Someone once told me, "the best way to get out of your head, is to get into your head". Maybe what he meant was that we are so consumed with our brains running on overdrive, we forget that the brain needs 'me' time. This takes practice and we need to train ourselves to do this. Being present and allowing ourselves time to notice our thoughts and feelings; concentrating deeply and creating a very specific state of consciousness; practising mindfulness.
As a choreographer, the term 'mindfulness' helps me think and speak about the sense of immersion I want to create for an audience. The 'audience experience' and 'the performer's concentration' are the core foundations to my work. I want to create a space for people to submit to the piece.
For me, challenging how the body and mind works in the 'here and now' is vital to creating a piece of dance. As an audience we want to feel the piece is alive and true and real. We want a performance to be instant and in the now. Focusing awareness on the present moment, whilst acknowledging and accepting feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. I want to see mindfulness. And that's what I try to put on stage. It's probably the same with social situations. It can be very lonely if we don't connect with people socially. That's why watching live performance is vital to my wellbeing. As an audience we share a moment, when we are all together. We feel empathy with the performer and shared unity with everyone in the room, becoming the elements of one same organism. Until the end of the piece, when silence and immobility return, watching a performance is in itself a state of mindfulness. Of course we get back on the tube, avoid eye contact and bustle through to catch the last bus home whilst glued to our smartphones - but for an hour at least, we have been together in a 'tuned', shared experience. We had our fix.
As well as challenging the audience, I want to challenge the dancers by asking them to reach a specific state of mind when performing.
I created Figurines, a solo piece where a performer is inexorably moving forward, shaping and reshaping herself continuously. The dancer revolves constantly, controlling her balance yet indulging into a state of dizziness. I find important to always remember to acknowledge the state we are in at any time and to work with it. Having to tune with yourself and accepting to let go. On some days the dancer is not able to turn fast, as her body is tired and struggles to find balance. She had to learn to accept to only focus on the present moment, following the needs of her body and adapting her goals and expectations in order to keep turning smoothly. We have to learn to not get frustrated and too brainy about our limits, as this makes us fall and be even more unstable.
Two to tune, Photographer credit: The Other Richard
In another piece, Two to tune, concentration is crucial for the two performers to go through a complex score together, but also to keep the playfulness going. They need to acknowledge their own physical state and energy level during each performance and fine tune together, in order to connect and play with each other. Otherwise there is no performance. There is no game.
Taking notice of details within life; being curious, observing small gestures and moves happening between bodies, enjoying small moments is key to my wellbeing. And this is actually crucial for my work, because this is where my creative ideas come from. I need this time. I do try to 'get into my head' - notice the unusual and beautiful in my everyday surroundings - but mostly the block of time away is when I can really delve and appreciate what I feel and get fascinated by, with no pressure of making these feelings productive or useful immediately.
In my work and life, I try to remind myself that I am always learning. I think this is crucial to being confident and content - in that if we imagine we are on a big journey of discovery we can treat mistakes as lessons, rather than because of a shortcoming of our character. If we 'keep learning and playing' then the approach is positive for us.
Two to tune will be performed at the Cockpit Theatre, London on Friday 11th November, 10pm as part of the Voila! Festival: http://www.thecockpit.org.uk/voila