Thursday, 23 April 2009

Unexpected Moments with Ea Sola

A workshop with the choreographer of ‘The White Body’ , Ea Sola

In this session I was given the unique opportunity to be taught by Ea Sola. I found it an enlightening experience and I learnt so much about human expression and the liberation of self. The class was held at Sky City Theatre, on the same stage as the performance. The workshop was designed for dancers and non-dancers alike.

I felt exposed and vulnerable on the large stage, even though there was only the event coordinator in the audience, and Ea Sola’s partner – whom filmed the workshop. The workshop was strange and quite alienating (so outside of everyday experience) yet it felt like I was investigating the primate within; the roots of human expression.

I asked if it were possible to get some of the footage, and I provided my email address. As they are travelling, I doubt to hear back from them. As I have learned recently, it is often difficult to get in contact with such people (outside of being present with them).

Ea Sola stressed that the class was about honesty; honesty of expression. I believe this was to account for the fact that there were different types of people in the class: elderly people, young, heavy-weight people, delicate, and muscular people. Dancers were here, choreographers, students and enthusiasts. There were 8 of us total.

Imagine the Rain
Ea asks us to imagine rain falling upon our skin, and to do so with complete honesty. To see, feel and hear rain splashing upon our bodies (standing). How does each of us respond to subjectivity?
We did this in silence for about 10 minutes.

The next exercise was to follow a single raindrop running down our body, to follow it as it went down one’s arm/chest, and then onward - again, to do this with honesty. I found this challenging as I knew there was no raindrop there – however, I persevered.

We talk for a little while, and then Ea Sola asks one of the participants to come to the front of the group. She asks her to imagine the rain, and to imagine herself naked, exposed to the elements. How will she respond under these conditions? We observe her intently. She was given a position of vulnerability – her every movement analyzed by the group and its individuals.

I learn to defocus my eyes into soft focus (see ‘Photo Reading’ by Paul Scheele, which teaches to use the power of the unconscious mind to read books). By using peripheral vision, I pick up on tiny twitches in muscle movement, I realise how alive this person is (she initially appeared to be motionless. This action allows me to experience the person as a whole, as opposed to zooming in on aspects of motion – which has a tendency to detach that movement from the whole).

When I was on the NLP course, I would spend extended periods of time watching grass shiver in the breeze. I focus on one single blade of grass, absorb it in all its uniqueness, and then allow my eyes to naturally slip into soft-focus. Soft focus also happens spontaneously when one focuses on a spot for a long period. The brain realises that the only content that is important is that which it is focusing on, so the surroundings blur and distort – creating a vortex around the thing being observed. Motion is retained. Back to grass: soft-focus allowed me to see every blade of grass move. I saw the grass as a fluid, responsive body – it was a medium where I could visually track how the wind thinks and acts. Ripples and flickers of movement.

The grass reminds me of society, how we too are like grass – collectively responding to change. Society may be like grass. Grass is a system, a collection of individual elements – a school of fish. Dynamic, responsive – and, like fish, rooted to its environment (fish are rooted to the ocean – grass, to the earth).

Humans are also a system, like grass. The individual components responsible for movement are muscles and tendons. Muscles can consciously and unconsciously respond to stimuli. A muscle may twitch to acknowledge a presence in the objective, physical environment (temperature, forces); it may also respond to a request from the subjective, metaphysical environment (the mind - perception, beliefs and desires).

A twitch is usually unconscious; that is… outside of intent – Habit and Instinct. A smooth movement usually has attachments with intention – it is more rooted in intent, and rearing towards consciousness, awareness. Thus, it could be said that (in general) the micro level of movement is unconscious, and the macro level of movement is conscious.

Could I go as far as saying, with respect to society: a person, a micro-movement (twitch), a blade of grass, is inherently unconscious unless it connects with that outside themselves to create a larger micro-movement (a cult, group, movement) and thus effect the organism as a whole (society, the complete human system); a macro-movement.

In this exercise I learned about subtlety of expression, and of how alive we are, even when apparently motionless. I also learned how to hallucinate, to imagine things which I know aren’t there, yet to believe as if they are.

A Tree in the Wind
In this exercise we split up into pairs. Each of us was assigned with the role of Tree or Wind.
For the tree, the idea was to imagine we were rooted in the ground, yet responsive to forces. The main point was that a tree is designed to return to its original position. A tree is a permanent organism, it is ‘immanent’ (inwardly expressive).

The wind on the other hand is a free force. It is in a state of flux. It is an outward expression, a transient organism. Philosophy calls this ‘Transeunt’.

So the person role-playing as the wind acts as a consistent flowing force which would push against the tree gently – like a wash or a slow-motion push. The wind would manipulate and press anything it wanted to, it has freedom. The tree just responds and reinitiates.
This exercise taught me free-flow and the difference between responding and reacting.

Open your Hands
How slowly can you open your fingers from a clenched fist?
In what had to be the most physically compelling exercise, we learn to gradually open our palms from a tightly closed fist to an open expressive hand.

This was to be done over the course of 10 minutes; an excruciating length of time to perform such a small motion that we humans take for granted. I was intrigued.

It drew a spotlight on the numerous bones responsible for moving my fingers. It was like slowing a film to reveal its frames. Motion was not smooth and uniform. Instead the shifting was a chain of microscopic jerks and twitches. I could feel my bones resist the lack of momentum as they creaked on their joints and gasped for fluidity. I felt at once mechanical and robotic. I felt in awe of the complexity of human motion and the anatomy behind it. I felt humiliation for ignorance demonstrated by the average person of this fundamental beauty and complexity. I did, however, feel enlightened and exposed. It was an unveiling, a new level of awareness – of consciousness.

The workshop was an exposure of our uniqueness. It highlighted vulnerability and celebrated it. I felt proud of my imperfections and discovered the beauty of other’s imperfections. The concept of imperfection became irrelevant. My preconceptions of what was ‘beautiful’ dissolved. I was able to observe when I was judging and accept it as judgement, lest I judge myself and experience hypocrisy through that altered state.

I also learned to perceive and appreciate in other ways. The environment allowed for experimentation into other possibilities – it is a rare opportunity that I was allowed to observe a live human in a self conscious, poised and exposed state and reflect on that, in real-time.