I have been thinking and reading about a lot about play for the past few weeks. As I write about it, I am aware of how diminished my own sense of play can become if I m not actively seeking and feeding it. How the day can become turgid and dim if I don’t look for a genuine rhythm of exertion and recuperation.
Here are some conscious playful recuperations:
bouncing: I have a mini trampoline in my study, so standing up once every 30 minutes to bounce for 3 minutes is a great way to move fluids, feel the dance between gravity and levity and change my p.o.v.
getting down: I also have up to three dogs in my study. Getting up from the desk and getting down on the floor with the dogs is also refreshing. Another change of level and p.o.v.
Getting out: step outside with or without dogs. Look around, breathe, stretch your arms up and take in the sky.
Listen: Stand up, close your eye and listen. What is the softest sound you hear? What is the sweetest sound you hear? I highly recommend Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice by Pauline Oliveros as a way of cultivating a listening practice.
random moving: take some time during the day to lie down in an open space (does not have to be large) and let your body move. Don’t exercise or stretch. Just get quiet and see what impulses for movement might be there. Let your body move in any way for 5 minutes. No judgement, no interpretation, no thinking. Just feeling, moving.
Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling is the most beautiful man on or off a horse that I have ever seen. I do not mean “sexiest man alive” beautiful, but lovely in his ability to be with a horse – beautiful in the connection. His work with a horse on the ground is an extraordinary dance improvisation. His movement is neither predator nor prey, but has a deep, grounded athleticism like a kind of running tai chi.
When I first saw this video (below), I thought how wonderful it would be to be able to run with Nelson, the formerly wild Mustang. So yesterday we went out into the big field and did our walking dance: me asking him to move around me in a circle and then come back to me. This is all at liberty, no halter or lead rope and in a six acre field. Just small hand signals. So far so good.
Then I started running. I wanted him to see me running, but not be afraid. So I ran away from him. He looked mystified, but not particularly alarmed. I walked back to him and petted him, then I ran away again. This went on for a bit.
Then I said, “OK, you run.” I have been hesitant to ask him to run because in the past he would run AWAY and then our time together is finished for that day. But this time he ran, head up, tail flagging, but with one eye on me. And when I did that little signal with my hand by my side, he circled and came back. We hung out together and then I asked him to run again. And again he came back.
I am no Klaus, but I was pretty happy with that dance. And Nelson seemed pretty happy too. Two animals working out together how to go and come back, how to run and be connected. And all of that makes me a very happy horse dancer.
I love this photograph of my daughter. She was modelling an exercise for a chapter in my book. It feels this from “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver:
You do not have to be good
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
I wrote about the attic, the basement the other day as a metaphor for the body, and the way we experience those unconscious spaces in our bodies. My friend, the poet Nicole Rushin shared it on Google+ and there was a pretty rich discussion thread.
She said, “There are days when I feel like I deny my physical self, my body. I wonder what I am doing here? I am spirit – why do I have these bones and this flesh? My body is like a carrier for me some days, unfamiliar and strange. And having said all that I suppose I am most at ease in the attic discovering new things and un-burying old treasure.”
We don’t live in the attic, though. So I wondered about the body’s living spaces – where we are spending most of our time. For me, I think it is in my hips, my spine. That is where I feel the dancing and the riding the most.
Ryder Cooley and Lady Moon (Ngonda Badilia) in Xmalia
Pam White and our friend Suzanne were talking about pentimento, the practice of over-painting – basically the artist changing his/her mind. Pam had some examples of her own pentimento on her Google+ page.
That got me to reflecting on the past two days, when i have been directing and making new movement for Xmalia. The process of choreographing, standing back, and then going in and layering in different or denser or richer movement is painterly in a similar way. Sometimes the hint of a first rendering is there, other times I obliterate it completely, but even so, some trace remains.
Maybe I just like the feeling of the word. It reminds me of another favorite word, palimpsest, the difference being that in that case the layers of a manuscript or scroll or painting were scraped or washed away, say with milk and oat bran.
I think what I really like is the idea of underlayers – of something earlier either concealed or revealed by what has been put down later.
When I went from being an actor to being a dancer, the actor was still there, shining through in the dances. Now that I am writing, the dancer is still there, because the words are gestural – like movement to me – they have a physical resonance that I can feel.
And sometimes I have scraped things away – old text, old selves. More about that in The Journal this week.
I am interested in how you are feeling your layers. Over-painting or scraping away with milk and oat bran?