Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rogoff On Mozgala- The Experiment (One Year Later)

Jan 2010

What is my methodology ? Why? What led me to it?

1. I began the work in order to prepare gregg to dance the role of the Faun in a new work I was choreographing. I first saw him as an actor and his body energy called out to me as it was interesting---strong and active and responsive to the text. I liked how his passion ignited and was in direct contradiction to his physical condition. He seemed to act his way out of his c.p. leaving me unaware while watching him do romeo and Juliet that he had it and I knew he could dance his way beyond it as well.

2. I used a lifetime of body learning—everything from decades of dance techniques (ballet-graham-bharata natyam) to bodywork. My bodywork teachers were alan wayne and monica Hathaway both of whom taught me ultimately never to listen to them but find my own way. I’ve never studied feldenkrais or trager or Alexander or yoga—for the last 26 years I have given a laboratory class at ps 122 and now at lamama—many students have been with me for all these years—they are mostly actors and they agree to being there while I investigate whatever interests me—this is an experiential anatomy approach where I can spend a year behind the sternum, for example—then include any landmarks in the body that interest me—bones-joints muscles-spaces between things—the class speaks my idiosyncratic language —alignment issues—mine and theirs often spark investigation—in my class at nyu ETW I add how this investigation can be the origin of a choreographic vocabulary And how it can enliven acting—this is not at all academic, as I haven’t studied the body in an organized course but have picked up information everywhere. I tend to start where I am or from what I see and let the class follow where the body takes us—a class can’t ever be replicated.

3. The first order of business with gregg was to steady him enough so he could transcend his main concern which was balance and introduce him to new ways other than his set in stone movement vocabulary which seemed designed to compensate for the inward rotation of his legs and hips He was locked in to a very specific body vise and felt at the mercy of the signals from his brain which were telling him to tense up—we sat on chairs and stamped the feet—I offered imagery---the horse shoe heel—we opened the knees---tucked him into the fetal position which rounded the lumbar spine and changed the curves he needed for balance once standing—introduced opposition walking rather than the seesaw side to side lurch which was the way he got around and after a few weeks I taught him the shaking technique—

4. Shaking—we started lying down on the back-- legs bent feet on the floor—arms outstretched to the sides—palms up--opening and closing the legs (knees) waiting until involuntary shaking and trembling took over—it took several sessions and ended up starting in thumps of the chest against the floor the head doing an uncomfortable looking lifting and nodding—all very violent and not where I was expecting it to come from—each time he lay down the body took off in this same way until it ran its course---any time I put my hand on greggs chest I could elucidate a thumping—later came other lightning bolts of zigzag energy---month by month we worked out pattern after pattern—my finger under his lips could cause enormous gagging—his arms pounded the mats—his hands clapped together til they hurt and I had to put something between them—at some point what you might call shaking began—a bit quieter but still intense—thru the thighs and sacrum --then a vibrato took hold of his belly—his stomach muscles had never served him as the way his upper body met his lower was disconnected from the body’s original design -- then came more pounding now thru the lumbar—all this we followed as the body led us through—I selected a position from which to start sometimes lying on the back and sometimes on the belly or sitting in a chair—I selected a movement to begin getting us to the involuntary part and then we dedicated an hour or two to follow its course--we were in a gym so we had mats and blocks and everything you might use for yoga—I built him structures to get his pelvis up off of the floor so his legs could be tossed over his chest and his hamstrings could stretch and he could access his stomach muscles---now that his body had experienced the shaking it constantly went to that mode in any stretch

5. Standing and hanging over fingers near toes— we used this to stretch out and access the lumbar and open it up—here we got seizing up and a great deal of fear—I by passed the fear many a time by using my body against his—almost like lending him my nervous system—my sense of flow—throughout I used my body to teach his---he could relax onto me in different ways—the little reiki I know I used to quiet him as well --my hands sent messages and new patterns---now one sweep of my hand can illicit a 20 minute reaction and instill a new or even a permanent understanding---more and more he asks me to move aside as his body is telling him something directly and he must be left alone to follow his internal clues

6. Walking---from the beginning he walked at every session and I gave him a small message often connected to an image to take on the street with him—we had to watch his exiting on to the street as he tended to revert to a prior more protective –historically more familiar mode---mostly I just watched his walk and saw where energy didn’t flow—where the body was uneven or where the foot didnt touch the floor---as his abilities grew he could feel when his sacrum was rigid or not—

7. Attitudes --Gregg is addicted to the way feelings and information come through his body---he’s in awe when he feels space in the hip sockets or connections from one place or another—or when he can just slow down--this is a reversal of his former attitude which was a slave to his condition –always taking orders from the Bully (Oliver Sachs’ term for the lesion on the brain in C.P.)--always using tons of fast frenetic energy to muscle him through everything from walking to sex---his mind which functioned in a more nuanced way was at odds with the pace and lack of modulation in his body. What he thought in his mind---was not do-able in his body--therefore immense frustration as his hyper vigilance governed the resonance of his body making known its limitations

8. Identity---Gregg evolved his personhood –body and mind to fit into his C.P. body---thru that body he felt every emotion and in that body was stored all memories pleasurable and painful—his body rhythms –walking and running were the sound score to his life---the drag of his foot—his particular toe walk ---as his alignment changed ---his patterns changed and he became a stranger to himself and in fact to me---it was the original walk that housed the person I was interested in—the new neutral was exciting because it proved that change was possible but a bit blah and devoid of any personality---I often noticed when gregg was drunk or stoned that his happiness reverted into the old home base of his original alignment---he reports that when he is being an actor the same happens---

9. Going forward the questions are:
How will his new body house him?
What parts of the changes he’s elicited in his body will remain with him irrespective of his actively being conscious of them?
What amount of consciousness will be necessary to keep a healthier alignment?
For how long and how much will he have to continue the bodywork process?
We are planning a phase two of this project which will include bringing another person with C.P. on board so Gregg can both watch me teach and teach this person himself---will teaching the work keep him involved and help preserve his new patterns?
How far will we be able to go towards a permanent positive alignment? How will Greggs personality ---emotional balance-- identity and world view evolve to meet his new needs in his changing body?


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  2. Dear Tamar and Gregg,
    What you've done is amazing and touching!
    I only wish you would make your work a recognized methodology of helping adults with CP (like me) deal better with their condition, and that this methodology would also get to places like Israel, where I live... :-)

    Wishing you every Success!

  3. Tamar and Gregg,

    I second all of the great feedback you've received and am similarly inspired. I'm interested in writing about the work you have done and are doing, and whether dance therapy is becoming a viable option for treatment elsewhere? If it's possible, I would love to have a conversation. Let me know if we can make it happen!