It's ironic that about nine months ago I wrote a blog post about yoga and women deliberately avoiding to talk about menstrual cycles and pregnancy. Well, times have changed and… I'm pregnant. 19 weeks (almost halfway through) to be exact with a baby due in January. My partner Alan and I are delighted.
This change sheds new light on my relationship with my body and with my asana practice. In this blog post I want to articulate how I feel about my pregnant body in the context of my yoga practice. Here I’m not so interested in celebrating the beauty and wonder of pregnancy (wondrous and beautiful as it is!); instead, I want to reflect on how I experience being a woman of 33 years going through major physical changes while trying to keep up a yoga practice and work as a yoga teacher.
Before I got pregnant I was sure I would have no expectations about what I would be able to do during pregnancy. It appeared that my expectations only revealed themselves when they weren't met... When the first nausea and tiredness hit me around week five or six I realized I had no idea what I was actually in for. I had heard women with children talk about how tired they felt in the first trimester, but it hadn't occurred to me that I couldn't just power through it like I normally do. Since being a child gymnast and throughout my dance training I have always felt in control of my body, of how much I choose to exercise and my weight and body shape. Pregnancy changed this. The energy that goes in to growing the baby in this first stage is completely unexpected. I actually felt like I had a minor flu for about two months. And that’s not to mention the nausea and vomiting!
Naturally I had to accommodate my yoga practice to this. Boy, that was hard. Not being able to do what I wanted to – when I wanted to – felt like a massive failure on my part. What would other yoga students think of me when I gave up half way through the standing sequence? (Of course, I couldn’t tell most people I was pregnant at this point.) Would my teacher think I was lazy? Would I become overweight when not exercising and practicing as often as before? Would I forget the Ashtanga yoga sequence? Would Kapotasana now forever be beyond my reach? All these question and fears crept in within weeks of my positive pregnancy test.
Thankfully the symptoms eased off. As with many other women my energy slowly returned to a more acceptable level around my 14th week of pregnancy. For the past five weeks I have been able to practice more regularly and felt the urge to do so, rather than doing it out of duty.
However, I am slowly succumbing to the fact that my practice will not be back to how it was for a very long time – if ever! Instead of being frustrated about this and forcing myself into a regime I can't cope with, I have decided that I want to develop a practice that suits this stage of my life. I'm determined though to not give up my beloved friend – the Ashtanga Yoga practice – so the next weeks and months will be an investigation into how to modify the practice to keep it part of my life even as my life and body change. Focus has to be less on deepening postures and more on finding useful alternatives and variations that make me feel good in my body. My intention is to report back on what modifications I find useful and my thoughts on how to keep the practice viable.
Not much is available in terms of videos and hands-on instructions for modifying Ashtanga for pregnancy. I did find a few useful blog posts though. Below this video I have listed links to them for you to read for yourself.
Last week in my friend's flat in Berlin I was practicing in my room and although not a part of the standing sequence I couldn't resist reaffirming my ability to do this:
Links for articles to read:
These are links that give useful suggestions and guidelines on how to approach the Ashtanga practice during pregnancy
See also this video of Arkie Yogini practicing 35 weeks pregnant
I have been reading back on my four recent blog posts about Mathilde improvisation, life coaching, yoga teaching and Improvisation Exchange to try and get an overview of themes or approaches that overlap.
Here's a list:
The first thing I get yoga students to do in my classes is to sit with their eyes closed. This is not necessarily to listen to sound but often to 'listen' to sensation. In my opinion the first and most important aspect of yoga is learning to tune in to sensations in the body. To allow emotions and subtle physical sensations to arise. I remember doing a Vipassana meditation course a few years back where I spent ten days in mostly complete silence meditating for hours a day from early morning till evening. By the end of day nine the ability to listen inwards had become super sharp! That is the kind of listening I'm interested in and which I feel applies both to yoga and improvisation. It creates an inner awareness that in a moment of dance improvisation encourages movement to be less 'in-the-head' and more embodied. This sort of listening in an improvisation context where we're in contact with others (if not physically then by observing or being in the same space) means that the meeting between bodies is likely to be clearer and more open and therefore conducive to responding without trying to second guess someone else's next move.
Finally, listening is the core element of life coaching. Not just hearing, but active listening, where you listen not just with your ears but with your body. This is often 90% of what is required when coaching, as allowing someone to feel truly heard and giving them time to think usually means that answers appear from the coachee themselves.
Being in the moment/Awareness and attention
Much is said indirectly about 'being in the moment' in the listening paragraph above. When we notice sensations arise or we feel connected to another improviser it's impossible at the same time to daydream or plan ahead. The function of listening, you could say, is precisely to be in the moment. Awareness and attention are again an extension or different wording for listening and being in the moment. Awareness or attention to your own sensations or to someone else comes from listening.
80 most frequently used words in my life coaching post, the Improvisation Exchange post,
Mathilde improvisation workshop post and the yoga intensive post
I was initially drawn to improvisation rather than choreographed movement because I was interested in composition and making artistic choices but less interested in filtering or selecting 'good' vs. 'bad'. I wanted to be deeply immersed in the dance and still try and have an overview of the piece and make informed choices. What's fun about improvising is that anything goes, but inevitably we're (almost) all inhibited by our cultural conditioning and to some degree also self-judgment. We constantly self-censor. In fact, it's much easier to do outrageous things when someone has told us to or allowed us to, as we then let go of the responsibility for our choices. Avoiding this self-censoring means letting go of expectations of self and others and letting go of 'labeling'. By labeling I mean putting names to things. Instead of saying 'I had a really good yoga practice' or 'this improvisation lacked coherence' is it possible to just do/be (improvise movement, listen and talk in life coaching or do a yoga practice) without putting some sort of judgment or label on it?
When I did my life coach training I remember my teacher talking about being curious when listening to a coachee. Like a young child that has no prerequisite for judging, can we be curious (not nosey!) about someone's actions or statements without drawing conclusions or making assumptions about what they mean to do or say?
So avoiding self-censoring is related to not judging yourself and others and this applies equally to a yoga practice as well as an improvisation or a life coaching session.
Essential to life, breathing is part of our automatic nervous system which implies that it's independent of our conscious mind. To actively bring it to the conscious mind and observe it and listen to it is the core practice of yoga. Movement comes after.
Here's a quote by Michael Stone from his yoga philosophy book 'The Inner Tradition of Yoga':
Deepen the breath, with immediate attention, and stay with the breath for a little longer, and all sorts of movement may start. Emotion may start to surface, and held-in emotion is yet another cause of reduced flexibility. (...) As the breath moves, the mind moves; as the mind moves, the nervous system moves; and you cannot separate the movements of mind, breath, and body any more than you can take the essence "onion" out of any layer of an onion.
What Michael Stone explains is that the breath works as a bridge between our mind/emotions and the physical body and only by keeping our attention on the breath can we access those emotions. The breath is where we meet our own inner life and -personally- where I find the motivation for and access to uncontrived movement. In the place where I let myself be moved by the breath, my yoga practice and improvisation practice meet.
As much as I love teaching yoga classes and conveying my experience and knowledge of the practice to students it is the Mysore or self-practice that really captures my heart. The reason for this is to do with the shared responsibility. Yoga as self-practice means that engagement with the body and the postures comes from an internal motivation. When I teach a class, students have an expectation that they will be led and taught and that I'm 'the boss'. But in my philosophy the practice itself is the teacher and my job is mainly to ensure the students do not hurt themselves or others. In a self-practice class the relationship between me and the student changes as I no longer place myself above them. The practice - together with the students' own ability to listen and respond accordingly - becomes the teacher.
Not surprisingly this is also the principle of life coaching. The coachee already has the answers to the questions they're asking and as a coach all I do is create a space where they can search for them. My job is not to tell them what is right and wrong (it would be presumptuous of me to think I know what's right for everyone) but instead to create an atmosphere where ideas and thoughts can be explored. In this way the self-practice yoga class and the life coaching session are rooted in the same ethos: the practice itself is the teacher.
I find that hierarchy is somewhat linked to judgment. Here's what I mean:
By placing something in a hierarchy it is often labeled as good or bad or as more or less important. The food pyramid is a great example of a hierarchy that is designed to do this. We put food into categories but indirectly place it in a hierarchy. While all the fruit and veg at the bottom of the pyramid are good for us, we're made to feel that the little triangle at the top, often made up of fats, sugar and alcohol is what's bad for us (unfortunately it is also sometimes what we crave the most and the prophecy of its place at the top of the hierarchy as a 'ruler' becomes self-fulfilling!). Categorising can be handy when it comes to putting socks in the sock drawer and t-shirts on the shelf where you expect to find them again later. But when it comes to categorising ideas, people or situations we often get ourselves in to a muddle. Not many people feel they belong on one shelf only.
Being part of the Mathilde collective means working in a non-hierarchical environment. Our work ethic is based on a mutual understanding that we negotiate responsibility both practically and creatively. In order for this to work, listening and openness is required. Recently a discussion came up about placing value on what we do. (One way we value something is by comparing ourselves to other improvisers and thereby putting ourselves into a hierarchy.) The discussion was about virtuosity and what that is. Is virtuosity to be able to play an instrument really fast, to harmonise in a particular way or to do triple pirouettes? Or can virtuosity equally mean to be skillful at listening, responding and improvising freely from the imagination? The technical vocabulary we learn as we excel in our disciplines help us to label/categorise what we do in order to make sense of it, but perhaps the down-side of that is that we feel that anything that does not have a clear label means it has no value.
Letting go for me comes as a result of the ability to listen, breathe consciously and to not self-censor. It's about moving away from being 'in-the-head' into having an embodied practice. The embodied practice is where the physical body moves (as) independently (as possible) from thinking, not trying to be clever or 'work out' what's the right thing to do or to censor what we think we shouldn't say or do. The most astonishing contact improvisation duets happen when the body takes over and the improvisers act by instinct and intuition. The most impressive yoga practitioners and teachers operate under the ethos of maintaining complete equanimity of the mind by not forcing postures or breath but letting go of expectations. A successful coaching session is one where the coach lets go of responsibility of answering the coachee's questions and lets 'not knowing' prevail.
With the inner awareness created through listening and by avoiding filtering what is right and wrong we can achieve letting go.
This is the end of my series of blog posts about my three disciplines. It has been a very interesting journey for me to write this and to juxtapose the sessions I have been teaching. I would love to hear your thoughts about the post or any of the previous blog posts so feel free to comment below. Thanks!
Improvisation Exchange workshop
What: Improvisation Exchange is a monthly workshop led by artists exploring different approaches to improvisation. On this occasion I was leading the workshop which was entitled 'Improvise from the breath - move from the moment'
Where: Studio at NSCD (Northern School of Contemporary Dance) When: 11 May 2013 11-1 pm workshop followed by 'jam' 1-3 pm
Who: Workshop was open for all levels of participants interested in movement improvisation.
In many ways this workshop was the culmination of the previous workshops I'd been teaching. Read my previous posts here: Mathilde Improvisation workshop, Life Coaching session and Yoga intensive.
As stated in the blurb below, I used my experience and vocabulary from the disciplines of yoga and life coaching as a frame to structure the workshop.
'To listen inwards to sensation and to listen outwards to others and surroundings is the most immediate way to enter the moment. This is the lesson of my yoga practice and work as a life coach for my improvisation practice. In this session, we will start with the breath so that movement emerges from listening inwards and listening outwards, exploring physical play alone and in response to a partner.'
The most wonderful thing about the Improvisation Exchange is the mix of people. Many professional dancers and students from NSCD attend, but also less experienced movers come along and ages range from 18 to 60. It's very beneficial for all participants that the experiences are mixed as everyone brings something different but very valuable to the floor.
I began the workshop with a score I first did with a teacher I met in 2008 called Al Wunder. We started his workshop every day with a score or exercise called 'primary movers', in which you bring awareness through joints of the body and investigate their ability to rotate, lengthen and move through space. You explore the joints as initiators of movement but also how moving them reverberates through the rest of the body. It's a score that sharpens your awareness as the instructions are very tangible. Working with eyes closed can be a valuable tool to bring awareness to inner sensations but also to be less self-conscious about how you move.
Life coaching and yoga in improvisation
In life coaching the use of eyes is an important element when showing a coachee that you're paying attention. The last 'primary mover' "joint" was therefore the eyes. How does movement of the eyes affect the movement of the rest of the body? How does really seeing something: someone's yellow t-shirt, a mark on the floor or a fellow improviser spinning very fast, how does this influence how we move? After warming up body and awareness of others I got the improvisers to return to a more introverted aspect of movement: breath. Coming back to stillness we explored the breath for a while, simply observing and listening like you do in a mediation or yoga practice. The final 'primary mover' was therefore breath. The score was simply to listen to breath and allow it to move you. As soon as you lost the connection with it (you forgot about breath and realised you were moving for other reasons) you had to acknowledge this by coming back to stillness until connection with the breath was reestablished. Then you would start again.
In to partner workImpro Exchange Photo: R. Meneghini
With the same score the participants partnered up and took up roles as 1) mover and 2) witness. The witness role was simply to watch and 'hold space' for the mover to play with the 'movement from the breath' score. We often judge or label things we see as good or bad or according to whether we like them or not. An essential principle in life coaching (and in yoga) is not to judge but to learn to see things for what they are - so, to witness not to watch. A task for both mover and witness was to make a note of something during the minutes the improvisation lasted to afterwards tell the partner in one sentence. Short and sweet. The only constraint was that they had to make an observation stated in neutral or positive terms (I suggested they began the sentence with 'I enjoyed...'). For me this was an important element, as being encouraged to observe both self and others with a 'neutral (or positive) eye' can help us move without censoring ourselves. More about this in a later post!
After changing roles, I added 'vision' and the use of eyes, i.e. the scores from the beginning of the class. While movement from the breath was still at the core of the exercise, how would 'seeing' determine direction and relationship with others? While in this score the witness was still passive, the following score had the witness change proximity to the mover. Very close, as far away as possible, below, above or turning your back. How would this change their relationship?
Initiator and responder
Going in to more direct partner work I introduced another score: 'initiator and responder'. Again an adaptation from Al Wunder, this score invited the witnessing partner in to the movement score. Mover 1 returned to working with their eyes closed moving from the breath/stillness and as a consequence became the initiator of the 'duet'. Mover 2 responded to the movement/stillness - now an active part of the dance. I chose this score particularly because I liked the use of vocabulary. 'Initiator and responder' brings a more non-hierarchical feel to the score than 'leader and follower'. Without having directly encouraged it, many of the duets towards the end had moved in to contact improvisation.The couples still exchanged observations in the pause between swapping roles.
Trio into 'jam'
Towards the end of the workshop we went from working in partners to working in trios. The final score was an extension of the previous one, now with one initiator and two responders. First each trio designated the roles clearly between them but eventually the roles blurred and the participants could then decide for themselves which role to take on; whether they wanted to initiate movement or respond to others. The score was to stay true to the initiator/responder role but at the same time with a constant focus on the use of breath and 'seeing'.
Moving into the 'Jam'
The term 'jam' derives from the musical vocabulary of 'jamming', suggesting a free improvisation without predefined arrangements. In the same way, a dance improvisation jam is a practice session for free improvisation where you can dance on your own or in contact with fellow improvisers. It's often done as a conclusion to a workshop/class and gives each improviser an opportunity to put what they learned in to practice, and also just to play. There is no organised structure to a jam and you can enter and leave the dance space as you wish. What has proven to be useful for the Improvisation Exchange, though, is to kick the jam off with a few instructions so that the free improvisation has a starting point. I chose to let the end of my workshop lead in to the jam by simply suggesting to the participants, as they were still in their trios, to open their eyes and awareness to people in other groups and slowly to let go of the scores I had given them.
This is the fourth of four blog posts about working within my three disciplines: two posts on improvisation (Mathilde impro here), and one each on yoga and life coaching. I decided to keep each post focused on the execution and content of the session and I will continue, in my next post, with a more in-depth analysis. My aim in the next post is to highlight the common denominators between the three disciplines by putting the sessions next to each other and looking at where vocabulary, intention and outcome correlate.
May Bank Holiday Yoga Intensive
What: 2-day Ashtanga Yoga workshop offering four different workshops of 2.5 hour each with a different focus. On the first day we taught an Ashtanga yoga class looking mainly at the technique of the standing postures and in the afternoon an inversions class with focus on moving in to headstand with safety. The second day began with a Mysore self-practice class followed by a back bending and restorative session.
Where: Yoga Kula, Leeds When: 5+6 May 2013 10.30 am - 4.30 pm
Who: Workshop was led by myself and Alan O'leary and open to students of all levels to participate.
My approach to workshops always goes via my own practice. What occupies me at the moment? What am I working on understanding or improving for my own practice? This is, in my opinion, key to delivering a informative and inspiring workshop.Handstand on Mallorca
On the basis of that the first class I taught with Alan revolved mainly around the standing postures of the Ashtanga sequence including Sun Salutations. One aspect of these postures that I am beginning to understand is the important of (a mild version of) Uddiyana Banndha. (A full and concise explanation is not appropriate for this blog post so I will just give the overall idea of the concept and then you can read further about it here. See is also this video of Kino MacGregor explaining the difference between Uddiyana Banddha and Uddiyana Kriya).
Uddiyana Banddha teaches us to work deep from the core of the body with a firmness to the lower abdominal (protecting the lower back) while keeping softness and spaciousness in the upper abdominal cavity to encourage deep breathing and full movement of the diaphragm. Many students who don't understand this Banddha will instead grip at the abdominal muscles and hip-flexor muscles, tensing and shortening the front of the body rather than lengthening and softening.Through exercises to locate this 'Banddha sensation' and partner work we went through the key postures of the standing sequence and Downward Facing Dog. The main purpose of the class was to get the students to understand the subtle lift of the lower abdominal muscles together with a sense of letting go while in the postures.
This class was followed by an afternoon session on inversions. I often omit inversions in my regular classes as it takes time to explain how to move in to shoulderstand and headstand with awareness and safety. The main focus for the inversions session was therfore to spend time on preliminary exercises to build up strength and courage to do the postures safely. Before moving in to the more extreme inversions, balancing on hands, head or shoulders, we focused on Downward Facing Dog and half dog to work on rotation of hands/shoulders. Interestingly the principles of 'lifting up' from the previous session on Uddhiyana Banddha came back when understanding how to engage the core muscles for inversions. I then introduced a few Iyengar based techniques: we used bricks squeezed between first hands and then thighs to isolate the action of first the arms/shoulders and then legs/pelvis. Following this we practiced handstand. This position is the easiest in which to identify the before mentioned muscle groups that needs engaging to keep inverted balances steady. We worked in partners again using the wall for safety. After handstand we moved in to headstand through various preliminary postures. When learning to do inversions safely it's vital to know which steps to pause at and stay with before attempting the full posture. Finally we moved gently in to the Ashtanga shoulder stand sequence focusing mainly on keeping weight through the arms and the shoulder and not in to the neck.
Mysore self-practiceUrdhva Dhanurasana in threes
Monday morning started with a Mysore class. I love teaching Mysore because it gives me the opportunity to give personal feedback to each student. It allows them to work with their own breath and internalise the practice. Many discrepancies or bad habits that accumulates when practicing for a while can be detected and therefore rectified during this practice. Also it was a great opportunity for me to assess whether my instructions on the previous day had been clear to the students. Alan has written a blog post about Mysore self-practice. Read it here.
Back bends and restorative yoga
I have out of curiosity been practicing Matthew Sweeney's Moon Sequence lately and found it a great alternative to the Ashtanga sequences. The Moon sequence focuses less on chaturanga and upper body strength and more on back bending. It became the starting point for the back bending session. After explaining the different parts of the spine that play part when opening the back we warmed in to the session by practicing the beginning of the Moon sequence. The beginning of the second series Ashtanga sequence builds up strength and flexibility with lots of control. This was a natural follow up starting with Shalabhasana up to Laghu Vajrasana with a few modifications. Last we practiced Bow posture (Urdhva Dhanurasana) in threes where the students would help each other create length and lift through the spine. See image to the right.
For the remaining part of this session we went in to restorative postures winding down mind and body after a very stimulating back bending session. Restorative yoga, where supported relaxation gives the energy back to the body, is a very valuable tool particularly, I find, as an Ashtanga yoga practitioner. In Ashtanga Yoga we become accustomed to the upwards and powerful energy of the practice and underestimate the value of letting go and giving in. The postures are set up with lots of props: bolsters, belts and bricks to support the body to rest in various supine, prone and twisted positions. The perfect antidote for two days of physical practice.
This is the end of the third of four blog posts about working within my three disciplines: yoga, improvisation and life coaching. I decided to keep each post focused on the execution and content of the session and I will then continue with a more in-depth analysis after the final post. My aim is to highlight the common denominators between the three disciplines by putting the sessions next to each other and look at where vocabulary, intention and outcome correlate.
The fourth post will be about teaching an improvisation workshop for improvisation Exchange in Leeds in May 2013.
Coaching for life and careers
What: Coaching in groups for dance students at Northern School of Contemporary Dance as part of their Healthy Dancer day. Three session were themed around life/work balance and two around career giving them an opportunity to choose the subject most relevant to them.
Where: NSCD When: 26 April 2013 10-3 pm
Who: Students from foundation to post-graduate courses at NSCD. I offered five sessions of 45 minutes with a maximum of 15 students per group.
Before the session
This is the blurb for the career session (I did a similar one for the life/work balance one) that I sent out in advance to the student who wanted to attend:
Each student is asked to bring with them one written statement beginning with: “I would like to… but…” (Example: “I would like to get in to teaching dance but I don’t know where to start.”). These statements should reflect your own thoughts about your career prospects and they will be the starting point for the session. We will use them in the group with the aim to find ways of making a smoother transition to life after college. Often solutions appear as we verbalise thoughts and share them with others.
The crucial point in order to understand how coaching works is not to talk about it but to DO it. Therefore the main focus of the sessions was to get the students to coach each other and be coached. In collaboration with staff at the college I decided on two themes that have particular relevance to the students. The first one was to do with how to create balance between dance studies and life outside college and the other was to think about career prospects.
The pie chart above represents how I planned the 45 minute session.
The orange ones were led by me. The green ones pair work and the pale blue group coaching.
'I would like to... but...'
After introducing the session I got the students to think (or re-think) the statements I had proposed them to bring to the session beginning with 'I would like to... but...'. They were going to this by talking to a partner about what was on their mind within the given subject of the session. Getting them to talk for just a few minutes helped them clarify what they wanted the statement to say. They had to boil this down to exactly one sentence capturing how they felt. They each wrote this on a slip of paper.
They all put the slip of paper on a shared table and following had two minutes to read all the other statements. The challenge from here was for the group to agree on two statements that they identified with or that they felt encompassed all the others. These were going to be the starting points for the group coaching part.
Rules of engagement in coaching
The owners of these two statements then agreed on who were to go first. Before beginning the actual group coaching I explained the rules of group coaching and how to ask open questions. The core activity when coaching is to listen actively and 'hold space' -meaning watching the coachee and giving them full attention. It's important not to interrupt the them, give advice or try to resolve their issue. This encourages the coachee to find answers for themselves. Asking questions is for when the coachee is ready for it and as much as possible the questions are kept open and unambiguous. Here are some of the questions I handed out to the students to use as coaching questions:
The next stage was the main chunk of the session where I let myself slide in the background and only intervened when a few finishing questions were necessary. I was merely facilitating this part and the students had the responsibility of 'holding space' and honoring the code of asking questions and listening together. The fact that the group coaching part was student-led was really important for how the they would experience the process. By the end of each coaching part the students that had been coaching got the opportunity to share -in one sentence- any thoughts or suggestions of encouragement that they wanted the coachee to hear.
The final part of the 45 minute session was giving each student time to reflect on and express in short what they would take away from the session.
This is the end of the second of four blog posts about working within my three disciplines: yoga, improvisation and life coaching. I decided to keep each post focused on the execution and content of the session and I will then continue with a more in-depth analysis after the final post. My aim is to highlight the common denominators between the three disciplines by putting the sessions next to each other and look at where vocabulary, intention and outcome correlate.
The next post will be about my yoga workshop at Yoga Kula in May 2013.
Mathilde music and dance improvisation workshop
What: Music and dance improvisation workshop led by Mathilde improvisation collective introducing improvisation methods through simple games and tasks
Where: York St John University When: 13 March 2013 2-5 pm
Who: Workshop leaders Seth Bennett and Marie Andersen +
10 participants from dance, music and theatre courses at York St John's University
Mathilde -dance and music integrated
Combining dance and music is so obvious that one might be tempted to assume that bringing them together when improvising will be straightforward. This is not the case. Over the past four years we have in the Mathilde collective slowly developed tasks and structures through trial and error and many discussions to aid the fusion of the two disciplines. The uniqueness of the collective is that the musicians are equally integrated in to the performance space and that the dancers are part of the soundscape.
The purpose of this workshop was to introduce dance and music improvisation in a single form rather than in two separate ones to give the students an idea of how to work in an interdisciplinary way. Seth and myself, who were leading the workshop, had planned a workshop of scores (structured exercises), developed between the five Mathilde members, to take the students through different steps that lead to finding a common language.
Seth and I began by talking about the workshop as an opportunity to explore and test structures rather than 'getting it right'. The workshop was designed to think about process rather than product.
This is a list of the scores and tasks we presented for the students:
'Voices'. All participants stand in a circle inhale together and in unison exhale with sound. Whatever note the body/voice finds. End of exhale repeat with the same note. Keep repeating this. For the second score we start making choices about which note to sing/exhale. Finally we start moving around the room with the same score, making choices in terms of proximity to surroundings and other participants.
Purpose: Warming up voice and warming up 'group dynamic' and learning to listen and respond where appropriate. Overcoming fear of sounding/looking silly.
Body warm-up. Walk around in the space weaving in and out between other participants. While constantly moving we fill out the whole space. Then we start using levels: we can sit, lie, walk and run, and introduce pausing and different speeds. Then we experiment with various ways of getting 'in and out of the floor' while still in motion. At this point the musicians pick up their instruments. Their task is to choose a mover who then dictates how they play their instrument in terms of levels, dynamics (speed, intonation etc) and volume (or silence).
Purpose: Warming up body and connections between participants and becoming aware of space and relations to others.
'Scribbling'. Again a voice score where participants sit in trios on the floor with eyes closed making 'scribbling' noises with the voice/mouth/throat. First stage is to try and just listen to the other two in the trio while scribbling; second stage is to listen to trio as a whole, responding without listening to yourself. When one person stops the trio stops. Finally the score is adapted to each participants' individual skill as a musician or mover/voice performer: each of the trio now use their instrument/body/voice to respond to the trio as a whole just as they did when they were scribbling with their eyes closed.
Purpose: A score that exercises the ability to respond without awareness of your own contribution and therefore avoiding censoring your own expression.
'Texture'. Musical score adapted to movement and sound. The group is divided in two with a mix of musicians and movers in each group. The groups are then allocated two very different 'textures'. The textures are a type of quality used to investigate movement/sound. The textures allocated could be 'jerky vs smooth' or 'flow vs constant' or 'fast vs slow' and so on. These textures or qualities are then explored through movement and sound for a short while. After swapping textures, the two groups then travel across the space from either side of the room starting with one texture and finishing in the other.
Purpose: To encouraging participants to work beyond their comfort zone generating sound or movement in a wider range than normal and finding extremes in terms of quality.
'Group conduction'. The first conduction exercise has the whole group standing in a semi-circle with one person placed opposite in the middle. Like a choir and a conductor. The conductor will now through the use of movement/gestures inspire the group to make sound. We move around the whole group so everyone gets the opportunity to conduct.
'Pair conduction': Same score but now in pairs, where participants can choose to use voice, movement or (for the musicians) instruments. Again one person is conducting the other.
'Trio conduction'. With a musician in the middle and two movers on either side, the mover on the right conducts the musician while mover on the left -with eyes closed- responds to sound. For this final score we did one trio at a time so participants had an opportunity to watch each other. See video above.
Purpose: This score allows participants to explore taking on the roles of both initiator and responder. The initiator role requires decision making and the daring to play and to be in charge. The responder role requires allowing someone else to lead and enables reaction without decision making. These three scores are very playful as it's easy to identify the game being played. The roles are clear which in addition makes it gratifying to watch.
The workshop ended with a quick sum up of the day and feedback.
This is the end of the first of four blog posts about working within my three disciplines: yoga, improvisation and life coaching. I decided to keep each post focused on the execution and content of the session and I will then continue with a more in-depth analysis after the final post. My aim is to highlight the common denominators between the three disciplines by putting the sessions next to each other and look at where vocabulary, intention and outcome correlate.
The next post will be about life coaching for the dance students at NSCD.
Welcome to my blog.
Here you will find posts about subjects I find interesting and that all relate to my disciplines in dance, yoga and coaching:
I am very happy to hear your feedback, so please comment below. Happy reading!