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A MONTHLY FEUILLETON (PART 3: DECEMBER)
By Agnieszka Ryszkiewicz
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Hi, it's me again, Ophelia. Two words of introduction for those who could catch up with us only now. (Shame on you guys!)
I am a dancer and beginning choreographer ("Nachwucks," as they say in Austria, what I like to understand as the "next hope"). Actually I am the youngest of 10 young artists who form the ESSAIS group at the heart of a national choreographic center in a cute little French town called Angers. I am pretty slim (as are all dancers ;)), have dark curly hair and big green eyes. I like to think of myself as the dark side of Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City … that's why in this blog I analyze the performative incidents in my surroundings. As you see, although you have already missed a lot one could say that you "came in the right moment": today's issues are somatic techniques (which obviously have to do with sexual practices as you may imagine!).
After the first session of Feldenkrais I wrote down in my notebook (it is a dancer's must to have one and the most fashionable are Moleskines. As if we had anything to do with Hemingway!):
"We were all leaning on the floor as if transported into another dimension. So fully and completely aware of the smallest veins running through our bodies. It is incredible. We are so sensitive people. Our common ‘I' lay right there and wouldn't move. The world could break into pieces but we would go on, carrying the worldwide suffering on our delicate yet muscular shoulders."
Somatic techniques are actually called methods in France. One distinguishes two words: "methode" would be rather a set of principles with the process being the final objective, whereas "technique" will be more a collection of ways, tools formalized in order to achieve a result. Therefore to teach a method, one can use different techniques. Nevertheless the thing about these somatic methods is very easy in the end. Thomas Hanna used the term somatic for the first time to make the difference between the body – that is an object perceived from outside (it) – and the soma – perceived from inside – a subjective "I" based on experience. So he stated that there is no sensation without motor action and no action without perception.
It all sounded very new and interesting to me and I admit I was deeply surprised to learn that I was the only one who hadn't had the experience of practicing a somatic method. Among us were apparently devoted Rolfing adepts (from Ida Rolf), a fan of Alexander technique, a BMC practitioner and B. who is completely crazy about Ashtanga Yoga.
Is ballet technique supported by some proper Graham and a regular input of release, Zambrano and Les Slovaks Dance Collective out of date?
Is releasing the tongue more an issue than turning out in the hips?
In the evening we are invited to join the general rehearsal of "La Belle Hélène" by Jacques Offenbach, directed by Mariame Clément. The opera is announced as a discovery "of the Inner Hollywood in our contemporary Olympus" (http://www.lequai-angers.eu/en/season/opera/bdd/sid/159). Excited about attending a classic's revisitation, not only a highly sensual art work, but on top of that a general rehearsal, where the tensions are both palpable and visible, all ten of us Essayists are trotting harmoniously to the theatre.
Alert, receptive, and our muscular tissues rearranged, we keep our spines long when leaning towards the stage. Oh, how soon our body images shall coil up in pain!
None of us had the strength to wait until this poor imitation of Fellini's Prova d'orchestra would end, covered by the ashes of the theatre.
I should have gone to bed early anyway to be fit for tomorrow's class. It may not look very physically tiring but the concentration needed to notice all the new things happening in my body is extraordinary.
During the third Feldenkrais meeting I was brutally awakened by B. rushing out of the studio. She felt totally sick while pushing her belly out with every exhalation. I for my part must be doing something wrong as well, falling asleep has never been so easy … Cecilia says it's the teacher, pardon the practitioner, whom she finds too low-key. Personally, I find him not attractive enough to keep me awake while traveling mentally through my "facias".
Nevertheless, there is a part of that practice both Cecilia and I found most adorable: the post experience sharing talk.
Once everybody's awake again, we sit on the mats more or less in a circle and the discussion begins.
"I feel that my body has a lot of accumulated information that needs to get out somehow."
"Somehow I think that everything in dance is about copying."
"In my country, we do not learn by copying, but I am definitely relieved when the visual dictatorship is taken away", says Cecilia.
"I do not sense that I went anywhere today. For me, it's like from the beginning I am turning in circles and …"
"But this is part of the process! I feel the same and it is good."
"It's not about good and bad," our master tries to interfere.
"Well, I like to know that I am doing the exercise in a good way", I say, "I feel there is so much my body and I need to learn …"
"I feel learning is a life thing for me!" screams Charles, Cecilia's Swiss boyfriend and visual artist.
"Me, I feel, I think, I am sure I will be sick again", mumbles B. and runs out.
Poor thing B., Feldenkrais apparently is not her horse. I sadly have to admit that neither is it mine. I love to feel all my body parts, and I think it is important to be able to talk about sensations but I still prefer to experiment with them. "La Belle Hélène" may have been a defeat but back at my place, the tenor made me aware of some really deeply hidden muscles.
(Transmitted via time machine from December 2008)