The scene: a large open studio dotted with folded shapes. Slowly, these shapes begin to shift, moving like ice floes. It’s a session in Human Origami, an improvised movement ritual of folding and unfolding. My guidance acts like spoken word, a non-prescriptive, somatic vocabulary that speaks to the body, to movement, and to memory. Musician Jude Casseday creates an electronic soundscape of harmonics that enter, exit, and re-enter, shaping the space. Movers ride on this word-and-sound bath and the spatial surround in a moving continuum. We are practicing effortlessness, a form of embodied listening where there’s no need to go – no need to arrive or finish. We are practicing a path to nowhere. Bodily foldings hang in suspension with no predicted resolution – just a shared sense of transformation.
Like paper, folding offers an unlimited palette of pattern-making. Unlike paper, human folding uncovers infinite potential, transforming two-dimensional creases into three-dimensional arcs and curves, a landscape of flux. In this session, the movers deepen their initial entry into folding by exploring their midline. The midline is the embryological first fold, the basic biological drone that becomes the body plan. In this rich immersive landscape, a repeated fold is never the same. As the movers re-visit points along their archival timeline, they explore repetition and novelty. While humans share a genetic template of the human body, the basic law is change: The freedom of the body’s morphology to change and exploit variability. No two snowflakes alike; no two human beings alike.
Lately, I’ve been reading Jennifer Roche’s Multiplicity, Embodiment and the Contemporary Dancer: Moving Identities (Palgrave Press, 2015). Roche argues that dancers exhibit multiplicity. They are never manifest as one body, but rather, a ‘body-in-flux’ (or as-flux). Dancers both take on (embody) multiple identities in learning choreography, but, at the same time, through dancing itself, they influence, shape, and reveal the choreography. This perspective on how material embodiment becomes subjective, a lived and living dimension, draws from Deleuze and Guattari, Massumi and other philosophers and scientists.
Multiplicity fits human origami, as well. At once, human beings spring from a similar stem (the material human template) and, at the same time, co-creates its life experience through movement. In the end, there is no one movement, no one way to move, and certainly, (to echo the words of sociologist Marcel Mauss) no natural or normal way of moving. We only have potential, executed and exercised as movement.
Marcel Mauss. Techniques of the Body. Economy and Society (1973)