Updated: Jun 22, 2019
I was recently a participant in a workshop that, at first, I found very difficult to connect with. The principles seemed foreign and the objectives far too esoteric. In order to get through the class, I had to remind myself of my own practice, and the ideals I’ve set up for myself. Surprisingly, this not only allowed me to “get through”, but actually enjoy the remainder of the session. It reminded me how transferable my current interests can be, and inspired me to write them down in order to further understand and define them.
Think back to your favorite childhood fantasy game, like "House" or "Tea Party." For me, it was "Superheroes," taking on invisible supervillians who were terrorizing the backyard. Of course, we would call it "playing" heroes, but in the moments during the game the fantasies were real. If, however, one of us stopped believing in this imaginary world, the fantasy instantly died, and the fun along with it. It's just like that dinner scene from Hook. For those of you unfamiliar with the reference: an adult Peter Pan (played by Robin Williams) has returned to Neverland, now jaded and forgetful of his playful youth. In the scene, he sits down to eat with a group of children (affectionately known as the Lost Boys) around the ages of 8- to 10-years-old. At first, the meal consists of empty bowls and plates with the boys biting into air and passing along invisible noshes to one another. After some hesitation and adult skepticism, Peter is provoked to play along, gesturing the act of flicking food off his spoon. Suddenly, to the surprise of even the Lost Boys, the table becomes filled with meats, treats, and other colorful delectables. With this simple action, Peter says “yes” to the fantasy, transforming a childish game into a fully digestible reality.
Movement training and performance making are just like this: if you don’t play along, you don’t eat. Whether practicing yoga, or tai chi, or long distance downhill skiing - whether creating classical dances, or viral video campaigns, or avant-garde instillations utilizing cellophane, body paint, and repurposed LaserDisc readers - the principles are the same. All participants must believe in the fantasy for the work to become a success. Everyone involved must adhere and succumb to the rules of the game, or else the game stops existing. To garner results, you have to play. We see this in the sciences and mathematics constantly: a set of principles that must be followed with unknown excitements on the other end. Why should art be any different?
This is the idea that defines Bodies in Play: A belief that the best learning and innovation occurs from a state of play. A respect for participants and audiences as fellow playmates. A set of clear guidelines and boundaries as rules to play along to, with space for these rules to be questioned, examined, bent, and possibly broken. An approach, rather than a technique, Bodies in Play is a promise to promote a safe environment to truly fall into exploration lead by curiosity and frivolity.