Moving the Silence: The Most Silent Performance in the Busiest Time

February is always one of the most eventful months in Theatre Academy’s school year. Somebody is graduating; somebody is in the process; everybody is still in search. Each of the Tori’s theater spaces has a nice representation of performances going on there. Daily around 6 and 7 p.m. Tori is full of people gathered by the front doors of the performance venues or nearby.

Somebody is stepping out of common routine; somebody is coming back to it; everybody is excited most probably. Small talks, phone talks, talks in foreign languages, sweet talks, formal talks, informal talks, friendly talks around. And here you wait for Moving the Silence performance about to start – the most silent performance paradoxically happening in the busiest time.

Have you ever been met by a pastor with a copper bell in hand by the front door of the performance venue?

The pastor is not checking the tickets. He is talking about the silence: in silence performance starts, in silence performance ends. He is asking the audience to close their eyes and listen to what is happening outside and what is happening inside. And with a feeling of a growing distance away from the talks around I come inside.

Moving the Silence, photo: Miso Macura
Moving the Silence, photo: Miso Macura

A dialog between art and spirituality. Moving the Silence has been developed without the use of speech, practicing silence and working on the boundaries between meditation and performance.

Spirituality, meditation, silence… art after all: during the performance I came to think about my cultural/educational/professional background and the place that the mentioned notions, particularly silence, have in it. I happened to need these clues to overcome the distance between myself and the performance based on meditative approaches towards art, which are alien to me.

Indeed the performance starts in silence. The performers sit in lotus-position in the big circle framing the stage space with the blankets covering their bodies, eyes closed, obviously meditating. The pastor with the bell in hand takes his place in the circle by the lotus ikebana arrangement. The audience is offered pillows on the floor around. The meditative action continues a while. Some people join it. I see a couple in the meditative positions holding each other’s hands. It is so silent that one can hear a murmur in a fellow’s stomach, a buzz coming from the speakers and a bone’s crunch when changing the sitting position.

Gradually and slowly like a flower blossom two of the performers move out of the blankets. Eyes closed, movements abstract and formless still not chaotic. The two happen to meet each other and remarkably the duet does not get captured into a movement flow common to contact improvisation technique. It simply keeps the two aware and curious about each other.

As gradual and slow other performers come out of still meditation. And after a while with all my knowledge and experience in Authentic Movement, an expressive improvisational movement practice, I find myself witnessing its session happening as a performance. I witness the participants sensing their inner body-mind processes, recognizing their intuitive impulses and following them expressing movement. Nothing is directed nor predicted to them. And as an essential part of Authentic Movement practices the movers are passively observed – observed by us, the audience of the performance.

Moving the Silence, photo: Miso Macura
Moving the Silence, photo: Miso Macura

All of a sudden one of the movers breaks the session with a shout and everybody’s inner journeys change into common everyday walking around with open and present look. They gradually compose an order staying close to each other and do one of the recognizable T’ai Chi movement sequences simultaneously.

Moving the Silence ends with meditative music sound, with all the performers sitting back in their lotus positions covered with the blankets and the lotus ikebana brightly lighted in the darkness.

The reference to Authentic Movement has become my link to the performance based on meditative approaches towards art. Certainly Authentic Movement practice is meditative in its nature. Again its essential principle is witnessing without any judgment, estimation or interpretation. Then it becomes a therapy as minimum and spiritual practice as maximum for both sides.

But is there a place for judgment, estimation, or interpretation when the meditation is brought to the stage? And how does the spectator’s experience change if he stays non-judging, non-estimating and non-interpreting?

The brightly lighted lotus-ikebana is truly captivating. The performance is over now and I have none inner impulse to leave this space but a strong one to stay witnessing. Still body, non-judging mind. I recognize my kinesthetic response to this space – space full of silence.

Maria Prokhorova
Writer is a dancer who tries out different ways of viewing and reviewing dance.



Moving the Silence. A dialogue between art and spirituality  

Facilitators: Eerika Arposalo, Gabriele Goria
Performers: Eerika Arposalo, Tanja Eloranta, Gabriele Goria, Henri Järvinen, Gesa Piper, Harri Rantala, Jyri Sucksdorff, Joni Valtonen, Katerina Zherbina
Sound design: Tero Kaunisvuo
Lighting design: Janne Björklöf
Spiritual guide: Henri Järvinen
Premier: 9.2.2013