At the start of the residency I wrote
“My ways of inhabiting my body will change but some will stay the same. As I change within the currents and interplays of self, environment and culture how much control do I have over this process?”
diary Bahia, Brazil January 12th
On April 22nd 2009 I wrote
“I skill, de-skill, re-skill myself again, and. In capoeira contemporanea capoeira angola, dance afro, swimming, using gym equipment, gestures, Baile funk dancing, free dancing at parties and walking. I notice, learn, adopt, practice, repeat and embody movements. I feel them altering my posture. I know they are shifting my consciousness.”
Throughout my trip I constantly asked people the same two questions. How do you behave in this place to be safe? And how do you behave to be joyful? In acknowledgement that behaviour is the dynamic that shapes us, the places and the people we encounter.
What might happen if I attempt to map and imprint into my own body other people’s movements? I can trace lines of axé? Exuberance? If I spend day after day emulating the body movements of capoeira masters, kids dancing funk, dance afro and people walking in the streets am I taking power over them?
Or does humbly apprenticing myself to them invert the power and agency hierarchies that exist between us?
Will I learn anything useful about my own relation to my body? My culture? My sexuality? The sacred? Nature?
Do these dance moves emerge from ritual, worship oppression and liberation?
By wishing to adopt others’ movements do I internalise and therefore nonverbally understand something of the oppression and liberation these movements were formed in?
Do I feel the same feelings as those people do when we’re doing the same movements?
If the body teaches the mind as much as the mind teaches the body how am I changing my mind by training these movements? What bodily insights might be gained? Could I ever find a way to express them in any language other than movement?
Are dancing and capoeira good ways to get in touch with my body or is getting in touch with my body a good way to feel more meaning in movement? Does movement have meaning or is it powerful because it works in a different paradigm? Perhaps from a deeper different part of mind, from the orixas, the ancestors?
I’m involved in ongoing study of how an embodied practice shapes people and places I call this practice Street Training. I wanted to immerse myself in Brazilian cultures that are spatially, spiritually and bodily so different and in a bodily sense more sophisticated than my own British culture. When I talk about feeling the sensations in my body I’m not trying to reinforce a body mind split. I find conscious awareness of the sensations of my body the most presence creating impulse and so I privileged taking things in through my bodily senses.
I wanted to understand more about malandragem primarily as a potential form of kinaesthetic intelligence, I suspected that this contained aspects of self-reliance, quick wits and the ability to turn situations to ones advantage that might be a vital skill for the rapidly and unpredictably changing economic and social landscape of ‘developed’ western society. I wanted to know if these were transferable skills, if I could identify, learn and teach them. I wanted to give Street Training new dimensions by testing and developing them in Rio’s turbulent urban tides. What I think I learnt was that this process of acquisition of subtle psycho-corporeal skills, either through passive relinquishment or active instruction, both oppresses and liberates the giver and the receiver in a dance of creation and destruction of identities, sensibilities, agencies and cultures. Dancing, fighting and playing with the people I met as a student, teacher, apprentice or friend was to constantly join with the strengthening of resistance as I simultaneously propagated memes of co-option and colonialism.
Improvisation and spontaneity are the continually self-destabilising ways in which I participated and made meaning as I shared in peoples ways of living, inhabiting body and place.
I approached the residency as a dance, moving in and out of ideas following one to the next, moving back and forth spinning and grooving, sometimes straightforward, sometimes seductive, shifting rhythm then stepping back to observe how the whole choreography was evolving. I sought out diverse people with whom to explore the streets and through behaving in ways motivated by our own desires make and trace shifts in our own and other's conscious experiences of our bodies and the places we inhabited and moved through.