Ashley Wain and Padraig McNamara
I often watch people walk and wonder what it is that makes them move in the way they do. Watching them in a crowd, in a rush, dawdling, hunched, strutting, walking with a spring in their step, some with imbalance—are they aware of this state? I consider what factors are responsible for influencing them, injuries, shoe selection, emotional state, do they walk like their peers or do they walk like their families. Analysing on a personal level how we, ourselves move is a much more difficult question and when taken into the field of acting the question becomes even more important and problematic. How do you gain an understanding of your body, what part is natural movement of the animal and how much is a construct of our environment via emotion or structure.
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Mary Starks Whitehouse, who was a dance teacher and psychotherapist, designed an activity to help acting students make connections between their emotional state and the expressive nature of their personality, it is called ‘Authentic Movement’. She said, “The body is the physical aspect of the personality and movement is the personality made visible.” 1
My collaborator, Ashley Wain is an actor and uses this technique as a form of kinetic meditation to gain confidence in expression and to explore the natural fluidity of movement.
Ashley and I wished to move beyond documenting the exercise, to a level of visualising some of the internal process as well. The multiple layers of footage, especially in the beginning are designed to portray opportunity and the process of finding both the natural and expressive outcome. The consequent layers and focus towards the shadow instead of the body are deliberate to visualise the inner sense of expressive freedom and the lifting of constraints.
My original guitar score that accompanies the work uses a constant droning bass E string. The composition was improvised during viewing to compliment the final video footage so it runs parallel to the theme of meditation. This gives a centre to the music that leads to simple melodies, which are inevitable in the same way as the identification of the self, leads to inevitable movement as personality.
The process of Authentic Movement is normally done in pairs, where the ‘witness’ passively observes without judgment, to experience empathy and understanding of the ‘mover’ and of themselves. I hope this video will allow the observer to experience this process.
1 Authentic Movement: Essays by Mary Starks Whitehouse, Janet Adler and Joan Chodorow V. 1.
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1999 (p.52)