For her second blog of the program our intern, Rachel, talks about her experience taking the clown intensive and reflects on her self discoveries.
Ok, so a lot goes on here during the weeks of the intensive, and before I begin talking about the classes, I do have a few very more than honorable mentions from this week. First, I want to mention Gianni Bruschi, who, lead a fantastic dance workshop on Italian and Greek folk dancing called, Tarentella. This workshop was truly special. Bruschi is one of three founders of Spazio Seme, an International Artistic Center, their goal is to create a space of artistic collaboration between Italian, as well as international artists. You can learn more at, http://www.spazioseme.com. In his workshop, Bruschi dipped into the physical world as well as the spiritual. The dancing itself was incredibly joyful and timeless in its tradition, for me though, Bruschi’s openness and use of personal connection in his exercises are what I will take with me into my work. Student Zev Bennets depicts this feeling well, he says, “Our culture cries out for ritual, and in the workshop we explored the deeper parts of ourselves which are available to go to a ritual space.” Gianni’s kindness as an educator and to continue the conversation outside of class reflects his deep dedication as an artist and as an educator. Speaking with Gianni about his work was even more intriguing, he said, “The goals that, on a large scale, I aim to achieve in my classes, are certainly those of being able to favor the creation of a ‘field’, a free space, but where everybody can follow some basic rules, where everyone can have the freedom to express his own internal dance in association with the proposed themes. Creating the conditions in which each participant can feel himself, or herself an explorer, a researcher, through body movement and vocal expression, sound, to better understand the functions of the human being.”
Now, before I delve into my clown class for the week I have to mention Federica Mafucci. Federica acts as both teacher and translator in my clown class with André Casaca. This past week I had the great pleasure of seeing her developing clown show. Under the direction of André, Federica wrote and created Zona Franca. In her short but hilariously compelling piece, Federica takes her lovable clown Franca, through a whirlwind of difficult tasks. Federica puts into action much of the work and theory we study in class. I saw as she daringly lived the risk in an honest and vulnerable way. She reminded me how to play within the most difficult moments and commit to the inner life of the clown as she faces each new problem within the clown’s fleeting existence. Seamus Good, our lovely technical coordinator and marketing assistant said it best, “What I found interesting about the performance was that it gave our students an opportunity to see our professional artists also learning and developing their own work.” In class, Federica inspires my own bold, and playful spirit. Anyone who knows her would agree, that she is a force to be reckoned with.
Ok. Big breath. Now, like the clown, I’m going to be vulnerable. For over the many realizations I have had in my clown classes with André, one sticks out to me the most. One afternoon André had us choose a partner and gave us the task of imitating them. We followed them around the room and watched as they walked and as they laughed and spoke. We observed even the smallest of details. I watched first as my lovely partner Ellie Payne, did an impression of me. Everyone laughed, because her impression, according to them, was exactly on point. It felt funny really, because I didn’t recognize myself in her performance at all. It seems that even after traveling to thirteen different countries this year, I still have no earthly idea who I am, or even what I’m doing.
Truthfully, the biggest reason I decided to move halfway across the world, was to breathe. I had packed my suitcase very carefully so that all the important things fit, somewhere in there I accidentally packed my fear, my shame, my guilt and lots and lots of trauma, all packaged in tiny FDA approved transparent bottles. I convinced myself that I was moving to Israel to grow and fix myself. I was a problem that required a solution.
So now I’m in clown class in Italy, and I have just watched sweet Ellie do a very honest impression of me that didn’t feel so nice. Now it was my turn, I put on the nose and stepped on stage in Ellie’s shoes. Man, did I love being her. See, Ellie is the most positive, kindest, and bravest student I have met in my time here. Ellie glows. I do not glow. When I played her on stage I felt so comfortable in my body, my face hurt from smiling. I was more comfortable in ‘Ellie’s body’ than I have been in mine, in a very long time. So now the question is, how can I make my own body feel like home?
All I really have to do is pay attention. “Raquel, I love your presence,” our clown teacher says. “When you perform you seem so free.” says my new friend Cory McVay. “Your clown poem today made me laugh so hard!”, says the lovely Starke McGehee. I spend so much of my time in class, looking at the other students and noticing their unique talents and their use of technique. Everytime I try to borrow ideas or recreate someone else’s genius, my performance feels dishonest and flat. Something clown has taught me is; my very best art, comes from me. My clown is the most honest when it’s honestly mine. Perhaps I do not need to be fixed at all. Perhaps…I am my own solution.
Ok, now that’s over. Would you like to hear about my favorite part of the week? Yes? Ok, i’ll tell you.
It is the day before our showcase. After a long day of clowning and doing the tango, we are covered in sweat. It is almost one hundred degrees outside. I can’t even recognize my own smell, because I am covered in everyone else’s sweat too. There are five minutes left of class. André turns to us and all he says, “put on the nose and follow me”. He takes us through the brush of the vineyards and up the stairs to the other side of the building. We hear the ever familiar military bugle that tells us to line up and stand at attention. He pulls from the wall, a giant water hose, the ultimate bottled water.
“What! Is the work of the clown?!” André screams in Italian.
We all scream out similar answers yelling over each other, trying to save ourselves from punishment.
“Vulnerability!” someone yells.
“Honesty!” shouts another.
“To live the risk!” say a few.
“ARGHHH!! TO LIVE THE RISK!” André cracks the slightest smile before he presses down on the hose, soaking us with clean delicious water.
At first of course we all live in the Fiasco. We are shocked and petrified. As the freshness spreads over our bodies, something magical happens. We begin to dance.
Federica is right on cue and begins singing “I’m singing in the rain …singing in the rain…” and soon we are a chorus of joyful, singing, dancing, soaking wet clowns.
With this action we know deep inside that we are loved. We all give André a giant group hug, reminding him that we love him too. He is always helping me love myself. That’s the thing that I admire most about André, is that he does everything with love. His work as a clown, as a teacher, as a friend. He does it with love. Always with love.