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Faculty Interview - The Studio New York

Interview with Sita Mani

Movement teacher at the Summer Conservatory

What’s your favorite part of teaching the summer conservatory?

What I love about the summer conservatory is the amount of focused time I am able to spend with the students sinking into and exploring the work we do. The amount of time we have together allows the ensemble to begin the journey of taking ownership of the work we offer them, of their instruments (their bodies and beings)… and personally I find it exciting to discover each person’s particular unique response to the creative process.

How long have you been teaching movement to actors?  What got your started?

I was a dancer for twenty years and eventually became less fascinated with movement for the sake of movement or aesthetics, and more fascinated with how human beings express through the body in everyday ordinary life…the language of the self without words. I was also hugely curious about the body-mind connection and started meditating, studying Lucid Body with Fay Simpson, The Alexander Technique and Authentic Voice Work. I explored everything I could find relating body to being and eventually chose to pursue The Feldenkrais Method and became a certified Feldenkrais teacher.

With human behavior and the body as such central interests, pursuing theater made sense and remained very appealing, just in a different way than before. Teaching actors about their bodies, self care and how to access authentic physical impulse just seemed to be a natural progression and a wonderful way to share common interests and grow with others. I also started to explore through creating my own work and physical language–very tentatively at first, and these days more actively. I first taught dance at 17, and have continued to teach on and off throughout my 27-year career. I have been teaching Movement to actors for nine years now.

What/who are some of your inspirations?  What teachers have been most influential?

I have had wonderful teachers both in professional training contexts and as mentors. Among those I count myself lucky to have known and studied with in a theatrical context: Fay Simpson, with whom I interned and explored Lucid Body work for 8 years, Jean McClelland who I continue an ongoing training with in Alexander Technique, Martin Sauermann who first recognized I had a voice and made sure I would use it, and Guido Tuveri and Jean Hugue Miredin who first recognized I had a relevant physical expression and taught me how to create from the gut and with courage.

Why should actors learn Feldenkrais?  How is it different from other techniques?

This is perhaps the hardest and most exciting question to answer because the answer is so vast. I will try to contain it. In my perception, what Feldenkrais offers is a practice that by its nature simultaneously teaches you about yourself, about your body (in a very scientifically sound, accessible and useful way), and creates LASTING SUSTAINABLE systemic change (anything from unuseful posture to unwanted behaviors), all the while bringing the individual into the receptive state that creative work requires. This is different than other methods I am aware of in the following way: With the Feldenkrais Method, change is affected from the inside out and this is what makes it sustainable.Through giving appropriate sensory information to the nervous system that enables it to choose different and more effective commands to give the body, thus bypassing intellect, it creates lasting integrated physical change in how the body acts and the person feels.

Of the projects you’ve worked on, what are you most proud of?

The project I am most proud of is my latest devised work that is still in development: “What You Counted And Carefully Saved.” It is a full-length physical theater piece that explores “loss” and how we as individuals deal with it. I feel from the few original works I have made to date, it is both the best testimonial to the powerful expression possible through physicality by actors trained using the Feldenkrais Method, and it is also the work I have done that has come the closest to upholding my vision that theater should serve the purpose of raising consciousness in the artists through the process, and hopefully the audience as well. The work has a long way to go, but I am proud of its truthfulness and proud of the beautiful ensemble I have, the courageous and supportive creative environment we have built our work on, and the resultant quality of work that is brought on stage.

The Studio / New York is a theater training center whose goal is provide deserving, committed actors access to the kinds of resources that can make a real difference in their artistic growth.

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