NJ Blog - Laura Gonzalez

New Jammer Participant Blog

Entry 3: 21st June 2015

A score for ‘Feeling every bit of the movement’
(with thanks to Penny for the title and to Tom for the idea)

Opening Circle: I felt great after the New Jammers Jam.

Quiet Focus: the whole programme has been a journey. Or perhaps a map, or a compass that marks and points towards the beginning of something. For me, the contact improvisation road did not start that long ago. I dabbled with it for a while but was too scared to let go. It is only in November that I managed it, after conquering some fears that had been deep set in my body. I am lucky. Lucky to be able to see the value of contact improvisation on a deep level; lucky to be mentored in the New Jammers programme; lucky to be supported by such a talented, committed, encouraging and caring community.

Bigger Movement: I have found that the facilitation skills I learned in the programme can apply to many other aspects of my life. To let go, to do less, to listen, to feel what is going on every step of the way, to plan and break the plan, to support, to bear weight, to fall, to play, to hold, to do the small dance. I am getting better at all of those and I do not underestimate how much of an achievement that is. This is a lifetime’s work because to jam is to live fully, and in the present.

Rest and relax: If you have been reading me, don't think I have been too hard on myself with the whole letting go thing. I have a lot of bad habits to undo and this is my mantra. My life is already better for it.

Light contact: One of the highlights of the programme has been to get to know, and listen to, my fellow New Jammers. I have had this practice in jams for a while, where I want to draw with people. I sometimes think that is because improvising movement is still hard for me, although it is getting much better, more confident, more in my body and less in my head (where the fear lives). During the programme, I have only drawn once, during the underscore, with Anna. The rest of the time I have moved and been moved, held by the group. I have understood what I find so hard and why, and what I can do about it.

Opportunity for more contact: The seven of us leading a jam was a wild proposition but it really worked in practice. The voices joined together and, in the discussion afterwards, someone mentioned even the warm up felt like a jam between us. There was already contact. I was very relaxed and I lost track of time. I was not late for my cool down (which I loved doing), it is just that I lost any sense of what time is. Like then you are spun and have no idea where is up or down.

Cool down: I want to thank every single one of the New Jammers, and Penny and Tom, for the dances we have had together. They meant a lot to me and that cannot be put into words.

Closing circle/harvesting: This is why, if you are reading this and have never been to a jam, you need to get to one. You will see me there, drawing, dancing, singing, making rhythms, letting go, and thinking about composition and performance, which is what has been preoccupying me of late.


Entry 2: 24th May 2015

Nina and Laura's creation during the NJ session.

Do less.

Last time we met, I put my hand up to lead one of the warm-ups for session 3. Since the first session, I had something on my mind and I wanted to try it. Yet, as the time approached, I began to get more worried and nervous. My one-to-one meeting with Tom really helped, mainly because I heard myself voice some concerns. I am a teacher, and I know how to prepare lessons, ensure students gets skills, pass exams. But facilitating is most definitely not teaching. How do I send people on their journey? Yes, again, the insistent letting go. Something Mary Pearson said to me in her workshop has been on repeat in my head: ‘I don’t trust you. You are doing too much work’. I met her on that day but she could have been my long-term therapist. That’s me right there. So, can I lead a warm-up without preparing, or, at least, not preparing in my normal I-will-write-everything-down way? Tom suggested I make plans and then don’t bring them, that I listen, on the day.

Do less.

There is a beautiful concept in psychoanalysis called evenly-hovering-attention, where the analyst listens without memory or desire. This means that any statement, from ‘I changed my curtains’ to ‘my mother died’ has the same weight and inflexion in the voice, hums, and gestures are equally valued. What the patient does is to free associate, to say everything that comes into her head. Can I use this as a framework for myself? Can I facilitate by evenly-hovering-attention? Can I let go of memory and desire, and of what I know?

Do less.

I have been trying to finesse my thoughts on jams. I started writing after every jam: What did I notice? What did I like? Why did I enjoy or not enjoy certain things? What was useful to me? What did I learn? Perhaps, writing down is a way to let go as the thoughts are there and I don't have to carry them with me. I have never kept a diary but I do like this one. The idea came to me in yoga. I was frustrated about something (still letting go) and I wanted to find out how long it would last. The frustration was much shorter than I thought.

Do less.

So I led one of the four warm-ups on Sunday 24 May. I was the last to go. To prepare, Tom's spidery exercise was perfect, as it was not a plan, but something to leave echoes which I could listen to in the room. I made two maps: one on evenly-hovering-attention and one on decorating the room, the image I wanted to work with in the warm-up. I was resistant about this exercise, I have to say. I spent most of my time in education doing mind maps never to return to them but for the task to prepare the warm up, especially after the conversation Tom and I had about facilitation, it was just the most perfect tool. It allowed me to free associate, evenly-hover-attention, play, think and jam on the page. It did not have to be right, it just had to be. I enjoyed spending time in a cafe, letting things just come to me in whichever way they did, being aware and thoughtful.

Do less.

The warm up lead was fun. What’s not to like when you have a group of people trying to embody your ideas? But showing the way without pushing was also hard. Timing was my biggest challenge. I knew I wanted to say less, and to find just the right words. We seated, upright, eclipsing the head, heart, pelvis, to focus on the breath. I started with an exercise from my pranayama practice called Brahma Mudra, which I modified for people to chose any space they wanted. I then asked them to have a duet with something in the room they were curious about before focusing on the whole room again to decorate it. I worked with memory (but not the one evenly-hovering-attention leaves behind), trying to bring an internal image outside, with the help of movement. I had visual materials too, to bring it to the present, to get precision in terms of colours, textures, lights.

Do less.

The critical response feedback was useful and I wish I had taken notes. I was the last one to receive it and my head was buzzing with other warm ups, ideas, things I had gone through while jamming. I was asked about colour and it was suggested that I could add more on sensory memory. Brahma Mudra got the thumbs up and my language was suggestive enough to provoke but I still find page to dance floor problematic (although not everybody did). Becky’s warm up got this so right, I need to speak to her more about those marvellous page solos.

Do less.

Penny and Tom were right, plans change on the day if one really listens. Brahma Mudra came to me during Dominic’s warm up and I am very glad I listened. I needed it and it seems others did too. But I want to work on my timing, and on my peripheral experience—I got too much into the dance at some point and I forgot to speak. This has happened to me before: a dance that takes my words away from my voice and into my fingertips.

Do less.


Spider diagram exercise: 20th May 2015

Following a mentoring session with Tom, all New Jammers were asked to complete the exercise below as a way to focus and articulate their interests and enquiries.

Entry 1: 12th March 2015

On facilitating and letting go

I made 8 pages of scribbles during session 1 of the New Jammers programme. A lot from what Penny and my fellow participants said captured my attention. I also took many body notes from our physical preparation. I was very excited to have been selected to be part of this and I suppose that excitement meant I did not think deeply about my expectations or how I was planning to use the programme. We did consider these issues the first time we met as a group. I want to become a better jammer, I want to support my fellow jammers and to give them the opportunity to experience things in a way that I think is different, given my multidisciplinary expertise. This is something I know I can offer. In a sense, those expectations did not shift after last Sunday’s session, but a substantial adjustment has happened in the way I think about them. There is a lot to facilitation: skills, ethics, and of course, anything you cannot plan for in improvisation. But what I found most exciting about my change in perspective is also what I have always been, and still am, resisting: letting go.

I am a teacher, and I am very skilled at taking control and telling everyone what to do. In jams, and as a fellow participant commented on Sunday, yes, I am strong, I can lift people, anyone that wants to, even though I am 4'10”. Being lifted is another matter, though. That, I don’t do so well, as it involves a certain amount of physical and mental letting go. In our group conversation about different aspects of facilitation and warm up, I found myself very comfortable (too comfortable perhaps) with the idea of leading, or proposing, or provoking. 

Yet, in answer to ‘what makes a helpful facilitator?’ I wrote ‘doing’. I believe this is absolutely true. Don’t get me wrong, I am a good teacher and I would never give an exercise to my students I have not done myself, even if that was ages ago. But I don’t do when they do. I have done it before. Yet, as a jam facilitator, I think one cannot lead improvisation very well without, well, improvising herself. 

That is what I want to be better tuned into: not to teach improvisation, but to facilitate it: not to be a carpenter (I have those skills) but be a magician, or at least a magician’s stage manager, setting a scene for the magic to happen. For that, I need to let go a certain amount. But facilitating is, of course, not just doing, that’s the jammers’ job. The facilitator holds something together (we did talk about holding space). 

I want to develop an extra set of ears, eyes at the back of my head, a few more arms and legs to be able to do, as well as to provide the frame to do. Multi-practice, for want of a better word, is another of my patterns, coming to think of it. How many times have I tried to dance and draw at the same time? I will keep on trying, I will crack that nut with patience, support and, erm, letting go.

I feel this letting go will not be an arduous task; it will be long but effortless, like when you get into a headstand and it is light and I realize I got there by letting go a little of my neuroses, trusting myself, my teacher and what my body knows. There is some effort, technique and energy, but it is always much less than I think. In order to let go, to find that light point, I especially need more eyes and ears. And one way of doing this is to keep considering seeing and hearing, to have it present. I want to examine what improvisation means in everyday life (like in relation to cooking food, or play, or conversations, or drawing—improvisation is a very versatile skill). To support this, I will also explore it in the context of contact itself in classes (yes, I do need better "liftee" technique) and jams, as well as my yoga routine to help me be in my body, learn compassion and letting go.

Do I want to facilitate a jam after last Sunday’s session? Not one, but a few! There are so many ideas I would love to work on with others. That’s my first letting go: giving my ideas to my community to do what you want with them. 

Take them; they are yours.