Season 5, Session 23: “What is performing?” – a ‘Facilitated OL’ with Abi Wright and Fuensanta Zambrana Ruiz.

On Friday 21 July 2017, Abi Clancey and Fuensanta Zambrana Ruiz will facilitate

What is performing? Exploring touch as a psychophysical contact

an OPENLAB session at Chisenhale Dance Space – Research Studio, 10 AM-1 PM.


This session will explore the nature of performing and its relationship with touch. How can the way you touch deepen the way you perform?

Through playing with habits, reactions and stimulus we will be inviting the participants to challenge their understanding of different aspects of touch. This open, creative and self-exploratory process will encourage them to strip back their performance and to broaden the way they listen and express.

First half of the lab will focus on exploring `touch’ through textures, qualities, pressures, images, sounds. Each participant is encouraged to bring a short game, activity or idea where touch is explored.

Second half of the lab will offer an open exploration and observation of touch with a psychophysical presence. This will give an opportunity to bring an awareness of the body, mind and emotions at a conscious level. By discovering through psychophysical contact are you ready to go where the performance unfolds?

About the facilitators:

Abi Wright and Fuensanta Zambrana Ruiz are teachers of the Alexander Technique and have combined careers in both acting and music performance.

Both of them are passionate about sharing the Alexander Technique in new and creative ways. Their ethos is built on the question ‘What is Performing?’ and through that they have developed courses and workshops for different theatres, festivals and institutions. Included in these are BE Festival, The Albany Theatre, Royal College of Music and The London Centre of Alexander Technique and Training.

For more information please visit their website:

Notes by Rebecca D’Andrea and Vanessa Michielon for their ‘Facilitated OL’ session “Embodied Traces” on Friday 24 March 2017.

Embodied Traces Notes


We want to embrace the philosophy of this lab, which is open exploration and questioning, and see this as a precious opportunity to focus and observe how our memory and attentional processes work when we move….

What filters our perception of the present moment? What guides our attention? How are the information that we receive from the environment (inner and outer) integrated in the act of remembering?

Notes from Tracing Invisible Identities (Ma Creative Practice 2016, Rebecca M. D’Andrea)

There is a direct perception and an ‘habituated’ perception that we have of our environment. The mediated perception passes through the central nervous system and is based on a system of relationships that we have established during the first four months of our development in utero (Bainbridge Cohen,1987, p.117).

The accumulation of experiences, our biographical history, our shared archive is what mediates our direct perception, establishing a series of “preconceived expectations” that as Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen explains in The Action in Perceiving (1987, p.117) influence our sensory input and our perceptual interpretation of it which gives rise to motor planning and to our motor response mechanism. Movement becomes the factor that unifies the two halves of the nervous system to define a synthesis in the relationship between inner and outer environments

Our bodily structure and posture are a flexible landscape in continuous transformation carrying our physical, emotional and cultural history, our movement patterns are a landmark of our identity in time and space, tracing a relatively fixed map of reference points in the unfolding of a constant mutual negotiation of forms. 

As, in fact choreographer and rolfer Hubert Godard explains in “Phenomenology of Space”, that there is a distinction between the physical space we move in and our relationship to it: “What is generally called the “kinesphere” is a gradient of perspective, or a range of ways I am able to notice the space around my body” and “the vector of my vision is superimposed with another vector- the vector of my history, where the space is full of my own phantoms or black holes” (Godard in McHose, 2003, p.33).

The space we move in is a way “totally shaped “(Godard in Mc Hose, 2003, p.34) by an embedded system of relationships that constitute our reference point, our map of navigation through it, within which there is an underlying ‘latent potential’ that might or might not manifest fully.


1) Arriving, connecting to present sensations. Which sensations are filtering my experience of the present moment ? Embodying the present sensations by naming them and embodying them as a ‘felt’ kinaesthetic image.

2) Meditation: developing an attentive state, ‘tuning in the senses’. Humming, reconnecting to the primordial sound, our primal rhythm, synchronising our felt sensations reharmonizing to the rhythm of the inner ear, our basic rhythm stored in the brainstem.

Nadha Brahma meditation.

Notes from Tracing Invisible Identities (Ma Creative Practice 2016, Rebecca M. D’andrea)

As D. Juhan explains (2003, p.216) the unconscious image that we have of our body corresponds to a set of associations residing in the brain stem and through a process of identification, familiar patterns of associations stimulate a reaction in the arousal mechanism.

The alpha motor system is located in our motor cortex, in our new brain and responds to a conscious control of our actions. The gamma system in located in our brain stem, in the old brain and it responds to an unconscious mechanism established as early developmental associations of motor control, which are stored in the reticular formation.

Most of the information contained by the reticular formation are acquired and work as fixed pathways of understanding where sensory information correspond to an organization of motor commands.

During sleep, deep relaxation, and meditation, the motor control mechanism exerted by the reticular formation is low and this is a time where a re-wiring of these association can happen.

3) Starting to move, developing an attentive state towards the environment (inner/outer). Discovering the essential elements guiding our attention: which sensorial ‘realms’ host my conscious attention? Which details in space drive my sense of curiosity? How do I sense what I sense? Inner and Outer sense of hapticality, vision, hearing. Tracking the implicit.

Notes from Tracing Invisible Identities (Ma Creative Practice 2016, Rebecca M. D’Andrea)

In the book “Focusing: How to Gain Direct Access to Your Body’s Knowledge” (1978), Gendlin describes the steps to detect “a felt sensation within our self”, which is indefinable and changes as we give attention to it. The philosopher explains that a “felt sense” is a “body sense of meaning” and as it sits at the edge of our conscious awareness, cannot be described logically. “A felt sense is something you do not at first recognize. It feels meaningful but not known”(1978, p.10).

4) Stopping, retracing the journey. What is revealed through tracing a continuous line of my experience of space on paper? What is the thread line linking my conscious and unconscious memory of the experience?

5) Draw it on paper.

6) Dance the drawing, resonate. Collective resonance of the memory of our journeys in space.


  1. Introduction of different states
  1. Guided (by the partner) present-centred: switched on/off focus (non—intrattentive)
  2. Guided switched on/present-centred with focus, attention to the moving body/mind and external space (intrattentive but still without retention)
  3. Guided “recording state”
  4. Free recording state

Notes from I don’t know if you can see it from the outside (MA Dance Performance 2015, Vanessa Michielon)

According to Sheets-Johnstone, generally the consciousness of dance is essentially pre-reflective: “There is but one temporality, which is founded upon the dancer’s lived experience of the dance” (1966/1979, p. 39). This state, which is considered ideal in dance performance, can be accessed by stopping reflecting, analysing, interpreting, and judging.

On the contrary, when the dancer reflects on herself apart from the dance, she is no longer with it and movement becomes actual effort. This reflective state, which is not only lived but also known, is described by Fraleigh as one where the dancer becomes aware of and focuses on her body, having the dancing self as the object of attention. (1987, p. 14)

As well as Sheets-Johnstone, she claims that the dancer is at her best when she becomes present-centred: as she is not reflecting on her self or her action, she lives the dance not as an object but as pure consciousness (Fraleigh, pp. 14-40).

Aiming to re-addressing the question “what is a dancer conscious of while dancing?” Shacklock extensively examines relevant literature concerning the different states that dancers can access. She proposes that the states at the end of the consciousness continuum can be called, respectively, fundamental or non-intrattentive, and supplementary or intrattentive (2010, p. 53-58). In the first one, which is associated with Fraleigh’s pre-reflective state,

“one would not necessarily be aware that one is in such a state; one has the experiences but is not explicitly conscious of having it. (…) One is entirely awake and engaged in experiences and mental activity but nonetheless explicitly unaware of those experiences and that mental activity and, indeed, oneself. Hence one is undoubtedly conscious, but in a state of fundamentally unattended consciousness.” (Shacklock, pp. 55-58)

On the opposite end of the continuum are the supplementary states of consciousness, which are reflective and intentional, and involve desires, doubts, and thoughts. In contrast with fundamental states, this knowing that one is in a state of supplementary consciousness may permit one to report on the experience of the state.

In a heightened supplementary state, a dancer not only directs absolute attention towards the dance, but is also concurrently fully aware and in control of that attention; his intrattention is fully directed towards the dance – including the actual experience of the dance, the dancing body, the dancing mind and external factors surrounding the dance such as the music – and he is also totally aware of his mental activity (Shacklock, p. 62).

A specific state we have proposed in the lab is the intrattentive “recording” one, where attention is placed upon the action of retaining details of the moving experience, living in the present but at the same time working with the past.

2) In pairs, exploration of different states. One manipulates/directs the one who is experiences the different consciousness states.

3) Final revisiting/impro

4) Open discussion:

How do we remember? What is the difference between attending to an experience with or without conscious intention to remember? And to be guided or taking decisions about where to direct the attention? What happens to the images in our mind’s eye when we layer visual info?

How do you integrate the tactile, with the kinesthetic, the auditory, the imagined space and body when you had your eyes closed? What is your body doing as you recall the experience? How is our remembering process different from that of a video camera? What trying to be a camera tells us about our memory?

The metaphor of the camera is a partial one, as it only deals with the visual and auditory, we are much more complex and fallible.

Notes from Tracing Invisible Identities (Ma Creative Practice 2016, Rebecca M. D’Andrea)

All the methodologies explored in this research were relevant in investigating ways to re-imagine the body, facilitate a structural repatterning of its features.

In the article ‘Being Seen, Being Moved: Authentic Movement and Performance’, Andrea Olsen (2014, p.43) talks about three layers of unconscious that can be a source of movement, the personal unconscious (personal history), the collective unconscious (transpersonal and cross cultural), the super conscious (energies beyond the self).

I am interested in exploring different layers of personal and transpersonal history sourced from our implicit nature evoked in this unfolding of movement.

By maintaining a harmonic interrelation between our perceptual structure and our meaning structure (Godard in McHose&Frank,2006, pp.95-96) we can enhance our ability to structurally communicate with the worlds of events we move in.

In fact if “structure” contains meaning and information that cannot be grasped on a rational level, by refining our way of listening we are able to tune in into a kinaesthetic understanding of it and perceive more clearly information contained by structure on a molecular level enabling a new form of communication with our surroundings.

In “The Mastery of Movement” Laban (1950, p.85) explains how in principle “a symbol does not mean anything definite, but it can call up a variety of images in the spectator”. The choreographer explains that in each meaning there is a “rhythmic content” (1950,p.85) that is experienced and perceived, but not sensed on a conscious level. This content still communicates.

If Body Image, the unconscious image that we have of our body, is a symbolic understanding of our sense of identity, when we learn to communicate with the rhythmical quality of its archive of information we have a chance to shift  boundaries embedded in our consciousness on a structural level..

The rhythm of the unravelling of this understanding defines a new binding element that creates a tonality in the structure of our identity: how images and thoughts are generated somehow constitutes their collating force defining a narrative of our storylines, a sound, a threadline.


Rebecca D’Andrea and Vanessa Michielon.

Sources (I don’t know if you can see it from the outside extracts):

Batson, G. (with Wilson, M.) (2014). Body and mind in motion: Dance and neuroscience in conversation. Bristol, England: Intellect.

Fraleigh, S. H. (1987). Dance and the lived body. Pennsylvania, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Shacklock, K. (2010). Dance consciousness: An investigation into the nature and development of dance consciousness in choreography and performance. Saarbrucken, DE: Lambert Academic Publishing.

Sheets-Johnstone, M. (1979). The phenomenology of dance (2nd edition). London, UK: Dance Books. (Original work published in 1966)

Sheets-Johnstone, M. (2011). The primacy of movement (2nd edition). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins. (Original work published 1999)


Sources (Tracing Invisible Identities extracts):

Bainbridge Cohen, B. (1987) The Action in Perceiving. in Sensing Feeling And Action: The Experiential Anatomy of Body Mind Centering.(1993) Northampton,MA: Contact Editions. pp114-118

Frank, K. (2008). Body as a movement system: a premise for structural integration. Structural Integration, June, 14-23.

Gendlin, E.T. (2003). Focusing: How to gain access to your body’s knowledge. (25th updated ed.) New York: Bantam Books. (Original work published 1978)

Laban, R. (1950). The mastery of movement [4th ed.]. Plymouth: Dance Books

McHose, C.  (2006). Phenomenological Space. I’m in the space and the space is in me. Interview with Hubert Godard. Contact Quarterly, 31(2), 31-38.

McHose,C., & Frank, K. (2006) How Life Moves : Explorations in Meaning and Body Awareness. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

Juhan, D. (2003). Job’s body: A handbook for bodywork (3rd ed.). New York: Station Hill Press.

Olsen, A. (2014). Being seen, being moved: authentic movement and performance part I and part II In: A.Olsen, C. McHose The place of dance: a somatic guide to dancing and dance making. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press. pp 42-43, 187-189.

Season 5, Session 21: “Playfulness, Listening & Moulding” – Facilitated OL with Paola Napolitano.

On Friday 30 June 2017, Paola Napolitano will facilitate Playfulness, Listening & Moulding, an OPENLAB session at Chisenhale Dance Space – Research Studio, 10 AM-1 PM.

This is how Paola introduces the session:

When and where is perception considered subjective or/and objective? Is it both? What is the construct of objective reality built upon? Do the parameters of ‘rightness’ and ‘wrongness’ draw on a personal or/and collective experience? Are our decisions deliberately made vs. massively embedded in our senses?

To further discuss these questions I would like to invite thinking bodies to join in an inquisitive yet friendly conversation unlocking individual, kinesthetic and social points of views. The invite is to focus on the subjectivity of our experiences as movers, actors, managers, neighbours, daughters, parents, humans and to re-assess the idea we have on ordinary activity.


This OPENLAB session is divided into three distinct moments, although they all have an interconnected nature. These are invitations to Playfulness, Listening & Moulding.

Playfulness: Two but not two
Two sides of a coin may appear totally different but still form the same coin. Using group interactions and ‘sensorial illusion’ games, participants will find room to dismantle logical assumptions on ‘rightness’ and be able to generously create space to uncertainty. Two points of view may be considered right for the context or perhaps erroneous if analysed singularly.

Listening: Body-mind connectivity, as part of the whole
A guided movement improvisation based on the notions of foregroundedness and backgroundedness, emptiness and fullness will enable attendees to open an inner dialogue with prominent and invisible body components and project these primary and secondary voices to the outer space, together with others. The theme of care and touch is explored from the perspective of such decisions. This part is informed by BESS elements from LBMS (Laban/Bartenieff Movement System).

Moulding: Subjective reality
Zooming into their personal views, participants will be offered props and practical tools such as drawing, voice recording, pics, video recording to creatively investigate in and represent their clearer subjective reality. Free of any overbuilt layers, attendees will now translate their perceptions into a selected medium and encouraged to navigate others’ newly formed realities. A dynamic game between stronger and gentler creative tones unravels while players keep open sensoriality to the big picture.

The session will be a fertile ground for discussion, exchange, personal and group insight, as well as a springboard to generate new creative ideas. Participants are welcome to bring their own laptop to present any virtual reality proposal.


OPENLAB sessions are open to any performers: dancers, musicians, actors and anyone interested in presence and awareness in performance.

The facilitators of OPENLAB are also participants “in” the session and participants can propose their ideas for a future session. If you’d like to know more about this, come to one of our sessions or e-mail Antonio de la Fe (

The sessions function in a pay-what-you-can contribution basis to cover expenses and as an incentive for the facilitator of the session. We suggest a £7 contribution for the 3-hour long sessions (‘Facilitated OL’ sessions).

Chisenhale Dance Space
64-84 Chisenhale Road
E3 5QZ