Marcin Kotowski

(Under construction. If you'd like to discuss some of this stuff, have questions etc., mail me! At some point maybe I'll expand this a bit, write more about: why the body is so important; mind vs body and "left vs right brain"; "Embodiment 101 for (not only) nerds"; connection between contact improvisation and the advent of agriculture... OK, just kidding ;) [but not entirely...])

I consider myself a post-nerd (think: modernism vs post-modernism, hardcore vs post-hardcore etc.). I used to be a very intellectual, books-and-computer type of guy, afraid of physicality. Around 2015, I started to explore and re-discover the body and this journey has been crucial to my self-development and "leaving the head". I started with paratheater improvisation (see below) and over the years have dipped my toes, and sometimes full body, in dance (contact improvisation most seriously, some contemporary and salsa), martial arts (some Muay Thai / Brazilian jiu-jitsu), somatic awareness techniques (Feldenkrais, Body Mind Centering), massage (Thai and myofascial massage).

Shifting from the mind towards the body resulted in many profound changes in me and my life. More openness, more softness and warmth (as experienced even via touch by others), more direct contact with emotions, in general - more "realness" and groundedness of experience. Also, releasing the natural, restless kinetic energy that I've always had, but couldn't find an outlet for (thank you, physical education classes at school, for ruining movement for me for many years).

My first WOW experience of embodiment were vocal and improvisation workshops in 2015 led by Piotr Filonowicz. Right afterwards I wrote a fresh take here. In short, the workshop were about paratheatrical improvisation, i.e. free physical and vocal expression based on techniques drawn mostly from body work and physical theater in the spirit of Jerzy Grotowski. Sometimes similar to improv theater, but without an audience and usually without words. "Is this some kind of therapy, a group ritual, a madhouse?" Kinda all of that, and more. The mix of spontaneous, very holistic work, simultaneously very soft and intense (involving body, voice and artistic sensitivity) and a certain dark, dense atmosphere (more reminiscent of theater or ritual than your typical "feel good" yoga class) suited me very well and was very opening, physically and emotionally. I felt strongly that the body, not the mind, is the nexus of feeling and being in contact with oneself and the world.

Having experienced this lost connection, I kept exploring movement and physicality. I continue to draw inspiration from work rooted in the tradition of Grotowski, who pioneered a very deep and body-oriented approach to theatre. I participated in vocal workshops by Jorge Parente (a disciple of Zygmunt Molik, who in Grotowski's team was responsible for voice training) and worked on improvisation and Motions (a certain highly technical meditative practice) with Piotr Borowski, a student of Grotowski and the director (now retired) of theater company Studium Teatralne S/T. I also took part in workshops led by Thomas Richards, the official continuator pf Grotowski's legacy who mastered a very deep and powerful technique of working energetically with traditional Haitian songs [1].

One of my main movement interests has been Contact Improvisation (CI), a type of improvised partner dance based on weight exchange and constant off-balance motion. I was always afraid of dancing, having to learn steps and rhythms etc., so contact improvisation was a perfect start: no forms, no steps. Instead, the learning process starts from simple and intuitive actions: contact with the partner with light touch, leaning into each other and supporting each other's weight, keeping the center-to-center connection; and then expanding into more dynamical situations, acrobatic lifts etc., always trying to remain in the state of reacting and adjusting to what the partner is doing, instead of executing a pre-planned choreography. There is such a richness of experience, of play, creativity and connection: childlike fun of rolling and jumping on each other; very deep and subtle somatic listening; dynamism and momentum resembling martial arts. Fun, seriousness, lightness, depth. I recommend CI especially to those who are afraid of dancing, but are looking for connection to their bodies and other people on an intuitive, almost animal level [2].

I also have interest in body-oriented psychotherapy, like Alexander Lowen's bioenergetic analysis or Somatic Experiencing. Banishing the body from Western psychoterapeutic tradition has been, in my opinion, a fatal mistake. In recent years, there has been growing interest in bringing the body back in the picture, esp. in the context of trauma therapy: see e.g. Bessel van der Kolk's The Body Keeps the Score.

[1] There's a great 2023 Polish documentary Radical Move by Aniela Gabryel, exploring the bright and dark sides of Richards' work. Recommended.

[2] If you're curious how CI looks like, you can easily find videos on YT, but I decided not to include them for two reasons: 1) the videos are usually by pros, you won't dance like that even after a couple of years; 2) the videos may create a false impressions that CI is all about lifts, acrobatics etc., which is very much not the case - internal sensation and connection is more important and the more acrobatic stuff is an afterthought, it may happen or not. This internal focus is one reason why it's hard to make good CI videos.


Recommended books

to be done