GROUP MOTION  

2020 - by Diane Hetrick

 

Dear Manfred and Brigitta;

I want to share the story of how impactful the exercise you offered us at Joyful Journey Hot Springs last July was for me, and ultimately the incarcerated men at the Maleng jail near Seattle.  I am reminded that we never know how much of an impact we can make offerings in such a creative and open-hearted way, as you and Brigitta do through Group Motion.

As you may remember, I believe it was the last day of our dance.  You suggested we all sit and find 7 words that spoke to us in some way of our experience of the past week.  We listed them, you had us jot numbers 1-7 next to the words, then scramble the numbers, and write the words in a new order.  Finally, we were given some time to write a poem using the words in their newly-arranged order.  We put our writing in the middle of the room, and then randomly drew someone else’s poem.  We then selected some folks to create a sculpture that was inspired by the writing, read the piece, and then read it a second time, this time with musical accompaniment and with the sculpted dancers bringing the piece to life.



I remember two things from that experience, even now when I think about it almost a year later.  One, was just how powerful and moving it was to witness and participate.  Also, the experience reminded me that I am an artist as well, which I tend to not give myself credit for.  Why this was so important is that I was considering applying to go on a week-long civil rights pilgrimage to the deep south, but it was designed for artists, and I hadn’t until that moment thought I’d qualify.   So this exercise helped me to have the courage to apply.  I got accepted, and went on a powerful and life-changing trip in October.  We traveled to places in the South I had experienced as a young child through the racist and confused perspective of my parents.  It was so healing to stand in places where racial atrocities had happened, but where people stood up to them, and hear from civil rights heroes like Bernard Lafayette, Bob Zellner, and Carolyn McKinstry in person. 

Meanwhile, there were more amazing gifts.   I have been teaching classes in mindfulness and compassion at the local regional jail for a couple years now.  A friend and teacher at the jail, who offers A Hero’s Journey writing class, was unable to teach one evening; and rather than disappoint the men in jail, we often would cover for each other.   I don’t really know enough about the Hero’s Journey to teach an official class, but I wanted to honor the writing element in the class I offered the men that night.  So I had them write down 7 words, scramble them, write a poem or short piece with the words, place them in a pile in the center of the room, and draw someone else’s paper. 

 

You might imagine I felt like I was taking a bit of a risk here.  I do not have a Group Motion family of dancers who generally say “yes’ to whatever is offered, as part of the creative process.  I did not have any idea if these guys would be willing to participate.  And I had no back up, no Ron on percussion, no Manfred on keyboard, no Brigitta on vocals.  Still I stepped into the creative abyss and was wildly surprised. 

 

The men participated 100%.  We each took turns reading, being sculptors and being sculpted.  I remember vividly one moment when I was a participant in someone’s set up, and we were all laughing and so totally engaged in what we were doing together. I had a joyous awareness that even though we were in the most bland, concrete-walled, dirty, carpeted space in a jail house, none of us would have wanted to be anywhere else in the world, in that moment.   It was transcendent.  

 

The following week, when I returned to teach my normal mindfulness/compassion class, the guys were still beaming about the poetry dance night, and said that it had literally helped get them through their week, just smiling, thinking about the fun we had.   The week after that, I arrived and was handed a proposal, hand-written with a stubby jail pencil, requesting an ongoing class series to be offered to the men, using the movement and writing/theater games we had experienced together.  All 12 of the men had signed the proposal.  

I presented the idea to the administrators at the jail, and to my surprise, they were interested. The wheels of bureaucracy move slowly, and even more so in the criminal punishment system, yet the idea has continued to move forward.

Notes and Comments by PARTICIPANTS:

 

It was such a joy to dance with you again...

 

Thank you so much for the nourishing experience tonight.  The guidance and music were superb.  Your years of experience have manifested a wise authenticity within your resourcefulness!  

 

I want to express that it was such a unique experience tonight....  so interesting to be dancing near to the computer, in a different state of mind, dancing in the rocking chair -- for me.... the music was transfixing.... Your guidance was especially thoughtful.  It was a real gift to be able to observe others at various moments....  To be inspired by different ways of moving, of presence, individual and as a kind of collective ....  I like how certain exercises resonate differently via computer, like the mirroring, for example.

Thank you so much for the nourishing experience tonight.  The guidance and music were superb.  Your years of experience have manifested a wise authenticity within your resourcefulness!  

 

Friday night with you was beyond wonderful!  We feel so replenished from your FNW and look forward to the next one!

 

THANK YOU for so much love in the space that you create.  I have no hesitation as I dance to Brigitta's words and come home to myself with this evocative freedom to move.

 

A deep thank you for providing this gift.

 

I really, really liked the structure of “dance with an invisible partner”.  That was brilliant.  Also, at one point I heard you say the word “shape”.  And I found that an excellent instruction.  It supplied a different starting point from the others and I found I could use the idea of a “shape” to bring me into some really interesting movements.  Also I could hear you distinctly and clearly and that was also a great help.

 

Not only enjoyed being there.  I LOVED it!!! 

 

You created a beautiful space and energy for all of us.  I was glad to enjoy the music, the people, the sense of connection and love. Thanks for your ways of having  us all celebrating freedom. Yay.

 

It's so beautiful, thank you so much.  Just the music, and the guidance, and getting out of my head and into my body, and into the magic of shape-shifting.

 

We can always tune in to the feeling of each other and just dance with the feeling of us all together...  like a dynamic, abstract painting.... 

 

The music and vocals sound wonderful... It was so clear, it is such a joy.  As soon as I hear the music, it is as if all the cells are called to move...  

What I love about this experience is that it is simultaneously an inner experience that happens in a profound way.  And yet, at the same time it is also reinforcing a conscious community of like-minded, like-spirited, like-hearted, conscious dancers...

 

The purpose of the dance is to push us to the next level of deeper connection, which is beyond the physical level of connecting.  Community, connection, and artistic practice...

 

My experience today is this sense of saying "yes".  It is your invitation to us to say 'yes'.  You offer us something, and we can notice if we have resistance, and we can lean in and say 'yes'.  We can say yes to ourselves and whatever arises, and we can say yes to our partners on the screen, and yes to this community.  I think right now there is so much "no" in the world.

 

It's so beautiful, Manfred; thank you so much.  Just the music, and the guidance, and getting out of my head and into my body, and into the magic of shape-shifting.  

Photo: by Johanna Austin

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