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Open Movement In Soho

I wasn’t sure what kind of class I was going to when I rang the bell at 100 Grand Dance—choreographer Bill Young's studio, in Soho—only that Monday nights in the space promised a somatic experience involving “movement, dance, sound improvisations, body-mind explorations, therapeutic, and restorative practices.”

As a yogi, actor, musician, and all-around spiritual seeker, that was for me.

I was greeted by Ildiko Viczian, a certified Body-Mind Centering (BMC) instructor and our facilitator, who asked me to remove my shoes as Young himself had just cleaned the floor. The light-brown wooden surface was gleaming and pristine in the soft lamplight of the vast studio, and ready for whatever the group wanted to do. To start, we simply sat down cross-legged to chat and talk about what brought us to the space. Others joined along the way, greeting each other and welcoming me, the newbie, warmly.

Open Movement never follows a rigid plan. What takes place every Monday from 7pm to 10pm largely depends on who’s there and what they need in the moment. It can be dance, it can be making sounds with voice or instruments, it could be gentle yoga, and sometimes it’s just talking.

“What happens here depends on whatever you [the students] bring into the space,” said Ildiko. “Rather than teaching to an agenda, I’m more interested in what is happening. People drop in from all over the world. Whoever comes in with whatever they’re feeling, they have a space to work with it, by moving, sharing, making sounds. And here you are,” she smiled at me, “bringing your own life story.”

Different incarnations of Open Movement have appeared across the city for the last 40 years. Its own history is one of constant movement from one space to another. It started as a dancing event called Open House, at the then Robert Wilson-Byrd Hoffman studio, as a way for the performers to decompress during rehearsals. It then became Open Movement when Charles Dennis brought it to PS122 as a weekly event. “From there it moved to Judson Church in 1999,” said Ildiko, "and that’s when I came in.” It moved several more times, finally finding its current home at 100 Grand two years ago.

Ildiko trained as a BMC practitioner with the method’s founder, Bonnie Bambridge Cohen. BMC is described as a “an integrated and embodied approach to movement, the body, and consciousness.”

“I studied with Bonnie for many years,” said Ildiko. “What I’ve been doing is going deeper into not only understanding the body and mind, but the spirit.” Ildiko teaches a mind exercise called contemplation. “It’s a Christian practice similar to meditation, involving centering prayer—allowing unconscious material to surface. Let’s see what emerges in the space, and let it work us.”

This was exactly what we experienced over the next few hours, as we followed Ildiko’s lead by rolling around the floor and breathing. Ildiko very perceptively noticed through my body language that I was holding on to things—the way my shoulders were hunched and my fists were clenched gave clues to what was going on in my head.

“Those come from childhood,” noted Ildiko. “The need to protect yourself. The need to be in control, but at the cost of being yourself.”

She suggested I lie on the floor and let myself be supported by it, surrendering to gravity. I did. At first it was obvious I was still gripping, refusing to let go of control—or rather, the illusion of control. Through Ildiko’s guidance, I let me body relax and let the ground do the work. She held me in place so I could let my muscles relax, and my body became heavy as she slowly allowed it to tip over. Ildiko treated me to a little cranial sacral therapy as I resumed passive rolling around, trusting that the earth would be there to hold me.

As I finally surrendered, rather than going quiet, I became very talkative. The thoughts in my head spilled out unapologetically, as if my mind was ready to let them go. We moved on to some gentle yoga, mainly cat and cow, and Ildiko spotted that I was still gripping in my core and in my lower back. “There’s another place where you’re holding, and you’re likely to wear it out. Let the gravity do its work.”

To finish off, we did a little Tai-Chi, chiefly the practice of “push hands,” which teaches the body to cease meeting force with force, and, instead, to yield to it and redirect it. As we all bowed and said our goodbyes, I mused that, despite the surrendering to gravity, I felt just a little bit lighter.

“Holding it together, always being in control,” noted Ildiko. “It’s a strain, and we need to let go of it. We’re all learning that we should just let it be.”

And, on cue, we all broke into the chorus of The Beatles’s signature song.

—Jim Catapano

—Illustration by Valeria Clark

There will be a season-closing party at the Open Movement session on 12/14, and all kinds of musicians are invited to bring instruments. To stay informed about the movements of the Movement, click here. Donations of $8 are requested.

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