Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A lone tree on the horizen of a boring landscape

This post has taken me a very long time to write. I am not really sure why. I started writing it on the 4 December when Sally left Florence after a short, or long, 7 weeks on the programme. I suppose then I couldn't work out what I wanted to say exactly. Sally was here for our first Norman Taylor movement workshop and we have just completed another four days with him... and I suppose Sally leaving and Normans poetry in movement are connected for me. Norman was here teaching us the Le Coq 20 movement sequences... these are mimed sequences that teach you about space, articulation, separation, suspension, force... and so on. All vital ingredients when constructing theatre... But Norman is no ordinary teacher. He brings a depth to the movements that transform them from a technical exercise into poetic genius.

Sally, the wonderful wild woman from Tasmania, packed up her family... her two year old, her ten year old and her partner and moved to Florence... like the rest of us, in the pursuit of art, to study with Giovanni Fusetti. She got a grant and that was it. The work itself made her squeal in delight, stare in awe, cry and laugh and gasp. But the work-day hours, being in a new country with her 10 year old going to school in a foreign language and the relentless winter rain that kept her two year old consistently indoors, made it impossible to stay. For us in the Southern Hemisphere this is not a childhood. Sunshine, bare feet, swimming pools and gardens make childrens hearts soar and the price of Italy was too high. Sally often spoke of what it meant to be an artist and a mother. The Divided Heart, a book she often spoke of, talks of the belief that to be an artist and a mother one of them has to fail. Sally said that the fact that she is a mother is the very thing that makes her a better artist. And it did. Sally was not afraid of life, of taking risks, of moving... on and off the stage. Italy didn't work out for her and her family - not the art.

Being here is really not easy. At all. I miss my family desperately. But not being here is as difficult. Telling stories is not something you want to do. It's just something we do... And then we move... In and out of each others lives. And for now I am telling part of my story in Italy... my family are telling theirs in South Africa... and Sally her's in Australia.

Norman spoke of the verb in movement sequences, clear of any judgment or interpretation... so if you are doing the wall for example (that is miming climbing a wall) and you use only the verbs in the sequence... to rise... to suspend... to pull... and so on... Something else emerges. Because the verb itself has no opinion. And only when we have no opinion can we know how to say exactly what we want to say on the stage... and in life. So we study pure movement to allow the movement speak of you - Rather than you speaking of the movement. And of course neutral movement is impossible. But every now and then there is a glimmer of the beauty and force behind the personal chaos. Norman says that people wait to see your movement because somehow is speaks of who you are. And the movement must be dynamic... creating the wind in the ice skater sequence... the weight in the weight lifter sequence... the force in throwing the discus... Brought to life with vital accents. Like a boring landscape, and every now and the there is a tree, a rock, a bush, a sun set.

On Saturday after the full days workshop I sat on the bridge looking at the Ponte Vecchio one side, the sun setting behind just another church on the other, the deep blue Spring sky above, the river Arno still beneath me, the rush hour traffic streaming past, and I know that I am not European. And I remember the horizon on the salt plains in Botswana... that goes on for ever. Where the heat is the kind that lets you see the air. Where the yellow sand on the bare landscape stands up straight in the wake of the passing landrover - there is no hurry to return to the cracked earth and wait for another lift which may not come. From in the vehicle a little girl looks out the window and doesn't realise, it's not just hot, it's Africa hot. A lone lizard on a broken rock watches as the dust returns in a slow waltz. And so we move.

Norman told me the French bible states... in the beginning there was the verb.

The pic from our first workshop with Norman. Where Sally did the movement of throwing the discus... but was really replaying the story of her life in verbs. Ready for the next part of her story. Sally, here's to boring landscapes and the odd spectacular thorn tree.

Old images of landscapes from the photographic museum where I spent a day off... looking at an exhibition of war photographs. Another kind of movement.

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