The Unwritten Grotowski: Theory and Practice of the Encounter

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I wake one morning, two days before the end of the residency, and I just can't stop crying. It's a cleansing sort of sob, though, and I am not alarmed by it. That night, as I improvise a solo performance, I know it is my most powerful work yet. My body is raw and vulnerable and open. My creative impulses are clear. An almost impossible paradox exists within me in that moment of performance. A deep sense of embodied knowing sits alongside an active process of unknowing.


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I relinquish cognitive control and allow my expressive and creative Quietening the conscious mind. As I wrote at the beginning of this paper, and to co-opt Buber's phrase, all real performance is encounter. The search for an embodied encounter as performance constitutes, in many respects, the heart of psychophysical and ensemble performer training. Kris Salata writes of Grotowski's philosophy of practice which underscores the performer's essential task as that of opening and revealing herself in front others:.

In the body, this being-towards-another, this being I in You , rings strong like a resonating voice. In one voice exercise led by Aliki Dourmazi, we stand in front of our partners each with an open, relaxed mouth. As I release my sound and allow it to weave through tone and pitch, Aliki prompts me to imagine my voice leaving my mouth, mingling in the air with my partner Lucy's voice and resonating in her oral cavity, just as she does the same.

The sound resonating through my mouth, through my body is not my own. The final ensemble improvisation of the residency is an exhilarating and powerful display of embodied ensemble work.

Running for 45 minutes, 16 performers weave on and off stage constructing momentary images, choreographic stories and physical collages. There is a remarkable sense of growth, development and shared flow as this temporary ensemble emerges through the work. In the evocative words of Thomas Richard:. In moments, a comprehension It's as if all levels of your being have now entered into a deep inter-connecting with the other person.

That's when the highway is open. Much like the current discourse on identity, cognition or perception, it seems that ensemble is. Embedded in this document are inherent questions regarding the challenges of representing and documenting praxical, embodied and interpersonal knowledge. How does one grasp with language the forms of inter-corporeal, embodied and sensory knowledge generated and disseminated by a practice of ensemble performance training fieldwork? Indeed, what is the very nature of the knowledge generated and can it be disseminated?

Does it have longevity or application beyond the experience itself? Perhaps an answer is not the answer, but rather offerings, images, threads to be further unravelled. And while there is not the scope in this document to fully elaborate upon and address these questions, I offer here a few initial thoughts on the type of knowledge explored and generated through such performance training residencies and fieldwork.

Truly, balance is always ever unstable; the way of opposites, of tension, of in-between. To stand is to sway, imperceptibly even, shifting weight ever so slightly. The encounter, like a balancing act, is situated between the I and the Thou , between my voice and Lucy's voice, in the third voice that they become when they resonate together.

The body alive with presence is situated:.

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As I wrote previously, throughout the residency we learn to attend to the heart of the improvisation; to discover, as it unfolds, the material core of this particular dance in this particular moment. Therein lies, yet again, an apparent paradox. If one knows too well where the heart of the improvisation is, one risks a certain blindness. The heart of a performance, much like the experience of flow, is constantly changing; the moment you go to reach for it, it slips out of your grasp. Once more, we approach the performer's knowledge as a balancing act, as an in-between space: to know and un-know simultaneously.

This combination of knowing and unknowing implies a productive and yet irreconcilable tension. The trained performer is equipped with embodied knowledge — physical expressivity in movement, a trained quality of listening, a sensitive creative imagination — while being equally equipped with a "retraceable path to vulnerability" Salata or a consistent commitment to unknowing.

In a similar way, Robin Nelson's concepts of know-how and know-what know-what-works are well suited for embodied knowings in practice Nelson, as they position knowledge as specific, instantaneous and emergent. A trained performer and a trained ensemble aspire to both know what works and know how to un-know. And yet even still, I am wary of such claims to knowing-in-performance because:. The work starts to shine when the nobility of the moment emerges, when its true, undefined nature unveils Perhaps, the type of 'knowledge' we train and embody in performance, and particularly through the performance residency, is nothing more than the path to a 'permanently unstable balance' between knowing and un-knowing.

As we bid each other farewell on the final morning on the island of Lesvos, an image comes to mind. Sixteen performers travel sixteen different paths across the globe, back home or to new destinations.

Charles Baisden

Sixteen performers hold inside their creative bodies an experiential knowledge of a way of being in the world and with others. Sixteen performers will enter new studios and training spaces, forge new collaborations and ensembles, generate new performance and improvisation. Sixteen performers will conjure, share and disseminate this knowledge in their practice s and their presence s.

Like seeds blown across fields and rivers and hills, this knowledge is carried away to be planted elsewhere, the fruits of which we cannot anticipate. Barba, Eugenio.


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  4. The Paper Canoe: A guide to theatre anthropology. London: Routledge, Hahn, Tomie. Nelson, Robin. Practice as research in the arts: principles, protocols, pedagogies, resistances. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, Richards, Thomas. Florence: Taylor and Francis, Salata, Kris. New York: Routledge, Dramaturgy in the making: A user's guide for theatre practitioners. London: Bloomsbury, Zarilli, Phillip. Performance and Phenomenology: Traditions and Transformations.

    Bleeker, Sherman and Nedelkopoulou. Psychophysical Acting: An intercultural approach after Stanislavski.

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    This journal is made in the traditional country of the Boonwurung and Wurundjeri people of the Eastern Kulin nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present. We recognise, respect, and learn from their cultural heritage, beliefs and relationship with country. PART II — The Theory Three key theoretical images underpin my engagement with performance and ensemble training, and are therefore evocative and significant frameworks through which to read this document: psychophysical performance as 1 a site of embodied research; 2 a site of encounter; and, 3 a 'dance of disorientation'.

    Hahn elaborates: Performance, as well as fieldwork, is a site that heightens our awareness or draws our attention to the 'continuity between routine activities and more extraordinary ones. Hahn 91 As such, the fieldwork of the performance residency draws attention to the continuity between routine studio practice and the more extraordinary experience of the residency or retreat. Over a dozen in number, these principles: interconnect to form a suite of attitudes which are intended to encourage detail, responsiveness, easefulness, presence and mental flexibility Pursuing pleasure as a central principle in the work: does not mean doing what we like, but identifying what we like in what needs to be done Britton, , First and foremost, these two principles encourage a sustainable practice, one that feels easeful and honest, generous to the bodymind.

    As I wrote in my field notes after the last improvisations of the residency: Watching everyone perform, I realised something. Dusk descends.

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    I relinquish cognitive control and allow my expressive and creative Quietening the conscious mind breaking patterns removing resistance laying bare. Kris Salata writes of Grotowski's philosophy of practice which underscores the performer's essential task as that of opening and revealing herself in front others: 'to reveal yourself' In the evocative words of Thomas Richard: In moments, a comprehension Much like the current discourse on identity, cognition or perception, it seems that ensemble is not something we are , not something we have , ensemble is something we do.

    Salata posits Grotowski's work as philosophical practice, and more particularly, as practical research in the phenomenology of being, arguing that Grotowski's departure from theatrical productions and thus critical consideration resulted from his uncompromising pursuit of one central problem, "What does it mean to reveal oneself? The book demonstrates that the answer led him through the path of gradually stripping the theatrical phenomenon down to its most elemental aspect, which shows itself through the craft of the performer as a non-representational event.

    This particular quality released at the heights of the art of the performer is referred to as aliveness , or true liveness in this study in order to shift scholarly focus onto something that has always fascinated great theatre practitioners, including Stanislavski and Grotowski, and of which academic scholarship has limited grasp.

    Grotowski - Theory and Methodology

    Salata's theoretical analysis of aliveness reaches out to phenomenology and a broad range of post-structural philosophy and critical theory, through which Grotowski's project is portrayed as philosophical practice. Help Centre. My Wishlist Sign In Join. Be the first to write a review. Add to Wishlist. Ships in 7 to 10 business days. Link Either by signing into your account or linking your membership details before your order is placed.

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