Unedited conversations between artist in a productive critique discovering thesis and processes behind the work.
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The Body is a Feeling, 2014
Balfe: The first picture is from " The Body is a Feeling" which is what I am currently developing.
It is similar to the other work I have done in the past, in that I am melding therapy and art together.
It is different in that I will not be performing as much of the process.
There will be actual choreography set for the piece.
Ramos: The title of the work, in my interpretation, the Body is somewhat of an illusion or something of passing or that which can be easily transformed.
What did you intend by it?
We are using a process called Focusing developed by Eugene Gendlin that takes the participant through an inner meditative journey to discover the truth through listening to the self and sensing the body.
Ramos: in a way the Self is trapped by the body and simultaneously, that is an illusion as well
Balfe: Yes, this work is focusing on the power we all have to transform ourselves, essentially be our own therapists, with some guidance of course.
What we discover in the focusing exercises over the next couple of months, we eventually will synthesize into a phrase or two for each participant.
Then, the real work will be in fitting theses phrases together.
Ramos: how do you, as a choreographer, guide someone out of their own mental constraints?
Balfe: The Focusing exercise developed by Gendlin uses very specific language that he developed to do just that.
The exercise is a series of 6 questions that the reader spreads out of 45 minutes or so.
After the exercise, I work with everyone to process what they discovered.
Sometimes new connections are made during processing, sometimes they are made in subsequent sessions.
Ramos: and the discoveries are verbalized with the phrases you mention
Balfe: Yes. That is also part of the Therapeutic aspect.
This is an extremely valuable space to explore inner truth. For one, it makes whatever it is more tangible by taking it a step away from the self.
It gives the participant to observe their unconscious in a safe way.
Ramos: We talk about the Self in two different ways, earlier as an entity that is somewhat detached and constrained by the physical body, and now as something different from the unconscious.
Isn't the Self mostly in the unconscious?
or am I getting these things mixed up?
Balfe: no you are not!
Ramos: if the Self is something we need to discover... I would think it is in the unconscious.
Balfe: In this work there are different aspects of the Self. But they are not separate.
In life actually.
There is the Self that we regularly know and are engaged with, then there is a Self that we wrestle with and deny and doubt etc.
This Self lives pretty loud and clear in the unconscious and we attempt to quiet it down with our social mannerisms neurosis etc.
Ramos: and our social mannerisms and neurosis are also part of the Self?
or does this go into the realm of the Ego? Do you consider the Ego as part of the Self, or something entirely different. And does this play into the work?
Balfe: Through mediation/Focusing - listening to the body and the deeper self, we can listen to our Self, which of course is really there and operating whether we like it or not.
I believe the Ego is also a part of the Self.
The Ego protects the Self, but it is not separate.
I am realizing that this is part of the work!
Ramos: By protecting the Self, doesn't it also constrain it? Since the Self needing protection is an illusion.
Balfe: Well, I think it is a situation that requires gentle negotiation.
I would not say it is an illusion. But we all have defenses.
Ramos: Can't the Self protect itself?
Balfe: Some of them are necessary at certain times. But at some point, when we gain distance or strength, we can go back in and look at whatever it was we were shielding from our Self.
Ramos: Does it really need an entirely new entity or version of itself for protection?
Balfe: Well... in in ideal world no.
But we are all so traumatized on a regular cycle that it is like a part of our evolution at this point.
Ramos: isn't that what you are trying to break or transmute?
Ramos: A sort of passage to find the real Self again, and trust it
Balfe: Yes. But without making a participant feel as though their defenses are wrong or bad.
Ramos: the Ego has it's justifications, but I believe it is unnecessary
Balfe: I believe that there is a healthy Ego - the survival aspects of it.
But there is a huge part of Ego that keeps us all on the edge of our seats with each other.
I totally hear you.
Ramos: What have you seen as a result of the practice? How would you describe this liberation from the constraints of the physical, social, neurosis?
The Body is a Feeling, 2014
Balfe: Well, I will speak from personal experience here.
During these Focusing exercises I have encountered my own doubt and self hatred. I have discovered that much of it came from a troubled abusive childhood with my schizophrenic Mother.
In the Focusing exercise I saw a never ending gray wall. It went on into infinity.
As you know, my Mother recently passed. This of course has had a huge impact on me.
When I went to move the material from the focusing exercise, I encountered a corner in the wall.
At first I thought nothing of it and continued to mime scaling the wall etc.
But once I moved across the corner to the other wall. I stopped moving. I realized I had turned a corner!
I felt a huge dropping sensation in my body. I went through the wall, became more playful with it.
Since my Mother has passed, I now feel allowed to explore a lot of the trauma and hurt that I have put behind a wall so that I could forgive her for all that she did and love her while she was alive.
But now, my real work begins.
Ramos: Would you say that the trauma is the wall, that the wall is rigid from our fears of it, the stories we created out of it. And perhaps without the fear, they are not so rigid, they are an interpretation of experiences that now can be reinterpreted and addressed with different perspectives. And this process makes the wall less orthogonal, less material, more malleable and softer to our current existence.
Balfe: Yes! That is exactly what I am discovering.
My goal is to integrate all of what is behind this wall into myself without resentment.
I find that as I discover more, my dancing has improved. I feel stronger in my presence and connection to myself.
Ramos: You say these things are behind the wall, and I see these thing are the building blocks of the wall. If not. Then what is the wall made out of for you? Is the purpose of the wall to keep you away from these things?
Balfe: I am actually just in the process of discovering what the wall is. This wall has been a recurring image in my dreams and psyche since I was a pre-teen.
I would agree that I am made out of what I have been trying to protect myself from.
Ramos: yes. That is you, and you are also the wall.
Balfe: I also think the wall represents the relationship to my Mother.
It's a real journey into Self!
Ramos: A wall is meant to divide, to protect, to identify two sides as different.
Historically, the walls we've made, during times of war for example, seem sort of ridiculous now.
Balfe: It's true.
When facing this wall in my dreams, visions, I have always had a feeling of being a silly little girl with her belly sticking forward. Sort of embarrassed and aloof about the situation.
Ramos: I bring this back at the risk of being redundant. Doesn't the Ego separate, and protect, in sometimes unnecessary ways? The people that historical walls separated, made different, where not so different at all. And neither is the Self on either side of the walls we make within.
Balfe: I know what you mean. However, when I was 2 yrs. old and dealing with some of the crazy stuff I had to deal with, the Ego sure came in handy.
I feel that it had a use in those times, to sort of gauge the amount of trauma I could handle, so that I could survive.
Ramos: what about today?
Balfe: Today, I am strong.
I am ready to look at all of this and deal with it .
Ramos: A sort of acceptance.
Or mature sense of acceptance.
Balfe: Yes. Not move past it, by any means. But accept it fully.