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  • Can yoga be interstitial art?
    by Geoffrey | March 22nd, 2010 |
    Acro Yoga

    This weekend we received the following note on Facebook from Adrienne Durham in Athens, Georgia:

    For Interstitial Arts March, may I propose the lovely folks I trained with in Montreal back in 2008? Upside: groovy intersection of yoga, thai massage, acrobatics, and dance…right up my alley. Downside: Per YogaAlliance, the issuers of continuing prof ed hours for my yoga teacher certification, “While we respect the variety of traditions and expressions of this field, we do not recognize it for these purposes”.

    How interstitial is that? Unless, of course, you more specifically refer to the literary arts… I’m a kinetic, visual kinda person myself.

    Honored to share this with you!

    Thanks for the heads-up, Adrienne! The group she’s talking about is Acro Yoga Montreal (and between this and Cirque du Soleil, I’m beginning to suspect there’s something awesome in the water up there). According to Acro Yoga’s website:

    Acro Yoga combines acrobatic concepts with a yogic consciousness. The seed for Acro Yoga was planted in 1998 with the introduction of Yoga into the Special Blend Repertoire. It took full bloom in Winnipeg (Manitoba) during an early morning hotel room Jam Session, 12-4 am, with Dan Aube of the Acromaniacs (an acrobatic duo from Hamilton) in March 2003. After exchanging insights and techniques, we concluded that Yoga and Acrobatics have a common ground: “being in the moment”.

    The application of bandhas (internal locks) dristi (gaze) ujiay breath (sounded breath) and vinyasa flow (synchronization of movement with breath) to a partner acrobatic practice gave birth to Acro Yoga. Incorporating aesthetics from various dance forms ( B-boying, (break and street dance) – modern – jazz – ballet, improvisation, and mask-work) gave birth to Acro Yoga Fusion: the fusion of Acro Yoga with dance aesthetics.

    Being “in the moment” and in balance with another person is the essence of Acro Yoga.

    Our initial reaction here at IAF HQ was, “can yoga be an interstitial art? Is yoga even an art?” First we thought no, that yoga has more in common with sports like acrobatics or exercises like aerobics, but then we pulled up Acro Yoga’s website and watched their videos.

    So now we’re delightfully befuddled (which is precisely what great interstitial artists do). Acro-yoga appears to be part exercise, part martial arts and part performance – so is it art? And is it interstitial art? What do you think?

    finish line

    9 Responses to “Can yoga be interstitial art?”

    1. cecil Says:

      I think someone said before on a different thread, (I think it was Ellen Denhem) that yoga is a practice. (I can’t think of a dance or acting class that I have taken where we didn’t do some yoga in our basic warm up or to kick start movement pieces. ) but that many practices are the fundamental alphabet for new forms of creative expression, which seems to be the case here.

      I would say that perhaps it is an art in the process of being born. And what Acro Yoga is doing is an embryonic start to something that seems interstitially delicious.

    2. Ellen Kushner Says:

      I’d say it’s not – but neither is birdwatching (see Daniel Rabuzzi’s post of 3/19 ). It does open up the question of what’s interstitial/art – looking forward to everyone’s comments!

      (I do there there might be occasional confusion over the use of “art” as in “the art of bicycling”…”the art of sitting up straight” . . . etc etc! Have to clear that up someday.)

    3. Erin U Says:

      I like the idea of talking about interstitiality as a broader theme than what the IAF usually addresses. So far, we’ve only applied interstitiality to art, but it can be applied to a much broader spectrum of practices.

      More discussion on what “interstitial” actually means will lead to a better understanding of the term as it is applied to art, science, or any other topic. However, there is a danger of forcing activities into the “art” category, which could dillute the definition of art. Then again, is that a problem when we’re talking about interstitiality?

      Right now, I see the beginning of two interesting conversations:

      1) Discussion of “intersitiality” as a broader term, going beyond the artistic boundaries.

      2) Discussion on the topic of “what is art?”

      ….and perhaps a third conversation:

      3) Does “interstitial” art have to conform to conventional artistic definitions?

    4. Wendy Ellertson Says:

      A look at the video answers the “is this art?” question – of course it is! First because of the amazing movement, choreography, sculptural design. Second, for its impact on the viewer – I’ve never been drawn to yoga.. this made me rethink that..and what more is art supposed to do, but surprise, evoke an emotional response, and challenge. I kept wanting to stop the action, to soak in the sculptural images..but at the same time didn’t want to miss any of the interaction. I’m thrilled to see discussion of movement/dance/performance art up on the website. What is art? What is dance? What is interstitial?..How does the context of movement change our definitions – someone walking down a real street – or a “street” in a Bill T. Jones performance. ..keep the comment coming! Wendy

    5. Ellen Denham Says:

      I’ll repost here what I already said on the IAF working group list:

      Speaking as someone married to a dancer/choreographer and as a frequent collaborator with dancers, as well as an occasional practitioner of Yoga, I would have to say that Yoga as it is generally practiced is not art.
      However, if a choreographer utilizes Yoga postures and techniques to
      create a work, that work could be art.

      This isn’t so different from the way other techniques become the
      building blocks for art. The Martha Graham modern dance technique
      utilizes certain elements such as contractions that are used to build
      a movement vocabulary for dance. A bunch of dancers in a room
      practicing Graham contractions or doing ballet plies isn’t art. When the techniques are used to create a piece of choreography, then you get art.

    6. Stephan Laurent Says:

      The famed Pilobolus Dance company began as a group of four male athletes collaborating with 2 modern dance choreographers (Allsion Chase & Martha Clarke) and experimenting with various forms of human pile-ups. So even though it originally did not intend to be art, it ended up making art. They are now quite famous and their works most certainly qualify as art, and good art at that. Acroyoga may not be on that level yet but might develop further; if it is choreographed (and it certainly looks like it is) then by definition it is dance, which is art. Interstitial? Not if you think of acrobatics and yoga as being training disciplines, but then neither are ballet, jazz, or modern dance classes which prepare dancers to be artists the same way that a musician practices scales. But is it art being born of a fusion of different elements? quite definitely. So maybe it is interstitial after all.

    7. Elissa Carey Says:

      I’d say my answer is similar to Wendy’s and Ellen Dunham’s. If you define art as creative expression that evokes an emotional or thoughtful response, something that inspires the viewer, then this AcroYoga is definitely art. Its basis isn’t art, but its application, its choreography and performance, most certainly is. It’s beautiful and inspiring, and for me not just inspiring in the creative sense, but a spiritual one as well. It touches upon many different dimensions but isn’t solely within one or another.

    8. George Russell Says:

      From a technical standpoint, these people are doing good hatha yoga. Bizarrely, they’re using the hatha movement as a vocabulary to create design-oriented spectacle. Their concentration while performing is very focused in a way that you wouldn’t expect from perfomers of spectacle. As to “interstitial”, I interpret that to mean “existing at the interstices” (spaces) between one thing and another, as between cells in the human body. I’d say this work resides in the margins between yogic practice and spectacle-driven performance, which is an odd place indeed to reside, since the implicit goals and foci of consciousness are so different. But they seem sincere and clear in their performance intention. I don’t find it interesting as art, but it’s certainly similar to, and as “artistic” as, the major works of Pilobolus (I mean this not as a comparison of how ‘good’ the pieces are, but in the sense that they are both spectacle performance forms that draw on an athletic vocabulary to create what look to the layman like impossible tricks of physical union, motion and shape.)

    9. Attention all Interstitial Extreme Action Heroes! ¦ The Interstitial Arts Foundation Says:

      [...] In a March 22nd blog post, we contemplated the interstitiality of Acroyoga….If you found that fascinating, and have always wanted to fly as much as I have, check out what Elizabeth Streb is up to these days with her Extreme Action Company: [...]

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