Group rehearsal – week 8

In week 7, my supervisor came to observe a rehearsal and gave some feedback. I used the rest of the week to reflect on the structure of the piece in relationship with the process.  This time of introspection gave form to a more detailed structure and insight into the scores (see hereunder, week 8).

13/07/2021 Tara, Jan-Ming, Josephine, Maya, Olivia, Helena

and 14/07/2021 Zoë, Jan-Ming, Josephine, Maya, Olivia, Helena

I designed more precisely some scores that draw from our past exploration and research:

Score 1: Fascial gaze

This score is about experiencing the physicality and materiality of the eyes and opening ways in which the eyes and the gaze can be a conduit or a connective tissue between our ‘inner-sphere’ and ‘outer-sphere’. Once more, considering the eyes as a skin organ, an interface between our inner world and the world around us. 

In this score, the performers have the possibility to move freely between eyes closed and eyes open. ‘Eyes closed’ offers the possibility to resource, connect to the world of sensation, weight, finding this finely tuning in with our inner proprioception or interoception. This inner dance of sensation taking place here is similar to the ‘small dance’ initiated by Steve Paxton, in which the mover comes to the minimal amount of movement possible in order to heighten her or his awareness of listening and sensing. The difference in this score, is that we consciously bring our awareness to the weight, volume and texture of the eyes, and how the fascia of the eyes connect to the whole body.

In Theatre papers, (1977, p.3), Paxton describes this Small dance:

‘[…] in the midst of standing still something else is occurring and that the name for that is the small dance and that it is the skeletal muscles that are holding you upright after you have relaxed all the voluntary muscles […]. The forces of the body are equalized.’

To me, this quote refers to the biotensegrity of the body, and how fascia holds the body together. Paxton initiated Contact Improvisation (1972) and the Small dance at a time when the term biotensegrity still hadn’t been coined, and was about to emerge. So it seems to me that his research on Contact Improvisation as an embodied practice to understand and defy the laws of physics, was already at that time in direct relationship to biotensegrity, fascial awareness and proprioception.

‘Every movement is to prevent you from falling. Very small falls being forestalled by slight pulls or stretches in the body’ (p.4)

Here again, the ‘pulls and stretches in the body’ seem to refer to the small dance of the fascia and tissues in continuous tension, adapting and balancing the body in this constant unstable equilibrium. Thomas Myers talks about the ‘self-adjusting mechanosome’ (2021, p.316), or the distribution of forces within the body: ‘The body has to relieve and distribute such stress continually’.

In our score, the ‘eyes open’ offers the possibility to connect with the environment and with others, but without losing the internal and physical sense of the eyes as a mass, a volume, a connective tissue.

In Contact Improvisation and in many somatic practices, the emphasis is often on the peripheral gaze versus the  focused gaze. As seen previously in the research, we have been touching onto a wide spectrum and ways of seeing: including the notion of volume, layers, gradient. Seeing from the back of the eyes, from the front of the eyes.

The ‘proprioceptive eye’ as well as ‘proprioceptive skin’ is heightened in this score, where both skin and eyes give feedback on the dancers’ position in space, and in relationship with each other.

Score 2: Witnessing trios

This is an evolution of the fascial gaze score. This score structures space and relationships in defining roles. The dancers form trios: one has the role of the observer, and the others are movers. The emphasis is still on creating a trio, rather than having a duet being watched by someone external.

This score plays with the notion of inclusivity, a set-up like a ‘mise en abyme’, a re-creation of the role audience/performer, observer/being observed.

We explore within the trios how to make palpable the invisible threads between the observer/movers, creating a fascial matrix between them.

Score 3: The living matrix 

James L. Oschman introduced the concept of ‘living matrix’ in his groundbreaking book chapter Fascia as a body-wide communication system (2012). Fascia so far has been defined as non-living. So it is interesting to me to introduce this notion of ‘living matrix’.

In this term, lays one of the key elements to this research: tapping into the intelligence of the fascial network as a complex but efficient, sustainable, communicative, non-hierarchical, adaptable and holistic system.

Oschman writes: ‘All movement, of the body as a whole or of its smallest parts, is created by tensions carried through the living matrix’. (2012, p.105)

My question within the scope of this research is: how to make palpable this living matrix that exists between the dancers, without touch? For this we use the space as something tangible, a space where tension can be created. Working with elastic bands so far has helped us find the clear physical tension between bodies.

Previously we found out that the continuous tension of the elastic needs to ‘be consciously allowed’ to travel through the body and into the earth and into the space, acknowledging the transmission of forces through the elastic bands into the body. This transmission of forces helps maintaining the tensegrity of the body, preventing from compromising the body that would be prone to injury. Spiralling in and out, finding helixes on the floor, stepping on the elastic bands, using a more focused connected gaze, or changing levels were used as strategies to keep the continuous tension. A deep sense of listening emerged as well as slowing down. Indeed in order to feel the ripple effect of each action, the group needs to be able to respond to every single impulse.

We then decided to add the option of elastic recoil to bring variation into the continuous tension. This experiment brought straight into play the notion of momentum and inertia: the more movement, the more ripple effect and momentum the whole structure will generate. Less movement tends towards less momentum.

We asked ourselves how to translate this transmission of tensional force between bodies without using the elastic bands? We tried both without and with touch. Our Living matrix score deals with no touch.

This brought up questions such as: what makes working with the elastic band so tangible and clear, and working without less tangible? Can the tactility, listening and proprioceptive awareness of the whole be kept? What gets lost when working without the elastic band? Are we trying to re-create something we experienced, or are we getting informed by the embodied experience of the elastic band to find new ways of connecting?

It seems we are dealing here with space, and our relationship to space. Can this awareness of tensegrity between bodies inform and perhaps define a different way of relating to space?

In dance improvisation over the years, different practitioners have brought into light and explored various relationships to space. While Hannah Halprin makes the difference between being an object in space and being part of space (de Spain, 2014, p.109), Barbara Dilley talks about the quality of space affected by a quality of presence: ‘dense or heavy’, ‘fresh lightness’ (2014, p.110). Nancy Stark Smith and Steve Paxton deal with spherical space, shared space, interior space.

Which type of space is the tensegrity space?

Observing the dancers, it feels like space becomes a listening space, attentional, temptative and delicate, like cotton. Sometimes I can see the invisible threads in-between the dancers. Sometimes the connection seems to be lost, or possibly not quite embodied yet. This is when I see more individuals, trying to connect but feeling a bit lost. When the connection is there, an invisible spider web forms.’ 

Score 4: Remodel, compression, layers of fascia

The last score deals with the transmission of forces between bodies through touch.

Working with a partner, two duets focus on keeping the tensegrity of the body while receiving a force going in the direction of their body, while the other duets focused on touching on the layer of the deeper fascia, using rotation forces.

Today we noticed the difference between preempting the touch, and feeling the touch transmit the forces through the tissue. When the force is really transmitted it feels like the connective tissue and fascia are in continuity from one body to the other.

So far in our research we have discussed how much decision to make in the way we respond to touch. We clarify wanting to highlight the tensegrity structure versus collapsing in our structure and following without resistance. This particular touch needs to meet a certain resistance, a tonicity in the body. From my perspective, the task is not about making decisions, but about listening to the touch being received. I guess this is what makes the difference between preempting, knowing from a mind perspective, and experiencing by doing and feeling it.

Few blocks appeared while doing the task: being scared of injuring, saying no and setting boundaries. Feeling your own boundaries as well as the other person’s boundaries, fear of compromising the body, trusting and not trusting. Different body types responded differently: what happens when someone has a scoliosis? How are the forces transmitted?

We added the option of saying ‘stop’ to communicate the boundary to our partner.




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