Working with Michael (Video: June 16th 2013 Dance) When Dance meets Rehabilitation
By Monica Canducci, certified Rolfer ™ and Rolf Movement ™ practitioner
The link to the video is below. Please, if you want really to appreciate the video, read the text before.
Since 1990s, in my practice of movement exploration, working with groups and during individual sessions, I’ve always integrated imagery.
Some of our psycho-physiological functions depend on our interrelation with environmental stimuli, first of all the gravity field in which we move. These are not “voluntary” functions, and so we cannot modulate them using our “will”, but they respond to imagery, when we are able to use it in order to evoke stimuli and perceptions, and to orient ourselves (or part of our body) turning our attention in specific spatial directions.
After many years of experience, and thanks to some specific tools and training (Rolfing® and Rolf Movement™, of course, and also Craniosacral Therapy, Beamish Bodymind Balancing®, communication, hypnosis, and a lot of music, dance, aikido, breathing and movement explorations…) finally I found a proper approach to teach people how to find their best way to create and use imagery. It means that people can easily learn to build the most effective and powerful mental images (using not only visual, but also auditory and kinesthetic channels) in order to activate their internal resources. Finally, after having worked since 2009 with people suffering from neurological damages, and having had remarkable results in several cases, I create a specific training (I named it "Move-In Mind™ " Sensory-Motor Imagery Training) in order to share easily with other practitioners all what I found useful.
In 2012 I had the great opportunity to give a seven-days workshop addressed to Rolfers, organized by the European Rolfing Association. Then I moved to Montreal (Canada) with all my family. Here I was thinking about proposing my workshop to the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration, when I heard that a fellow living in Boulder, Michael Mathieu, had suffered a spinal cord injury in a bike accident (C2, C3 and C4 were broken, C5 blasted, and his spinal cord appeared to be severed).
Looking at some fundraising events organized in order to give him support, I thought that could be useful to propose my workshop as a fundraiser, too, and that this might also be a way to work with him together. My idea was to involve Michael in the work as a model (and a Rolfer, too!), teaching him some Move-in Mind Sensory-Motor Imagery tools and showing also his partner Beth (and other Rolfers living or working in that area, if someone of them had come to the class) how to work with him later.
The RISI staff supported my initiative, and finally I could share my work in a three-days workshop with a wonderful little group of well-motivated Rolfers, Jason Beickert, Jeff Castle, Lynn Cohen, Grant Ernhart, Heidi Massa, who gave me a lot of support and inspirations. And, of course, Michael and Beth’s presence all three days of the workshop (they came to the class every afternoon) was the most inspiring and touching thing that we could experience in the class. They are two fantastic, lovely, generous, courageous persons, their presence made the difference, and allowed all us to learn a lot.
I could work with Michael in a very creative way: before his accident, Michael and Beth were trained in contact improvisation (a form of dance improvisation in which points of physical contact provide the starting point for exploration through movement improvisation), and I had the opportunity to explore it in the past, in order to integrate some useful tools in my work.
So, this video (you will find the link to the video below) shows something we did together in the last day. Of course, we worked two afternoons (and half of the third) before it, and I hope to be able to share soon some other videos, showing part of the steps that led us to this point.
In order to explain you what is happening in the video, I report here some Beth’s words, from an email that Beth and Michael sent to the group of people (“Michael Mathieu's Extended Family”) who support them through the “Lotsa Helping Hands” organization.
Beth wrote: “…Michael and I were honored to attend a fundraiser by an Italian Rolfer who lives in Montreal, Canada: Monica Canducci. She came to Boulder to give a training called "Move in Mind" at the Rolf Institute who graciously donated the space. The training involved a blend of modalities that Monica has developed in the course of working with clients who have either SCI or other types of nerve damage. Her work is a mixture of sensory motor imagery, breathwork, supported movement (which felt very much like contact improvisation), finding ways of remembering and embodying pre-injury movement, and learning how to use language and words to access the nervous system.
The first session where Monica supported Michael in a seating position yielded a combination of utter joy and deep grieving for him-the joy came through him expressing himself through contact improv dance type movement, which he had not done since last summer. The room was pretty much in tears as we all watched and witnessed with both grief and joy. His movement was so subtle yet fluid and profound--I did not see Michael's disability; I only saw his fluidity as he led the dance with his head and then with his arms... he was dancing again. I cry now as I write this.
This video (click here to watch it) is on the last day of the training where I had requested to learn how to do this dance with him. You will also see Monica joining us to give me the much needed support...enjoy-it is a beautiful metaphor as I support Michael, I too need support as well. We are very grateful to have had the opportunity to meet and study with Monica. (…) We hope to continue the dialogue with her via Skype sessions and would like to help her share her trainings with the videos we took, of which were many. We may post a few others here. Grab your tissues before you watch it.“
I’m deeply thankful to Michael, Beth, the RISI staff, all the Rolfer who came to this workshop, the ERA and the Rolfers who came to the 2012 workshop, all my fellows Rolfers, all the people who gave me support in different ways, and all my clients (especially Claudio, my “pilot case”) who taught me so much.
Here also the link to “Michael Mathieu's Extended Family”. Please, join and give him support.
I hope to have further opportunities to share this work, and I’ll be thankful to everyone who will help me to share it in any way.