We left Merida today in the quiet of the early morning, and are currently on our way to Antigua, Guatemala, by way of Mexico City and Guatemala City. Right now we are flying high above the clouds, with the distant fields and hills of Mexico spread far bellow us.
This time between destinations and at great altitude offers a window of opportunity for reflection on what occurred this past week in Merida, (Monday 26th to Friday 30th October) which was a rich and surprising time in many ways.
We worked at Tumakat studios on 51st street between 52nd and 54th streets. The oval shaped city of Merida is divided in a grid system, making it easy to get oriented. The central area where we stayed and worked is full of brightly colored houses that were built in colonial times. Some of them are run down and character full, others have been renovated and are painted beautiful hues of red, orange, green, yellow ochre and blue, giving the streets a lively atmosphere.
Tumakat studio has a blue facade, a large painted metal gate that protects the tranquility of an inner courtyard with a large tree and a number of enormous what can only be described as basil bushes, and other herbs. There is a front office space and kitchen, and at the back of the courtyard is the large studio. Our host Vania Duran built the studio together with her husband as part of the business they run, renovating houses in Merida in a simple and tasteful manner. The studio space is no exception and makes for an inspirational place to work.
The group was comprised of about 15 participants who were for the most part movers and professional dancers. Vania runs a successful dance company that performs internationally and some of her dancers joined us this week. The group was almost exclusively women with only one man, a retired air traffic controller from Merida who is an avid lover of dance and yoga.
We worked together each morning from 9.30 – 12 before the heat of the day became too intense. It was interesting to gear this week towards the dancers passion for moving. We worked the same material, themes and exercises that we have been developing in our prior workshops, choosing each day to base the work around different themes and questions. What would it mean to not want anything? What is it like to come from a place of not knowing? What does it mean to be interested? How do we care for something larger than ourselves? What does it mean to be connected? On the final day we asked the question; What does it mean to be in dialogue with life? It has been inspiring to shape the movement material around these themes. As an example we did a movement exercise in pairs working with the ‘hands that don’t want anything’. This practice engenders a sense of space and relaxation for the mover, who journeys down the space whilst being supported by a partner. The partner’s focus is to simply be there ‘with them’ as they move, offering them their ‘hands that don’t want anything’. It is perhaps hard to imagine… yet in it’s simplicity this exercise has the potential to touch something deeply within us.
At the beginning of the week there was a sense of curiosity as the group approached material that was unfamiliar for them, always with great openness, and generosity of spirit, which in itself was moving to behold. Questions were asked when things were unclear, and certain ideas were challenged in a way that led to greater understanding of what we were doing together. And of course there was the language translation, with both Spanish and English being spoken throughout.
Through the guided meditations, movement scores and dialogues there was a sense as the week progressed, that the participants engaged in deeper and deeper experiences both alone and together, within a field of growing intimacy. The explorations generated much dialogue and discussion from the dancers/movers who were able to discover a quiet sense of knowing within themselves, that felt perhaps surprising to them.
Even though most of the group knew each other fairly well from prior experiences in dance workshops, there was a sense by the end of the week that they were looking at themselves and each other with new eyes. Much of this came about because of the ways in which they were willing to reveal and give of themselves in all the various aspects of the work, with vulnerability and trust. By the end of the week we were immersed in a sense of gratitude for what we had experienced together.
And right now the sounds of the engines of this smallish plane indicate we are beginning our descent into Guatemala City. Writing this blog brings back our week with great warmth. Any notion people may have that dancers suffer from a lack of intellectual prowess simply because their work tends to be more physically oriented, has been proven to be erroneous throughout this week. Clearly this tribe of people who engage in listening deeply to the intelligence that is working through their bodies and who celebrate this together as they move, have insights into what real connection can be both with themselves and with life.
We will carry with us many great memories from these past two weeks in Merida, and we highly recommend Merida as a place to visit of for it’s beauty and rich heritage. I am sure you would always be welcome to visit Tumakat Studio.
The third chapter of our Mexican and S American adventure is about to begin as we touch down in Guatemala City where we will meet one of our hosts Mick Quinn. He and Deborah Pietro are co-founders of the NGO The Integral Heart Foundation https://www.facebook.com/pages/Integral-Heart-Foundation/210711732292174
While we are in Antigua we will be meeting and working with some of the young people that are learning through their organization.