excavating the unsound body

This weekend, took a workshop with Djalma Primordial Science, a pair of artists who create butoh-based improvisational movement/sound performances (that right?). It was both intense and intensive (6 hours each day, though I left half-way through Sunday because Ben is taking the Bar this week–Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (if my parents thought loving a lawyer would encourage me to be one, they were oh, oh so wrong)–and I knew if I didn’t have the afternoon and evening to do things like dishes and grocery shopping, the night–and the week–would be lost to me–Ephia, the teacher, looked quite askance at that, I know I should surrender the exigencies (anyone know how to pronounce that word? I love it but don’t know how) of daily life when working like that but I saw the looming Tuesday night in my mind’s eye and it looked ugly).

So. The workshop was excellent, just terrifically exhausting. It’s been a long time since I’ve submitted myself to any performance training.

While Ephia was a great facilitator, the training focused on two quite familiar approaches to physical performance training:

1. Increasing the flexibility of the physical instrument through defamiliarization: Our bodies get used to certain patterns of movement as we go about our days–there’s a pretty finite number of things that we have to physically get used to dealing with, so our bodies fall into habits. Thus we must force ourselves to physically, vocally, and mentally, to move, make sound, and think in images outside our ken, in ways both unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable, etc., to break through those habits. (*Boal starts with defamiliarization in his Theater Games for Actors and Non-Actors
and has great techniques to use with across all skill levels).

2. Practicing placing images in the body. Another mode of both flexibility and focus, though harder to communicate with language–you want to increase your body’s ability to react to, assume qualities of, or be in concert of, your (post-verbal) imagination. So you learn to place specific images in specific parts of your body–to connect your mind’s eye with your body. This “gets you out of your head,” or rather, makes you very present in your body. And a lot of times, the best way to access parts of yourself as a performer is to work from a physical impulse into the emotional or spiritual material. Maybe this all sounds fruity, but swear to God, it works. Acting technique, folks.

So yes, it was delicious and edifying to practice these parts of myself. Has left me feeling good, even a day and change later.

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