Amidst the blustery grey, on a day that would otherwise have succumbed to those first signs of ennui . . . today’s source of gratitude: A writing workshop at the South Asian Women’s Creative Commons Literary Festival, Breathing for the Stage. (“Nanni” means thankyou in Malayalam – a language in Kerala, India)
The South Asian Women’s Creative Collective is a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to the advancement, visibility, and development of emerging and established South Asian women artists and creative professionals.
The workshop was facilitated by a yoga colleague and friend, Roopa Singh. We practiced yoga asanas and pranayam, discussed several reading excerpts, and spent time writing about our wants and needs as writers and performers. Though it’s been years since I’ve performed on a stage (or more typically, at a debate podium), the concepts we explored will no doubt be utilized in future workshops (leading, participating), as a yoga/English teacher, and likely in the most unexpected of places. Roopa’s adept facilitation allowed for space to share and listen, and some of the big topics brought up by the group will make for juicy contemplation points in future:
- Utilization of agni (fire), and grounding before a performance
- Drawing a somatic map of experience, positive and negative, and excavating these potent sources for creative expression
- Integrity of self through role transitions
- Trusting inner voice and ability to carry someone else’s story
- How “being present” is related to the idea of “surrendering to creative force”
From the workshop description:
When I dare to be powerful—to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.
As a writer, what you want to share on stage is one thing, but what you do share on stage can be another matter entirely. This workshop offers tools to walk your vision regardless of the opacity of fear, performance strengthening skills towards serving that vision, and best practices on breathing for the stage.
The workshop starts with a half-hour of simple yoga techniques, including Pranayama breathing from the diaphragm, loosening the jaw through Simhasana (lion’s pose), and a series of heart openers. After warming up, we’ll do a half-hour of writing on the complex relationship between performance and truth in your life, both as a child and as an adult. Participants will spend the last hour sharing writing, offering each other constructive feedback on the sonic and visual aspects of the performances.
In addition to in-class writing, participants are welcome to bring and share a five-minute piece of cherished writing from home. All genres and levels welcome.
Roopa Singh teaches yoga in Brooklyn and works on a few gigs in law, music, and writing. She has taught pre-law and hip hop politics, has worked in prisons as a poet and a lawyer, and has performed at the Lincoln Center, the Three Rivers Arts Festival in Pittsburgh, the San Francisco Queer Arts Festival, APAture: Asian American Arts Festival, and toured the Caribbean with an independent hip hop crew. Now a decade into a performance path, Roopa is completing a mixtape of her songs, slated for release this Spring at SXSW in Austin, and a book of essays on yoga and hip hop, available in Fall 2013.
Even after participating in just a small piece of this multi-day festival, I felt a rejuvenated appreciation for New York as a resource for learning, connecting and creativity. It’s beautiful to see a community coming together in a shared mission that really serves to promote inter-cultural understanding as well.
Massive gratitude to Roopa for her generosity and wisdom ~~