A histories: Life fds* Research

In 2002 as part of my dramatherapy training I was part of a performance research group working on the dramatic exploration of identities and the processing of personal material,  changes and growth through theatre and performance making. It was a life changing experience for every member of that group as we were both the researchers and the subjects of our research, that is to say: we were the directors, the performers, the therapists and the people whose lives and identities were being challenged. The transgressions (mostly sexual) and transformations that took place over the course of that year had  creative consequences (an outstanding public performance) and destructive repercussions upon peoples personal lives (relationships were broken up), jobs (teachers lost their jobs), studies ( students dropped out the program never to go back to their training ). The training program itself  fell apart and to this day I have no idea what has become of it. The power of this investigation was such that as a manifestation of a synchronous metaphor,  even the recording material got burned ! The only proof that this research ever took place lies in the memories of the people involved (students and teachers) and it is embedded in our life course and professional decisions we all made from then on, working subcutaneously like a well hidden active seed, a memory capsule of  activated demonstrable creative and destructive potential. Two things were clear to me: One was that our lives, our growth and our healing process are not linear compounds of situations that keep improving provided we feed them with the right life ingredients: transformations exceed the boundaries of the complexities which are attributed to them. The second one is that art had something to do with it.  Consistent with the general destruction that followed that night of that controversial performance, I was threatened by serious symptoms of depression. Shortly after, I quit my practice as a therapist, sold my car, ended the lease on my apartment and moved out of the country. My work continued in low key  for three years working as a drama worker, containing my practice within the methodological framework of drama as a support tool for vulnerable populations. I worked in prevention and rehabilitation with children and vulnerable adults in institutional settings applying theatre and visual arts as tool for support, awareness and empowerment. In the UK there is a widespread understanding in the social sector that the institutions that fall within its jurisdictions do not suffice in their infrastructures and care polices. Their service users needed something more to shed light in the complexity of their vulnerability and their search for empowerment and this something more is art. Drama workers would be called in to provide with this extra something which can re-introduce a re-humanising articulation for the complexities of healing and growth in their service users´ lives. To provide a good example: Drama workers (not psychologists or psychiatrists) in Scotland are the people who are being funded in order to plan and facilitate the depression and suicide prevention program in primary and secondary education. Is it that art is the most eligible to orchestrate the vocabularies that best untangle the paths that lead to the most hidden corners of our inner lives? And if so, what are the mechanisms or resources that endow art with such eligibility. Artists as much as a drama workers intuitively transcript those mechanisms into practice with beneficial results for the receiving parties.

It became clear to me that I needed to go deeper into the art of performance and off I was to London in 2006 to continue my work by undertaking an MA course in performance making. During the course of the year I was led to the discovery of my personal style and my methodological path in performance making due to two separate situations. The first came from my experience in the course and specifically with the fact that almost the entire morning curriculum consisted of classes like contact improvisation, yoga, tai chi, butoh, traditional Indian dance etc. Although I was enjoying the classes , especially the ones related with dance, this was very far away from my comfort zone: it was a daily struggle for me to keep up with the rest of my colleagues- a lot of them coming from a dancing background. Those are not the sort of practices that I could excel in. What is more, because for a big part of the day I was in motion – and I was learning a lot from this, both physically and mentally- that when it came to work on my own projects, my rebelling nature manifested  in counter forces that would demand from me stillness, just to stand still.  I would not have learned so much from stillness if I had undertaken an MA in Learning How To Stand Still! Stillness I found out was not the opposite of movement.

(to be continued)

*fds: feeds (instead of life vs research)