Monday, July 18, 2011

Tunics in the Forest: Part II

Today I took the train from New Haven to New York, where I’m rehearsing another project for the next few weeks. Two weeks in the Noyes work is just not enough—thankfully I’ll be back up at Shepherd’s Nine for the first week in August, which is also the last week of the season. Lori Belilove, Artistic Director of the Isadora Duncan Dance Foundation, will be Artist in Residence that last week and I’m very much looking forward to participating in an embodied conversation between Duncan technique and the Noyes Rhythm work.

My experience of Noyes Rhythm continues to deepen. Tuesday morning I had a private lesson with Noyes Master Teacher Nancy Nichols, whose eye for stuck places in the body and talent for freeing them astounds me.  Recently, I have been working on releasing some chronically held tension in my right hip, and Nancy (also known as Clio) went right for that spot.

The Noyes private lesson is an interesting combination of hands-on adjustment and improvisational movement—think dancing Thai massage with live piano music. Noyes works with a conception of the body as units (generally corresponding to bones) and spaces (or joints). The torso is comprised of three units—the pelvis, the lower ribs/abdomen, and the shoulder girdle/upper ribs.  Freeing the spaces right above the crest of the pelvis (roughly at the waist or a few inches below the natural waist for some) and at the bottom of the sternum/mid-thoracic/diaphragm enables one to initiate movement from the midsection of the torso, which is a very different feeling than leading with the shoulders or the hips. The result is a wonderful sense of moving with the whole body, both integrated and free, that is characteristic of early modern dance practices.

I took my newfound sense of freedom into my dancing and into my teaching, and Saturday morning I crafted a class around the elemental theme of fire and the muse Erato. For the past several years, Clio has been working on clarifying how the nine Greek muses comprise a spectrum or palette of nine different movement qualities or feelings that can be used to structure class, and Erato was a fun way to finish class on a Saturday morning—especially since Saturday night is the impromptu performance night at Noyes and we were able to carry that energy over into the afternoon rehearsals. I have to admit, some of Erato crept into one skit I initiated for that event. “Eve in Diana’s Grove” spoofed off of our weeklong back and forth conversation about whether or not to eat the wild berries on the property. Irreverence must have been a theme for the week because the skit featured an appearance by Diana herself (another name for Florence Fleming Noyes, the founder of the practice).

The rest of the week was full, with reviews of historic group movement choreographies that our younger generation of teachers is practicing incorporating into our classes, so that historic elements of the work are not lost and even filming parts of these structures so that we have a record perhaps more accurate than human memory. We were blessed in this venture not only to have coaching by Clio, but also by the arrival of Barbara Luke (ThaLia), another Noyes master teacher who returned to camp this year for the first time in a few summers. I am very much looking forward to a “wafting” class with her when I get back up there the first week of August.

I’m also excited to practice more recorder with Birdi, who gave me a few lessons this week. The goal of the Noyes work is creative overflow, and finally for me this year the overflow has flooded into creating music as well as dance movement.  With the year’s wealth of collaborations with live musicians, I’m thrilled to have a portable instrument to explore, as I deepen and expand my knowledge of and ability to talk music.