Posted in theory by L. Nicol Cabe - Aug 09, 2010
I haven’t blogged about the last handful of movement classes I’ve been to, because I can’t seem to consciously hold everything important that I want to talk about in my head for more than a day. This is really unfortunate, because I feel like the class is having a huge effect on my life. I mean, we’re learning an etude, which I suppose is the biomechanics part of the class, and we’re learning handstands and we experiment with different movement exercises (we did one yesterday that was walking up and down a set of stairs in different ways that required some concentration and balance, which is scary for me because I have a back injury from falling down a set of stairs, but I worked through my fear which I’m pretty proud of), and we’re working on some Lecoq movements.
What I’m becoming concerned with, lately, is continuing my movement education. George is teaching a clown class in the fall, which sounds kinda interesting, but Freehold classes are expensive (I really can’t continue with installments of $130 a month), and I’m not particularly interested in clowning. A big part of that is that I’m just not a performer at heart, anymore. So why am I interested in movement, in relation to performance? Well, I’m not totally averse to performing, but I’m also not interested in finding my comedic timing, or more traditional storytelling movement performances. I’m not particularly interested in learning ballet or jazz, for roughly similar reasons. I’m interested in the weird and out-there, which is why I’m interested in things like Butoh and Biomechanics.
I’m also strongly concerned about continuing with movement because I don’t want to lose what I’ve learned. I love what I’ve gotten out of this class. I have more confidence in myself physically, I have better balance, I find that I want to practice the etude and dance a lot lately, I take physical “short cuts” to do things (like jumping over the couch to get to my messenger bag), and I’m much, much more curious about how and why I do things, and how that can change and what effect that has on me. George often mentions in class that humans are inherently lazy creatures. I don’t think this is entirely true. Part of the problem is, in our fat and leisurely Western society, we are trained to sit still all day, starting at school and ending at a desk job. Another problem, which is more personal, is finding a kind of movement that engages you. I’ve always hated — even resented — going to the gym, because it’s boring. What I love about this movement class, and blues dancing, and yoga, and even one of the few things I got out of the Butoh workshop I took last week, is that I feel a growing connection between my mental self, which is the self I focus on most of the time, and my physical self, which has long been neglected. Doing reps at the gym forces more distance between those two aspects of me, because I try to ignore the pain and boredom by distracting myself, with music or a book. Obligation is not a good motivating factor for me, nor is guilt, and I feel both of those things when I think about “working out.” But if it’s something I enjoy doing, suddenly its not about forcing yourself to do something so you can enjoy the end product — it becomes all about the process. What is my dance partner going to tell me to do next? What happens from this squatting position when I move my right arm a little higher? What is the precise sequence of movements this person is doing so I can imitate that?
I’ve been searching for more Butoh workshops and classes, and there just isn’t that much. I’ve friended people on Facebook and followed people on Twitter like crazy just to get updates. There also are not many Biomechanics teachers in Seattle, nor many movement teachers in general (I think the prevalence of Butoh practitioners has both to do with the popularity of the artform and Seattle’s prominent Asian population). However, I did learn recently, through an email list, about a field of movement study called the Feldenkrais Method. It’s more about exploration, with some focus on movement therapy, than it is about dancing or a set movement structure. “The Feldenkrais method is designed to improve movement repertoire, aiming to expand and refine the use of the self through awareness, in order to reduce pain or limitations in movement, and promote general well-being.” The last part of that sentence, about reducing pain and promoting general well-being, concerns me, as I think it might allow a little too much woo into the practice. But I do love the idea of concentration and exploration, and the classes offered by Velocity Dance Studio are weekly, and you can drop into one at any time to try it out. Plus, I might learn fun things like this:
Or AWESOME things like THIS:
But then, you know, it can always start to seem a little too silly and unimaginative:
I’ve been thinking a lot about WHY I’m so obsessed with movement, other than I’m experiencing a lot of interesting side effects in daily life. As mentioned, I’m not really a performer at heart, and my main motivation for taking the movement class with George to begin with was that I needed some new tools to be a better, more interesting director. I’d hit a huge rut this past year, and this has for sure helped me break out of it. I’d like to think that part of my interest may even be genetic: my mom was a ballet dancer years before I was born, as well as a painter, and she’s always encouraged my creativity. Does fascination with movement/dance run through certain genetic lines? Or am I having subconscious flashbacks to taking a gymnastics class when I was very young? Most of that was fun, as I recall, although at the end of the class we had to do a forward flip over a bar, and I refused to do it. My first real anti-establishment thought, in fact, came from that class: I reluctantly flipped over the bar, and once everyone in the class had done it, the teacher encouraged students to try it again by offering a piece of gum as a bribe. That struck me as dumb, and I was all of four years old at the time.
Anyway, I don’t really know what draws me to this so much, especially since I’m not hugely keen on performing it myself (if I can find a decent Butoh teacher, I might feel differently about that, but we’ll see). The exploration is fascinating, and I love feeling more connected to my body, like its actually part of who I am and not just this vehicle I’m stuck with, an inappropriate vessel that contains/restrains the “real me.” I’m also deeply interested and concerned with finding theatre that just can’t be effectively translated to film. I was talking briefly to a new theatre company here, about possibly working with them on future productions, and the woman I spoke with mentioned that they wanted to tie in a lot of video in their shows, specifically to lure in a younger crowd, which was more accustomed to movies and television. And that struck me as very, very wrong. I can’t be that accommodating when it comes to pop culture. I want to do interesting, entertaining theatre, but I don’t want it to be an experience that could just as well have been a movie. Gods forbid it might be better as a movie — that means I’ve failed completely. Movement is the kind of thing that you can translate to film, which allows me to use YouTube clips with some frequency, but the experience is nowhere near the same as seeing it live.
So, essentially, I don’t know what I want to do. I want to focus on movement that deals particularly with performance, but whether or not I actually perform it myself is up in the air. I think I’m going to give this Feldenkrais thing a shot, although its making my bullshit-ometer twitch. I’m also interested in going for the F.A.C.E. training, with the specific aim of combining facial expressions with body expressions. I guess, really, I have to get into all this stuff to figure out how it fits and how I want to use it. And I probably will end up on stage again, using all this, because, as my mom says, if I don’t do it, who will?
Here’s another Biomechanics video for you:COMMENTS