India: huge, confusing, mysterious, not readily yielding its secrets, certainly not during a short and focused trip such as ours. But then there was Hotel Rudra Continental in a little town of Rudrapur, Uttarakhand. Our address for the duration of the theater workshop. We got to know that place. This hotel was our all-purpose dwelling: our refuge from heat, dust and noise, our rehearsal and production space, our restaurant (lentils, lentils, lentils..) and our den where we slept to the hum of an over-tired, barely-making-it but still somehow functioning air-conditioner. That is where it all happened.
Outside the hotel doors, Rudrapur, the town. No picture can capture it all, but here is one: civilization and ancient culture side by side.
Delving into the Four Motions: 1. Slow/Contemplative, 2. Flowing/Growing/Fading , 3. Sharp/Sculptural, 4. Creative/Chaotic. Taking the time to let the students delve into the full potential of each movement, we were amazed by the ease with which they plummeted some real depths of expression. These are post-workshop names (inspired, in part, by Gabrielle Roth's 5 Rhythms) meant to reflect a deeper potential we were exploring within each movement. During the work itself, we would simply call out: "Slow! Sharp! Flow! Chaos!" and the girls would move with what those commands evoked in their body/mind.
Taking the time to let the students delve into the full potential of each movement, we were amazed by the ease with which they plummeted some real depths of expression.
For example, a Slow/Contemplative Motion became a way to enter into the collective consciousness/ awareness of a group. Tuning into each other, the girls were able to connect with and perform their "group mind." Later, this technique was a god-sent for staging (if one can call it that, there was so little time) of the final performance.
A time to talk: How do you feel? Do you have any questions? Any feedback? Let us tell you what we are thinking about and tell us what you think.. Time for the next step.
We tell each of the girls: next comes the story. Your story. That which happened to you that touched you deeply, which you may want to share with others. This is the time to give it voice and stage expression, for this story may be a part of a group performance at the end. Your story may be joyful or sad, inspiring or scary, hopeful or painful or all of the above - or, nothing. That, too, is an option. We want to tread lightly with the students, but we want to be clear that this is their own space, and that it is safe for them to inhabit it imaginatively, physically, emotionally, and in any way they want to. The girls jump right in.
In silent concentration, they write. And write. There is a lot to say. We discuss them in a circle, exploring how to stage what they've come up with tomorrow.
Short debriefing before we begin; some decisions need to be made. Whose stories are we going to work on? It is already clear that we won't get to perform everybody's story and that we have to work very quickly. In other words, after the dreamtime of yesterday, where all seemed possible and sky was the limit, we now recognize that only some of what we want will be possible and that time, not the sky, is the real limit here. We only have a day during which to rehearse and then perform the entire thing. So that's how everything begins to feel like it is already falling apart. Shiva, here we come. And that is how it all comes together.
The stories we hear range from peppy and humorous to downright horrific: from winning a school tennis match to having a friend douse herself with gasoline and setting herself on fire, so as to prevent public shaming and parental punishment. Here is the material to spend months if not years on. Here is the material based on which we could create a complex piece, a piece that would give justice to what has been experienced by these young women, a piece that would attempt to illuminate some of the causes behind such dramas. Maybe next time. We hope that there will be the next time. We are all falling apart a little bit. But, all the same, the show must happen, and so we rally.
Slow/Contemplative Motion comes to the rescue; it offers a quick staging device that allows all those who are not immediately involved in enacting a particular story to be a part of it nonetheless, reacting to everything they see and hear while tuning in and feeling it all together. An added and unexpected bonus: we are given an insight into the origins of the Greek Chorus - or at least so it appears. Who knew. It's show time. We decide that rehearsal will also be a part of performance, also known as work-in-progress. The EGG faculty is already assembling.
Here they are. Here we are. Facing off in the primal encounter, the act of performance. The theater is here, before us and among us, with its energy, anticipation, terror and delight. An adventure in which anything can happen commences before our eyes. The universe is here, waiting to be created.
And now it all really comes together: in jubilation! We all just dance. The whole experience, the entire theater project, the inception of The Global Theater of the Girls, was ambitious, intense and heart breaking. We have to dance now and dance until we get so tired that we can't speak to sum it all up, or to say something important and final. That would not feel right, for we do not want it to end. We do not want to sum anything up. We want it to continue.