Sunday, January 27, 2013

An actor's experience inside an improvised circle.

My  Reflections on  Contact Improvisation  

Every now and then you want to do something that would surprise you  and help you discover something about yourself  that you think never existed before  and I did something like that exactly when I decided to attend the “ contact improvisation ‘  workshop by Lucy May Constantini  a week ago.
Contact improvisation by definition  is an  improvised dance form  based on the communication between two moving bodies that are in physical contact and their combined relationship to the physical laws that govern their motion—gravity, momentum, inertia. The body, in order to open to these sensations, learns to release excess muscular tension and abandon a certain quality of willfulness to experience the natural flow of movement. Practice includes rolling, falling, being upside down, following a physical point of contact, supporting and giving weight to a partner.
I come from a non-dance background   with a little bit of  amateur theater experience and improvisation purely  from a  ‘playback theater’    or a ‘Whose line is it anyway’  format . These workshops  leverage the  ability to think on your feet and use language as the medium of expression  to perform for an audience and entertain them.  I had never thought that there would be an opportunity to just engage myself and perform for myself. That in itself is a whole beautiful creative process i realized  through this medium of contact improvisation.
 Before I enrolled into this I had enquired  from the organizer Nakula  if an entry level person like me  could attend and he was more than  open to have me as a part of the group.  The moment I entered the ‘space’ and got myself  into acknowledging the folks around I realized that most of them were actually professional /part time amazing dancers and I dint even know the abcd of dancing. I have infact just started learning contemporary dancing with Tarantismo , and one of their best teachers/ dancers were also around.  For a brief moment, my mind was struggling to find reason  and my body finding it's own feet as to what I was doing amidst such  good experienced dancers ? What would I  be able to learn and  what would I contribute  to the team as a whole ?
 However, I was very pleasantly surprised to find my unsettled mind calm down and my deepest fears laid to rest right from the word go when the workshop began because of the   way it was done  by   our  facilitator Lucy  and the people around   who went about in such a fashion that  by the end of it  I can say that I am more at peace with myself. I have learnt to see events/ things around from a completely different perspective, i.e to look at life and nature around as one big composition that we can only fathom to touch the top  layers that our  perception or should i say 'nervous system' can comprehend. This definitely  was something unexpected and unsettling . I use the word unexpected because when you dance  , most of the times its  with music; it’s with a certain  audience in mind  and follows a certain pattern.   This was nothing like that….
I do not want to list the activities or how it went about during the week, but I want to definitely share that  we began with doing something  very basic and from the  ‘ground’ level   quiet literally. Connecting to  the ground beneath not just my feet, but connecting the whole body to  earth  and your partner  and letting the earth receive and give energy to you is a very  unique experience.  It doesn’t matter if you  practice dance,  or music or  act on stage or just  go up and speak to an audience , but  the very  energy exchange that happens is something that I experienced  and allowed myself to enjoy it thoroughly .  The continuous  cycle of   : The earth- your center - touch - partner and the earth is an amazing feeling . At the very beginning,  it does take its time to come to terms with as there is  the fear lurking inside that  always creeps within  and asks me  -Why am I allowing  someone to  peek through a part of me  or even why am I allowing this part to come out of me to either be witnessed by myself or through someone watching ?  Have I exposed something or  shared my vulnerabilities , that was just for me  and my sensibilities ?
 Anyway once you begin to accept what you go through , there is something very beautiful that  emerges from the  space – the  emptiness and nothingness around that cannot be explained logically or intellectually.  From getting to know the earth , to ourselves, to partners and exploring the space through a dance that has no structure, no set rhythm  no set sound  no set time is fantastic and is something  so fundamentally transforming that  only when you experience it can you believe it . We are so used to the visual  means of perceiving the world around  that some of the things we did with our eyes closed gave us a whole new sense of  ‘sensation through the senses’. The whole time you just allow your body to function like it has a mind of its own and allow it to take and receive, feel and listen rather than use language or words to express or allow your brain to  respond and take control.
Whenever we would want to appreciate , the sign language  hand clapping or the reverse clapping  is what we followed so that we do not break out of the  state of self  that we are in. Understanding a composition , doing the sweeps , tilted room, expressing through imagery rather than long sentences   and many more things that I went through the workshop made me look at  things around from a very different perspective.  Another key thing   we did towards the end that I enjoyed was the whole ’underscore ‘ thing  on one of the days  that typically lasts for 2 hrs atleast.
Finally I do have to say that there is something about Lucy and the way she taught us  with such zeal , innovativeness in   her style , allowing us to experience reflections , satisfaction , empathy   and a whole lot of feelings  through the medium of   ‘pure  unstructured dance’ . We as a group are very humbled to have learnt from her and though this was just a one week workshop , we are deeply thankful   for having accepted us  to be worthy of knowing this   form of dance and sharing her insights  in the little time that we had with each other.

May we ‘contact ‘soon and ending it with a small poem by the movie maker Farhan Akhtar  ( in Hindi  first and then the  translation below  ) whose feelings I echo this very  moment
Pighlay neelam sa behta hua yeh samaan Neeli neeli si khamoshiyaan Na kahin hai zameen Na kahin aasmaan Sarsaraati huyi tehniyaan,pattiyaan Keh rahi hain ki bas ek tum ho yahaan Sirf main hoon meri saansein hain aur meri dhadkanein Aisi gehraiyaan Aisi tanhaiyaan Aur main sirf main Apne honay pe mujhko yaqeen aa gaya

The moment flows by like molten sapphire Deep Blue silences No Earth below No Sky above The rustling branches and leaves Saying that only you are here Only me My breath My heartbeat Such Depth like this Such Loneliness like this And me only me I now believe I exist

Know Shiv! - actor, improviser, runner!

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