Being Called to Matera

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A magazine photograph of a renovated cave room in Basilicata, Italy, intrigued me. Every cell of my being knew I had to be there. All obstacles dissolved and in no time at all, I was transported from my home in the Hudson Valley of New York to the southern Italian town of Matera.

Image by Prue Jeffries. Naomi Walker, Claudia Catani & Elaine Colandrea with San Falcione and Matera in the distance, from Materadancescapes film Chiaroscuro.

I have followed that call for over 15 years, making pilgrimages to Matera to retreat into what I call earth wombs, caves that were once sea beds, with shells and fossilized sponges embedded in the curved limestone walls. This locale has cradled me in the breath, sound and movement explorations of Continuum – a biological awareness practice based on the fluid nature of all life.

Image by Prue Jeffries. From left to right: Claudia Catani, Elaine Colandrea and Naomi Walker in San Falcione from the Materadancescapes film Chiaroscuro.

Image by Prue Jeffries. From left to right: Claudia Catani, Elaine Colandrea and Naomi Walker in San Falcione from the Materadancescapes film Chiaroscuro.

Matera has nourished my soul in transrational, inexplicable ways. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being a troglodyte settlement in harmonious relationship with the environment, as well as the 2019 European Capital of Culture, Matera has been continuously inhabited since Neanderthal times with a history of providing refuge for spiritual seekers.

Image by Prue Jeffries. Elaine Colandrea in Materadancescapes film The Heart of the Cave.

I wanted to transmit my experience of being there – of wandering the shepherd’s paths on the steep, thyme-scented hillsides, of sheltering in ancient, frescoed cave churches known as rupestri with my fingertips touching the furrows of long ago pilgrims’ carved crosses in the cave walls. The vastness of the Murgia plateau under the strong Mediterranean sun, the fields of asphodels in springtime flower, the falcons swooping and diving in the ever-present wind currents – all of this and more I had absorbed and wanted to share with others.

Image by Prue Jeffries. Materas’ Murgia from Materadancescapes film Chiaroscuro.

As a dancer, my own sensed experience was my place of beginning. Like other artists, investigators and shamans, I know things by becoming them. A creative collaborator once wrote that in another time and place, I would be a temple dancer. The limestone caves and landscape of Matera – sacred places of refuge, discovery and sustenance – resonated for me as the temple for this dancer. An American by birth, with grandparents of southern Italian heritage, I embarked on conveying to others the healing this locale offered me, the inspiration for communitas I found there, and the deep sense of home I discovered in Matera – all of which grew into Materadancescapes.

Image by Prue Jeffries. Nature in the Murgia from Materdancescapes film Chiaroscuro.

In this endeavor, I have been assisted by many along the way. Watermark Arts Creative Director and heartfelt collaborator Prue Jeffries traveled with me to Matera, along with her trusty drone “Stella” and video equipment. With an intrepid sense of adventure, she has filmed and documented my journey, along with her own perceptive and artful eye for nature in this compelling landscape. Spending days with footage, the Materadancescapes film collection has come into form under her loving attention.

Elaine Colandrea

Photo by Prue Jeffries. Elaine Colandrea in Parco Murgia Timone, Matera.

A number of people native to Matera have served as loving guides to this land of cave churches. Damiano Scalcione was the first person to generously welcome me to Matera, and has continued to do so with every visit. Claudia DiPerna, along with her husband Michele Cenzone, opened my eyes to many of the cultural features of Matera. Michele Cappiello and Maria Teresa Barbaro graciously and kindly offered their vast knowledge of the local nature, history and culture. Paolo Montagna, Director CEA, made arrangements for us to film in Parco Murgia where Chiaroscuro was created at the San Falcione location. Francesco Catucci hosted us for the filming of In the Heart of the Cave. Since my first visit to Matera, Antonio Panetta of Locanda di San Martino, along with the devoted staff, has provided me with a gorgeous location for visits and workshops and made me feel at home. Each of these individuals has gone way beyond themselves to support me while I am in Matera. I treasure them as friends of my heart, fellow pilgrims in the journey of life.

Elaine Colandrea, February 2020

View the Materadancescapes Collection.

Awakening the Elemental Self

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The Elemental Nature of the Body: Somatic Movement Summit V

July 19th to 24th, 2020, Omega Institute
Rhinebeck, NY

Choosing a path of opening in the face of global crisis and personal adversity begins a journey inward to connect with the most primordial movements of nature and with the elemental self to reveal our inherent biological capacity for innovation.

Through the somatic awareness practice of Continuum, this restorative retreat investigates the vital chemistry of all life. Embodying the qualities of earth, air, fire, and water awakens the body’s fluid capacity for healing, insight, and creative engagement.

Register here: eomega.org/workshops/somatic-movement-summit-v

Watermarkarts.org

Chiaroscuro

ElaineWatermark Arts Videos, Materadancescapes, News, Watermark Arts in Italy

Conceived and produced by Elaine Colandrea, Artistic Director, Watermark Arts

Filmed and edited by Prue Jeffries, Creative Director, Watermark Arts

Performed by Claudia Catani, Elaine Colandrea & Naomi Walker

Music: Stella Maris by Moby courtesy of mobygratis.com

Filmed with permission in San Falcione, Parco Murgia Timone, Matera, Italia

Special thanks to Maria Teresa Barbaro & Paolo Montagna, Director CEA Matera

San Falcione

Rock churches excavated in the 9th and 10th centuries generally conformed to a Byzantine model, having a rectangular or square chamber with plain walls and behind these two arched presbyteries supported by a central pillar. The rock church of San Canione, better known as San Falcione, is no exception. Attributed to the earliest Italo-Greek monastic communities which settled in the area around the 9th century, it’s one of Matera’s oldest rock churches. Located in a small ravine, it’s easily recognised thanks to the perimeter wall built in the 19th century by the noble Gattini family, who used the cave complex as an enclosure for sheep and goats. Inside the church, where the floor is now lower than its original level, there’s a fresco of Saint Nicholas on the central pillar and one of a bishop saint on the right-hand wall. Still on the right, in the altar recess, there was once an extraordinary fresco of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple: Joseph, Mary and the Child were clearly visible, along with Saint Simeon and the prophetess Anna who blessed Jesus with one hand while the other held a missive with words ‘This Child created heaven and earth’ in Greek. Many small cavities excavated around the church are the remains of a medieval apiary.

Water Blessing

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Inaugural Water Blessing dance at the Omega Institute, Rhinebeck NY, July 4, 2019. ( 4 min.)

Conceived by Elaine Colandrea, original music by Morena Boschetto, filmed and edited by Prue Jeffries.

Performed by Bea Ehrsam, Nicole Faustini, Melanie Gambino, Lauren Grady, Lila Greene, Meredith Johnson, Elisabeth Osgood-Campbell, Rori Smith & Kori Tolbert.

Watermark Arts dedicates 2020 to the Water Blessing Project.

Contact Elaine at info@watermark-arts.org to learn how to participate.

Water Blessing Instructional Video: vimeo.com/369923148

Written Continuum Water Blessing Instructions: watermarkarts.org/water-blessing-project/

Amber Elizabeth Gray on Continuum & the Creativity of Health

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From Darfur, Kosovo and Haiti to her clinic in New Mexico, human rights psychotherapist Amber Elizabeth Gray blends dance therapy and Continuum in her recovery work with refugees. “Every human being deserves the right to inhabit his or her body in the way they choose.”

Continuum & The Creativity of Health interview with Amber Elizabeth Gray (video transcript):

Continuum supports me in my work as a human rights psychotherapist and a dance movement therapist working in human rights contexts. Dance therapy nourishes me in so many ways but also there was a certain demand. So where those demands were Continuum was the nourishment. Over the years, they’ve come slowly together. There was a point where I remember I [said], I’m going to just start sneaking a little Continuum into dance therapy.

I remember particularly it was with one client who is a survivor from Iraq who had lived in the same town as Saddam Hussein and had lived her whole life with the fear that anybody in your family could disappear, because that’s what happened. And therapy and dance therapy and lots of good really solid attempts to work with her – she really wanted to find her body again, she’d developed a lot of weight – and I just really tried something different. I just had this feeling, and she said, “sure, try anything, I’m tired of suffering,” and we did some lunar breaths.

I brought in a yoga mat in for that session and we did some lunar breaths. She just opened up her eyes and looked at me, and she said, “this is what a body is supposed to feel like?! I’m home. I just found my body.” And from that moment on, I started to layer Continuum into dance therapy and layered dance therapy into Continuum and they’ve merged together.

Ever since I’ve started teaching Continuum, quite honestly, I don’t feel as burned out.

Every time I came out of Rwanda, or Kosovo, or some of the places I was working, I was fine and I was really sick. I had a really bad cough, my back went out, etc. So there would be some aspect of my health, my wholeness, my wellness that would be affected. And when I went to Darfur, which is probably one of the most dangerous places I’ve ever been, there’s a certain magic, the landscape has this really deep tawny rose colored sand, that’s like silk. Camels, the way that they move,  white robes. So there’s all this beauty and then there’s all this not beauty  there’s the war.

Every night I would lay in bed, and I had to sleep under one of those big thick mosquito nets because there were spiders there, and I did the lunars. And it was the first time that I had a really conscious practice, like it was like kind of like a lullaby or a prayer you’d do for a little kid. I would just get into bed and I would do the lunars until I drifted off. And I would do the lunars with the landscape when I was walking around. I remember I went home from that trip and my husband looking at me and he said, “there’s usually some suffering that comes home with you. I’ve never seen you so light. And so uplifted.” I said, “well, it was different this time.”

I realized it was the way the lunars connected with the beauty of that place, they were the perfect breath to go with the sound of the wind at night, and the little hut, the cool that is coming through, the shape and colors of the sand, the hills, the movement of the camels.  And ever since I’ve started teaching Continuum, quite honestly, I don’t feel as burned out. I don’t feel as stretched out.

I always say everyone has the right to embody their body […] and that’s really the spirit of this work. So the creativity of health is also acknowledging that we can be empowered to move ourselves from when we’re in the more alien places, to the places that have more wholeness.

Tree Tryst

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Tree Tryst, danced last July at Omega Institute, during The Somatic Movement Summit, Creativity of Health, partnering Continuum movers with a grove of pine trees.

Dancers/Movers
Bea Ehsram, Nicole Faustini, Melanie Gambino, Lauren Grady, Lila Greene, Meredith Johnson, Elisabeth Osgood-Campbell,Rori Smith, Kori Tolbert

Choreography by Elaine Colandrea
Film and Video by Prue Jeffries
Original Music by Morena Boschetto

Ancestral Table

ElaineWatermark Arts Videos, News

 

A spontaneous Continuum collaboration that emerged from an afternoon walk in the calanchi of Parco Abbazia di Monteveglio, Italy -responding to the earth below and the air around us.

Continuum Movers: Elaine Colandrea, Mirco Dondi, Prue Jeffries

Filming: Prue Jeffries, Mirco Dondi, Elaine Colandrea

Video Creaton: Prue Jeffries

Music: Il palazzo interiore ( “The inner palace”) by Morena Boschetto

Poem: “Anatomy” by Noelle Adamo

Produced by Elaine Colandrea for Watermark Arts

Val Leoffler on Continuum & the Creativity of Health

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Continuum teacher and bodyworker Val Leoffler discusses a creative approach to healing in her work with clients, as well as in her own recovery from a brain tumor. (6.08 min)

 

Continuum & The Creativity of Health interview with Val Leoffler (video transcript):

There’s a way in which Continuum, as it keeps that practice of being able to drop down in, provides a kind of nourishment that is the essence of healing. Being able to come home to my breath, my sound, my movement, I will be able to continue to fall back into a practice. You know, having been ill or having a severe injury can be a very isolating process. That’s why fundamentally for me this work is about being able to come not just into that pause, but in the moment of being able to feel into how I can build a relationship with myself, with my own self-touch with the touch of my environment. How I am in relationship with props that I might use, with my own internal dialogue, or in the act of being witnessed.

I want to say something about complexity. You know, I had my own healing journey, nine years ago when I was so grateful from having had a brain tumor and brain surgery and the result was losing the use of my leg and not having full sensation. To be able to fall back into my teaching practice and my own practice with Continuum was everything! And it was a deeply creative act because I’m dealing with the unknown and dealing with the uncertainty of the unknown.

When I got out of the hospital and was starting my recovery I was giving myself lots of attention about just restoring breath. It had nothing to do, as we would say in regular physical therapy, with the injury site which was hip down to foot, but had to do with knowing that for the recovery of surgery [I had to] really open up; I remembered my breath and remembered my lateral lines and my diaphragm – all to help with the sense of overwhelm that can happen in any situation.

I never approached myself as a problem that needed to be solved. This wasn’t something that had to be fixed. This was more the openness to it – like I’m not attached to what happens here, but I’m going to listen and really love that […]

And then I have an ongoing continuing practice of working with different breaths and different sounds. I remember specifically because I couldn’t stand, of working with having my foot against the wall, and being able to feel into it. I couldn’t keep my foot up with the wall first, but being able to at least press it against where I was laying down and be able to get that sense of some contact there, and feeling into it. Which is how I work a lot if I’m working with somebody on kind of a problem of having again a relationship. [We work on] being able to play into that and go into that.

Whenever I’m traveling and in a new town or a city that has a lot of walls or buildings, and I have to maybe be inside a lot during the day, I’m always trying to find out where the greenbelt is, if there’s a little tree that I could go find or a water way or a park or something like that, just to be able to be in nature, to remind me of my own nature. And I realized that what I’m doing in my Continuum practice is that I’m finding that greenbelt inside myself. And being able to feel where life is continually yearning to regenerate and bubble forth.

You know, we come from a culture where a person [is] a problem. That’s one thing that I didn’t do, I never approached myself as a problem that needed to be solved. This wasn’t something that had to be fixed. This was more the openness to – like I’m not attached to what happens here, but I’m going to listen and really love that, and that’s just the baseline, that has to be said.

I’m appreciating a lot the Japanese culture’s art of kintsugi where they work when a bowl has cracked, to be able to restore the crack in the bowl not by making it invisible and just gluing it together but by putting gold in the crack. And when that happens, that becomes a piece of art. And so there is the beauty in that healing and the beauty in that value of the complexification that has happened in what we might say a person that has been wounded or a person that has been working through something that it’s now at value because it has deepened, its layers have deepened.