Mark C. Taylor, RSME, RSMT
Notes from the first Encuentro Somático en México “Celebrando al cuerpo vivo”
The first Encuentro Somático in Mexico, Celebrating Embodiment, took place from March 29 to 31, 2019, at the Centro Cultural Pedregal, in the south of Mexico City. More than 140 participants gathered from five countries (Argentina, Colombia, Spain, the U.S., and many regions of Mexico) with 34 teachers and performers representing many different somatic movement traditions, including the Alexander Technique, Authentic Movement, Body-Mind Centering, BodyMindMovement, Contact Improvisation, Eutony, Feldenkrais Method, Laban-Bartenieff, Movimiento Lógico, Rolf Movement, Sensory Awareness, Shin Somatics, Tamalpa Life/Art Process, Topf Technique, and yoga. The group included current ISMETA board members Bibiana Badenes, Maria Luisa Díaz de Leon, and Ryan Kennedy, and was organized by BodyMindMovement practitioners Julien Bourillon, Ivana Sejenovich, and María Vélez, with support from Maria Luisa, Rebeca Sitt, and myself. As a community we shared classes, performances, movement jams, meals, discussions, and movement explorations. The sense of common vision was extraordinary. The overwhelming realization was how the different disciplines complement one another: while observing the differentiation of styles and foci among the traditions was delightful, noting the practices that we have in common as practitioners and teachers was much more compelling.
Knowing that my experience was only one of 140 different personal trajectories through the weekend, here are some very personal highlights:
- Morning: I was delighted to investigate the integration of my spine from two different perspectives—the Alexander Technique with Pablo Buniak followed by Eutony with Nora Alvarado. It was helpful to access spinal embodiment from a more active approach with Pablo and then from a more meditative approach with Nora…I felt completely refreshed and present by the end of the morning. Moreover, I enjoyed noting where their approaches parallel what I have explored on my own and where my teaching of spinal embodiment can be enriched.
- I enjoyed taking time in the gallery of somatically inspired art curated by Enrique Melendez. Among the highlights for me was the video documentation of the creation of Aceneth García’s handmade clothing, each piece inspired by a different body system or anatomical structure.
- I was honored to have my new book, Embody the Skeleton presented to the group by Rebeca Sitt and Ray Schwartz. I appreciated their comments, in spite of being slightly embarrassed that a book is in English was being presented to a Spanish-speaking audience!
- First thing in the morning, Ariadna Franco taught an introduction to Authentic Movement. It was a spacious time for reflection and a beautiful preparation for my day.
- I was fascinated by Michael Richter’s class in Sensory Awareness, the work of Charlotte Selver. Many of us work with slowing down, creating open space, and using invitational language to support a student’s awareness of self, yet this process embedded a depth of permission to simply be at its core, in a way that was very moving to me. I felt transformed and completely present at the end. Thanks, Michael and thanks, Charlotte!
- A round-table discussion about ISMETA and somatic movement traditions was facilitated by María Luisa, with Bibiana, Ryan, Myrna de la Garza, Pablo, Rebeca, and myself. Ray Schwartz provided a concise overview of the development of the field of somatic movement education and therapy. A personal question arose about why I am completely comfortable teaching large groups yet uncomfortable speaking in more formal settings. I had to move my body in order to speak…forgivable in this context but potentially strange in others!
- Evening performances: among others, the solo performances of Nancy López Luna and Cinthia Pérez reminded me how exciting performance can be when performance dance and conscious movement are united. Nancy’s exploration was more internal, reflecting darker emotional states and Cinthia’s was outwardly relational, drawing inspiration from the audience and the stimulus of words spoken by a group of collaborators who surrounded her. It is easy just to be awed by their beauty and the incisive, powerful, technical precision of their movement choices, but the way in which they each inhabit their movement at a cellular level astonishes me.
- By Sunday morning, I was exhausted (I find that energy management is more difficult now that I’m officially an elder) so had a hard time choosing between four delicious-looking offerings: Tensegrity: Dancing in the Infinite Web of Fascia with Lou Sturm, Yoga and Evolutionary Movement with Julia Menendez, The Path of the Heart with Betty Barron, and Feldenkrais and Yoga with Vincent Carver. Typical of somatic conferences it was an embarrassment of riches. Knowing Lou, Julia, and Betty well, and unable to choose among them, I opted to take Vincent’s What a gifted facilitator! He gave a yoga-focused Feldenkrais class (or maybe a Feldenkrais-focused yoga class, hard to say) that supported me for the rest of the day.
- Ray and I offered a workshop on Enjoying Self, Other, and Shared Space on a large covered deck in the heart of the building. It was immense fun to improvise passing the lead back and forth, following each other and following the group. Our intention was to go slowly and give people time to integrate the previous days’ riches. We finished with a very satisfying open movement circle.
- Ivana and María created a World Café format as a closing. The entire community shifted kaleidoscopically numerous times into many smaller circles, each circle with a designated topic. Each discussion was documented and highlights shared with the large circle at the end.
- The gem for me from the World Café was harvested from a dialogue between Denisse Cárdenas and Rosemary Atri. Apparently, the idea arose that love is different than other emotions; it functions the way that fascia does in the body—surrounding, supporting, protecting, and enveloping everything. Love is the field that provides context for everything else. So now I’m curious: is embodiment of the fascial web a practice that supports metta (loving kindness)? Might the practice of metta bring healing to the fascial web?
I felt the presence of loving kindness underlying the dialogue that we pursued together during the entire weekend as we moved, touched, witnessed, and learned together. I realized that a web of somatic movement practitioners is growing in México and around the world—and that the Encuentro Somático and ISMETA are important nodes within that web. I hope that the loving web we are creating becomes the context both for growth of the field and the positive transformation that our collective work can bring to individuals and the world.
And of course the organizing team had a short but great afterparty with sushi, an appropriate amount of mezcal, dancing, and lots of laughter.