Yesterday evening two lovely ladies from Wonderful Beast Theatre (www.wonderfulbeast.co.uk/) were at home, drinking beer and apricot nectar respectively. They asked what was coming up next at Infinite Souls and I said, “Well, there’s a Feldenkrais workshop end of January…you know, Feldenkrais, the technique that Peter Brook used with his actors?” They hadn’t heard of it, so wrote it down and will soon be investigating this marvelous method for their own actors.
I seldom know what to say to say about this method because it is so simple, so natural and so effective…that it seems ludicrous that we’re not practicing it all the time! Brinda Jacob-Janvrin first told me about Feldenkrais and introduced me to Michel Casanovas, who is an accredited Feldenkrais instructor. I attended his improvisation class along with a few of Brinda’s dancers and just loved it. It reminded me of Butoh; the seeking within, the belief in one’s own movement instincts. And this was still on the level of aesthetics. Then Michel facilitated a full-on, residential Feldenkrais Workshop at Infinite Souls sometime last year, and it was during this that the therapeutic aspect of the method blew me away.
Did you ever dream of a method where the smallest gesture, the circular movement of your wrist for instance, could improve mobility in your neck many-fold? Did you ever hope for an exercise that didn't require you to do 4000 stomach crunches and leap about like a robot on uppers to feel fantastic? Then this is it, baby! Non-aggressive and sensitive, it allows your body to find the right way for itself. Like returning to baby-hood and feeling that the world is indeed your oyster and the pearl is within reach and it’s not all grit and sand.
OK, so here’s an example: Three women who attended the workshop came in with acute back and neck aches. I mean, like really crazy pains. One (let’s call her Thurman) was in so much pain that she refused the bus and had her driver bring her in. By lunch of Day 1, Thurman was turning summersaults and all three were dancing like there was no tomorrow. Oh, and we would all be in the large rehearsal space, beneath the thatch, ya? Within a minute of the first instruction, one participant, let’s call him Barton (arre, don’t ask why, just…) would relax soooooo deeply that he’d snore his way through the rest of the exercise. Very chilled, the birds twittering, Michel’s dulcet French accent and Barton.
Anyway, back to why Peter Brook had Moshe Feldenkrais work with his actors. In Brook’s own words “The very base of the work of every actor is his own body, and nothing is more concrete… In Moshe Feldenkrais at long last I have met someone with a scientific formation who possesses a global mastery of his subject. He has studied the body in movement with a precision that I found nowhere else.”
As an actor, I feel this to be beyond true. So often we are dictated by text alone or by directors with only an external understanding of the acting process – how the stage looks, should one move from left to right, raise an eyebrow, drop a hand etc. But are ill-exposed to the possibility of truthful and passionate response from the body. Were an actor to train and prepare for a role with great respect for the innate knowledge of the body and it’s responses, how seminal the outcome could be.
There was just something about that first workshop – perhaps it was the complicité of the participants, perhaps it was fact that they all stayed in tents (this was before we built The El at Infinite Souls) and chilled wine in the pond, perhaps it was that hill-top meditation – but everyone felt fantastic at the end of it. Perhaps it was Michel and Feldenkrais – the fact that it demands just a little from you, physically, but rewards you so much.
So Michel will be back at Infinite Souls for The Feldenkrais Experience between Jan 29th-31st. This time we’ll be working with movement and music. Food, as always will be vegetarian, largely local and organic. Everything from idlis and groundnut chutney for breakfast to melanzane alla parmigiana and lemon sponge pudding for dessert. There will be a bus pick-up and drop off from St.Mark’s Road. Do call 9845213857 or email to register.