Gender and Intimacy - a reflection on an embodied practice workshop
By sarah boreham, Oct 21 2014 08:49PM
Reflection of a workshop on Gender and Intimacy with Penelope Best at NVDAT .
There were many aspects that came together whilst dancing into the footsteps of this workshop. Some personal, some political. I am a dancer and feminist.
Recently graduating in dance movement therapy from Roehampton University, Penelope Best’s work had resonated with me, laid down in her early years of dance movement therapy at the UK University. My MA thesis had explored gender, the body and depression, encouraging my fascination in finding complexity within layers of engendered identity. I was keen to spread my wings and learn about embodied practice and development in wider circles, seeking to make connections with other practitioners each sharing their own unique experiences, history and practice.
When I arrived in Schiedam for the workshop the doors were open wide and a welcoming face greeted and invited me in, how powerful, opening arms and a smile as a gesture. The studio was light, warm and inviting with a view of the canal, if you chose to glance that way.
I was struck by the multi-disciplinary gathering of members, including psychomotor therapist, practitioner whom worked with specific conditions of the body such as MS and brain injury, other embodied practitioner weaved their tales into the space of healing, myth, history and cultural diversity. I remember wondering; what it was about Holland that encouraged the integration of psychological and biological aspects to position dance movement therapy and embodied practice as essential in healing and identity.
To add intimate details of this workshop: Penny asked us define, locate and share our identities, I named myself as mother, philosopher, artist and a protester, was this protester a feminist? and at that moment my somatic response wondered if I needed to shield myself by drawing an image like a cape around my shoulders, but the air was fresh and the other members bodies were engaged, listening, welcoming. Using kinaesthetic sense we moved above ground, noticing our lingering or rushing rhythms in response to each encounter and sensed other bodies in the room.
An experiential with another mover of tracing and hovering, outlining another’s body. In which fascinating images came up for me of moving deep in the forest with other almost primeval creatures and I wondered if Penny’s guiding us to explore our kinaesthetic/proprioceptive sense more deeply had enable me to access the layers of evolutionary identities, I wondered if I was moving towards and away from the anthropologist, hero or hunter gatherer in the room? As I weaved and tumbled, fell and reached, crawled and swooped with caution and curiosity, it felt playful and risky this subterranean embodied landscape in the everlands of engendered intimacy.
I remember questioning if I was aware of my assumptions at this early stage of the workshop? Exploring further touch and the layers of embodiment and intimacy of hands, we moved from no touch through to flesh, muscle, bone and weight, I discovered preferences within intimacy, types of contact that I preferred, laying in the deeply satisfying bones, I noticed the responsibility of hierarchy and power in the use of weight bearing with others. I found to look into another’s eyes could provide holding whilst giving my weight and receiving another’s body through touch, I noticed colour, stillness and vitality in the close reflection of eye contact. I felt safe whilst challenged.
Returning after lunch, I felt a yearning almost pulling me back into the space and I thought of surprises and boxes that I had expressed intention to find within the workshop.
We embarked upon an exploration of sexuality and the embodied somatic responses that we proceeded to carved into quadrants. This was extremely insightful for me, I learnt that my embodied gendered sexuality was located within past and present subjective experiences. There were areas into which I didn’t want to enter, relationship landscapes that I totally ignored, other in which I played with experience, within one it felt like I was skating on thin ice with innocence.
I was reminded over and again of Penny’s skilful and intuitive sensitivity of the subjective personal and political nature of the material being exploring through our bodies and psyches, at one such moment Kate Bush’s recorded voice skimmed through the air, supporting the sensual and complex world opening up for me. I was aware of the stories being told of bodies that had lived a life, of bodies that were telling deep stories of how they came to be, what they wanted and where they imagined themselves travelling without a spoken word, only the rustle, slide, sigh, awakening and dance. As breaths of identities, built and shifted, my felt sense was of creating castles in the sand, the grains dispersing into the next task given to us in the workshop.
It was my first experience of creating a genogram and we were asked to focus on the male, female or other gendered qualities/features within 3 generations of our family, giving them shape colour location and movement on paper. Focusing on differences and similarities and experiential features, we selected 2 male and 2 female family members to embody, to my great surprise I chose members whom I would never have consciously connected or brought into such close contact. It was fascinating, to discover gendered qualities performed and emerging from my grandmother; of bright turquoise and fiery hips, constellated in my impressions of my daughter and how layers of identity were shed as my perceptions and empathic resonance grew. I felt as if I was understanding myself and family embodiments in a more informed personal way. I noticed restriction, limitations and freedoms in the shapes and colours I embodied. I was the tracer, I was the weaver, it was my story that produced the gendered lens through which I was looking and feeling. The ancestors were present in my body and connecting with many in that room full of embodiments, practitioners and lived experience.
What evoked the biggest surprise; the boxes in which I placed and viewed my grandparents as gendered identities were more fixed ,was this a result of the culture and moral code of the time? Was it shape shifting of bodies in time, dancing the present generation seemed to reflect more fluidity and less rigidity in the coils, spiral and ripples of qualitative embodied phenomena between the stars or sea creatures imagined on that day. As I dipped my toe in the water of the canal and focused on the arms of the windmill, I received the hands of time, danced in synchronicity and intimacy of that day.
My thanks go out to Penny and other members for such a rich and insightful workshop.
Dear Sarah, you write so kinesthetically that I am able to get a sense of some of the experientials you were guided through by Penny. I feel the depth of the work and the potential for further explorations. I wish I could have come myself. Thank you very much for sharing!
Thank you Marja for taking the time to read, share and comment on this reflection. It is great feedback for me to hear this, as one of my aims is to bridge the gap between the non verbal and verbal to help to language a kinesthetic sense.
Thank you Marja for taking the time to read, share and comment on this reflection. It is great feedback for me to hear this, as one of my aims is to bridge the gap between the non verbal and verbal to help to language a kinesthetic sense