3.2 Sawami: The ‘real I’


3.2.1 Sawami: History and Motivations

In my conversations with Sawami, about her history and first meetings with Emio Greco / PC, a lot of beautiful and interesting subjects came along; telepathy, prayer, the position of holding a baby etc.
In this summary, I would like to focus on three subjects; ‘reality’, ‘space’ and ‘expression’. Sawami told me:

“Since very young I was having the feeling that I was not living in the reality. I am blinded, and what I see is not the reality. (…) I want to be able to have the body that can see the reality. Like a cat. (…) If you look at the cat she is always aware of things, no? She is always sensing the space. (…) I want to train my body to see the reality.” (1.6)

For some reason Sawami is having the feeling that what she ‘sees’, ‘is not the reality’, and this is why she wants to ‘train her body’ to ‘see the reality’. In her experience, the possibility of ‘training her body’ to ‘see the reality’, goes together with the ability of the body to ‘sense the space’ – ‘like a cat’.

I believe that this is very much related to her enthusiasm when first seeing the performance ‘Extra Dry’, which gave her ‘a sense of hope’:

“After a few months it was still in me, with the sense of hope.” (1.3.1)

“Two bodies, nothing else (…) only this set up created so much scenery. I sensed for example, heat in the desert. (…) That was how I was interested in body which can create atmosphere, which can create temperature, which can create environment (…) around the body.” (1.3.1)

What she expresses here is not so much an admiration for the dance in itself, but for the ability of the dancers to effect the space. And after this Sawami told me that she is also interested in the opposite possibility; space effecting the body:

“This feeling of space was interesting to me. (…) Space, and my body, as matter and non-matter, both of them.” (1.3.1)

According to Sawami it is very important in dance, or any other movement, to be aware of the space inside your body, and to let your body – as it were – be moved by this space:

“It’s beautiful and practical. If you don’t have the sense of space inside your body, than you have to do everything yourself.. (making awkward movements using force). If you think of your body as solid matter than it is so hard to move actually. (…) If you look at a very good ballet-dancer, how she is moving, is not from the muscle solid, but from something else that is making her leg light. She is so soft, no? That is because she is aware of the space inside her body.” (1.4)

From these reflections on the body and space. I would like to move to the subject of ‘expression’.
Sawami told me she experienced a kind of ‘breakthrough’ (a theme that was also very present in the conversations with Victor) when she was doing a butoh-workshop:

“One day I had a kind of breakthrough or something. I felt I had something to express.(…) Doing something (…) which is not just staying me doing something. But it created some kind of atmosphere around me. Than I though, ah, o.k., than I have something to express.” (1.6)

So similar to what excited her while watching ‘Extra Dry’, she describes here that she experienced not so much doing something herself with this or that quality, but that her movement could effect the space. What she was doing was not ‘staying’ with her but created an ‘atmosphere around’ her.

Another important experience in her development as a dancer was when she joined the workshop of Emio Greco / PC, and got invited to join the company. Sawami told me about this period:

“I had this confidence, that this strange ugly creature like me, will have something strong in there. (…) (She explains a bit about a Japanese fairytale about a turtle:) I had this image that I am a turtle, hiding like this, very ugly.. (bringing hands together, lifting shoulders, bending head). But inside this shell, I am actually hm, hm, hm. (…) I had this hidden strength, I will beat you up some day!” (1.7)

– Well, I would like to conclude this summary on the ‘history and motivations’ of Sawami, by stating that in my perception the three subjects; ‘reality’, ‘space’ and ‘expression’ are coming together here.

In what Sawami experiences as ‘expression’, an ‘exchange’ between space (out there) and the body (including the space inside the body) takes place. They become; “matter and non-matter, both of them”.

I don’t know why Sawami experiences herself as ‘not being able to see the reality’, or what this physically is for her exactly. But I would like to suggest that this could be related to what she describes as feeling like ‘a turtle’. Hiding in a shell, a turtle is handicapped in perceiving reality in the sense that she cannot sense the space around her body. And I believe it makes sense to say that if a person is expressing herself she ‘comes out of her shell’. So could it be that by expressing herself Sawami is able to ‘get out of her shell’, and through this ‘sense the space’ around her body? So, in a way, to become ‘like a cat’? I will come back to this.

– By the way, if you look at the video-material you can see that Sawami is not ugly, but beautiful.

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3.2.1 Movement while talking: Space (3 min.)

3.2.2 Sawami: Motivations in Relation to the Work of Emio Greco / PC

Sawami wants to ‘train her body to see the reality’. I believe this is a motivation for her to work with Emio Greco / PC. At different points in our conversations she expressed that she experiences their material as ‘real’ and ‘natural’:

“Emio’s material follows the law (of nature), that’s why it is real, that’s why it allows human nature to come out , that’s why it communicates and it is strong.” (2.1.3)

This sense of reality, goes together with the feeling that the work is ‘alive’. A theme that was also very present in my conversations with Victor. In the words of Sawami:

“It was all coming from the rich life-force that his (Emio’s) body has.” (2.2.1)

“It seems he (Emio) understands what it means to be alive..” (2.2.1)

In the paragraph above I suggested – based on the words of Sawami – that there could be a relation between being able to express oneself and being able to sense the reality outside ones body. (For Sawami, but possibly for everybody.. ) Maybe it is necessary to be able to let a a part of ‘reality’ (or ones ‘self’) out, in order to be able to let another part of ‘reality’ (the world out there) in.
For me this theme returns here when Sawami describes the work of Emio Greco / PC as both ‘being real’, and as allowing ‘human nature – to come out’. At another point in our conversation she called ‘human nature’ ‘the real I’:“The work is.. the dance that evokes the real I to come out.. if I can put it in a simple way..” (2.9.2)

With the term ‘real I’ Sawami refers to something quite different than ‘self-image’ or ‘identity’, as this is used in daily life:

“As a matter of fact this self-image, identity will kill your real I (making a movement with her hands that suggests that something gets repressed – is not able to come out).” (2.9.2)

The ‘real I’ is something physical:

“Real I, human body (pointing at her stomach).” (2.9.2)

The ‘real I’ has to do with being present:

“The sense of you being here. (…) There is no need for you to proof that you are whatever.. you are beautiful, you are.. And you are even small, no?” (2.9.2)

And with the will to live:

Imagine you are in the ocean and a: “Shark is approaching you.. You would still try to escape from it, no? (looking happy).. You would do anything to defend yourself, no?.. I guess that’s the real I (laughing).” (2.9.2)

This last image of Sawami I would like to label as ‘pure expression’. Not expression in the sense of ‘I am this person expressing this or that’, but expression of ‘being’.

I believe that what Sawami describes as the ‘real I to come out’, is very much related to what Victor calls ‘breaking through’. Both phrases ‘coming out’ and ‘breaking through’ suggest something that is or was ‘containing’ and that gets transgressed or becomes permeable somehow. For this reason I believe that the image of the turtle, that Sawami told me about, applies in some sense to both Sawami and Victor: They ‘come out of’ or ‘break through’ their ‘shells’. (Leaving open what their ‘shells’ exactly could be for them, on a physical and/or psychological level.)

Also for Victor, I believe, that being able to express, goes together with the possibility of allowing the outside reality to enter his body, as is especially clear in his description of ‘sensing’ and ‘being looked at’ in the final scene of ‘Extra Dry’ (2.7.2). If ‘it isn’t working’ ‘being looked at’ becomes something that contains Victor, it becomes his prison. If ‘it is working’ he feels able to ‘sense the space’.

3.2.3 Sawami: The Movement Material of Emio Greco / PC

What is it in the movement material of Emio Greco / PC, that it ‘evokes the real I to come out’, or that it can function – for Sawami – as a training to ‘see the reality’? I didn’t manage to explore this subject as far (or as detailed) as I would have liked, but based on the conversations I had with Sawami, I want to mention the following.

Just like Victor, Sawami stressed the importance of the experience of ‘being in a survival state’. About the ‘jumping exercise’, in the Double Skin / Double Mind training, Sawami told me:

“It has to go through exhaustion.. you cannot hold your daily structure, your daily habit, anymore.. (…) a situation of urgency.. (…) than it is interesting.. than the body itself starts thinking.. the body itself starts surviving the situation..” (2.3.2)

Related to what I said in the paragraph above about ‘something that is containing’, I have to think here, when Sawami says she cannot hold her ‘daily structure (…) anymore’, of the shell of a turtle. And when she talks – below – about ‘articulating’ her body, I think of the flexibility of a cat, sensing ‘space / reality’:

“If you train yourself to articulate, mostly in this area (pointing at the trunk), you can find much more entrances to the reality.” (2.10)

During our conversations, Sawami pointed regularly at her trunk, belly, organs, and (lower) back. In her experience the ‘real I’ is located somewhere in ‘this area’.

“(…) somehow it makes sense.. of, hh.. the feeling of, hh.. I here (pointing at the belly).” (2.9.3)

Making ‘the real I to come out’ could be interpreted literally as transporting the ‘real I’ from the belly/organs area to the extremities – and further into the space. Sawami told me about the movement of Emio:

“All the movement was internal (pointing at the organs).., internal that was transferred immediately to the extremities.” (2.9.3)

I believe the word ‘immediately’ is particular important here, and that a lot of the training of Emio Greco / PC can be understood as a work on this immediacy. In psychological terms, I believe this could be called a work on movement that doesn’t get ‘limited’ by conscious thought . (I believe most of us ‘limit’ our bodies by consciousness, similar to what Victor describes when he talks about ‘getting blocked’ by his personal ‘stupid issues’.)
According to Sawami the ‘belly/organs’ are connected to the unconscious and the ‘extremities’ to the conscious:

“The department of the brain that governs conscious movement is going to the extremities.. and.. hh.. this part (pointing at the belly), like you say; you have a guts. And this hh.. guts, is where the ego is located, ego or sense of I, the sense of.. hh.. myself. But this sense of myself cannot be consciously modulated. (…) It’s there, or not. (…) This teacher (Japanese ballet-teacher) said that the exercise of ‘fondu’, is the consciousness and unconsciousness, melt together. That is the meaning of ‘fondu’ he said. (…) I don’t understand everything, but somehow it makes sense.. of, hh.. the feeling of, hh.. I here (pointing at the belly).” (2.9.3)

I don’t know enough about ballet to say something sensible about this here, or to compare ballet with the work of Emio Greco / PC.
But I believe that similar to what Sawami’s teacher is saying about ‘the meaning of fondu’, the work of Emio Greco / PC (as well as other dance-practices, martial arts etc.) could be interpreted as an attempt to optimise the working together of consciousness and unconsciousness in movement.
I am fascinated by what Sawami is saying about the connection between the belly and the unconsciousness, and about the instinct to survive.. And I believe that this is a very relevant subject (for all of us) that is worth researching further.*
At the moment I cannot say much more about than that I believe that in the training of Emio Greco / PC there is an attempt to ‘partly replace’ (by lack of better words) conscious thought by physical or biological necessity. In the words of Sawami, when a:

“Shark is approaching you.. You would still try to escape from it, no? (looking happy).. You would do anything to defend yourself, no?.. I guess that’s the real I (laughing).” (2.9.2)

*  I will come back to this subject with a comparison between the work of Emio Greco / PC and Peter Levine’s ideas on trauma and trauma healing (see 3.3).

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3.2.3 Movement while talking: ‘The real I to come out.’ (3 min.)

3.2.4 Sawami: Something bigger

At different points in our conversations Sawami told me that she experiences the work of Emio Greco / PC as related to ‘something bigger’. The way she experiences this ‘something bigger’ could be called ‘spiritual’. But I would like to stress here that this ‘spirituality’ is for her directly related to the physicality of the work.
In relation to the idea that the work is following ‘the law of nature’, Sawami described the work as ‘channeling’:

“It is his (Emio’s) material, (…) but it has a much bigger capacity. (…) They are just a medium, no? They are channeling. And what they are channeling, is God, no? (…) It’s a divine beauty. (…) I never wanted to imitate his movement. I just wanted to understand this channel.” (2.8.1)

And in relation to this ‘channeling’ she talked about an attitude of ‘serving’:

“From the beginning, I always wanted to be in the position to serve something bigger. (…) I wanted to be with the people who are serving something bigger than themselves.” (2.8.1)

I would like to mention this quality here, at the end of this project, because it would be my wish that dance / performance-art (if it is good) would be understood, not only as this performance – happening here or there – but as something connected to our very physical, mental and spiritual existence.

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3.2.4 Movement while talking: ‘Something bigger’ (3 min.)

Bram Vreeswijk, 2012

Motivations for Movement