At the end of week three and one more week to go of the Summer Physical Theatre Intensive, summer intern Rachel reflects and describes the experience she’s had so far in the Body Memory intensive taught by Dénes Döbrei and Heni Varga.
It’s 5:00am. We don’t speak or make eye contact. We stand together and wait. Maybe today it won’t happen. No it has to. It smells like rain. I notice the blues and the whites that highlight the mountains, the colors that make them grow tall, blending into the next shape, and then the next. We stand together and wait. We wait for the sun to rise.
In my Body Memory class, taught by Serbian artists Dénes Döbrei and Heni Varga, we wake up with the sun. We allow the nature to inspire our bodies and breathe into movement. Then we play together in nature. We play in silence acting upon our smallest impulses we do this until the sun is high in the sky. When we are finished, we meet amongst the trees and meditate. We share ohms and allow the vibrations to dance around our heads, all the way to the root of the body.
Today is the fourth day we have done this and the hardest part for me is waiting for the sun. I remember my yoga training and work on my stillness. Usually, all I can think about is meal prep, and plane tickets. It’s always difficult to quiet the mind until we start moving our bodies. When my body moves, I feel present and I am able to live truthfully within the play. Here on the fourth day, I choose to experiment. I start to pray. I ask God to help me love my body. I apologise for not honoring her creation, for not embracing the body she carefully crafted just for me.
In the Jewish tradition, an observant Jew wakes up every morning with the sun to daven (to pray). Face east towards Jerusalem, and where the sun will rise. When they pray, they will rock back and forth, they bow, they dance.
In many Churches I’ve been to, people rise on Sundays to sing and to hold their hands to the sky. They sway and cross themselves and kneel.
When Muslims pray, they come to the earth. Muslims bow slowly with their heads to the floor. They submit to a power greater than themselves.
In Vedic religions, such as Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism people practice Yoga sometimes for three hours a day. In some of the Hindu temples I’ve been to, I see men stretch their bodies all the way out across the floor. Connecting with those mantras only found in the natural world; water, fruits, flowers, incense.
The list goes on and on. Whatever you believe, one truth sustains. When we honor our bodies, we honor our spirit. I think of the incredible Anna Halprin documentary showed to our dance students this week. In a biographic 2002 performance held in New York Halprin talks about how her first exposure to dance was watching her Russian grandfather pray. In the synagogue, he would sing and dance with such joy that the image of his deep spiritual happiness burned in her mind forever. She says:
Movement has the capacity to take us to the home
of the soul, the world within for which we have
no name. Movement reaches our deepest nature,
and dance creatively expresses it. Through dance,
we gain new insights into the mystery of our lives.
When brought forth from the inside and forged by
the desire to create personal change, dance has the
profound power to heal the body, psyche and soul.
Today in the weeds I embraced Halprin’s words. I think about how as a 98 year-old dancer, she honors her body with her work in every stage of her life. When she had cancer, she gave her spirit what it needed by dancing her pain. As she grew older, she began to produce pieces that not only reflected her body’s experience, but embraced it. She directed and performed in pieces that lifted her beautifully aged body as something to revere and also created pieces about the painful realities of death. As body memory continues, I hope to honor my mind, spirit and corporal self. I must trust that the three are melded together in the most perfect way. I must trust that I’ll ever be able to make sense of it all.
What I do know to be true, is that through these intense sensory exercises, I am now researching my own beauty. I think before this intensive began, I would look for the beauty within myself, or try to push it out through my nose and my eyeballs. Forcing myself to mirror something I could enjoy and hope that I would find it. Some days it wouldn’t come out at all.
Now, after this year of travel, and my time here at the Villa, I trust that all the beauty and creativity is already there. In fact, I get to PLAY in it. I get to splash in the puddles of my stretch marks and hike through the forest of my leg hair. I am more than happy to take in the view. In fact I take pleasure in it. My spirit depends on it.
Now I want to leave you all with something Dory Sibley said to us at the end of class today, she said, “Pay attention when you experience pleasure, the more we pay attention to this, the more we can recreate it for ourselves”. Thanks Dory, I’ll work on it. 🙂