Society, from time to time, may share our replies
to selected Email inquiries - inasmuch as the
comments and advice may be of general value
Following is a reply
(from Dushka Howarth) to an email inquiry with a DVD
attached of the movements of a relatively new
... I have (watched the
DVD).. I think it is a wonderful class, working hard,
and I am
so happy to see you concentrating on the Obligatories.
I have found in recent years that
classes everywhere are more anxious to jump to
the later exercises (even many that Mr. Gurdjieff
never even finished..)...about all this please read
what I have just this week put onto a new website for
my Gurdjieff heritage society:
www.gurdjieff-heritage-society.org (go to the
movements page) for the moment, about your class I
will just mention some general impressions:
Your people are young and
active...too active...using too much energy...
positions too big, almost careless, just thrown out,
tempos too fast (I know using the orchestral music is
exciting! The tempo may be good for listening but is
simply wrong for moving! those musicians have never
done the exercises).
Everyone's all-important basic posture is often
forgotten and distorted, feet no longer parallel,
hands not in line with forearm, fingers loose or, on
the contrary, tense and in a distorted fist, etc.
....I know they are called
"the movements" but it is what is behind the moving
that is important! ...The preparation...the
visualization in advance, knowing with one's head,
feeling with one's "wish", sensing the right tonicity
with one's body...the collecting of energy...then the
exact, immediate taking of the position with the
absolute economy of energy...then sensing and
observing within each position...preparing for the
next position...and the next many sequences...being
sensitive to the unity of all one's parts and
functions...and sensitive to all the rest of the class
and their relation to you and your common aim....etc.
Whew! yes, it is a big task
and not to be attempted lightly!
OK, Ii will start you off
with an obvious "beginning"...no...because you have
been working long and well...so lets call it: "a
Please go back to the first
obligatory and approach it (as it was intended) as a
First your pianist must
practice playing it in a quite different way...with a
steady pulse from beginning to end so that the class
feels to always take each position instantaneously,
all together, but then hold it (sensing and observing,
going inward especially on that special *"one"*) for
four steady counts then the next time three counts,
then two counts (each separated by a pause equal to
the next series) i.e.
10 positions counting each four counts then a pause
of three counts
10 positions counting three
counts " two counts
10 positions counting
two ' ' ' four counts
10 positions "
four " three, etc
I am attaching the music
correctly adapted for this use of the exercise
according to my mother!
With the help of Kevin
Roberts I had it rewritten for people to see exactly
what is meant. (Tell the pianist T meant to indicate
pedaling to hold the final chord of a sequence to
include the pause.) You must all realize how
important the steady pulse is and therefore how
essential it is to start at the right tempo (it may
feel very slow to you at first.) To find this
right tempo for your particular class I suggest asking
everyone to work individually for a while with eyes
closed doing the leg positions (the most difficult to
do fast) exactly but keeping sensation totally in
them. start slowly then get faster and faster. the
tempo at which most of your people begin to lose
contact/control is a hint for you and the pianist to
decide what should be the "fastest tempo"/two counts
per position for everyone...therefore begin twice as
slowly as this (for four counts per position).
I am also sending you an
article by Kevin Roberts (and two people who worked
with him, Leah Roberts and teacher/pianist Any
Rylander Jones), they had been asking my advice (so I
am the "mentor" he mentions). You might try working
in this way with a metronome for a few times.
especially as it will give your pianist (or
"pianists", as I hope you are preparing several) a
much needed, I'm sure, opportunity to actually do the
exercises she/he has to play for.
The last two attachments are from
the book by my mother and myself that I am working on
(hopefully to be out in a few months). it is the
easiest way for me to share with you what I mean by
your attitude to moving in the movements class...and
the formula for a correct basic posture.
PS: A last reminder - since some of the music books
have published the wrong order, note that the order of
the Obligatories in the "excerpts" was written by
mother and is correct. This is important since the
Obligatories (people have so often forgotten) were
intended by Gurdjieff as a "suite" to be done all
together, one after another in that order with a
The first one is simple but so correct for the body
that it may give a respectful beginner a "moment of
grace", a "taste" of awareness...
But then the first march requires one to work a
bit more outwards and around the body to develop that
small core of awareness into directed attention and
begin to expand it.
Then the counting brings in (differently every
time) all kinds of challenges to the
intellect/formatory center strengthening attention
Then the note values...more challenges and
opportunity to re-enforce the core of attention...etc.
So I hope you can complete the series with the
march forward and the mazurka and get the full benefit
of these extraordinary opportunities.