Here we are, the final week of the year at LISPA, and the only thing those of us on the Initiation Course have been concentrating on is our Twenty Movements.
I’d heard of the Twenty Movements before I started the course but had no idea what they involved. I don’t want to explain too much for fear of spoiling this mythical vagueness for any prospective students reading this. But, broadly, there are these twenty distinct actions that we’ve learned during the year. Some are acrobatic, like the handstand that I still can’t do. Some are kind of miming real life activities, like punting a boat or throwing a discus. Some are more abstract. We each have to put these movements in a sequence, practice it, and then perform it alone in front of the teachers and our classmates.
I wasn’t worried about this for a long time. I could do the movements OK, and what’s the big deal about getting up in front of people; we’ve been doing that all year. But by Monday morning, shortly before my turn, I was very nervous. There’s something horribly exposing about being up there alone, with all eyes on you, as you perform these very physical actions. Unlike, say, an improvisation, there’s no real narrative or character or relationships to immerse yourself in — it’s just you, alone, pretending to throw a discus.
Before this week I assumed that we’d all be fairly similar in our performances. We knew by now how to do each movement correctly and we’d all practiced, so I expected only minor differences. I was very wrong. It’s amazing how varied everyone has been. Some of this is down to doing the actions quite badly (I bet I made mistakes too), but a big factor is simply that we’re each so different.
I’d mistakenly seen the Twenty Movements as a purely technical exercise, like some rigidly choreographed dance with no room for self expression. But at the same time part of me knew that there was more to it, as I knew I was doing things my way, to some degree.
And everyone’s individuality is what’s on show here, and what the teachers commented on. There were very few comments about mistakes in the movements. It was more about whether you enjoyed it, whether you were interesting to watch, whether you really went for it, whether your body was positioned well. Were your feet properly grounded? Did you trust your body with the movements, rather than thinking too much? Did you share the experience with the audience, or were you in a distant world of your own?
Mine went fine, nerves aside, and the teachers were apparently pleasantly surprised with how far I’ve come in the past nine months, which is encouraging.
It’s been fascinating watching everyone and seeing how they approach the task and what they reveal about themselves in doing it. And four days later we’re all done. After this evening the Advanced Course will all have presented their final projects, leaving only tomorrow’s end-of-year celebrations between us and the summer holidays (or work…).