Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Stretching Bodies and Boundaries with Maureen Fleming

posted by Christopher Kaufman Ilstrup
Programming Manager for the Flynn Center

Acclaimed New York City choreographer and dancer Maureen Fleming spent a week at the Flynn in late February—the first of two week-long residencies this year, culminating in her MainStage performance Waters of Immortality on Friday, April 20. Christopher shares his reflections on Maureen Fleming’s community workshop with the Awareness Theater Company, a program of VSA Vermont. The participants were actors with disabilities; the director of the company, Emily Anderson; and some other people with disabilities and their caregivers from the Howard Center.

We arrived while Emily and her team of actors were rehearsing a new show about the Parallel Justice program, which helps people who have been victims of crime to get restitution or assistance. We introduced ourselves and watched the rehearsal for about 15 minutes. One of the actors performed her short one-woman show for us. It was a fabulous little monologue with original artwork illustrating her relationship with her hamster. Her pet hamster wanted change in his life and she helped him change—the first step towards change was offering him beer (yummy!) instead of water in his water bottle. He also got a toothbrush to get the seeds out of his teeth and a treadmill instead of a spinning wheel for exercise.

Maureen introduced herself to the group after the Hamster Love show and we started with some exercises we could do while seated. This was important as not everyone was able to stand. We breathed together, did some visualizations about water balloons and steam heat, and then learned about how to massage our hands to improve our flexibility. Maureen talked about how the hands are connected to the whole body, and if your hands are more flexible your whole body will move more easily. Many people in the room had difficulty moving or controlling their muscles, so this was a great exercise. After this, we practiced more breathing exercises. We learned to make sounds while breathing to learn about how the breath is connected with our ability to vocalize and be good actors, poetry readers and speakers. Finally, we paired up and did some back and neck massage work.

Maureen worked individually with each participant to help them feel the difference that good posture and breathing makes in our ability to speak clearly and deeply. The people in the workshop were deeply engaged and excited to feel the difference in their bodies and voices with the changes that Maureen encouraged.

At the end, Maureen did two additional visualizations to get people out of their chairs and moving around the room. In the first, we envisioned angels tying strings on our bodies and moving us around the room very gently. In the second, we imagined butterflies inside of our skin helping us to move. Everyone participated, even the people in wheelchairs. It was very moving.

Finally, we announced the preview performance [of Waters of Immortality] and the performance in April. People are hoping to organize a group outing to come and see the April performance.

This was a great way to move me out of my "wrong side of the bed" morning into a better place.

Maureen Fleming also held a six-day Dancing the Internal Body: Deep Movement Core Intensive Workshop in FlynnSpace, in which she shared regenerative dance and body-stretching techniques she developed in response to a childhood car accident. Her original deep-movement “Elastics” techniques promote independence and freedom in movement as applied to other movement disciplines and in daily life. At the end of the workshop week, she and some of the participants demonstrated Fleming's regenerative dance techniques in a FlynnSpace performance. (Click on images to enlarge.)

workshop and performance photographs by Christopher Kaufman Ilstrup and Lani Stack

No comments: