What were the clowns about?

Life is settling back into calmer waters since the extraordinary crest of a wave that was Song of Crow. It was a stirring experience for all of us involved, and one that makes me smile even now, as I think of the week of immersion, community and rich exploration that led to the three performances in St Laurence Church.

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What do I think of it all now? What can be taken forward?

I always believed that the work would be more about ritual, less about performance. I have watched the flow of the process – remarkably smooth given the hard times we are in, and the suppression of the creative voice in a world that knows the unsettling, unhinging power of free thought. The ancient springs will bubble up afresh and urgently, despite all efforts to constrain them.

I sat through all three performances, watching the intense concentration of the audience, for 90 minutes each night. I watched the understanding of the performers, musicians and technicians weave wonders from the script; a team who had met for the first time four days previously. I watched my daughter embody an unstudied innocence that spoke more than any words possibly could. How our children can be.

As I sat and wove the wreath, after the last performance, with the flowers that we all had pledged, I felt how energies could shift, even if on a microcosmic scale. The scale of the individual, and of the community. I hung it in the spring-turning woods, and saw the beauty in all that is possible.

There has been much feedback on the performances; many powerful words used positively. And one common strain. ‘I didn’t fully understand it.’ This makes me happy. Isn’t that life? As long as anything can be placed in a box, labelled and tidied away, it loses its power to move. Move on the level of shifting. Challenging. Changing.

And the overriding question remains…those clowns?

Ah yes, the clowns. Playing pool in church? Disrupting procedures. Interrupting the drama. Misbehaving. And reflecting back the crazy outward face of our lives, the painted smile and jingling bells, the multi-coloured fantasy that all is well. The façade that stilt walks over the questions, the conflicts, the sense of disjunct that we have created in our world. The Grand Circus we are all living in.

I’m not sure I fully understand all of Crow either. I followed what felt right. The sniff of it. It is often in the complexity of the not-fully-understanding that the ah, that’s it moment lies. Creativity needs to communicate – somehow – the multiplicity, incomprehensibility, paradox of our lives. How else will we re-view our path?

In conversation with a friend of mine yesterday, she said, ‘You did not create it from the head. Therefore it cannot be understood with the mind.’ Yes. Song of Crow came in, in my life, way beneath the radar, and was created at that deepest place of heart and gut. Here on this level, I do trust, it was received.

Jennifer

Yoga in Crow: Ahimsa

It has now been over a week since we premiered in Reading and time has given us all a chance to reflect. For words to sift and ideas settle.

“Where we are is where we are” And where do we go from here?

When first reading the script 8 months ago I couldn’t put my finger on what it was I felt compelled by. “You just can’t put it in a box” Jennifer would tell me, as we tentatively tried to convey what is actually was in publicity material. Getting word out there in a tweet limited to 140 characters was certainly a challenge! Having seen it all come together, I know now that you wouldn’t want to ever box Crow. And I am closer to understanding why initially this piece drew me in. It is a question of responsibility; our relationship with all that surrounds us and a level of acceptance that we know so very little about what actually IS.

Perhaps, what we should be asking is how?

How do we forgive, nurture and sustain?

The essence of Crow  reminded me of an aspect of Yoga teachings I had not thought about in a while. Ahimsa. It is one of the 5 Yamas in Yoga (the Yamas unite to make up one of the main 8 limbs of Yoga). It makes us think about how we lash out at one another. How we treat the space around us. How our lifestyles as human beings have proven to be so immensely destructive to our environment.

What is Ahimsa?  Non-harming. Non-violence.

I made Ahimsa the theme of the classes I was teaching that week; through movement, breath and meditation we would find a connection with ourselves and the environment around us.

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“As you lie on the ground in Savasana, feel no boundaries between you and the space around you. Let your body sink beyond the surface of the earth and meet the roots below.”

I had already started to connect two sides of myself. My identity as Yoga teacher and as Project Manager for Crow were no longer compartmentalised areas of my life. They were naturally and organically bound in the energy of one another and the whole week was unexpectedly peaceful. Perhaps because I had made further peace with who I was during this process.

It was liberating to watch these two halves join. Like finding a beautiful stone and not knowing quite where to put it. Then realising with a little chisel and string it could be made into a necklace; discovery and skill weaving one another. I could finally turn around and say “You both belong here- I’ll bring you together and make you into something stronger.”

I think Crow bought that out in us all and will continue to do so.

And just while writing this I’ve just made another kind of connection. The role of our flowers linked to the offering of flowers to the sacred water of the River Ganga during Pooja ceremonies. Both a gesture of honour and hope. Both a reminder that peace with ourselves comes hand in hand with the peace we make with who and what surrounds us…

Forgive, nurture and sustain.

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-Alice-

Prophecy and Rhyme

When I first read the script I sent this through to Jennifer, it seemed appropriate. I want to share it with you now.

After the last tree has been cut

After the last river has been poisoned

After the last fish has been caught

Only then will we find that money cannot be eaten

– Cree Indian prophecy

I have also been thinking about nursery rhymes in terms of vocal rhythm. Also, how there is often an unpleasant derivation and what this means for us as children of the Earth ‘singing’ a dedication, in part, to her. A song is sung over a sinister current, we praise though we lament, what is unwritten and how is this shown?

Inspiration for tone and choreography? Let’s play

Perhaps a childlike quality is what’s needed for chorus characterisation rather than a focus on females triads. I expect we shall be a amalgamation of many beings, in flux. Engage with the obvious and subvert or find that it works and luxuriate.

Youth, innocence, knowledge, purpose, control, power

— E —

Magic is Science is Magic

I sometimes ponder on the subjects of science and spirituality, I believe they can exist alongside each other, even viewing them as one and the same. It is all about perception. Science is born of the Universe, which came from where? We constantly strive to understand our purpose.

I have already focused on the mythical and spiritual so I wonder how science can influence the aesthetic of and movement within the piece. It has always interested me that we know more about space than our own seas and that in our descriptions of them we have chosen to use words from a shared palette. A difference I have observed is that space has not been gifted a gender. It is yet unknown.

Recent developments like the merging of black holes have been fascinating to witness.

Black holes swallow matter and release energy

Taking and giving, transformation, positives or negatives, intent, creation, as an image, a concept alongside themes in Song of Crow. Thought fodder.

— E —

 

In response

Crow articles have made themselves known to me over the years, cropping up on TED and various feeds. Without this exposure I wouldn’t be aware of how intelligent they are. I love the story about the girl; we should be trying to live in better harmony with the creatures on our planet.

I remember hearing about facial recognition, I read this recently:

http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/09/bird-brains-crows-remember-your-face-and-know-youre-hiding-in-there/

Also:

Wait until you find out what they’re doing with peanuts!

— E —

The crow and me…

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Crows in all their many forms (especially the rook and the raven) have always fascinated me. I find they represent a link between the modern day and older times, between the city-scape and the rural. Crows can be found anywhere but I love the juxtaposition of their dark feathers against the browns and greens of the countryside in my native Scotland. Unlike other birds they don’t try to fade into the background but instead stand proud, unapologetic and strangely out-of-place with their baleful, knowing eyes watching me, the interloper, as I pass them by. Their harsh cries apparently signalling my arrival and departure to their brethren, “We know you, we know what you are” they seem to say. It is very easy to attribute human-like qualities to the intelligent crow and I like to imagine they judge us. I think if they were the ‘dominant’ species they would do a better job as stewards of the earth than we have done so far; and I think they know it! Yet the crow’s harsh cries and uncamouflaged plumage seem to echo our own unwillingness to truly assimilate into nature. Because of this dichotomy, the crow, for me, is the perfect mascot for this story.

 The crow and the human species…

In many cultures the crow has been linked to war and death and sadly often unfairly persecuted because of this. A modern day study (lead by John M. Marzluff) indicates that they can recognise particular humans that they feel have harmed them in the past and they pass this information onto other crows. I wonder if they also spread the word about humans who are kind to them; perhaps so, if the story about the little girl in Seattle who fed a few crows and now has multiple visiting her every day for dinner and bringing her presents to say thank you is anything to go by! I think this is a wonderful example of how we are all just trying to survive on this earth and if we can help each other along the way the happier we all are!

If you’d like to read the story here is a link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-31604026

I’ll leave you with a wee traditional Scottish children’s song about crows: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzCdQbxgkAQ

First Thought Forward

I love how one thought leads to another, simple pleasures, this is what I enjoy most when I look at documentation. I always want to know where an idea came from, why it was birthed and how it grows into what it is.

So, I had a thought

I thought about the crow and it’s faces. I thought about shamanism and witch doctors, I found I had landed on the familiar image of the plague doctor. The image is iconic and has been transformed over time.

‘The nose [is] half a foot long, shaped like a beak, filled with perfume with only two holes, one on each side near the nostrils, but that can suffice to breathe and carry along with the air one breathes the impression of the [herbs] enclosed further along in the beak.’

To incorporate scent into our performance

‘Today, the plague mask lives on in the imaginations of artists, writers and film-makers [click here for a stunning example]. Through them, it has been transformed into something altogether different, for the plague mask which was once used to ward off death, has now become the very symbol of it.’

The way time has played his part, the way symbols change, the way the world turns her own clock, keeping her rhythms, the way we disturb them, the transformations, the fallen angel(s), birds, crow

Behind the Mask: The Plague Doctor

Threads

Ensemble is being together, tied by passion, belief, vision and more. It’s one of my favourite human situations to be a part of, to exist within. There is also a certain energy that comes from working in a female-dominated cast, this will be an interesting dynamic to play with when interacting with our male performer, particularly as the chorus. Three women come together to tell a story, why? What is a chorus, what can a chorus be?

To use as inspiration for physicality – ribbon, elastic, string, imaginary, real

A triad of women is significant.

‘The Fates also called the Moerae or the Parcae, determined when life begins, when it ends, and what happens in between. They were made up of three women:

· Clotho, who appeared as a maiden and spun the thread of life. Her name meant The Spinner
· Lachesis, who appeared as a matron and measured the thread of life. She was the Caster of lots
· Atropos, who cut the thread of life, and appeared as a crone. Her name meant, Unbending

…Even the gods feared the Moirae…

The Moirae were supposed to appear three nights after a child’s birth to determine the course of its life…

The Triple Goddess is known and worshiped in Pagan cultures all over the world. She is eternal, yet always in a state of change. Her colors are white for the maiden, red for the mother and black for the crone…

Our true Greatness is the understanding of necessity.
Our Knowledge averts the terrible process of a rigid fate.
By choosing to accept personal responsibility and set into motion the grace of forgiveness

…the oldest and original Norn was Urd – other variants of her name include Wurd (Old High German), Wryd (Anglo-Saxon, commonly translated as “Fate”), Weird (English), Urth, Urtha, Urdr, Urda, Ertha – our word “earth” is derived from her. She was the Norn of destiny.

The second sister was Verthandi, “Being,” or the one who governed the present moment.

The third was Skuld, often translated as “Necessity,” as in the “necessity” of repaying “a debt that all must pay” – i.e., death. Thus, Skuld was the death-Norn who determined the length of each life. It was said that when Doomsday arrived, it would be Skuld who would lay the death-curse on the whole universe. Interestingly, shamanic-bard-poets known as skalds were Skuld’s servants — in their hands was the creation of visionary literature.’

…The Norns originally carved records of each destiny into staves of wood. They were writers, not spinners. They lived in a womblike cave under Yggdrasill, the great ash that was the World Tree.’

http://www.shedrums.com/Fates.htm

This article provided so much information and I tried to select the words that spoke most to me in relation to Song of Crow.

To help us form characters within the chorus

I always prefer looking at the most extreme ends of the spectrum, then I explore the in between.

— E —