One of the more difficult aspects of performing--whether it's standup comedy, performance art, or any other in-person mode of delivering information--is feeling fully present in one's body and mind. I've often joked with friends about experiencing "performance blackout," a kind of lost time while I'm in front of an audience. Though I was certainly there physically and mentally, moments later I can't seem to recall specifics of what happened regardless of how rehearsed a piece was. But a few years back, I had the opportunity to study with artist Ieva Miseviciute during a residency, The Experimental Comedy Training Camp, at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada. While there, participants engaged in various workshops led by Miseviciute designed to make us more fully aware the space our bodies took up, our breathing, our thinking, and our voices. To say the least, these were highly impactful and have been something I've been craving ever since.
[Author's note: Miseviciute's name has a caron on the c, a macron on the u, and an overdot on the e, but when Squarespace renders these characters, it does so in a completely different typeface and the way it looks is incredibly weird.]
Lucky for all of us, Miseviciute is launching a new series of affordable classes called Power Trip every Friday through February at Studio 3F, 12 St Mark's Place. Read on for more information on how to get find some structured assistance in flying your freak flag a little bit higher.
Some basic info up top:
Who is it for?
Power Trip is open to everyone, regardless of their age or skill level. It's especially useful for performers of all strides who are interested in inhabiting their bodies more confidently.
What are the classes like?
From the Power Trip website: "In Power Trip, we are interested in rewiring the mind through high-energy physical work. It is a two-hour class, built as a flow of movements that plunges you into a strong visual imaginarium. It may feel like someone is shooting a film in your head and streaming it live through your body. We incorporate Japanese style body-work with training techniques from dance, theater and comedy fields. Which provides a double effect:
· IT HELPS TO HEIGHTEN IMAGINATION, CREATIVITY AND ENERGETIC PRESETS;
· WHILE BUILDING STAMINA, FLEXIBILITY AND STRENGTH OF THE BODY.
This unique training is beneficial to anyone working in creative fields: performance artists, visual artists, dancers, actors, comedians, tech innovators, etc. We are so dependent on our ability to think outside the box, that I believe it is necessary to get out of our heads first, dive deep into our bodies, and then return to a fresh and rewired brain."
How much does it cost?
First class sessions are offered at an awesome discounted rate of just $10. Thereafter, drop-in classes are $25, or you can purchase a 5-pack of classes for $100 total, and the package is valid for six months. Payments are accepted in cash, Venmo, or PayPal before each class session. More info here.
When are the classes?
Every Friday evening from 6:30pm to 8:30pm, beginning on October 20th and running more or less continuously through February. You can take them continuously, or at your leisure. Participants should arrive 15 minutes early, as the doors will be locked at 6:30pm sharp! See specifics here.
Where are the classes?
Classes meet in Studio 3F, 12 St Mark's Place in the East Village.
Who is Ieva Miseviciute?
Miseviciute is a highly accomplished contemporary artist who makes theater productions, performance art, and installations. She's taught at dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel; Piet Zwart Institure in Rotterdam; de Appel Curatorial Program in Amsterdam; Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam; Sommerakademie im Zentrum Paul Klee in Basel; Banff Center for the Arts in Alberta; Western Front Art Center in Vancouver; and Columbia University in New York. She is also a visiting professor at Lunds University/Malmö Art Academy in Sweden. Miseviciute worked as a clown in the circus throughout her youth, has backgrounds in various movement and improvisation techniques, and holds a research MA in Cultural Analysis and MA in Political Studies from the University of Amsterdam. She has presented her work at numerous venues including Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris; Sculpture Center, Swiss Institute (as part of Performa 09) and MoMa PS1 in New York; dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel (with Michael Portnoy); Hauser& Wirth in Zurich; Time-Based Art Festival in Portland; de Appel art center in Amsterdam; Cabaret Voltaire in London; Playground Festival at STUK in Leuven, Belgium; Beursschouwburg Theater in Brussels; Swiss Sculpture Exhibition in Biel-Bienne in Switzerland; and Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) in Vilnius.
On Sunday, September 24th, I was invited to participate in a demonstration session of Power Trip and immediately jumped at the chance. I'd been hungry for something like this since Banff, but was unable to find anything like it. Of course, there are movement classes offered at all types of spaces around New York, but I'm frankly intimidated by them. Because I've known Miseviciute for years now, I knew that this was something where I, a not-really-in-shape artist, would be able to feel comfortable letting loose.
I'd only met a couple of the other dozen or so participants previously, but that didn't matter at all. We seemed to mesh together almost immediately. Miseviciute is a generous, albeit humorously dictatorial, teacher. She pushed the class from the get-go to work themselves physically, while knowing exactly when to offer moments of relaxation. In those moments, I felt like I'd been given access to a brief psychedelic trance. Miseviciute's directions, hollered over top of a soundtrack that flips the bird to any specific genre, give little room to feel self-conscious. We gyrated with exaggerated sexuality, crawled around like blind animals on the floor, writhed in piles of limbs, and frequently laughed our asses off. At the end of the session, despite not actually speaking a word to each other during the almost two-hour run, it was clear that we'd developed a deep trust of one another and an empathy towards our respective physicalities.
I asked Miseviciute why this might be valuable to comedians or artists. She replied:
"Classes help comedians and performance artists to expand their energetic presence/charisma, develop physical sense of comedic timing, and work on their sexual slapstick skills. You can find new characters, unknown territories, and update your movement vocabulary."
Rarely are there opportunities like this--ones that are affordable and interdisciplinary--for performers and comedians to explore their physical movements and their spontaneous ideating capabilities. Having had the privilege of studying with Miseviciute, I can't recommend pursuing these classes highly enough. If the demonstration session that I attended on September 24th is even the slightest indicator of what's to come, you will be extremely satisfied with taking these classes. If you've got any specific questions about whether or not these might be right for you, drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd be more than happy to tell you more.