A splendid event happened at the Theater Zuider Amstelkanaal in Amsterdam – Gurdjieff Movements en Muziek, May 12, 2002 – the first openly publicized presentation of Gurdjieff's meditative movements and music since his death in 1949.
G. I. Gurdjieff was born about 1866 in Russian Armenia. As the audience learned in the opening monologue preceding the performance, Gurdjieff movements are a personal experience to get in touch with deeper energies than our daily habits open us to. In the sacred dances, as the movements are called, the body goes through ever-changing postures in ever-changing motifs requiring great concentration.
We were told that Gurdjieff movements are tools to use in digging deeply into the primordial energies of the self; that by getting in touch with the primordial energies of our body, emotions, thoughts we become those energies.
The format of the program started with solo piano music of Gurdjieff played by visiting piano artist, Ugo Bonessi from Rome. Mr. Bonessi's excellent performance of the syncopated rhythms and minor-sounding melodies left the audience quiet and receptive to the series of sacred dances that followed. Mr. Bonessi's piano solos interlaced the dances for the 3 hours.
Each dance was accompanied on the piano by Wim van Dullemen, a personable man I talked with during half-time intermission. Mr. Van Dullemen has been playing the Gurdjieff piano solos and teaching the movements for more than 30 years. Gurdjieff movements are taught directly from disciples of Gurdjieff and disciples of those students in succession. Mr. Van Dullemen is no doubt a master of what he does – I could feel my emotions roused through his dynamic presentation on the piano, and tambourin occasionally, in accompanying the dancers on stage.
22 dancers performed. The theater setting was perfect; luxurious black velvet draperies hung across the back and at the sides of the stage; full yellow-white light fell upon the stage precluding shadows. The intimate setting with 400 theater seats rising in tiers allowed all to have a good view of the dancers on stage and to see Mr. Bonessi and Mr. Van Dullemen playing the piano on the floor just below stage level without obstructing the view of the dancers.
Between 2 and 16 dancers, about equally men and women were on stage at any one time. Even though this was a movement performance the dancers were not necessarily professional performers, rather they were people interested in diving deeply into the experience the mathematical movements held for them. In other words, anyone with sincerity can perform the Gurdjieff movements to the degree they are capable.
This performance was not about technical excellence but rather experiential to each as an expression of the symmetry and seeming asymmetry of the movements – one outstretched arm would be going up and down and the opposite hand would be patting the midriff in circles. Each dancer was really concentrating on maintaining his or her own patterns while the neighboring dancer might be at a different stage of the continually varying pattern – as an aside, remember how it is singing in rounds! It was impressive to view all the dancers moving in their individual patterns amidst the greater whole.
This writer was left with the feeling that the dances are much like the pattern of life in the individual and life on the planet and universe – so much seeming diversity that on casual observation it all might appear a mishmash of chaos, but on closer observation each of the parts is doing its role perfectly to bring about the harmonious workings of the whole.
There were 3 variations of costume. Most of the dances were done in white silk tunics with v-necks, and silk sashes in fuchsia, lavender or cobalt blue, and long loose pants, with a band at the ankle. In one dance the costume was a beige silk tunic without sash and long loose pants; the men with round stand up collars and the women with v-necks; all had the black slippers. The dancers with all black clothing wore jersey tops with v-necks and long sleeves, long wrap pants, and black soft shoes with leather soles.
At the end of the 3 hours the audience was moved to stand, clapping at least 5 minutes with a few bravos – saluting bringing the fuller scope of Gurdjieff's work into the public view as we go into this millennium.
Commentary - Susan Helene Kramer
To view photos of the Gurdjieff meditative movements:
To read a review of a video on Gurdjieff's early life and see the meditative movements for yourself:
Gurdjieff – Meetings with Remarkable Men
Gurdjieff World-Wide: Finding a place near you:
G. I. Gurdjieff – database of people and organizations