We all have a story worth sharing. I had always believed this to be true. But, what my weekend with Moving Pieces revealed is that a multitude of stories are stored within my body, waiting to be released. They are not fixed narratives, however, and the relationship I have towards them is also evolving. My stories constantly shift and expand at a rate exceeding the level of engagement I give towards exploring and expressing them. In my experience, it is the toughest stories that are given the least of my attention as re-visiting those moments hold the potential to bring back challenging emotions that I don’t feel ready to work through on my own. Thus, I move through life with those unexplored stories bubbling beneath the surface and longing to be given the attention they need. I am aware that the consequences of such dismissal can manifest itself in harmful physical and mental symptoms that I may attribute to more obvious causes that are easier to place the blame on. Engaging in unconventional activities such as Moving Piece’s Love & Loss workshop allows me to have fun and take a step back as I work through experiences that have moved beyond my awareness and, thus, my control.
The Moving Pieces approach is a skilfully crafted sequence of embodied exercises that has been influenced by psychotherapeutic and performative discourses of expression through body-based work and storytelling. I found myself feeling vulnerable when stepping into the workshop as the topic of loss lingered in the back of my mind. Charlie’s ability to playfully set out a path towards creating a “performance”, or as she stresses – a presentation, soon put my nerves at ease. At no point did I find myself overwhelmed by the experience. Emphasis was placed on taking ownership of our stories as we were given the power to determine how deep of a dive we wished to take into our experience of loss. We were given permission to ultimately recognize our ability to safeguard our own pathway in the process, which felt very personal despite the group dynamic. The initial exercises that turned my attention inwards to the body allowed me to centre my energy as I began to sink into the present moment. To really be present and respond to our emotions is to discover that there is no one correct response to loss or change. We must learn to dismiss expectations surrounding behaviors that are deemed appropriate as they often inhibit our ability to be present and authentically reflect on our experiences. Having Charlie specifically pinpoint the exercise and the thinking behind it gave me another added layer of reassurance that every building block of the process had been carefully selected. Her extensive knowledge surrounding both psychotherapeutic and performative practices, alongside her effortless ability to articulate the complexity of these forms in an accessible manner, further allowed me to trust the process and enter into the unknown.
Loss, in all the forms it may take, acts as a disruption to our anticipated life trajectory - the story we have come to know as our own. Such an interruption should be met with movement that meets the needs of this change, but we often fall into a state of feeling stuck as our inability to integrate challenging experiences limits our path forward. I felt stuck when faced with the loss of my childhood best friend, and the whirlwind of emotions that accompanied coming to terms with the choice he made to end his life presented an overwhelmingly daunting obstacle. For too long I remained stuck in this state of detachment that defined my existence under the role of grieving friend. Perhaps, it was easier to give in to the expectations surrounding loss than to enter into the daunting crevices of the unknown. The Love & Loss weekend offered a unique opportunity to welcome the unknown with open arms as I was pleasantly surprised to find playfulness and peace entangled within Moving Piece’s performative framework. My personal journey through the process allowed me to accept that resolving the polarities of my emotions was counterintuitive. I can feel both empty and full. It is okay to still be in conflict with my emotions as it is likely an experience I will never seek clarity towards. Instead, the chaos of being present to the memory allows me to better see it for all of its complex textures that extend far beyond the simplified versions tied to responses of grief.
Moving Pieces offers a meeting place for participants to explore alternative forms of communication, ways of interacting that stretch beyond convention. Charlie invites us to constantly reconsider how we can approach an experience from a different vantage point by offering playful exercises that welcome images and movement as new building blocks of language while accepting and acting on the impulses that offer a gateway into the memories that have been stored deep beyond our awareness. The amount of time given towards regulating the body and then connecting more towards it allows implicit memories to inform the creation of newly developed narratives. Our bodies hold a wealth of knowledge surrounding the tools we need to better build informed and constructive stories, but it is often hard to find an outlet such as Moving Pieces that pushes us to take the time to engage and reflect on our experiences. While the discoveries we make may be challenging or troubling, having them be the raw material towards crafting a performance piece offers an empowering opportunity to create something new. Activities that prompted us to offer support to other participants throughout the workshop also acted as a reminder of the power we each hold in the process. Witnessing is a fundamental component of the Moving Pieces approach and other people’s stories have just as much impact as the ones we come to shape as our own. The gaze of other heightens the performance as subject and object are intertwined in an exchange that lives only within that glimpse of a moment. There is a moment of breath, of relief, of pride, of celebration, of vulnerability, of fear, that follows the presentation as that special moment of sharing is where one’s story is finally given the attention it deserves. To see yourself in another person’s story, and to have someone identify with your narrative, is to discover and recognize that we share experiences of what it means to be human. That lasting gift of connection is what I left with and what remains with me from my time with Moving Pieces.