On the last day of their residency in Freiburg, Matan Zamir and Nicola Mascia (matanicola) came together with Kathrin Feldhaus to reflect on their experiences.
Kathrin: How did you enter the project? What were your aims?
Matan: We entered the project with the idea of getting into the unknown. We didn’t know what we were exactly going to experience, but somehow our pre-thoughts were to use our methods to give the scientists new tools for the Parkinson’s Dancers. It was kind of a way to try to build something new through our practice and our way of teaching and of experiencing the body. We also wanted to create for the Parkinson’s Dancers tools that they can use practically in their daily life, when they want to turn and go out of bed for example. That they are not afraid to do things. That they can use the experiences of the dance classes at home, that they can access the body in a different way when they need.
Kathrin: Which tools did you use?
Matan: We went more into the abstract physical tools: Like ways of entering the body physically through the imagination, like a guided travel in the body, separating and isolating layers, or concentrating and deeply understanding one layer at a time and then see how those different sensations in the body can effect each other and through that to find new ways of physical understanding they can recognize and use.
Nicola: We also worked with closed eyes, like internal sensation, and as Matan said, with imagery or pictures and how the body reacts to this sensation, especially in a more internal application of the idea. With the physical quality that was created out of this practice, we then went to two layers of exploration. For example, try to move or perceive one’s body just as a skeletal structure or into the bone level and how to disengage the muscle from the motion as much as possible. Or how to use the muscle in a soft way instead of using the muscle force in order to move. So a little bit the opposite way around. How much can we move through the skeleton or through the joints. The work is done by that structure and not so much by the muscular system. We are very used to, in daily life, to instinctively access our muscles very, very strongly and most of the time we over-stress and overuse our muscles where it is not necessarily needed. There is a way of doing it also with less muscle force so probably then creating less physical tension when you enter other systems of the body in order to support that idea.
Matan: Somehow to let the intelligence that we already have in our bone structure to lead instead of us thinking about how do we want to move our body. To give more trust to the body and bypassing the mind which can cause fear.
Nicola: Or how we shape our body in a specific form with muscles and press the body form into this shape.
Matan: And on top of that, there is a way of moving energy in the body and releasing and getting softer in the joints so that the energy can really flow and so it’s a bony kind of work and at the same time it’s very soft and flowy. We concentrated on that a lot.
Kathrin: What were in this context your experiences especially with the Parkinson’s Dancers?
Matan: They hold the symptoms so much in the muscles. The shaking and rigidity usually comes in the muscles. They were also complaining of pain in the muscles sometimes. So we thought if we maybe bypass this layer and we go deeper into the bone structure, they can find a new way to use the muscles.
Nicola: Or to release them.
Matan: Yes. If they don’t think of moving from the muscles, somehow with non-thinking about that, it’ll bring the new thought to the body. We had this moment of really organically going down to the floor and up from the chair. That was also a moment that we felt they really got it.
Nicola: Maybe they didn’t even realize while they were doing it, maybe after the process they said “oh my god, we just did it naturally” – because of the practice or suggestion of bringing the body down to the floor – it was the body intelligence tuned into this very malleable organism that we are and it naturally used what is already in the body. The instinct of the body is already there and the body is built in order to adapt to a certain situation. And that works.
Kathrin: So it was kind of a trick not to tell them “go to the floor”?
Nicola: I think for the mind it’s a trick. Because their mind is very used to rule the body. And especially in our society the mind is very built in order to rule the body or to make the body behave in a certain way in order to fit the rules and the agreement that we have with society. When we started developing our own choreographic research, we also had to trick our bodies and mind in order to not be falling into patterns, mechanism or forms that we already gave to someone else or that we already experienced. So I think it was similar with the experience we had here and we also transfer this idea into our teaching method.
Kathrin: You were also interested in the differences of the bodies, in exploring “the 100%” of each person. What was your experience, dealing with movement disorder?
Nicola: When we started to teach and also to work with other dancers in our work, we discovered that we are interested in not unifying physical expression but to discover what’s best in each person’s body to our eyes. Maybe it’s not the best to others people’s eyes or the creator’s eyes. We are interested how to find the speciality in each person even if there is physical limitation or whatever kind of limitation in that physicality – and to extend the potential of that body to the maximum.
At the beginning, we were a little bit scared if we could apply this idea, because we had heard about things which were not possible for the Parkinson’s Dancers, so how could we adapt or at all physically research with these differences in physicality?
Matan: I think we did something that we didn’t even think about conceptually but that just happened. We understood that there are rules or kind of limitations that we maybe should not touch or that there is a fear to touch and we didn’t have so much time to try out because of the short process. For example, walking backwards or going into the floor: We understood that it might be difficult or dangerous and somehow unconsciously, instead of going by order to try out things, we were jumping almost to a higher, professional level so that already the stuff underneath seemed to be easy to do. I felt from the Parkinson’s Dancers that they quite quickly understood: “Oh, we can do that, so all the rest is easy – actually walking backwards is nothing”.
Nicola: They opened up their instinctual body actually, so they did things that we didn’t plan to do but they naturally did it. So it was possible also to play with it.
Matan: Both groups were so amazing giving themselves and willing to try and do everything we offered. So they were just there to dare. It was really amazing.
Kathrin: And so the classes by itself became the interest of your own artistic research?
Nicola: We came very open and without expectations into the process. Of course we knew the general idea and our methods, but we didn’t come with a concrete idea. When we started the classes we realized that the research itself was the work with them and with their bodies and not so much to absorb that and then place it in different forms. Maybe that could come at a later stage, but the first period here for us was really about them and about testing our methods inside their experience or inside the dialogue with them.
Kathrin: Maybe this process is already one outcome, one result.
Nicola: Absolutely. For us it was the first time that we entered an artistic research without a necessity of a result or product. At first it was very confronting, because we are used to aim towards a product and here the aim was not specified and we also wanted not to specify it because we felt that the research itself has to be open enough in order to be able to form itself. And eventually the result will come out without aiming it somehow.
Kathrin: Which questions do you have now, at the end of your research period – to the Parkinson’s Dancers and to the junior scientists?
Nicola: I think, from the Parkinson’s Dancers I have already a physical reaction and answer. Actually I don’t have so many answers from the students. I would like to ask them: How does the perception of their body change by practicing dance? Or the idea that they have about certain things specifically for example the Parkinson’s or dealing or testing them – does it change at all after experiencing physical work? With themselves and in their own body and also in relationship to another body.
Matan: I would love to hear more detailed if at all the Parkinson’s Dancers could grasp something from the experiences and really apply it in daily situations, because it was one of the aims for me.
Nicola: In this project for me dance started to be used in different social contacts. We have been doing some workshops with different social groups before, but in this project I really felt what a strong social impact it has in the moment when you don’t use dance as a hobby or a dance class or an entertainment program for one hour (in the way you teach steps and they have to copy), but in the same way we use it in the studio to create our own works. So when you use physical research on a quite professional and advanced level with these different social groups or in these different circumstances, suddenly it kind of triggered a different perception of the body and the way you carry your body in life or what your body does mean to you. For me, specifically this element was very strong. It was visually and physically visible.
Kathrin: If you would have more time, at which point would you go further now?
Nicola: Somehow I feel especially the Parkinson’s group and some of the students, they reached a level of physical awareness and openness to receive whatever information. They are not judgmental of the outcome. It’s for us the base for the beginning of our choreographic research. When the body is at that level you can start choreographic research. And not just physical research or experimentation. That could totally be a possible further step.
Matan: It feels like the beginning. Quite quickly they grasped it, but it’s a good base to deepen and also push a little bit the different aspects. We were still very protective and careful. I think they are ready to do much more.