What is Bodyspeak?
by Samuel Avital
Using the art of movement as medium and metaphor, BodySpeak™ is an interactive and highly intensive program of training designed to integrate mind, body, and spirit. It is the culmination of my thirty years' experience as a theatrical performer, author, and teacher. Body Speak is, in its essence, a journey from thought to action. Along the way we learn to focus the mind, discipline the body, and activate powerful creative energies. We discover new and subtle ways to communicate with one another. We also have a lot of fun.
Three Phases of Understanding
Mental - We explore the intellectual and philosophical basis of the training. Our objective is to overcome a limited mindset and decode the symbols, images, and concepts in our mental maps.
Physical - We examine the nature of corporeal experience, revealing physical and emotional characteristics through specific exercises.
Integrational - We combine and apply the principles studied in phases one and two by performing improvisationally in group sessions.
The Ten Essential Components
BodySpeak™ developed out my experience performing, and training others to perform, the time-honored art of mime. I discovered that the practice of mime demanded a unique mental and physical discipline that could be transferred to everyday life, and with rich rewards.
Mime, I recognized, was a kind of moving meditation. It provided the practical benefits of sitting meditation -- relaxation, improved focus and concentration, self-discipline, mind-body integration -- in the context of movement. Since everyday life provides far more opportunities for activity than for sitting still, the benefits seemed clear.
Through mime I also discovered a method of mind-body integration that truly activated individual creativity, that provided a vehicle for the creative energies naturally generated when mind, body, and spirit work in unison. BodySpeak™ is firmly grounded in principles of artistic expression.
Finally, it was very important to me that the method I developed would provide a means not only for creative expression, but also for authentic expression. It had to enhance feelings of individuality, responsibility, personal freedom and power. It had to make honest communication possible. Here again the theatrical metaphor came into play: the world is a stage, we are players, we play roles, we wear masks. The question becomes: "How do we learn to play our roles competently, authentically, and responsibly?" The mask, one of the Ten Essential Components of the BodySpeak™ method, became a dynamic tool for developing the sense of personal presence, authenticity, and power.
Since the objective of BodySpeak™ is mind-body integration, I knew that the method itself had to be fully conceptualized and thoroughly integrated. Thus the Ten Essential Components are presented in such a way that each component builds on that which precedes it:
Motion/Stillness is an exploration of the two states that compose the basis of human activity. Inner images are manifested outwardly in action. Breathing is balanced to activate physical and mental alertness.
The Edge develops an understanding of the law of gravity within the body, and demonstrates how to use this force creatively in performance and life situations.
Bases/Foundation proposes to treat the human body as an architectural form, grounded and harmonious. It makes possible an untraditional way of thinking with the whole body.
Fixations breaks down large movements into small physical movements. The purpose is to rediscover the whole and find out how the whole is made. It then becomes possible to fix one part of the body in space, develop the attention to details in space, and move the rest of the body around that center-point, as centre-fixé. Mastery of this principle develops clarity and precision of movement, creating different points of reference on different geometrical planes.
Isolation/Undulation are two basic rhythms explored first by teaching the body to move one part at a time with sharp, isolated movements. The isolated movements are then integrated to produce the rhythm of undulation. Upon integrating these rhythms mentally and physically, the participants experience as never before a sense of balance and well being.
The Snail provides a subtle experience of touch through close observation of the movement of the snail. The approach and withdrawal techniques of the snail reveal a rhythm, both quick and slow, embodying both caution and gentleness of touch.
Parallels studies the way body movements mirror one another. Any movement of one part of the body has a parallel in another part, whether or not we are aware of it.
This geometrical study of movement is developed through the concept of counterweight -- equal and opposite forces in motion. When the body learns the vertical, horizontal, diagonal, spiral, and circular movements, the process of vertical/lateral thinking is enhanced. Thoughts and actions are then integrated more consciously, consistently, and naturally.
Leaders/Followers reveals the benefits, limitations, and potentials of leading and following by assigning different parts of the body to play the different roles. Harmony is achieved by the proper functioning of each part in a balanced response of activity and passivity.
Animals/Elements studies the natural states of animals and elements in order to teach the body immediate response and alertness. The goal is to appreciate the gift of consciousness, and to avoid being dependent. When the body plays elements or animals -- stiff as wood, alert as a cat, fluid as water, still as a mountain -- a tremendous power hidden within the self is discovered which sharpens awareness in thought and action.
Masks and Sticks are the ultimate tools of self discovery. Masks dramatically unleash the power of personal honesty in making conscious, intelligent choices. The strategy is to develop keen observational skills; the objective is to identify reality without the influence of deceiving external "voices"; the goal is for the individual to become the author, producer, and lead actor of his or her own life.
The participants make their own masks, experience how masks solve problems, and use them to explore the phenomenon of artistic presence and to reach the essence of the natural independent self.
Sticks are the ultimate object, the metaphorical vertical/horizontal object -- both archetypal and concrete. They realign physical/mental integrity and activate a dynamic principle of creativity. With the sticks playing a variety of roles -- violin, broom, pencil, prison bar, fan, fishing rod, table, door -- the participants improvise individually and in group application. One stick can create a whole environment and countless comical situations.
Stick-play sharpens awareness and alertness and demands 100% presence. "The Stick Circular Discipline," and "On Your Toes" awaken the group to readiness, playfulness, and creativity. The group members discover new dimensions of relating to the body, the self, and others, in ways they never thought possible. This is learning through laughter.
Throughout the training, numerous additional and complementary exercises are introduced -- 75/25, the Great Puzzle, Hand-and-Foot Work, the Posture of Enchantment, The Geometry of Motion, and many others -- which enrich and stimulate the creative efforts of the group.
The participants will learn to practice daily "The Longevity Cycles," a powerfully integrative series of essential exercises which enhance the effectiveness of the BodySpeak™ training. The Longevity Cycles are comprised of 1. The Flexibility Cycle which is designed to gently limber and focus all parts of the body; 2. The Regenerative Cycle which integrates physical, mental and emotional attention to lubricate and regenerate the entire organism; and 3. The Integrative Cycle, a profound sequence to balance and focus your life force and theatrical skills.
See the learning formats and workshop opportunities here.
The goal of the BodySpeak™ method is quite simply to improve the quality of life of all who participate. I have had many opportunities for joy and satisfaction over the years to learn from participants in the training that they have gained new insight, sharpened their awareness and sensitivity, improved their ability to express and communicate an idea, and in many cases have changed the course of their lives as a result of their participation in the workshops. After four rewarding decades, our work at Le Centre du Silence continues.