It’s a glorious day here in the valley at Riddells Creek Studio. I just walked out to taste the air and take my ritual walk to the creek accompanied by the sound of frogs croaking happily along the banks. The sun is out and whilst the air is crisp, it is clear that spring is around the bend. The very first blossom opened on the plum tree this morning. The sky has been a clear blue all day with white clouds floating by. Yes it’s heaven … waking to absolute quiet except for a chorus of birds that chirp along all day. The fire chugs along and the Daphne has given me the first cuttings to bring inside – the perfume is exquisite. And the Hardenbergia is abundant – spilling over the verandah balcony and trellis creating a purple cascade. On a walk through Barrm Birrm this morning the Cassinia, wet with rain, gave off its unique aroma. It’s very hard to return to the city when the world around me is so beautiful. It beckons me to remain, to linger and to rest in its bounty.
I cannot separate my residency with SenseLab from my experience of Montreal. Arriving by train from NYC was a slow and gracious way to transition from the huge metropolis of New York to the more intimate city of Montreal. Travelling along the Hudson River, seeing a bald headed eagle and feeling the context of the country, then upon arriving, the shift from English to French as the dominant spoken language and settling into the apartment in Outremont. The following day I met up with a beloved friend and colleague, Linda Rabin. Linda is a sage within the dance community of Canada. Respected and loved by generations of dancers, choreographers and performers, she continues to teach and perform. Walking with her through Mile End we were stopped frequently by dance artists who had been taught or influenced by Linda. A graduate of the Juilliard School, Linda worked as rehearsal director and teacher for Israel’s Batsheva Company and with Ballet Rambert in London. She taught and choreographed extensively across Canada for many of the country’s major dance companies, professional schools and university dance programs before co-founding Les ateliers de danse moderne de Montréal (LADMMI) in 1981. LADMMI is one of Canada’s leading professional schools in contemporary dance training.
Montreal is currently building a huge new complex near Place des Arts for dance alone!! Facilities for companies, professionals and amateurs, the centre will provide a fabulous venue for cultivating dance and choreography. Can we in Australia even imagine that? At the cost of $99.2 million!! Dance is not seen as a minor gesture in Montreal! Take a look here so you believe me! This is a city that takes dance seriously: https://edificewilderespacedanse.com/en/about-us/
My week with the SenseLab was inspiring and full of juicy moments. I arrived each day to share a morning practice followed by lunch and an afternoon of moving research focusing on being and becoming animal. It was a great opportunity to continue what I had offered in the BMCA conference. From cellular and pre-vertebral animal form to amphibian, reptilian and mammalian we explored relational field through our embodied experiences. Whilst a small group of people joined me in the morning it gave those people an opportunity to ask questions and reflect together on our experiences of the previous day/s. For the afternoons I had requested that people be committed so that the practice and phylogenetic stages be understood. SenseLabbers come from diverse creative backgrounds and practices. At the end of each day the work evolved into an improvisation to that might involve people dancing, making, writing and sounding. The compositions delighted me with their integrity and passionate enquiry. Thanks to Erin Manning for making this event possible. The quality of care given to me by Ana Ramos and those who attend SenseLab events created a fantastic generative space.
Read more about Montreal by Ross Colliver: http://nutsaboutnaturercl.blogspot.com.au/2016/07/striking-up-conversation.html
Taking place at Concordia University, Montreal, this was the 31st BMCA conference. I took part in the pre-conference workshop with Simone Forti which was a fascinating exploration of ‘what’s on your mind at present’ mixed with memory. Then 21/2 days of intense and richly varied workshops and presentations. I loved the choices I had made and experienced profound personal and professional affirmation for my ongoing BMC research. I gave my workshop The Radical Touch of BMC: Taking Responsibility in the Anthropocene, on 2nd morning.
I wanted to explore the following:
Through engagement and acknowledgement of our phylogenetic connection with other species, we participate consciously in the relational field of the living planet. Embodying the Neurocellular Patterns allows us to sense, feel and know something of the otherness of living creatures. Touch and movement bring us into relationship, refining how we might touch the world with sensitivity.
One of the lasting and touching memories of the conference for me was that Linda Tumbarello attended my presentation. In the group sharing at the close of my session she gave me wonderful recognition of my work. I felt the meaningfulness of her presence and the power of transmission in this work. She was commending me and yet all I could feel was she had taught me how to do this – a wonderful, strange and moving experience for me.
On the last evening, scholar, somatic researcher and dancer Sylvie Fortin gave a powerful and all embracing keynote of somatic research, its history and where and how it is currently engaged and what its potential might be. I was very excited by what Sylvie was proposing and felt an affinity with her socio-political interests. Later, I had an opportunity to spend time with her and her husband Warwick Long a colleague from many years ago in Perth. Dance is, as we know, is an intimate world!
This was Sylvie’s Keynote brief:
Since the creation of the field of somatics by the early pioneers, many variations
and applications of the diverse approaches can be identified. We will critically examine these pathways from an intimate embodied and socio-political perspective. What are the possibilities and the constraints of these pathways? In looking at them, can we bring into awareness possible blind spots? How do they affect the teaching/transmission of somatics?
Bonnie’s post-conference workshop was initially overwhelming after the intimate engagement of the workshop presentations. The studio was filled with 200 or more people and during the two half days we engaged with the following:
Bonnie’s workshop outline:
During the embryonic forming of our body, our architectural structures are created by the intricate migration of cells in relation to each other and to space. The consciousness of our cells within the space they inhabit continues to inform us throughout our life. When the basic architectural elements are almost fully formed, the skeletal muscles and nerves migrate into the structures to provide function. When the cells maintain consciousness of themselves, our movement is effortlessly coordinated and expressive. When there is a forgetting in the cells of their own existence, our neuromuscular system needs to direct their structural integrity as well as their function. Our movement then becomes less coordinated and more effortful. In this workshop we will explore the awakening of our cells to remember themselves, thus bringing vitality and ease to our movement and consciousness.
At the end of the workshop I had a meeting with Bonnie and Len to discuss their coming to Australia in 2017 to give workshops in Melbourne and Sydney as well as in Auckland, NZ. Bonnie is looking forward to this opportunity of being in Australia and I look forward to her meeting many of you who have studied with me and attended my workshops over the last 20 years.
I am relishing this very different start to the year - the first half of 2016 has become a performance and research sabbatical. I am in the midst of rehearsals with visual artist Neha Choksi (LA/Bombay) as we collaborate on the performance aspect of Neha’s installation, The Sun’s Rehearsal for the Sydney Biennale. The performance In Memory of the Last Sunset opens in March and performances will be repeated in April and May.
In February I attended performances at the Perth Festival and the Fringe. Outstanding was William Kentridge’s Refuse The Hour and Nicola Gunn’s solo performance, Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster.
Brenda Downing’s book, Feeling the Fleshed Body was launched recently in Perth, in a memorable and moving occasion for all of those present. Dr Lekkie Hopkins introduced Brenda’s book with quotes from her PhD examiner’s reports and her long term knowledge of Brenda’s research. I spoke of my relationship with Brenda through our somatic research and performance making.
Brenda has written a book that changed her life and will change the lives of the women who read it.” Feeling The Fleshed Body” is an extraordinary achievement. It will move you. Brenda is a poet, her words sear your flesh illuminating what it has meant to be imprisoned by the violence of her story. What a privilege it has been to offer her my hand in love and support. Alice 2016
In January, students came from around Australia to study the Skeletal and Organ Systems as part of the Professional Development Program at Riddells Creek. As always it was a rich and transformative time for everyone present.
In June I will be in NYC to work with colleagues and then on to Montreal where I am presenting at the annual BMCA conference, Metamorphosis: Evolutionary Pathways in Somatics.
I then have a residency at Concordia University, made possible through Erin Manning and the SenseLab. Based in Montreal, the SenseLab is an international network of artists and academics, writers and makers, from a wide diversity of fields, working together at the crossroads of philosophy, art, and activism.
“At this late stage baby steps won’t do … we need to leap ... now” – Naomi Klein, Festival of Dangerous Ideas, Sydney. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5LuIAJEFUc
The current global crisis presses in on each of us. The largest movement of displaced people (refugees) since the 2nd WW is a moral dilemma and humanitarian crisis. Are we to be frozen with fear and paralyzed by hopelessness?
I ask myself: "What is the role of this work I do, or this work that we do, in such a situation?" Can shifting states within our bodyminds access action that enables change in our social and political systems? For me this work has always been about moving beyond the personal to the social and political body. We have no time to waste. We are all involved at this moment in history.
There are many invitations to despair. I want this work to be an invitation to incisive action, beginning in our communities and extending out from there to engage with environmental, social and political organizations and change. "The only real antidote to cynicism is activism – to engage” Billy Bragg.
Border control makes us an incarcerated country - defensive - an Australian trait I only understood once I left and experienced other cultures. On top of this, the bullying tactics and ineptitude of our current government offends our intelligence.
When I walk in the bush at Riddells Creek, I feel my blood course through me. Ah, I am alive! Moving is a way to loosen the constraints of populist thinking and political inaction. Practicing care for self and others creates the foundation for living together in the world with dignity and caring for the planet.
I don’t know the answers. Perhaps as Gertrude Stein said, “There ain't no answer. There ain't gonna be any answer. There never has been an answer. That's the answer.” Perhaps it is not about answers but about questions. Having the courage to find the inquiry. Engaging in both from within and between our bodyminds, communities, cultures, and countries. It can begin with us.
This work is an in-depth approach to the dynamic bodymind, which then builds the capacity to be responsive to many different situations that impact on our lives. Change is imminent and our ability to deal with change can be profoundly supported by somatic knowledge, understanding and intelligence.
I make sense of the world through dancing and travelling is a form of dancing in the world …
I have just arrived home from Europe after a full and eventful time spent with colleagues, friends and teachers who have inspired me in the course of my life. It was wonderful to immerse myself once again in the rich matrix of the BMC material and community in Tuscania, Italy. I also spent time with one of my original BMC teachers, Phoebe Neville in Reggio Emilia. Time with Phoebe and her husband Philip Corner was joyfully full of music, conversation, walks and meals. As artists who have been working for 50 years and more, much of that in New York City, being with them was like being immersed in the living history of post-modern music and dance, and made connections into the trajectory of my creative life.
Walking in the small cities of Reggio Emilia, Bologna and Florence was an aesthetic joy. They offer many opportunities for pleasure in the lived experience of the everyday – beautiful piazzas open out in an easy flow of social and public space. In Florence I sated myself with museums, galleries and the city itself in all its great beauty. I was very fortunate with the mild weather, which made walking the streets an enjoyable cultural experience as I discovered trattorias and bars for sustenance. I spent 6 hours in the Uffizi Museum, gathering stamina as I went. Always on the lookout for work by women and noting the glaring absence of this, I was intrigued to discover the work of Marghuerita Caffi, an Italian painter (1650-1710). The work I saw was gorgeous – luminous flowers floating on a dark background. At the Frieze Masters in London, I had seen an arresting sculpture by Lynda Benglis’, Bolero (1991-92). I feel like a huntress searching for clues in the ever-present insistence of the male artist and patron. Women were, of course there, they are often the centre of the painting but not the one with the brush. Their presence is there to maintain even insist upon the position of men in a world where they have the power and dominance in all areas of social and political life.
In Florence I also saw an exhibition of the Avant-Garde of Russia in early C20. Here was the work of Natalia Goncharova, alongside the work of Benois, Bakst, and Kandinsky amongst others. Their history intertwined through the Diaghilev era influencing C20 dance. But one of the great surprises was the work of Fra Angelica, a Dominican friar (1395-1455) who did luminous frescoes and his Last Judgment (1432-35) indicated for me the beginnings of surrealism.
On my way home I spent 2 quiet days with dancer Eva Karczag in Arnhem, The Netherlands. Through moving, touch and dialogue we exchanged the strands of our current concerns, interests and challenges in our work and life. Then the long flight home…
Our relationship to our bodies is central to how we perceive our environment.
How we transition and move through life and the landscape holds my fascination and engages me in an adventure of spirited embodiment. We are in constant relationship with our environment through the materiality of our bodies. How we care for, tend and live in our bodies can be an inspiration for regeneration and provides an insight into the complex inter-relatedness of all living systems.
In reverence and acknowledgement of Butch Morris, the man who invented Conduction – the art of conducting improvisation (1947-2013).
“free improvisation … is a deeply misleading term, for any improviser worth his or her salt is continually concerned with structure, while recognizing that structure might be a mutable concept”.
After freedom, what? How can one translate the euphoric intensity of total improvisation to other contexts and other cultures? How can one remain dedicated to improvisation’s ethos without being trapped by it? Butch Morris proposed a provocative answer: reintroducing the conductor, the ultimate figure of Western classical hierarchy, as a means to organize improvised sound.
Over his lifetime, Morris led over five thousand musicians into his sound world. For all of them, it was surely memorable; for many, it was transformative.
"To be a good human being is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control, that can lead you to be shattered in very extreme circumstances for which you were not to blame. That says something very important about the condition of the ethical life: that it is based on a trust in the uncertain and on a willingness to be exposed; it's based on being more like a plant than like a jewel, something rather fragile, but whose very particualre beauty is inseparable from that fragility" Martha Nussbaum.
I read this out to the four women who were sitting near me on the train between Riddells Creek and the city last Tuesday morning.
I want to cultivate this way of being in my workshops and my life. It is my experience that BMC supports this act of living ethically and with vulnerability.
The air is still and night is descending on the Studio and environs. All is in readiness for the first Skeletal Program with seven people arriving from around Australia to deepen their study of Body-Mind Centering and Somatic Research. I am poised and waiting with anticipation for this new beginning and decade of my work. Daniel Troy and Ross have continued to make subtle changes to the studio and the surrounds to make it both more practical and more beautiful. I am indebted to both of them for helping me fulfil a dream and a vision.
Riddells Creek Studio is situated in a gorgeous little valley, near a village, and the longer I hang around the more folk I meet with interesting lives, and abundant creativity.
I hope many folk will come and dance or take up an artist's residency in this luscious place. A dancer from Greece has already enquired so I look forward to the unfolding of this space in multiple ways.
To be alive, it seemed to me, as I stood there in all kinds of sorrow, was to be both original and reflection, and to be dead was to be split off, to be reflection alone.Teju Cole, Open City, 2011.
I am reading this book and enjoying the concurrent streaming of awareness the author's character makes as he walks, works and lives through the days and nights of New York City. His attention to the historical detail alongside the nuance of his feeling state is compelling.
This concurrent streaming of different awareness is a familiar experience in my own life, as the imaginary, sensory and intellectual streams of thought converge. At any moment anything might happen ... this morning I thought I heard a helicopter and on venturing outside I saw an eagle soaring high above in the blue blue sky –wing span catching and riding the air currents as I watched in wonder. Last night a Powerful Owl, today an eagle ... watch, wait and breathe ... Blessings and salutations for the New Year!
It is the end of the year and summer is lurking around ... wonderful. The thought of salt and the ocean on my skin is delicious. It has been a huge and wonderful year of fulfilling a life vision and all of the labour of love to bring it into being. Riddells Creek Studio is a space for dance research and renewal.
I wrote this recently in response to an enquiry:
"I want my work to be incisive, vital and passionate for me and for those who experience it. I want to imagine that this work has the capacity to change lives and social structures over time."
This is my wish for you all for the coming year ... to be challenged in the work of your life and find pleasure in the generative power of that.
I am back from my trans-continental work and travels between Perth and Sydney. In between arriving home, and driving to the Victorian Alps to teach my annual workshop, I am resting at Riddells Creek. Today the sun is shining, the birds are singing and the insects chirping … bliss! The workshop this weekend in Tawonga is due to the wondrous yoga teacher Mary-lou Hogarth and each year is a delight as we explore BMC in the lush environment of the Keiwa Valley. Outside the doors of the hall we can view Mt Bogong with its snowy peak.
This morning I made a proprietorial round of the Riddells Creek property … as the mistress/madam (mmm nice double entendre!!) I feel like I am at the service of this glorious piece of earth. The creek is running after heavy rains, and I imagine the pleasure people will have in discovering the many beautiful places on the property when they attend the first retreat in a few weeks. It is a very exciting and exacting time. Ross and Daniel continue to work alongside each other creating the bathroom. Local trades people have added their skills and specialties. The Studio/Retreat has become the source of much local wonder and interest. We recognize we are creating a significant space in a community. I look forward to a time when we welcome both the local folk and the performing community of Melbourne in a celebratory opening ritual.
In the meantime there is work to be done and I feel thrilled and excited at the emergence of this long held vision. Sometimes it feels surreal and then I venture into the studio and I experience a profound sense of potential. The space is waiting for us to fill it with moving bodies, moving minds, and the luminosity of delicious dancing.
“We understand human sexual attraction poorly because it is tied to the invisible and to the imperceptible of the flesh; to the soul, to the breath.” Luce Irigaray, Between East and West: From Singularity to Community, New York, Columbia University Press (2002: 82).
Our Endocrine System is the system of our hormones, which we associate with our sexuality. Culturally I believe, like the French Feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray, that we have an impoverished understanding of sexual attraction. The erotic and the sexual, the fecund and the potent all portend to the life force, which is both fuller and more complex than any of us individually.
The sixteen glands are organized along the vertical axis. In the workshop we will explore the relationship and alignment between the glands and our diaphragms. The diaphragms provide horizontal support throughout the torso enabling the use of voice and integration around the vertical axis. From the base of the spine and the pelvic floor to the cranial diaphragm and the pineal gland we will sound and move our way through the torso and around the vertical axis. This will help to ground the glands in the body through the expression of voice.
The endocrine system connects us beyond the material body to the complexity of existence … pre-conception and post-death … a communication network transported by the fluids and beyond … a constellation!
There has been a great response to this first offer of a retreat at Riddells Creek.
It is FULL!
People are coming from all over Australia and two people have booked from
San Francisco!!! So we have begun ... and I am delighted and thrilled by the
I have also created a waiting list - good to know who is interested now and for the future.
I’ve been resting - allowing myself the space and time for imagination and inspiration, for a fresh beginning to 2011. It’s been too long since I swam daily in the ocean, slept under the stars and cooked on an open fire. Two weeks of bliss – a holiday! I was on the south coast of WA with towering Karri and Tingle forests, ocean and rivers for swimming and great local goodwill. The wine and olive oil a treat!
I ran a one-day workshop in the lovely town of Denmark – a creative community of dance, theatre and performance folk. (Denmark is my dreaming place – I spent my first four years here and I feel a deep sense of attachment to this very beautiful and varied landscape). Wonderful to catch up with Silvia Lehmann and her family; I first taught Silvia as an under-graduate student.
Now I am home in Melbourne, I feel the benefit of my holiday in every cell.
The Membrane Workshop will be my first teaching for the year in Sydney, Perth and Melbourne. My theme is, “Navigating the interface,” highlighting the significance of the membrane in the transfer of nourishment and knowledge between cells, bodies and persons. The connective tissue of membrane extends through to our social life and physical environment.
I am getting strong interest in my private sessions in Sydney and Perth, before or after the workshops.
In Melbourne, my private practice is moving to Fitzroy, where I have the good fortune to share a beautiful new space with Alexander Teacher, Jane Refshauge. The room is large and spacious with a timber floor. It will be wonderful for private work and small groups. I am thrilled to have this new space and to have Jane as a colleague.
See link for details of sessions and address: www.alicecummins.com
Riddells Creek Studio:
With Ross Colliver, I am preparing the studio at Riddells Creek – a sprung wooden floor, 20 x 10 metres. We are planning to hold the first open workshop/retreat in October this year!
It’s a glorious environment: Barrm Birrm Bush Reserve; walking tracks; birds and starry nights. There is a train to Riddells Creek Station that will bring you from Southern Cross Station in 45 mins, and of course great food and sublime dancing!
I look forward to seeing you during the year of the White Rabbit … watch out Alice!
Returning to the studio is always a challenge. Teaching involves a very different focus on other’s needs; this return to myself is vital to the philosophical and soulful life of the bodymind. I am enjoying the solitude it offers me, along with the nuance and subtlety of engaging with my dance.
Melbourne – performance/installation what matters most is what happens next,coordinated by Ashley Higgs, February 23 – 31 March. Experimental Art Space, 2ndFloor, Union House, University of Melbourne.
Sydney – Whip It, February 26 at 8pm, Heffron Hall, 225–245 Palmer Street,Darlinghurst.
Over the summer I have been reading Paul Carter’s, Ground Truthing: Explorations in a Creative Region (UWA Publishing, Crawley, Western Australia, 2010). Carter is investigating the particularity of the Mallee region of Victoria – the complex layering of everything that happened in that landscape, and not just the heroic recorded history of white settlement. “The ground is not passive, it is the generative matrix of an understanding that exists solely at that spot – situated, timely and often rubbed out” (p4). It provoked many thoughts for me in regard to how we live in this land, and the ways in which we continue to colonise through how we perceive and speak about the land. I always feel there is a connection between this and the ways in which we speak of, care and live in our bodies.
Carter proposes that we consider assumptions of charted cartographic knowledge and learn about the ways in which we might care for place through an attending to detail and to the local: “… the eye that sees does not have the hard stare of the coloniser: it attends and tends, it leans as the poet hearkens to something on the horizon of definition” (p124). He writes about the layers of delicate lived life informing what lies in the landscape and that each of us contributes to that topography by moving through it. I am moved by this seemingly simple yet profound aesthetic way of creating value around the ways in which we move through our days creating a life, in the landscape and in the world. “Creative regions are polyhedral and the trick in narrating them is to return to various passages between the connecting points, looking not only at the tracks of those who went before, but at your own impressions which now form part of the landscape” (p4).