I had the pleasure of spending a day at Salford University working with Scott Thurston and Sarie Slee in a rather unique role, as a kind of consultant, sharing wrestling techniques and movement aesthetics to compliment a long term dance/poetry collaboration they have been developing, which will be performed at Moving Words, a festival in Salford this November. I have always tried to keep these two areas of interest - wrestling and poetry - separate, for many reasons, most of all that they are entirely incompatible aside from in the most banal way (a poem about wrestling for example) but in this case the experience was not only really fun and open and playful, but also I think a gift to me as a route into movement as a concept and possible practise. I have used wrestling and martial arts movement in a few collaborations as a way of interrogating the poetry audience's proximity, perhaps most well known would be my work with zuzana husarova, but never considered movement or dance itself something I could explore, even though friends like Scott, Sarah Kelly, Christian Patracchini and others have done so in a really inspiring way. I think this long lovely day, where I shared hours of wrestling ideas, might be a beginning for me, somehow. A note from Scott below: http://www.vital-signs.org/vital-signs-wrestling-with-steven-fowler/
"Today we were delighted to welcome the prolific writer and artist Steven Fowler, whom Scott has known on the UK poetry scene for many years, having been involved in a number of the extraordinary international collaborative projects that Steven has made his name curating. Steven has the distinction of having practised wrestling since the age of three, and it was this expertise – as well as his knowledge of and commitment to poetry -- that led us to invite him to Salford. As our theme of ‘wrestling truth’ has taken hold, alongside our interest in the Biblical story of Jacob wrestling with the angel in Genesis, we felt it would be valuable to begin exploring the movement language of wrestling itself – and we were not disappointed! Steven took us on an amazing journey through a whole host of techniques including pummelling, underhooks, knee taps, single leg, rock step, shots, wrist grips, the neck tie and Russian tie and each move opened up new ‘movement worlds’, as he described them. In his notes shared with us before the session, Steven described wrestling in the following terms:
Wrestling is essentially the technical development of utilising the human body to manipulate and move another human body. It is an art predicated on using balance for balance destruction, understanding body motion and mechanics in order to nullify these things in your opponent and the development of force, motion and power generation through the body with technique.
It is the consolidating of an a priori act, a means of establishing social dominance through non-lethal combat – one prevalent in children, instinctively, and pre-dominant in the animal kingdom. It is a miniature war without death, culturally.
It is the aspect of non-lethal combat that makes wrestling highly suggestive for our developing poetics of embodied ethical critique, and we were deeply excited to be able to engage with this movement language. We can’t help but feel that it will have a decisive role in the development of our performance. Thank you Steven for all the gifts you brought us today!"