“Humans have lost their animal.” This truth shared by my professor of Commedia, Michele Bottini has echoed through me since that first moment of exchange in Arezzo, Italy in 2008. “Humans have lost their animal.”
He referred to the movement in our bodies that has been confined to conditioned and limited physical capabilities we perpetuate everyday- by the way we sit at a desk, in a car, on the subway, in a chair most of our day, or by the way women wear heels to create appeal, the way we are told to stay still as a child as a gesture of behaving. We have restricted our ability to flex our spine, to find deep bends in our joints, strength in our muscles and in turn high functionality in our internal organs. When we were children as our bodies developed we were freer in how we stretched and tumbled and pushed past our boundaries as we learned our bodies, as we found courage within ourselves to see what we could do, how we could move. At some point we stopped in this exploration and began to limit our ability to move.
The center of my performative work is the examination of the body’s ability to re-member itself. To relearn, and reconnect it’s full functionality of movement. In order to do this, we have to deconstruct the layers, piece by piece that do not primarily live in our physicality, but are results of our mental and spiritual conditioning as well. Why do we move the way we do, where do our rhythms come from when a drum plays, or a guitar is strummed, where does the openness of our limbs, and chest and the lift or the fall of our head come from, where does the gaze in our eyes and the pattern of our breath being released and inhaled come from? How is our movement connected to the way we woke up this morning, what we carry from interactions through the day, and thoughts we carry in our head from waking? How is our movement connected to a moment in our herstory/history from womb to present moment when we were injured by an incident or person or injured ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally? How is our movement connected to our ancestors experiences, their physical labor, their psychological influences and emotional conditioning- how are their memories they carried in their bodies passed down to us beyond our conscious knowing?
Our physical being holds so much herstory/history the difference in our body structures is, I believe, beyond just DNA make up. When I look at another human being, I don’t see just dominant and inferior traits, I don’t see beautiful or unfavorable features, I see stories, I see the human experience, I see a human being, living, growing, experiencing, developing, I see ancestry and I see the pure animal they may have lost.
What stories do we hold in our physicality that can help us remember? I have been on a journey examining what each part of my physical being can tell me of who I am and where I come from. One piece of me that I have been drawn to throughout my life are my hands. They have been a part of my body that I have valued tremendously, and been fascinated with as I am a crafter, a visual artist. I have found them to be such a gift, and it is such a wonderment to me that what my mind and my spirit imagine and dream up can be manifested from my hands- steady, agile, strong and precise. They tell stories of crafters from my lineage and I embrace their truth and stories as creators within my own hands with gratitude.
My grandmother’s hands carry the experience of a wom*n whose work was never just her own, it was her children’s and theirs, and theirs after. One day I was sitting with my grandmother holding her hands and I never noticed this before, but my attention came to her right thumb and index finger swelled, callused and misshapen. I asked her what happen to her hands, and she said her hands were always this way, they were from when she worked in the sewing factory- my grandmother was a seamstress in Hawaii where she migrated to with her 5 children, through her labors she raised them all and built for them lives full of joy and gratitudes and her hands tell this story. But even further I have watched her hands provide for all of us, her grandchildren and now great grandchildren as we all grew through the workings of her hands and heart, with her many makings of meals and clothes we would wear and tear, many workings from home to home, many carrying and raising of children and grandchildren and great grandchildren-her many, many givings of sweat and self- always with the greatest love and light manifested through her hands.
What stories does your own body hold that speaks to who you are in whole, that pays homage to those before you? And what would it be like for you to stretch the ability for these stories to be freed and lived past their limits? What would it be like to listen to your body deeply, and let it move without restriction, conditions?
I ask myself this with the desire to re-member my being in wonderment, in exploration like when I was a child, before I lost my animal. And seeking to value my body so much that I give it capability to move in multiple rhythms and flows, return to its flexibility, and grow in its strength. In finding these stories, in listening to my whole self, I find my animal being, I re-member it. And in doing so, I re-member that all others are also made up of their own vibrant and rich story filled physicality, if only they could see it themselves and value it.
What if we all re-membered, and freed our body from construct that limited and divided us in judgement, and instead allowed the knowing and listening to our body help us find truth and understanding of our origin of being from ancestry to animal deeper- how might we love ourselves more, how might we love one another more?