Monday, October 18, 2010

Forest Breathing in Nutley, New Jersey

Forest Breathing in Nutley, NJ
I have no idea what Isadora Duncan would have thought of Florence Fleming Noyes. Actually, she would likely have been critical, as she was of most of her so-called “imitators.” In Duncan’s day, the popularity of rhythmic or aesthetic or Greek or natural dance schools abounded (much, in my opinion, the way yoga studios populate our contemporary cultural and spiritual landscapes—but that is the subject for another post).  Nevertheless, I have no hard evidence that Duncan knew about the Noyes School. I do know that Florence Fleming Noyes saw Duncan dance—but only after she had begun to develop her own ideas. I also know that mutual artistic relationships existed, with personalities including Percy MacKaye (son of Delsarte protégé Steele MacKaye) and the sculptor Auguste Rodin. In fact, Noyes dancers mythologize her retort to Rodin’s assertion that Noyes had the most perfect left arm in the world (she wanted to know what was wrong with the right one)—surely Duncan would have appreciated that kind of quick-witted response to the sculptor whose studio she fled in fear after dancing for him clad only in her under-slip in her virginal youth.

At the Noyes School Pavalon
Portland, CT
While it’s fun to make suppositions about how Duncan would have responded to the work of her contemporaries, I certainly can’t put words in her mouth. I can however, speak to my own experiences as an Isadora Duncan dancer encountering Florence Fleming Noyes’ work. I was first introduced to Noyes Rhythm in an Isadora Duncan dance class in New York City. Linda Rapuano, the current president of the board of the Noyes Rhythm Foundation, handed me a brochure describing the immersive summer experience at Shepherd’s Nine in Portland, Connecticut. It was another year before I made it up there, but my first week at the Noyes School was absolute bliss. That week, I promised myself that I would return for a full month the following summer. Long story short (or, more likely, to be continued), I’m writing this post from JFK airport, en route to Austin after my first full weekend of meetings as the new Secretary of the Noyes Rhythm Foundation Board. I suppose this means I’m in for the long haul!

Forest Breathing with Fall Leaves
In the Noyes Rhythm practice, there exist a range of technique exercises, usually repeatable movement patterns describing different patterns of energetic flow through the body. A common teacher training practice is to ask teachers what their favorite technique is, or which techniques they feel are most foundational to the Noyes work. Recently, I have been thinking about the technique called “Forest Breathing.” It is a simple exercise, coordinating breath and movement, and it is usually taught by emphasizing the relationship of the individual practitioner to the group as a whole.  Practitioners envision themselves breathing with their whole beings and connected to one another the way a forest of trees is connected by its web of roots deep inside the earth. To my pleasure (and certainly a salute to synchronicity), we explored “Forest Breathing” as part of our opening Noyes Rhythm work before sitting down for the long hours of discussing board business!

Noyes Dancer (historic)
You have to love an organization that opens its board meetings with a centering movement practice, and you certainly have to appreciate a treasurer who encourages you to visualize runes in preparation for understanding finances and budgets! I am both thrilled and honored to be part of the body managing the organic growth and evolution of this organization, as we witness the unfoldment of the Noyes Rhythm work into a second century of practice.

Austinites, stay tuned for possible Noyes Rhythm sharings in the Austin area—and, you should know I’m not the only Noyes Rhythm tunic in Texas! A longtime teacher of the Noyes work (Arline Terrell) currently resides in San Antonio and is active with her dance practice there!