Giovanni Fusetti: The Master of Movement
In the beginning was the body. Jacques Lecoq’s methodology is the origin and foundation of everything Giovanni does. Movement first. Get the body moving and it will reveal the impulses and desires to follow. Avoid getting too much in your head. I definitely get that.
So from the very first moment there is movement. Before we even talk about the logistics of the workshop, we are whirling and prancing around the space, pretending we are dogs, cats, in love, out of love, full of fear, full of desire, feeling and sensing each other before we seek to understand and know each other. It avoids comparison and anxiety about ourselves in relation to the group. It creates a group that is in connection and empathy rather than a collection of individuals.
The workshop oscillates between movement exploration and discussion around themes of clown and why we do this. I need this. Building the online clown world can feel lonely and thankless at times, with long hours in front of the screen. It is easy to lose touch with the deep connection and conviction. I also long to be in the shit and be allowed to enjoy it, instead of being in the position of teacher, director producer, interviewer, holding space for others all the time. Not to mention being father, husband, house owner etc. etc. -------------------
What do you want?
I want to be a clown.
I apologize for the non-linear nature of this blog. My brain is scrambled (in a good way) as I sit in a bar assimilating all that has happened today. So much. So much information. So much physical exploration. New ideas, old ideas, all mixed up in my brain and body. Giovanni is full of wisdom, etymology, history and cultural context…
The word ‘fool’ comes from the Latin ‘follis’ which means air bellows, full of nothing, full of air, which is why we must breathe and fill up with air, like the bellows.
The image of the fool in the tarot pack (the first card, as Giovanni points out gleefully) is pictured with their belongings on the end of a stick, stepping off the edge of a cliff. We are all falling. From the moment we are born we are falling. We must fall with abandon and joy and something will hold us up. The fools are the ones who agree to fall for everyone else and show that we do not die. Stupidus. Astonishment. We sense everything and understand nothing.
We should never say to children ‘you’re just attention seeking’, because they are not. They are looking for vitality. They know that they need connection with other people, acknowledgment that they exist. It is natural. We need each other. Who wants to live in a vacuum all alone. We need contact.
A wonderful exercise, similar to things I do but also different (and there is so much in the difference): we must move around the space looking for eye contact and feeling relief and joy when we have it. It becomes a living game with its own evolving rules. We dance in and out of each other’s eyeline, we break eye contact to see what it is like, but then feel anxiety until we find it again. Movement and sound, energy and relationship emerge spontaneously out of these eye-interactions, sometimes shared between two people, sometimes spreading to the whole group.
We have only been working for a couple of hours together but I feel totally comfortable being my idiotic self with the group, as though I have known them for years. Interestingly in the lunch break we return to our computers and notebooks, our little worlds beyond the space. Our conversations are a little bit trivial and awkward, as if with strangers. But once we come out into the space and start interacting with our bodies instead of our words, the world opens up again and this, this is the world I want to be in.
How are we stupid in our own particular way? We are looking for what is unusual and distinctive in the way each person moves. If we look closely enough we will always see something. Then you know who you are. Everybody already has a character. You can observe the individual somatics of the people when they are trying to do the same thing.
Giovanni’s pedagogy moves between movement analysis and red nose technique/awareness as the basis for clown. Most, if not all, of the students in this class are familiar with the commedia masks, neutral mask and character masks, so he takes us on a whistlestop tour of many different body structures (achieved by freezing at different points of an undulation), generally involving pushing forward or pulling back with hips, belly, chest, head, shoulder, in order to create a panoply of different feelings and characters. We move rapidly through pantomime, melodrama, commedia archetypes, and we play for a few minutes in each, interacting, improvising little scenes. Giovanni points out particular characteristics he notices in a particular person and coaches them in bringing it out more or playing with it in some way.
This gives us a vocabulary for movement analysis. Equips us for analysing our own movement later on. We then switch gears and discuss the red nose. There's so much baggage here to get out of the way...
Conventions of putting on and taking off
Talking vs silent
Eye contact with audience
Meaning of vulnerability (ability to be wounded)
Naivety to be naive is to be native to your own body, connected with your nature.
Negative associations sometimes with red nose.
Failure, flop, fiasco.
Sense of urgency and purpose.
Surprise, always, even when it has happened 100 times.
Playing with boundaries: transgression.
Resilience: never dies,
Eventually there is a costume, clown is a theatrical creature.
We finish with what I believe is Giovanni’s trademark exercise (at least the one I have heard people describe before). We are ‘observed’ by a partner who must then put their own body in the structure they have observed and slightly amplify it. The original observed person then gets to respond to what they see and there is some conversation about how what they see matches with what the feel internally of their own body. Then the observed person takes what the observer did back into their own body and plays with it, looking for a moment of somatic activation as they amplify it for themselves.
It is a curious exercise. I am so used to working inside out, from inner emotional state to outer physical expression, that it feels oddly shallow to be working so purely from visual stimulus and impression. But I am willing to go with it and hopefully to learn something new. Certainly as I embody myself (based on my partner’s embodied observations of me) I feel some activation, a deeper sense of something new about myself that I am both uncomfortable and excited about. I felt a moment of zing, of energetic shift, as described by Giovanni, but it is right at the end of the session and I don’t know quite what to do with it.
The particular structure that gave me this feeling is an asymmetry between my arm and shoulder height. My partner, imitating and amplifying what they had sene of me, looked frankly lop-sided, and a little grotesque. Is this me? Is this what I look like? Some discomfort arose and also some pleasure, oddly, as I began to embody this myself and to play with it. It feels enjoyably horrific and deformed.
I am excited to see what new challenges, discoveries and confrontations tomorrow brings.