HotHouse Intensive: Finding Voice

Temple University Musical Theater BFA student José Raúl Mangual took part in a HotHouse Intensive this winter.  He documented the experience through daily reflections and photos that will be shared as blog posts as we prepare for the Summer Intensive.

HotHouse Intensive Day 2 (2/28/18)

After today’s lunch break, Justin and Blanka talked to us about the training’s potential and design to release sounds which can be described as “primitive.”  They also spoke of the possibility for the training to unlock memories, both from our own lives and the lives of others. A sense of doubt came over me in regard to the idea of these discoveries.

When I say I became doubtful of this potential, I refer to what I understand to be doubt from the ego: I immediately felt doubtful of “my ability” to “do” the training “well enough” to procure such a result. This was not to me a doubt of the process, but a doubt of the self. Regardless, I assured myself (insisted) I could at least experiment with the exercises, in full dedication to abiding by the processes outlined for us.

(José Raúl Mangual)

After the above discussion, Blanka had us resonate (via phonation) into our cupped hands. Upon a few moments of experimenting with her demonstration of the exercise, Blanka directed us to experiment with asymmetry, noting the security of an symmetrical stance with evenly distributed weight. I believe my asymmetries were too external, too forced. There came a moment where I did settle into my body and allow the asymmetries and weight imbalances to arise instead of be produced, but I focused too much on being “correct” as opposed to doing what I would and permitting that to be enough for discovery to occur- more on this later.

The first exercise in this intensive to fully astound me was a focus on resonance: Everyone gets a partner. The vocalizer stands in front of the other partner, and the partner places their hands on various spots throughout the body: head, neck, torso, face, etc. The goal is to send vibrations to the hand of the partner, wherever it is placed. I felt inaccessibility to only one spot, and that was my stomach area, around and below the belly button. My partner’s hand had gone through chest, head, upper back, and areas in between with minimal difficulty in adapting to vibrate her hand.

When it came to that area below my belly button, the best I could do was create as low-frequency a note I could on an “ah” vowel. At the lowest, I was vibrating around an inch or two below my sternum. The method that worked for me to vibrate that area of the torso was to pulse out sound in short, forced pulses in a way that felt like I had a child punching the walls of my stomach from the inside. With this, I could feel my vibration lowering in my body. I kept the punches, feeling progress, until the sound began to almost split in two – maybe it was quickly vibrating in between two, low pitches. Insisting upon lowering my vibration further so that I could complete the objective of resonating into my partner’s hand, I felt stirring at several points in my body, over the course of a short several seconds.

It felt as though I had some fluttering originate in my spine behind my belly button. That fluttering quickly traveled up my spine to my head, and then back down to the area behind the belly button and even lower, so that I was now teetering on vibrating my partner’s hand. My pitch lowered, as if to mirror the now extreme depth of vibration in my body. I could feel the tingling activation between my eyes which arises when I am close to crying. I realized I was going to cry. In retrospect, I wonder if that sensation of something traveling up my spine was my mind beginning to interject in the release of emotion, at which point I decided to permit myself to release, hence the feeling of traveling down and even lower. I believe I had to allow myself to open up (insist) in order to vibrate my partner’s hand, previously unaware I was locked or guarded in such a way. After I became able to vibrate my partner’s hand, tears began to form in my eyes. I was now able to maintain the vibration into her hand physically, but my voice developed a new freedom. With every punch into her hand, my voice rose in pitch while still somehow faithful to such a low physical vibration. The tears started to fall, and I went from crying to sobbing to what I would imagine is the equivalent of keening. My mind jumped to two particular images, each pertaining to the same aspect of trauma/extreme sadness in my life, but I cannot say for sure whether this was in tandem with the emotional release, or whether this was my mind trying to tie an experience to the physical sensations I was experiencing in order to justify them.

Justin Jain, HotHouse Company member and Intensive Co-Instructor (José Raúl Mangual)

I didn’t know until both weeks of the intensive had passed, but this was a moment in which I met myself and insisted upon further discovery. It proves that these discoveries are innate within us. Much like the deconstructive process of the work in the HotHouse, these exercises all can be seen as a way of stripping the layers: years of resistance and socially forged armor to free the unique animal in each of us. If any human commits to the exercises shared in this HotHouse intensive, there will be moments of discovery of the self.

The reason I have been dappling “insistence” throughout certain moments is because it was a concept introduced to us by Justin and revisited by both Justin and Blanka, and it is present often throughout the process of education (therefore, the process of life, no?). This concept is multifaceted in its meaning and application to so high a degree that it alone can be justified as an entire ideology. Opportunities for insistence are present in nearly every moment of growth, as well as their inverse: moments of resistance- insistence upon safety. To insist is to fight for, but the concept of insistence seems to be most fruitful when applied to moments of inner resistance. If you begin to resist, choose to insist.

A beauty of insistence in relation to the corporal sequence is its physical practice of a physical/mental/spiritual concept. If we insist upon surrendering to the ensemble during a moment of laborious, even scary lack of breath, we can practice reproducing that physical battle in our minds in a moment of resistance of a vice whose “victory” over us we believe would be detrimental, regressive.

Read the first HotHouse Intensive blog


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