a piece.
We had everyone lay on the ground and listen to the vibrations as we entered and facilitated a heartbeat with our feet, moving it into a single beat then into a walking heartbeat which initiated creaking sounds. It shifted into regular walking then running. They felt like they were in a stampede. Slowed down and spoke into the floor, having a conversation. They heard muffled vibrations… we ran outside and screamed the show was over from the alley, into the window. It was a success – we got a slight connection with the internal organs and the outside environment by facilitating a safe and an unsafe environment.
Each piece brought up a lot of ideas and inspiration. We had a discussion, a final discussion on the week.
We ended the class with deep relaxation exercises. One asana, a twist then a bigass shivasana. And ended with a little chant. Tadaa.. A beautiful workshop is over. Thank You!