global impro 8 - Feldenkrais and impro

May 23 2019

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: GII

8.) Awareness, Social Engagement and the Availability of Choice - “The Feldenkrais Method” with Victoria Worsley

This blog is the seventh of a series of blogs, charting my experience as a Theatre Bristol agent at the Global Improvisation Initiative Symposium, May 2019. If you'd like to get a little context, start here. Otherwise, welcome to my reflections on the impact of experiencing a Feldenkrais session.

Victoria Worsley studied movement and performance with Monika Pagneux and Philippe Gaulier in Paris and gained a degree from Oxford University. She worked widely as an actor, theatre maker and movement director for twenty years. Having discovered the Feldenkrais Method via Monika Pagneux, she trained as professional practitioner in Lewes 2003-7. [from programme notes]

In the programme notes, Victoria writes: “Improvisation requires the ability to engage with people and situations, and to respond spontaneously rather than in compulsive or pre-planned ways. But how do we become aware of the habits that compromise those skills? The Feldenkrais Method enables us to catch our compulsive choices through invitations to try out fundamental patterns and explore new variations in the simpler, safer, less pressured environment of gentle movement. The lessons encourage easier, less effortful solutions to emerge so we can get out of our own way, engage more clearly and play more simply. Skills for improvisation – and for life.”

I'd heard Victoria talk in the panel discussion on social policy and was attracted to exploring lowering my intensity, to find out what impact it would have on my experience at the conference.

Victoria invited us to switch our awareness on and go around the room shaking each others hands, just noticing our physicality, thoughts and emotions.

Victoria then led us through a 40 minute Feldenkrais lesson, during which we mostly lay on the floor, raising and lowering the hand that we'd used for shaking hands in the first exercise. We first raised just the hand, then the forearm, then the whole arm, then we explored movements that allow the arm to reach out further.

Through simple, easy, repeated movements, we were able to notice our habitual patterns, spotting the tension that we habitually imbue every action with and explore subtle variations of the simple movements to find more efficient, easier ways of lifting, reaching and lowering the arm to the ground.

When we came back to the handshaking exercise, the group all reported a very different experience from the first time we'd done it.

  • Some felt taller

  • I felt wider

  • Some reported a feeling of spaciousness

  • I noticed an increased sense of time and presence in the connections

  • Someone felt perturbed about the lightness of touch in the second handshake

  • Lots of us felt softer

  • I felt more compassionate towards everyone.

Wow, it felt like coming out of the automatic, opened up a whole world of possibilities. I found this session extremely inspiring. Embodied surrender has such a power effect on me, allowing me to meet the world in a softer, more curious way. When clown teacher, John Wright, directed a show I was in, he started every day with a Feldenkrais lesson. It had such a grounding and opening effect on me, I found I was able to be more present to myself and the other people in the room throughout the rest of the days rehearsal. It's funny how easy it is to forget to pause, relax and tune in. Maybe I need a tattoo to remind me?

And now, as I write up these notes, I notice I'm feeling a bit strung out. Hey! I could take a pause, reduce my intensity and come back to it in a bit! Hey! You could too!

Feel into your body, notice any tension. What can you do to relax your muscles? Do you need a little stretch or a wiggle? Do whatever feels right and I'll see you back here for the next session – the Future / Unknown panel.

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