Getting into water and exploring movement, without knowing what you’re going to do next…
“ Authentic Movement is a simple form of self-directed movement, usually done with eyes closed and attention directed inward, in the presence of at least one witness. Movers explore spontaneous gestures, movements, and stillness, following inner impulses in the present moment.”*
In 2006, on an Alexander Technique residential course near Barcelona, I attended, with some trepidation, a workshop on Authentic Movement.
There were about thirty of us in a large room. The facilitator explained that the aim was to explore movement for ourselves, to see what came naturally, to allow things to become unblocked perhaps, in a safe space without fear of being judged. We would each find a partner who would make sure we were safe from collisions with furniture or other participants, because our eyes should be closed.
As things got underway, I stood still, probably stiff with fear. What movement was going to come naturally to me in this environment? I had a peep through the corner of my eye to see a Canadian student jumping through the air like a performance artist. It hadn’t taken him long to get going. “You don’t have to do anything,” I told myself.
But, before I knew it, I was on my hands and knees. I crawled, rolled over and think I might have got into the foetal position at one point. When the activity was brought to a close and I opened my eyes I felt calm and quite transformed. Then, the moment I walked out into the sunshine, a wasp stung me on my neck and I felt like I wanted my mum. It was an interesting afternoon!
Our son Stan is doing a degree in Illustration. Home for the weekend, he suggested we go to the pool this morning as he’s using our work as inspiration for his art.
He got his camera out and I started with my usual favourite activity of doing nothing, just floating, face down. Then I decided I would stay in the middle of the pool, move around and see what happened. It took me straight back to that sunny afternoon in Spain, and I closed my eyes.
The water is of course an ideal place for this kind of thing. I don’t know exactly what movements I made this morning but I can recall rolling around in all directions, letting air out and coming up for more when I needed it, sculling, diving, sinking and rising.
As I sat on the sun lounger reflecting on the experience, I thought about the hashtag I made up for Instagram, ‘Learnnottoswim’. Learning not to swim includes both non-doing in water – just letting yourself be, enjoying its support – and freedom in water – freedom of movement really, but also the freedom from convention, the freedom of play.
An empty pool is a great space to get creative with movement and this has nothing to do with swimming up and down. So yes, learn not to swim!