Viviendo la Tradición Oral

How is this meaning and language sought and passed on? How is it perceived by those who participate in a Movements class? This is where the question of an oral tradition arises. It is through this tradition that the study of the Movements has been passed on -and continues to be- in a joint work that nests itself in the present moment; active, alive, dynamic.

Gurdjieff wrote very little about the Movements and simply called himself a ‘Dance Teacher’. How can the Movements remain alive as a vehicle of his teaching when the Teacher is no longer around?

The way Gurdjieff taught the Movements to his students has been described many times. It was his vision, the demands he made, his being, his presence, which is remembered and which left an imprint on his students..

Fortunately for all of us, a few people noted down the pattern of the Dances, but nothing of what was written on paper manages to convey the meaning and the language Madame de Salzmann talks about. It is only in a real class with living people, with someone up front who serves as guide -the instructor- and a musician at the piano or the specific music for the Dances, that a Movement comes to life.

The task of keeping this work alive has passed on directly from one person to another, in the body, in actual time, in space, in action, in silence, under very special conditions.

Many elements contribute to the special conditions of a Movements class. The central demand is the pursuit of presence in each person. Is an inner effort that can open the body, mind and feeling to a new kind of vision. The key relationship is the one between the teacher, the class and the pianist or the music - a moving triangle. All three are crucial to the study of a Movement. This relationship depends on preparing, adapting, listening, attention, vision, intensity of thought, feeling and awareness. When every part of this triangle is involved, an interest appears that opens to a new level of feeling.

The first element of the triangle is the class. All who pass through the entrance of the Movements room can leave out all worldly worries outside and go into a quiet preparation atmosphere. Here, within each one of us, it is possible to hear the call to a more complete attention to what is happening at every moment. This is a room where the ideas of Gurdjieff's teaching can actually be experienced. Here, we consciously see our lack of attention, the lack of relationship between our centers, our awkwardness, our inability to listen, our lack of awareness of the others, the denseness of our thinking, and many other impressions resulting from our efforts to participate in a Movement or exercise.

This is a laboratory and, supported by these conditions, everyone can verify their inner condition and attempt to follow its constant movement. Meeting the demands made of us, discovering what it is to be in unfamiliar positions and feeling them in the body, and understanding the pattern of the Movement, brings about the need for the participation of the mind to prepare, assist and hold the intention time after time. We can feel that the mind must be active and the bodily consciousness deeper.

When this is truly felt and experienced, there appears a new dimension that provides a certain quality of joy. It is not about doing the Movements, but of keeping abreast of what is happening. How does one adopt a position? Where does come from? What goes on between one position and the next? Can there may be a link between our movements? Can we have a taste of what moving really is? These questions, as impressions of life, create a desire to be present in the movement of our lives. As we walk out the door at the end of the class, we have the chance to feel our state, to realize that it will not last and to see what we received and what we gave in class.

For the instructor, the second element of the triangle, there is a demand at multiple levels. He must be prepared with all the knowledge acquired during his years of work with classes, rediscovering matters of quality, time, rhythm, accuracy in the positions and the purpose of working with a particular Movement. Each class is a new study, a new demand. The way the instructor carries himself in front of the class influences the way people move and see themselves. At the same time, the instructor should attempt to be in touch with himself, show the movement, regard the class as a whole and each individual within it without any judgments, go slightly ahead of everyone, and infuse interest and the need to search. His task is to invite the class to experience the sensation of every gesture. Words help when needed, but what is essential is the way he moves and carries himself.

The third element of this dynamic triangle is the music and/or musician. After going into the room with everyone else, he finds himself in the same atmosphere of study, alone at the piano, but not alone because the music he plays links everyone together. The pianist must have rehearsed the music or be prepared to improvise an exercise which might demand different qualities of tone, rhythm, tempo and mode. He must obey the instructor’s directions and relate to what is required, and at the same time, while playing, watch the class, remaining sensitive and attentive to whatever may be needed. He must see whether the music is helping or hindering the development of a Movement, whether it matches the speed and quality required, and whether it helps to bring about a degree of relaxation that can open the class to another kind of vision. Through what he plays, the quality of the musician’s presence is felt by all. The vibrations of the music go directly to the bodies and the hearts of the people in class, influencing their internal states and processes.

The relationship between the instructor, the pianist and the class, as a triadic expression of the oral tradition, creates a new condition in which the Sacred Dance itself may take place. This relationship tells the search to understand what Gurdjieff left us in this aspect of his multifaceted teaching. In this joint work, the language and the meaning of a Sacred Dance may be revealed, and the fundamental question that called each of us to the teaching of Gurdjieff may be awakened: the question of the meaning of our existence, of how to be in movement in life in a manner that is open to a higher intelligence, to a sacred force.