Experiential Anatomy, Awful Coffee, Bandits, Ballet & Pilates


The title of today's blog is a summary of my day. Leaving out the 10 mins I had to get Wren up dressed and out of the house for school (early bedtimes still not acheived), or my clothes unfortunatley smelling of the excessive garlic I have been using in my cooking to ward off the imminent cold, and thus getting up late & child being priority I also neglected to brush my teeth. The good bit of the day started after a damp 50 minute bus ride to Elephant & Castle, where I paid my first visit in over two years to Independent Dance on St. Georges Road.

Independent Dance is also known as the Siobhan Davies Dance, a hive of activity for creatures known as 'independent dance artists' it was founded by choreographer Siobhan Davies and the late Gill Clarke. I hadn't been back since Gill Clarke's day of dance that was organised by her many loving friends and colleagues to commemorate her life. I still have a healthy potted plant that was part of an installation and we were all encouraged to take a 'Gill' plant home to care for. Last summer the plant dried up on Wren's bedroom window sill. I was devastated. I put the plant and its friend, another dried up potted flower, in the garden, and through a wet & sunny autumn the plants have bounced back to life :-)

Gill Clarke taught me Experiential Anatomy when I was a BA1 student at Laban. This is a form of studying the skeleton and other anatomical structures in the body (soft tissues, organs, circulatory system, respiratory system, nervous system) through movement, usually working with a partner and an important technique known as bio-feedback. I remember a session about the spine & skull where I stood still with my eyes closed and my partner put one hand on my forehead and the other at the back of my head, so I could get a sense of the space inbetween, and by experiencing that distance I was led to understand the top of my spine ends directly in the middle of my head, at an axis between my ears and the front and back of my skull. I was also taught by Gill that my spine was hanging from my skull in a curved line that went in and out more times than I'd imagined, and my skull bobbed around on top. I remember walking after that as though I had a different body, and felt like my head might actually fall off.

Watching an experiential anatomy class for the unintiated might look like a room full of people with personality disorders, there may be some amounts of shaking, rocking, swaying, pushing, rolling, dragging, falling. Its actually more like a laboratory. Experiencing your own antatomy is somewhat experimental, and although you are guided through it, there is no right or wrong, everything is valid.

This morning my experiential anatomy teacher was Susanna Recchia, a wonderful friend who has been my colleague and lived with me for 7 days when I was about to give birth, we even went dancing on the day Wren due to be born. I struggled to settle into the class to start with. I'd missed some of the intro, was buzzing from seeing some old friend's faces in the room, then had to concentrate internally on shaking imaginary seeds around my body. The movements I made were not dissimiliar from my Vinyasa Yoga 'spontaneous dance' session last weekend, which was the Water module, or the BUTI Yoga course I did a month ago, or the Zumba class I had taught the night before. I suddenly felt at ease as I realised - perhaps I haven't been to a contemporary dance class in over two years, but I move my body everyday. What Susanna said was true, everything was valid. As that message hit me I became super lively and spun, hopped, skipped, undulated and dashed around the room. The session was 2 hours, all improvised, I met a great person who was my partner in a task we were given, who commented in our feedback time that I seemed very open, and he felt safe and at ease when he danced with me. It was a real surprise, but I felt completely at home.

Next was a quick lunch meeting and the worst americano Pret has ever served, it may have been the run off water from cleaning the coffee machine. Lots of crying unexpectantly, but the shaking could have had something to do with it (that, relationship troubles and a mild case of chronic exhaustion). Hey its the Water themed week after all!

From emotional catching up and hatching plans to change the world, I went to a hardcore Gymbox class training of a new Creative for the January 2015 timetable. This couldn't have been more masculine, or any more of a contrast to how I moved that morning. The workout we did lasted almost 90 minutes and was shockingly tough. I was still in my shaking contemporary dancing "express myself freely" clothes (baggy pyjama looking ensemble and barefoot), though somehow managed to get right into the sports specific, fast-twitch muscle enhancing pace of things. To any dance artists watching (it's possible!) we must have looked especially bizarre when we we pinging each other up and down the room on human sized rubber bands, accompanied by bangin' old skool hip hop tunes.

I had a Gymbox double to teach next, Ballet Barre at Bank then Circle Pilates at Covent Garden. The Ballet Barre is a mixture of everything I like, plank and press-ups in the warm up, with sun-saluations. Intense repetition at the barre until your calves, quads and feet cramp, then soft gentle port-de-bras and flowing travelling sequences across the floor. Circle Pilates included a few clients with re-hab needs, so we did all we could in that 45 mins to strengthen, release and balance out the body.

To go back to experiential anatomy, after we had moved there were pens and paper that we could write or draw on to record anything we'd discovered. I quickly started drawing, and what appeared on the page looked like a close up of a lake's shoreline, rocks becoming pebbles, becoming sand, and water lapping at the shore's edge. Amongst the boulders and pebbles I wrote the words: water, boom, sweat, in various sizes and degrees of wiggly-ness. When I had to talk about it to my partner I said, I'm all of these things - the hard, strong stones, and the fluid lapping water. I felt really happy, and weird as it sounds we just sat and smiled at each other.

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