Group rehearsal – week 3
09/06/2021 with Zoë, Josephine, Helena, Jan-Ming (online)
1) Today we worked with compression forces. In partners, applying a force to our partner giving a direction into the body. Then observe how the body reacts and comes back to its original shape, following the laws of tensegrity: the force is transmitted throughout the whole structure, the architecture resists you, whether you bend, push or twist, it naturally counters any movement by stiffening… (Avison 2015, p.141)
What I call compression is a term used in massage therapy and in tensegrity: when 2 oppositional forces go towards each other, in opposition to tensional forces where the forces go away from each other.
‘The compression exercise makes me go in spirals as a way of compensating. I feel the edge of my contours, and the resilience that allows to bounce back instead of collapsing.’
We both used hands and the whole body as a structure
There is a sense of buoyancy, coming back to the original shape or structure. It is about tuning into the spread of the forces through the body and into the floor.
When a force is applied in 1 direction, the body will naturally create helixes and rotations as a response. This is what is called tri-axial movement or involving three axis. (Faust 2011, p.160)
Drawing by Helena
We found out that in order to have compression forces, there needs to be the resistance of the ground that acts in the opposite direction. Are these forces then called shearing forces? Where they go in opposite directions but are not aligned? I decided to keep the term compression force because it gives a sense of going towards the body, and these are made in relation with gravity.
2) Jan-Ming was working online with a stick, then a pilates ball, as compressional elements
‘Since I was working remotely, online, and was not in the studio with the other dancers, I worked with objects, rather than humans.
Working with a short wooden stick held by both ends between my right shin and my left upper arm…I felt the sensation of the soft tissues around my shin and the bulge of my arm flesh; its angles, its tonal qualities. I felt the edges of the stick, like a massage tool, also like some kind of communication portal; a phone line or an internet wire; sending signals between my arm and my shin tissues.
Nudging gently, quickly, pausing, back and forth so that the stick stayed in contact with my flesh contact points… too forceful or too gentle and the stick would fall. Perhaps like listening to another person, and feeling their essence; their personality; their capacity in this moment to speak about a certain topic; it was like a listening of resilience and playfulness between the two characters – my ‘arm’ and my ‘lower leg’.
The rest of my bones echoed the structure of the stick; so precise and defined in its limits. I moved my fascia as if moving my whole self around my bones, to stay in dialogue with this stick. The sound of the stick loudly clattered as it fell to the floor.
The gym-ball was my second partner that I worked with… Its tone also greatly defined the relationship I had with it. I felt like I needed to create much more variation in the tone in my body to stay in dialogue with it.
I created many ‘stations’ in my body where I could be aware of how the force from the contact of the gymball could run through my body, to continue spreading the motion through my whole awareness, and through the gym-ball.’
3) We finished with exploring the architecture of the space and the objects occupying the space, while still digesting the tasks on compression.
Drawing by Zoë
We noticed how the compressional elements of the building and objects (table, bench…), were mostly regular and flat. Most of us moved in contrast to these structures: including spiraling movement, breath, curved path…
Drawing by Josephine
‘I feel invisible strings in the space pulling me in different directions, spiraling in and out of the surfaces of the space’
Question: How would it be to move within a biotensegral architecture?
11/06/2021 Site visit: All Along The Watch Tower by Project Bunny Rabbits
Dancing around tensegrity structures being constructed by a group of volunteers (project Bunny Rabbits, winners of Antepavilion 2021 – https://www.antepavilion.org/2021-winner).
Similar structures have been used as part of the movement Extinction Rebellion, as a way to protest against climate change, declaring a climate emergency posing a threat to our planet. Most of the volunteers today are part of the extinction rebellion movement.
The structures represent strong but agile and mobile structures that can be built and unmounted quickly.
Tensegrity in this way is used as a political statement, denouncing structures in place and offering alternative ways of protesting. This is what the collective says: ‘The beacons embody the characteristics necessary in guerrilla style confrontation with authority: agility, flexibility, adaptability, transportability, and security. They are instruments of nonviolent direct action in the face of encroaching authoritarianism.’
Made out of bamboo, a light but strong wood, representing the compressional element of the tensegrity structure, and cables in continuous tension holding the structure, representing the tensional element of the tensegrity structure.
It is very clear how the bamboo poles are floating in the structure.
Outcome and experience :
My body feels lighter dancing around the structure called the ‘cloud’ , especially where the poles of bamboo are floating in the air.
It mirrors back the floating bones inside our tensional soft tissue network.
To move one element engages the whole floating structure to move in a light bouncy way.
Where the structure is more sturdy and stable, my body feels more rigid, and wants to climb.
The way the poles are floating, they are crossing each other in a 3 dimensional way. The cables are either forming triangles or hexagons. This once more reflects back on the awareness of my body and my inner space as a 3 dimensional structure.
In Ideokinesis, the mental picture we have of ourselves conditions and shapes us. So to use images and metaphors for the body can help us perceive ourselves differently. The same way, our environment shapes us.
In the edited book the Sentient Archive, Juhani Pallasmaa writes about buildings: ‘They also serve to structure our view of the world and enable us to dwell in the world through providing cultural, metaphorical, and symbolic meanings as well as a domicile for our memories, dreams and fears.’ (Bissell, Caruso Haviland, 2018, p.49-50).
The way I engage with the tensegrity structure makes me perceive my body as a light efficient structure that responds to stress and can adapt.
The politics of tensegrity:
In order to construct the structure the volunteers have to work collaboratively. Their interaction is a dance in itself.
While they move and mount the structure, their bodies become forces of transmission as well as extension of the tensegrity structure: either pulling or pushing, using the whole body and the grounding of the earth as an extension of the structure. There is no heavy lifting that engages the old concept of biomechanics: understanding the body and joints as levers.
The whole group works as a collaborative entity where there is listening and observing of each other, because if someone pushes one direction, the whole structure responds. The bodies become interconnected through the play of the structure.
We can observe here above the ‘triaxiality’ of this structure, repeating three times. The poles go in turn in a clockwise direction, then an anti-clockwise direction, then in a clockwise direction. This refers back to the compression exercise we did with a partner that would lead us into helical, triaxial movements resonating with our bodies as innate biotensegrity structures.
11/06/2021 Rehearsal Maya, Tara, Olivia, Pete (online)
Today we focused on the visco-elastic aspect of the fascia, in other words the quality of the fascia that has the ability to change viscosity, either hardening or becoming more like jelly depending on its use and the forces of tension that go through it.
1) We explored various layers of fascia: the superficial fascia just under the dermis, and the deeper fascia. To access the superficial fascia, we applied contact skin to skin, found a sticking point and found the slide of tissue taking place. To get to the deeper layers of fascia, I used my knowledge as a massage therapist: we sank into the skin to enter the fascial web, and instead of sliding we applied some shearing forces. Dancers were free to explore both.
We partnered with ourselves, the floor or the walls.
Drawings by Tara
Drawing by Maya
‘I feel my skin like an old bag, a container. I feel the age of this bag that is elastic but has lost some of its elasticity. It is sometimes slack. While sliding and shearing, I feel my skin is like a thick T-shirt being pulled and stretched. The exploration connects me to the tactile sense, that resonates also when I interact with the space.’
The dancers observe different types of textures and flexibility depending on body parts: the knees have more slack, the top of the feet too, in comparison to the sole of the feet.
There is a tugging feeling that can be both felt and seen: when pulling the superficial fascia of the thigh upwards, we can observe the ripple effect in the shin and the foot.
2) Inspired by the tensegrity structure and the floating bamboos, we worked with the image of floating bones suspended in our soft tissue. Then floating bones inside the space.
Pete found a deeper connection to the core, and recognition of his own structure and his architecture. The choices felt more intuitive and responsive, in comparison to the rehearsal in week 1, based on the score of fascial awareness between each other.
3) Improvising with the image of the connective tissue between us. Not focusing on our movement but rather on the space between. Based on Helena’s comment in week 2: ‘to include someone in your kinesphere is like expanding your proprioception’ (02/06/2021), we worked with keeping each other in our proprioceptive awareness.
The space became instantaneously more dynamic. The energy was more incisive, going into the space, losing some of the soft jelly space we explored before in 1). A sense of playfulness emerged.
4) Elastic band and specialization
Score: Making elastic bands as loops to connect the dancers, keeping the continuous tension between them. The dancers are inside the elastic loop.
While playing in this continuous network of elastic tension, one dancer tended to lead more whereas the rest of the group had to follow.
So we decided to emphasize this tendency and go with it rather than ignoring it.
I guess this is what I would call non-homogenous harmony, where the whole group is interdependent and has to adjust and adapt. If one element is less in the listening, then the other elements have to adapt and are responsible to keep the continuous tension.
This non-homogeneity reminds me of two parts of anatomy and physiology that are related:
- embryology and how cells differentiate and specialize. In reference to the video Becoming by the filmmaker Jan van IJken (https://vimeo.com/316043706), where we can clearly observe the formation, subdivision and specialization of cells that take place in the genesis of an alpine newt.
- Wolff’s law says that bone remodels depending on the load it experiences. This process is linked to the mechano-transduction we explored in week 2 on 04/06/21, score 3. According to Wolff’s law, bone formation, growth and remodeling will depend on the forces that are applied to it. For example when there is more compression forces transmitted, the bone will start to lay down osteoblasts and create more bone, making it more dense. On the opposite, when there is lack of compression or load, the bone will lose its density and can become more fragile. We have the example of astronauts sent in space: after a while they lose their bone density because they don’t experience the gravitational forces.
In the same way we explored tensional forces through the elastic bands, we experienced how the change in tension affected the whole group and started to create a pattern.
Jan-Ming’s experience with the stick at the beginning of the week (09/06 – score 2), is another testament of this inner organization taking place:
‘The rest of my bones echoed the structure of the stick; so precise and defined in its limits. I moved my fascia as if moving my whole self around my bones, to stay in dialogue with this stick.’
Pete played with mini elastic bands between his fingers and toes. The rest of the body reacting.