“Dreambody/Earthbody” is a compelling new film by Antero Alli, in which he documents recent developments in the Paratheatrical Research work he has been conducting since 1977. Paratheater is a term which was first used by Polish theater director Jerzy Grotowski for a kind of work which uses the body and voice techniques employed by actors, but instead of using them to create plays intended to be performed for an audience they are used by workshop participants to explore inner reality, and as a spiritual and self-healing practice.
The specific series of workshops documented in the film are designed to make connections between one’s dream life and waking life. The seven participants are asked to take physical movements which they remember from their dreams and form these movements into a simple, repeatable sequence. In very carefully calibrated stages, over the course of seven weeks, Alli guides them so they are mentally and physically prepared to use these movements as a gateway, allowing the energies and emotions of their dreams to re-emerge during a trance state and become available through the body to the waking self.
Alli’s technique involves using the body as a resource, and his work follows from the premise that deep knowledge, not only of ourselves but also knowledge of human culture and history, can be found by listening deeply to our muscles, bones, and by fully inhabiting our physical selves. It is remarkable, watching the footage from these workshops, how using movements remembered from dreams seems to unleash powerful memories and feelings from the unconscious in a way that can be very difficult if you simply sit up in bed and try to recall a dream. The participants use movement and vocalizing to experience these unleashed forces, but not words, so it is hard for the viewer to know what they are experiencing in detail. Nevertheless, one can easily see that they are surrendering to a deep and authentic kind of inner revelation, quite different from what one normally sees actors doing in a theater.
The film includes footage of the workshops, shot in stylish black and white video, and also several re-created fragments from dreams in beautiful color collage sequences, which help to clarify and dramatize the way that fragments from dreams are used in the workshop. The film also gives a more or less complete outline of the techniques involved, so that any viewer would be able to explore some of these same practices on his or her own.
The film includes interviews with the participants, who attempt to describe their goals and their experiences. Since this work explores a realm which is beyond language and conceptual thought, it may be frustrating at times for the viewer to listen to interviews in which the speakers are at a loss for words to convey what they felt. But one can pick up as much from their body language as from their words: the workshops have clearly opened a door for these people to find levels of reality that are normally closed to us, and they find the experience thrilling and liberating. Several of them find the workshops directly useful in their professional work (two of them as actors, and one as a martial arts teacher.) “Dreambody/earthbody” will whet your appetite for Paratheater, and make you excited to find out more about this unusual technique for tapping into the power of our dreams.