Summer Conference 2022
Descriptions of Workshops & Lectures
The Workshops (Thu and Fri)
Systemic Nature Therapy: Interaction of Human and Nature
This workshop introduces experiences and images of the successful interplay of human and more-than-human world. It is about perceiving relationships, picking up threads, co-creating living connections and also finding a lively language for it. The approach of systemic nature therapy is as down-to-earth as it is immediate and physical. With regard to a larger network of life, soul spaces or collective cultural-historical memories, the professional approach is modest in that it enables a turning towards and installs structures into which can flow what emerges phenomenologically from those spaces and is expressed through the body. The workshop takes up individual and common themes or questions of the participants, which then shape the further course. Nature experience, creation with natural materials as well as myth play offer different methodical approaches and spaces of experience. In the sharing, we exchange how such experiences lived and interwoven in larger contexts can be healing or simply helpful for a fulfilling life and coexistence.
The workshop will take place in the forest. Appropriate clothing is recommended, that does not shy away from contact with the forest and fire, and maybe a simple sitting mat.
Into the Blue: Challenges and possibilities of dramatherapy in times of climate change
This workshop will present current research on awe and gratitude and demonstrate how, when harnessed, they have the capacity to heal our nervous systems, and promote health and wellness throughout our lives. They are positive emotions and emotions that provoke action. When harnessed through drama therapy, they help us mobilize into action and engagement. Through this we can move out of states of freeze and disengagement and work to address climate change and to develop sustainability inside and out. As we heal our nervous systems and our bodies, in turn, we can heal the environment.
This innovative, 2-day presentation combines lecture, video, performance, and experiential group learning. Theory and research on trauma and the nervous system are presented in order to give context to the application of the research on awe and gratitude. Our planet is suffering in many different ways and we will examine how trauma keeps in in cycles of consumption, inaction and despair and how awe and gratitude can mobilize us out of these states.
Day 1 will give an overview of the nervous system and the impact of trauma, illustrated through theatrical performance and imagery as well as the direct presentation of clinical research. The use of storytelling and physical movement will help each participant come to a personal understanding of the material while having an opportunity to process reactions and to discuss the research as a group.
Day 2 will present the research on gratitude, continuing to share the material through lecture and performance. As we navigate a changing world which fills us with grief and despair we will explore how touching deeply into gratitude and awe are the counterpoints and solutions. Together, we will assemble a toolkit of resources and activities that are available for participants to apply directly to personal and clinical practice..
Zo! Approaching the Present Moment through Developmental Transformations
David Read JohnsonDavid Read Johnson and Denise de Jong van Lier
DvT is an improvisational and relational approach to drama therapy in which layers of our protective shield (identity, persona, role system) are peeled away toward an encounter of two beings in a present moment. Learning how to be within an unstable self and world is essential to reaching this goal, for being at its heart is an animated, turbulent, creative transfer of energy across boundaries. In this workshop, the basic theory and principles of DvT will be followed with experiential exercises and demonstrations that will allow participants to glimpse how such a journey might begin.
Matrix of Mourning – Ritual Structures as a Therapeutic Medium in Transition Processes
This workshop is led by the assumption that in the lives and daily routines of most people here and now, numerous transitions do not find sufficient design and ritual framing, and that this lack of time, space and ritual containers can lead to emotional and psychological distress.
Not only in death and loss, but also in transformations and transitions from one life situation to another, that are necessary for any development, mourning processes play a central role in which the old can be farewelled and the new can be welcomed. Individual feelings can thus be embedded in a larger context, and the aesthetic distancing can enable an access and at the same time a shaping and thus handling.
In this workshop, ritual structures will be shared, as well as a selection of bodily forms of expression – gestures, postures and simple movements – that occur in different cultures in the context of transitions, more particularly death and mourning rituals. The aim is to open up an experimental and participatory space of expression in which aspects of the participants’ lives and personalities that currently require special attention can find expression in a ritual vessel. A central common research question will be how these ritual death and mourning gestures can be adapted to mark, shape and accompany therapeutic transitions on different levels.
Trance Phenomena in Ritual & Healing: “Dry brains don’t fall into trance”
This workshop is based on the results of decades of research in which the nature and structure of the connection between ritual and healing was explored and made usable for our “modern” drama therapy: The approach presented here conceives the development of ritual as a human capacity, physiologically rooted in body knowledge and used for millennia, to provide collective structures for transitions that serve 2 functions simultaneously:
- They provide a structure for leaving something behind, for completing a “form,” and for enduring the void in which the old is no longer and the new is not yet -, they make it possible to face the unknown/frightening and thereby not to paralize but to remain able to act and live. They thus create an essential prerequisite for (further) development!
- At the same time they have the task to provide for the maintenance of the personal and collective identity in crises, breaks and catastrophes, by creating connection both on the horizontal level to the collective and on the vertical/transpersonal level to a larger whole.
Essential to the effect of rituals are obviously trance phenomena, the evolutionary capacity in the human body/brain to access human potentials and inner self-healing processes in an expanded state of consciousness and perception, which for good reason are not accessible to ‘normal’ consciousness. ‘Normal’ consciousness is limited by family and societal conditioning and taboos, but existential crises are characterized precisely by the failure of previously learned coping mechanisms.
In this workshop we work with very simple trance-inducing forms of work, drawing on abilities that we all had at our disposal as children, no witchcraft or mystifications are needed to dive into the knowledge of life and development processes stored in our cells and to find a lively relatedness to existential themes in the area of tension between birth and death beyond the everyday neurotic events in us and around us.
Wanderer, there is no path
Transpersonal approaches in practicing with breath and movement
“Everything goes and everything remains,
but it is up to us to go there,
to pass by and to make paths,
ways over the sea (…)
Wanderer, there is no path,
but tracks in the sea.”
Antonio Machado (1879-1939)
In breath and body work, we find exercises that are suitable to lead us beyond everyday patterns and limitations – both in body awareness and in ego consciousness.
This workshop would like to open up opportunities to approach such experiential spaces and states, in which our habit of controlled shaping and showing ourselves can be detached, can be drawn into a being-taken-along and letting-happen.
The non-ordinary use of the body in movement makes it possible to experience the limits of balance, control, security on the one hand, and of transgression, yielding, risking on the other.
On the other hand, the engagement with the inner breath and the gradual letting-oneself-be-guided by the vegetative breath movement, allows access beyond the personally colored and character-dependent perception. The practice can take place here in seemingly external stillness, as well as in contemplative movement. How far does my consciousness allow a surrendering to the flow of the breath into the stillness of the breath, into spaces empty of thoughts, into the unknown? What is it like to get off the path, to no longer know one’s way around – and to let it go on?
Ritual Actions & the Body Energy Centres
‘Ritual Actions’ has been a research project for over 30 years asking one fundamental question: is it possible to create Rituals which can heal the body, mind, spirit and soul. And by soul I mean what James Hillman articulates: soul is not a substance as in traditional theology of many religions, but a function of imagination.
Today we live in a world dominated by frenetic Urban Rhythms and as a result we have lost connections with our own body’s organic rhythms, our own sources of energy.
This workshop will introduce the group into a process of Play to awaken the body centres: the whole Body in Movement, the Head Centre: imagination visualization fantasy, the Vocal, emotional and Sex Centre.
The intermingling of energies from the centres forms a River of Energy with many layers. It is essential to recognize that all feelings are just different forms of energy: anger rage joy sorrow love hate etc.
In our play process we’ll explore, if the individual body centres can act as transformers of the energies which emanate from nature (trees, rivers, wind, rocks, fire) and further, if our human bodies can connect in some way to the Universal Energy that keeps the whole universe spinning and vibrating and transform it into a healing process for oneself with and for others.
(Work-)Be-Shop: Touching the Untouchable
Johannes B. Schmidt
In this be-shop, the facilitator demonstrates and explains his practice of intimate therapeutic encounter – also in terms of craftsmanship. Central is the transformation into an attitude: ‘The encounter with you leads me to me’. How do we find the courage to let the untouchable touch us? How do we remain touchable and preserve our sensitivity and aliveness?
Live work / demonstrations with participants in front of the group, explanations of the “craft” and, depending on the concerns of the group, small explorations of the participants’ self-experience, will constitute this Be-Shop.
Caution: Deep encounter is not easy, touching encounter can be activating in different directions and uncover dissociated traumas as well as buried sources of life. As a Buddhist once said: No Satsang without Shitsang.
Nava Rasa Sadhana
Navarasa sadhana (‘Sadhana’ means ‘Ritual’) is the systematic practice of the Nine Rasa-s – the nine sentiments that have been developed and practiced since more than two thousand years in India: the erotic, the comic, the pathetic, the furious, the heroic, the terrible, the odious, the marvelous and the state of tranquility. The workshop guides the participants through the experience of the Nine Rasa-s through a combination of „codified“ (or guided) embodiment and an opening of inner processes.
Having been conceived in the vedic – context, the Nava Rasa-s traditionally grew out of the temple-context, to elaborate themes of Hindu Gods and Mythology. Sri Venu G.’ s Nava rasa Ritual/Sadhana preserves the knowledge on the relationship of physicality and transpersonality and at the same time opens the practice to non-traditional performers. He codified the system of Sadhana in a way so that actors from all kind of performance genres, also from western traditions, will be able to incorporate the practice of the Nine Rasa-s into their own trainings.
The workshop offers an insight into this contemporary approach to an Indian Performance Tradition and – through Sri Venu G’s vast experience in the field of transcultural performance exchange – offers the chance of contextualising it in a global performance context.
Descriptions of the Lectures
Ingrid Lutz: Essentials on Ritual and Healing (in German)
To start the Summer Conference, Ingrid will report on her decades of research into the connections between ritual and healing and how rituals contribute to personal and, above all, collective coping with trauma. In this research, which has taken her to Southeast Asia and South America among other places, she has, surprisingly, repeatedly encountered the fundamental question of what ultimately constitutes being human and how therapeutic action can support people in finding their essence.
Transformation and Relevance of ‘Ancient Knowledge – Evening Talk with Venu G., in conversation with William Sax and Annette Hornbacher (mainly in German)
What can European theatre (and dramatherapy) learn from Classical Indian Dance Theatre and its embodiment of emotions? Access to an otherwise invisible reality? Are the effects independent of the cultural context? Why does Venu G. refer to his training of the 9 emotions (Nava Rasa) as „Sadhana“, that means a ritual? What has emerged as the core that keeps these Indian dance theatre forms still so relevant today? What in-sights do the researches of William Sax and Annette Hornbacher give to these questions?
William Sax – Theatrical Rituals as Collective Therapy (in English)
The borders between ritual, therapy, and drama are very fluid: ritual has therapeutic effects, therapy makes use of dramatic forms, and drama takes ritual forms. In this paper I discuss the dramatic/theatrical aspects of ghost exorcisms as collective rituals among the Dalits (the former ‚untouchables‘) of Uttarakhand in the Western Himalaya and advance my theory, why ritual is often therapeutic.
Annette Hornbacher – Possession as a Medium of Diagnose and Therapy: Dance and Transgression in Bali (in German)
Dancers and performers in Bali (and Java) are not media for conveying specific human emotions, but media for manifesting an – otherwise invisible – reality of ancestors and spirits. For this reason, dance and trance possession often merge here, and these performative dissociations are not seen as pathological behaviors – or as a release of personal stress- but as ‘windows’ through which the community can enter into exchange with the divine. A therapeutic effect is not aimed at individuals, but at the whole group.
Liane Hofman – What are spiritual crises, and how can we accompany people in such a crisis? – Facets of a multi-layered phenomenon
The lecture will first go into the history of the topic of spiritual crises and reflect on its current social and health-scientific relevance. Further, we will explore the question of what characterizes a spiritual crisis by taking a closer look at basic definitions, characteristics and manifestations of spiritual crises. Finally, we want to open the space and discussion to the question of which forms of accompaniment are supportive for people in such transformative processes and whether theater therapy approaches could also prove helpful in this regard.
Johannes B. Schmidt – We play (no) theatre here – The transcendental in psychotherapy (in German)
Every human being who has lost the connection to the spiritual is overstrained and concerned with himself. Contact with the world does not occur, and the flight into thinking begins, where immediacy of life seems threatening. In order for our soul and psyche to dare to experience reality, we need the experiential connection to transcendence. To be held from somewhere else, to be able to be fully here and to let life live. Does “therapy” heal? Or is it healing to accompany a person to a place where one can be touched by something unnameable that is experienced as transcendent? Then healing can occur for therapist and client alike, because healing is not divisible. Deep silence and awe set in. Both remain touched and inspirited by “something”.
Description of the Film
“YOU ARRIVE” – a film by Bonnie Harnden (30 minutes)
YOU ARRIVE is a docu-drama based on the award-winning play YOU ARRIVE that explores how to break free from the cycles of trauma that impact our lives. This innovative, experimental documentary genre exposes the effects of intergenerational family trauma. As the therapist attempts to heal her main client, she comes to terms with her own traumatic past, and ultimately realizes she possesses the gift of therapy. She experiences a transcendental epiphany that managing trauma has become more important than ever in an increasingly stress-plagued global village.