It’s fairly usual for me to write about workshops, rehearsal periods and so on if not daily, at least with some regularity during their course. supernaut wasn’t around when I first went to ImPulsTanz in 2003 (though I was blogging of a sort, but in a completely frustrating way, not conducive to actual blogging), and I always wondered what it would be like to read back over those weeks; I suppose I could scour my emails but I think I have a fairly good idea after the last week here: I doubt I’d have had time to blog during DanceWEB.
In addition to teaching with Dasniya for 3 hours every day, which in reality became close to four, we were both doing two other workshops. For me, I spent two and a quarter hours each morning loosening my tongue with Benoît Lachambre, then a break for a bit before an couple more hours with Libby Farr doing ballet. Evenings tended to be seeing performances or other social activities including our hilarious debut as DJs at the Lounge. All of which left scant time for sleep, let alone blog.
This then is perhaps a memory for myself of things that happened so there is at least a trace of those days.
We found ourselves in Studio F, all the way at the back of Arsenal, and as with all studios, massive, a wall of glass, light and airy, and also wonderfully calm and still — far from the chaos of classes at the other end of the site. The ImPulsTanz people had slung eight wire lines over the roof beam some eight meters above in a close line, giving us the best swing we’ve ever had. Also plentiful supplies of rope, rings, carabiners, yoga mats and other necessities.
Originally we were offered either to teach a weekend intensive — two whole days — or five days in the week of 3 hours. Spending more time in Vienna for the festival was an obvious personal choice, (I mean, come on, Vienna, summer, ImPulsTanz, more is obviously “Yes!”) as well as the fact this material is better ingested over a few days rather than gorged on at once and then forgotten. 3 hours though was a pretty short length of time to do both yoga and shibari, when yoga on a Wednesday can often go for close to 2 hours.
Good we were at the end of the day then, so even allowing for some slippage as everyone meandered into the workspace, we had a bit of leeway at the other end. Which we took full advantage of, and besides the one night where we had to scamper away to be DJs, remaining at least until 8:30 was normal. Anyway, unpacking and packing all our junk is a project unto itself at the best of times.
Sixteen people had signed up, though delayed flights from Ethiopia and other vicissitudes meant the final number changed from day to day. Some dropped out, some joined late, others possibly never showed in the first place, still others turned up for only one day (even on Thursday we were having drop ins). So altogether there were around 20 people who passed by.
This was somewhat unusual for us, given we normally know who is coming, or have had at least an email conversation, and there isn’t the first day “Do I want to be here or not?” unclarity. Anyway, by the second day we’d worked out who the core was, and we had much fun.
Having come off the back of the Brussels/Charleroi Danses workshop, Dasniya and I had talked a lot in the last week about this one. It seemed a good idea to take the yoga further into shibari, that is to say, to use ropes more, as in Iyengar, though perhaps specifically how we use ropes. This led to various self-tied chest harnesses, messes of rope around feet, ankle harnesses, binding folded legs or arms and other infiltrations of rope into yoga.
This actually works pretty well, and significantly changes how an asana is dealt with. Even if I’m flexible enough to wrap hands around feet in a forward bend, to make rope an intermediary and simultaneously push with feet and pull with hands (arms, shoulders, back) gives an utterly different and somehow more voluminous apprehension of my body. It also seems to evade the tendency to linearity in postures (i.e. hands go to feet, more and further is better, like train on rails).
This also slyly introduces people to ropework and shibari without the panic and anxiety of ‘learning figures’. Which is really handy; when I was first learning I used to get so anxious about getting a figure and uuhh yeah, better to devise ways not making it such a big deal than to struggle and be miserable.
So yes, yoga. In a circle in a workspace you could stack several smallish planes in.
When we did Jute Disintegration, I began with some improvisation tasks which have turned up a few times since. The ideas behind each came from various sources, but perhaps to say the intent was to derail and exhaust habits, to train spatial awareness in less convenient ways, to … mmm perhaps gently bludgeon creativity into existence, that is to say it seems like fun but that fun overlays some pretty involved and serious things.
30 second responsible/unhelpful and vectors both seem to have attained ‘repertoire’ status. I think especially the latter one could go further, or rather be useful in another task that I haven’t tried yet. Yeah, it’s not a little poignant to think these ideas came to me from Nigel Charnock … several years on and I’m still pilfering his influence on me.
We did a lot of more traditional shibari also. There’s such a tendency in people who are new to it to go straight for suspension and yeah it’s fucking amazing to hang and sway in the air like being on a great sailing ship. I made my own self-suspension on Friday (the figure now has a name, Ophelia), and this combination of almost brute force — there really isn’t a lot of delicacy sometimes when you need to get your arse up and lock off a suspension line with one hand, not to mention the intensity of being held by the ropes — and total calm … it’s unbelievably good. So obviously there were quite a few who wanted to get straight to this. And others who wanted to do the messy, anarchic, unshibari. Ah yes, all in 3 hours a day.
And learning the basics, learning just enough to be able to comprehend either the traditional or un- shibari, to learn even just how to handle rope so that it doesn’t mock you, let alone with a living person on the other end; there’s so much to consider in just the act of picking up a rope for this purpose and anyone who thinks otherwise is either really naïve or really not someone you should let near when they’re messing around with said rope. And yet, if you approach rope with even the slightest curiosity, creativity, playfulness, sense of adventure … it’s amazing what people who are completely new to this bring and conjure up.
So we got through the basic knot, suspension line, slipped in masses of things in the yoga rope work, got onto the hip harness and variations on all of this, and moved onto the Arisue chest harness. We’re doing a lot of floor semi-suspensions these days, which are really useful for teaching all the mechanics and movements of doing a suspension, but without the anxiety of having to deal with fully suspending someone 1 1/2 meters off the floor, and without the accompanying risk either. It tends to engender a lot of confidence in the person tying, and for the one being tied also is a good, calm introduction to suspension, play, floor work … all round a good way to begin this very involved subject.
And when we got to full suspensions, Wednesday, I think — I was off teaching hip harnesses and floor suspensions while Dasniya was hoisting people up, oh much fun and excitement.
We’d introduced some of the ideas of unshibari across the week, but it was really only on Friday we paid a lot of attention to it, defined somewhat its phase space. A bit of a pity we didn’t have more time for this, as it’s really what we’re doing at the moment. We tried a little experiment, where we both had someone to work with and tied them in out similar yet different styles, and talked about what we were doing, how it works, the aesthetics and so on … somehow it worked pretty well. We should probably write a book on this.
I wonder if I’ve said enough, or rather, what important things I’ve missed or not yet got to?
Being aware I haven’t said much about the actual participants, some DanceWEBbers, Judith who has come to workshops both in Berlin and Brussels, others who are dancers or otherwise involved in movement, some who are not doing anything dance-ish … perhaps to say a fairly typical group in terms of diversity of backgrounds, and who were also oh such a joy to work with. Yeah, really nice. We could easily spend another week doing all that. And it’s really satisfying to see people get it — both the yoga and shibari — and over the week change and … mmm … elaborate themselves. And smiling.
The last day, the last thing, a kind of play session, to try various things, to concentrate perhaps on one thing, who wants to do what and with whom? I’d planned to take photos but was far too otherwise occupied hanging myself up, so there’s none. Some worked in a group, which was really nice, as I think this is where there is an interest for me (I mean after process/unprocess last year with Gala and Lewis), some did suspensions, others talked. A row of us under all those rings. The sky grew dimmer until there was scant enough light to see.
I talked a bit with Nik about shiatsu and dance and … the effects of suspension I have an idea would be good to document, perhaps with head in MRT, or with EEG, or with blood tests before and after (during?). There seems to be something quite profound and rapid going on, and at least for myself I find it … well, we were talking about emotions and how sometimes a hug and, “there, there” along with cup of tea can be sufficient, but sometimes it’s as though gentleness and caring doesn’t quite untwist the situation. There’s this intensity in suspension that for me anyway seems to accomplish this. Yoga also, to a certain extent, though over longer time periods and it’s not so absolute, and it’s not the same. It’s not simply endorphins or post-endurance (i.e. after running). It’s like the shove that overcomes inertia.
So we packed and walked the long corridor for the last time, to the outdoor café and pool and people lounging in the evening, again too soon to finish but we had a dinner to get to. We also missed the evening in the Dojo … hmm, yes, seemed to not get to quite a few things in the week, so obviously have to go back.