My cold and the dry air have conspired against my vocal chords and this morning I woke up with no voice. Workshops start tomorrow, so I have to really concentrate on not saying a word today in the hopes that I will recover by then. Igor is deaf in one ear from his cold, so we are going to make the perfect pair!
Today we clowned in the street. Specifically in one of the economically deprived neighbourhoods in Bangalore near our apartment. The idea is that clowning in these urban areas will form part of the Bangalore team’s activities, as well as clowning in hospitals.
We changed in the apartment and had our photos taken with our hosts, then walked down the main street, past a holy cow, to the entrance of the neighbourhood. We warmed up gently (it was already blisteringly hot) and crossed the threshold…by climbing over a metre high bank of dry mud.
Yesterday we had done a recce, to see how big the area was. As we walked down the path in our plain clothes, understandably people looked at us blankly as we passed by. Someone gave us directions as if we were lost. I somehow felt like a giant; clumsy and out of place.
Today as we entered the neighbourhood, I felt light and spritely and curious. It took us some minutes to find the rhythm of how we were going to inhabit this space. I’ll admit to feeling self-conscious about being filmed (Sriharsha is documenting our sessions to help with communicating about the project), about being in this new costume and not having a voice to play with. A couple of times our sense of where the game was diverged and we lost one another, but the beauty of this work is that if we allow ourselves to take each moment at a time, these small failures can stay in their place, and we can move on from them, and find something new.
All we needed was just a few metres of travelling time together to find a rhythm, for me to shift my attention to receiving everything around me, rather than focussing on myself, and take a breath. Then things clicked into place. With this complicity, we could more easily find connections with the people around us - a game of call and response that hadn’t landed a few minutes ago turned into a full crowd of families joining in once we were in our groove.
Our session ended with a long goodbye. We waved as we walked backwards down the street, reaching our arms around the corner, waving out from behind concrete structures and trees. A small group of children followed at a distance, waving back, all of us knowing we can’t stay but wanting to stretch out this moment for as long as possible. We crossed the mud bank threshold and took a breath, hugged, and looked back to see the group gathered together at the end of the street waiting for another wave. And so this waving goodbye took us all the way back up the main road, Igor using his red coat as if we were on a huge ship leaving the shore. With every metre further away we took, the group moved closer. When they reached the mud bank, the distance between us gradually began to grow - they had reached the edge of their world. The waving continued and the connection between us remained, as if we were joined by an invisible thread, soft and strong like silk. The connection transcended this physical bank of mud that only we were allowed to cross and somehow I can still feel its echo in my heart.
I am a therapeutic clown and performer. Writing here is part of my wider practice and maybe some of my thoughts will trigger some thoughts of your own and I hope that helps.