Colab 2020

‘Performing from a sense of wholeness’

This week I have been taking part in Trinity Laban’s yearly CoLab module where all students go off timetable for two weeks to do something completely different and innovative. (Check out what I got up to last year, here!) This year, I chose the project ‘Performing from a sense of Wholeness’ run by my wonderful violin teacher, John Crawford.

We spent the week looking at various ways we can improve our performing skills by considering our body and mind as a whole. This involved looking at teachings from the Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, and various other articles written on the topic.

We started each day with a small meditative period of around 15 minutes aimed at calming our mind and tuning into our bodies and the space around them. We then took part in some movement such as Tai Chi, Qigong and Sotai. Following this, we did some more orthodox Alexander Technique laying on the floor, each day thinking about a different aspect such as our backs, our breathing, and our hands. In the afternoons, we had the chance to play to each other in a masterclass of sorts and talk about our individual experiences and issues with performing.

Despite the very relaxing nature of the project, I found the four days mentally exhausting as much of the exercises we did encouraged us to focus on one thing but being aware of our body and environment as a whole. This is easier said than done, especially when put in a context of performing to each other when our natural inclination is to focus in on what either hand is doing at a time or focus in on a particular passage of music that is difficult to play.

However, it did give me a lot to think about; not just in my own playing but also in how I teach others. From group discussions, it seemed clear that much of this ‘focusing in’ is caused by a continual fear of making mistakes or losing concentration, to the point that is detrimental to our wellbeing in high-pressure situations. Most of which were problems that stemmed from poor wording or practices by teachers we had had in the past.

In reality, the idea of ‘performing from a sense of wholeness’ is a huge topic and near impossible to cover in a period of four days and it will take a while to process all of the information and work through all of the techniques suggested but I am sure the week will make me a better teacher and performer in the long run.