Yesterday, I spent more time with the wonderful folks at Double Edge Theatre, out in Ashfield, MA. Their highly physical Open Trainings, as I’ve described here before, are rigorous, inspirational, and transformative, and I would encourage anyone who is not mobility-challenged to try one.
Here are some moments from this one, particularly as they relate to the mind-body connection, my own emotional/physical journey, and my practice of Rubenfeld Synergy:
…I am in a clutch of people; the training has broken up into two groups. My group is making a tighter and tighter bunch, closing in, breathing hard, urgent, while the other group circles us. I feel an unmistakable sense of menace and danger from the outside group, while in my group I feel the huddling together as fearful. Soon we are packed together, hunched with our heads close, and I feel as if I will cry from the fear. Just as suddenly, we break away and go running joyfully through the circle that surrounds us, and the mood is over. A simple change from one type of physicality to another shifts my emotional state instantly.
…Our group is making its way up the side of a large wooden see-saw. Our leader – Matthew Glassman – has me by the arm and we are working our way toward the middle of it. The grade is steep and the wood is old and smooth, slippery under my bare feet in the sun. My heart is pounding and I feel with every step I will fall. And then we go over the balance point and slide down…and I learn, as I do again and again here, how closely fear and joy are related. Facing fear, moving through it, I learn what triumphant rewards are on the other side.
…Doing this training, surrounded by many beautiful, lithe, graceful people who have clearly been doing this for some time, I feel the struggles of my size, my flexibility, my strength. It taps me directly in to the feelings of exclusion I had as a child: cautious, quiet, brainy and physically awkward, I spent most of my childhood excluded from friendship and peer groups, either by my own choice or active ostracizing. Even though I’m now fitter than I’ve ever been, the activity still touches those old wounds: I feel slower, more awkward, less beautiful than everyone else. A constant voice in my head says, “Am I doing it right? Am I responding quickly enough? Will they see that I’m not really one of them?” And then someone grabs me by the hand and pulls me onward as we run, or someone puts their arm around me in the group, or someone sees that I’m not as tightly into a cluster of people as I could be, loops my arm, and draws me in. Over and over, I’m included, embraced, held. I belong here.
Theatre is a place where I’m often reminded – or re-bodied, if you will – of how these connections work. And Double Edge is a place where I find, not only the things above, but a place of total presence: when it gets physically demanding enough, and when I’m able to let go, those persistent, insecure thoughts are silenced, and I am no longer a shy, awkward girl alone, but rather a shining body and spirit in community.
I encourage anyone in the performing arts to come and see me if you want to enhance presence, body confidence, or any other aspect of performance.