Tour of Touch
FormThe audience is issued invitations to participate in a graduated series of activities. We create a soundscape that suggests a feeling of relaxation and slowness. A voice begins a poetic narrative, invoking images of ease and inviting the audience into gradual action.
First we invite the audience to lie down comfortably on the floor, with free space around each person, not in physical contact with anyone else. People are invited to exercise proprioception, sensing their own bodies. We move among them, handing out blindfolds, which they're invited to put on.
The audience is invited to undress and expose themselves to the air and the feeling of being in the place. They're encouraged to take on a watery feeling; bodies immersed in a shared environment whose character is similar to that of the bodies.
We invite them to be open to touches. We begin to move amongst the prone audience, first brushing them with breezes, then touching their bodies with our hands or faces. We encourage them to sense these touches "directly", without interpreting them or feeling compelled to "respond" in any way.
After a while the narrative says we're going to move some of the audience around to be in touch with other audience members. We pick a person, draw him up to his feet, and guide him to someone else. (Leading blindfolded people through a crowded space without stepping on or tripping over people lying on the floor involves a lot of contact and cooperation between the leader and the person being led; more about this in the description of the Walking in Pairs ritual.) When we reach the prone person, we draw the person we've led down to contact him, usually placing his face or chest against the prone person's body.
After a series of moves like this, most or all of the audience are paired. Our narrative guides the pairs to sense each other by touch as a fresh medium of mutual awareness: not touching to express any known feeling, or in order to massage the person being touched, but as a way to sense and be sensed. We try to steer people into some depth in their contact, without giving them any preset sense of what this touch "means". The soundscape becomes more intense as we progress, more goading the people into effort to explore one another with sharp focus.
We may go through several "cycles" of pairing, eventually breaking a pair and leading one (or both) of the people away to a new pairing. Sometimes we also bring three or four people together in a group.
PurposeThis is the longest-standing, central ritual of our performance. We're giving people the opportunity to contact each other physically and psychically, with a lot of freedom, and with the sense that we're overseeing things to make sure they don't get hurt or abused. We're guiding them into a realm of contact that's not about sex, or massage, or about exchanging tokens of communication.
We de-emphasize the use of hands to touch, because hands are the standard means of physical "expression", effecting, controlling and grasping: we want to set these ways and ideas behind.
Although we hint at various alternative "anatomies" like chakras, chi meridians, Rolf-style associations of event memory with body areas, Lilly-style associations of different "parts" of the body with different aspects of life, these are only hints. While we ourselves are reaching for a realm of mutual participation in shared spirit, we do not attempt to impose this as a group agenda.
We want people to experience one another closely, in terms specific to their pairing; not as instances of any previously described form or phenomenon. Therefore our guidance is not toward a particular area of the unknown, but away from the mundane, the taken-for-granted, the known.
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