Meetings with BMC® 2014 – Interview with Gloria Desideri

Last weekend in Bologna, we brought to a close our series of experiential introductory BMC workshops that were held in various cities throughout Italy this year. This project was planned and guided by Gloria Desideri, director of Leben Nuova. We asked her some questions about her project to get a better understanding of how it came into being and how it went.

Gloria Desideri and the group of BMC Introductory workshop in Bologna

Bmc Introductory Workshop in Bologna (Italy) – June 2014

Leben Nuova and Kinesfera Association were the promoters of the initiative “An Introduction to Body-Mind Centering.” The aim was to introduce the fundamental principles and methods of this somatic approach to a wider public, highlighting its many possible applications in artistic, therapeutic, educational and sports fields. The project foresaw a series of one or two-day workshops suitable both for those approaching BMC for the first time, as well as for those who wished to deepen their personal/professional skills through an experience of guided embodiment. It was a trip across Italy that started out in Venice last February and has recently finished in Bologna, having also stopped along the way in Torino and in Genoa.
Parallel to this, during the last six months, Leben and Kinisfera also organized a series of labs open to health professionals, therapists, social workers, elementary and secondary school teachers and to special-needs assistants, to introduce the BMC approach to those working within public institutions and structures.
These projects were planned and conducted by Gloria Desideri, who has a past career as a dancer and choreographer, and has been actively engaged over the last twenty years in researching the body-mind continuum. Since 2005, Gloria has been the director of Leben nuova, the only official training center in Italy accredited by “The School for Body-Mind Centering®”. 

Let’s begin from the end, Gloria.  You’ve just gotten back from Bologna where you led the last of the series of introductory workshops programmed for this year.  Could you comment briefly on how it went?
I’d say that this “tour” ended splendidly. The Bologna group was composed mostly of people coming from a dance background, but with also quite a wide range of experience in somatics: from young people at their first approach to BMC to someone like Phoebe Neville, one of my teachers at Amherst back in the early ’90’s when i was studying. Phoebe has been living in Reggio Emilia for some time. Ironically, now that she’s here in Italy we hardly ever have the opportunity to meet – in fact, it’s been at least 10 years since the last time we saw each other! I was honored that she came to see me at this workshop: time was short, but thanks to her presence, we were able to go even deeper into the work. This is the beautiful thing about the work we do in a BMC group, and I’m always moved by it: the sharing of the mixture of experiences and skills.  It doesn’t matter where we are along our paths of embodiment – we all contribute in exploring principles that each of us manifests and embodies in our own personal way. It’s through this diversity and through this communication, that the principles themselves develop and evolve, richer and firmer.  This outlook (and I’m deeply grateful to Bonnie for it) is a determining factor in my approach to teaching: it’s not about passing down (from the “heights” of my experience) a preconceived recipe, as tasty as it might be, but rather about starting from a basic principle and creating the conditions to allow for discoveries that which through sharing will then feed people’s awareness on both an individual and collective level. It’s a much more “horizontal” concept of the learning processes.

For those to whom she may not be familiar, you are referring to Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, founder of BMC – the person with whom you trained in the USA to become a practitioner, and who will be teaching at the Leben nuova training programs in Tuscania in October?
Yes, of course, the person who began BMC researching back in the ‘70’s, re-elaborating her own intuitions and experiences through those of various generations of students, as the approach began spreading worldwide. We are lucky to have her here in October when she‘ll hold the seminar “Ontogenetic Development”.  The introductory workshops were meant also as preliminary experience to those interested in the BMC training, and, in this case, to those who wish to attend Bonnie’s seminar.

Gloria, you’ve been training people professionally for a long time, and then you also have your research, your projects with public schools and health care services, plus your international teaching collaborations, as well as the Sparks project… With all these different commitments, what made you decide to travel through Italy, proposing weekend introductory workshops about the basic principles of BMC?
Good question, I asked myself the same thing! [laughs]. Thinking about it, I see various motivations, different yet somehow connected. The first, a more personal one, centers around one of my long-time interests: to furnish what we could call a “transversal” access to the embodiment process; that is, to give an opportunity to people from different backgrounds (for instance: therapists, psychologists, dancers, dance/movement therapists, physical educators, performers, teachers etc.) to contact the territory that BMC explores, and to do this experientially, and with a certain ease. Besides encouraging these people to experiment on themselves along a path of personal growth, I’m also interested that they quickly get an idea of the great possibilities that this approach offers when applied to their own professional areas of interest. What I’m saying is that I believe that certain basic somatic principles, like those that facilitate the embodiment process, could have an enormous potential in various fields, offering different approaches, many of which are still unexplored.

Interesting. So your idea would be to extrapolate or “abstract” these principles and themes relating solely to BMC, offering a possibility of integration into other disciplines, other methods and approaches, other worlds, other “needs”, other professionalisms in addition to those already experienced and experimented in what you call the “BMC territory?”
Yes, this intuition has become much stronger in the course of the Sparks project, where along with international partners we are experimenting new models and new languages based on somatics and forms of creativity in caring for adults and children with special needs.  We want to enhance dialogue and exchange among all people related: health professionals, therapists, patients, parents, teachers, artists, and, naturally, also with the institutions. So I started to imagine which themes could be fundamental and transversal, a springboard for various possible evolutions, depending on how each individual explores them in our BMC workshops, and then how they integrate them into various other personal and professional contexts.
I started by asking myself: What conditions do I consider as fundamental in introducing people to BMC somatic education? Maybe I’m repeating myself, but it’s one of the most interesting aspects of this approach: what we share is the basic principle itself, not necessarily the way it is applied.  This then becomes your own, a resource you can access in various situations, for yourself and for others. My image of the BMC territory is one of a vast labyrinth with many different entrances – starting points for pathways that will develop ever richer and significant meaning as I go along, gathering clues, making connections that will in turn also mean getting lost, but that will allow me to come back to a “place” – and then I leave from there transformed. This, in turn, may lead to my next new entrance. It’s beautiful to be accompanied along the pathways of the labyrinth, especially by someone who has walked those roads before, maybe someone who has drawn some maps and carries them in her pocket. But it’s also very beautiful to accompany others, and in the process, get lost once again, but feeling less scared about it than before.

To get a better understanding, can you try to explain to us which themes you’ve centered on and have brought to these introductory workshops?
Given that I readapt the structure of each workshop and also some specific activities depending on the type of group participating, I have an array of fundamental starting points: the development of a sense of space, time and weight, tonus and its modulation in relation to the force of gravity, initiation of movement and reciprocal support through touch. What’s wonderful about these themes is that we can present and explore them at various levels of complexity. Take, for example, the sense of space: we can explore and experience it starting from the shape and structure of our adult bodies, with an anterior and posterior facet, an upper and a lower one, a left and a right side, a center and a periphery. But we can also evoke the cellular “memory” of our embryological development, when our structure and spatial relationships were being formed. This is an absolute potential, an experience that we can re-access to regenerate our resources and to re-organize ourselves in a more functional way.

Generally speaking, what sort of feedback did you receive from these things you proposed?
I always encountered intense participation. The groups were small in number, but I was struck by the presence, the openness and by the willingness and creativity of the participants. Each group developed these themes in an original and elaborate way.

You have so many projects, and they spark so many ideas, that it’s difficult to follow the thread. Let’s go back to why you chose to do these introductory workshops. You said you had several motivations.
Ok, I told you about the first one. Here’s another: I was feeling the need to have an overview, a vision of how things are going here in Italy: I wanted to reach out to people to better define the horizons of our world and our work. It’s always important to become better known, but also to listen to and to understand the desires and needs of people involved in somatic-related fields, and to see how we can answer and meet their needs. How far have we come? What is the image of ourselves, as a BMC community reflected to us from the world “out there”? Does it correspond to our inner reality?  In which direction should we be going? To whom should we be speaking? What input should we be giving? In any field, exploration and study should never be isolated from an understanding of contexts, territories, and people.

And from this point of view, it seems to me you found an environment ready to accept the approach you were proposing, to observe one’s own reality through a different lens?
As I already told you, the participants were few in number, also because after concentrating for many years on professional training, I didn’t really know how to give emphasis to this new type of proposal. Also, there is a rapid change in the ways and means of promotion, and this, combined with the ongoing economic and cultural crisis we are facing, perhaps contributes to a sense of confusion and uncertainty about how to orient our energies and our resources. But, with respect to the quality of the participation, the feedback was interesting and satisfying, and also very stimulating in its diversities. Each group offered different responses (and asked different questions), depending on the members and also on where we were being hosted, and here I’m referring to both the environment and to the territory and its cultural foundations. But all in all there was great participation.  BMC was new to nearly all these people, and many of them hope to continue along this path they discovered. For me, it was an intense experience, both professionally and personally, because of all the aspects we’ve been talking about, and moreover, for the relationship with the students/colleagues that assisted me during these workshops as well as in their organization. I’d like to thank them all here, one by one: Caterina Gottardo for Venice, Marcella Fanzaga for Torino, Alessandra Tinè for Genova and Maria Martinez for Bologna. But there would be many more people to thank, for example, those who gave me support on a local level. And also, for all the projects parallel to the introductory BMC workshops, there was the collaboration of those who gave support to the work in the schools, the colleagues in the Sparks-Italia group, the staff of the newly founded Kinisfera association… An enormous collective mobilization without which nothing would have been accomplished!

And so we can really say: United we stand! But besides, your enthusiasm is contagious. Collaboration, sharing, participation, networking, and …. great passion in whatever you do: these seem to be key concepts in your vision of this work. It would be interesting to learn more about all these initiatives, but let’s return once again to the “introductories”.    We were speaking about the objectives: to extend the BMC principles to new areas and to get an overview of the situation already seem like a lot. But you’ve also found some new students , or at least guided new people towards the somatics pathway, plus, you’ve strengthened the collaboration among younger colleagues who have trained with you. Satisfying results?
You bet! And also, maybe it goes without saying but is nevertheless just as important, all of this has helped to give resonance to our training programs, especially to IDME, infant developmental movement education training, which will begin this autumn.

So, let’s close this interview by reminding everyone of the dates and where to find information about all of Leben nuova’s activities.
Bonnie, together with Thomas Greil and myself, will be teaching during Ontogenetic Development from 7 to 11 October, 2014 . The course will be held in the event’s space at Supercinema in Tuscania (VT). All dates, programs, contacts and indications for participating can be found on our website: www. lebensnetz.it. The website also gives information concerning lodging in Tuscania. I am sure that this will be a great moment of enthusiasm and further growth for our community!

(English translation by Carol Berenyi)

This post is also available in: Italian