This story is not so personal anymore. It comes from my body. The body carries history. Our own, the history of our parents, our cultures, our beliefs, our cities, our dreams…that’s one bit. On the other end the body carries the history of the universe and of all life forms. That is our treasure and blind spot.
I am born in Bordeaux France, 21 April 1971, from Suzanne Hery and Henri Méret. I was the second child, 8 years after my brother’s birth. I want to include some thoughts about this moment, since I have the feeling it printed and shaped my all life as a child and young adult. Of course I don’t remember how I was delivered. But I asked my mum several time. Apparently she had a good pregnancy, not too sick, like with my older brother; but she was expecting intuitively a little girl, she had names: Clothilde, Mathilde…
I suppose she was scared about the birthing process, as she said she felt totally confident when the surgeon entered the room, he appeared to be a very charismatic and confident man, she could then trust the next part of the process. I wonder why her sense of safety was not coming from an inner support or from the parental constellation; that she had to refer to the heroic figure of the doctor in order to be okay, maybe she wasn’t sure about this at all. I born kind of blue, like I had spent some time fighting inside there.And I was a boy. She and my dad decided to name the baby Sylvain, meaning from the wood. i can say now, it was a good catch, although I didn’t like my name during my childhood, because it was too special, I wanted to be just normal.
During my first months, I was apparently a quiet, almost sad baby, not much playing, dropped off in some place in the morning taken back at the same place in the evening. Not very social.
From my childhood I just remember being at the wrong place at the wrong time with everything, I was supposed to be a girl, I was a boy, I couldn’t find connections with this family, this city, this neighborhood, this time. I couldn’t bond since the beginning I was born.
The small attempts to express my true nature and my inner self were currently shortcut with “No”.
All felt like more disillusion. And the further realization that I was not being allowed and capable of being myself. I was very shy, unable to accept anything from anyone. Totally uncomfortable in this body, I was usually mocked and bullied by the other kids for being too feminine, for showing girly manners and having a too high voice. Definitely not easy to bond in this world. So I became more and more reclusive, unable to communicate, or to make any friends. I was longing for a brother, preferentially a twin or a sister, or someone my age with whom I could relate and open up.
Being alone led me to bond with Nature, walking, making an imaginary world as I was spending my time in the forest, the sea, the island were my father’s family came from. I developed a special relationship with this island as a mother ‘s figure to which I could confide all my feelings. I was from the “Sylve”, from the wood and that was the only place where I could just be.
18 years old.
School wasn’t really my thing; I was an average middle level student. I choose Visual art as an option, it was the only artistic activity that was honorable in my family, music dance and theater were forbidden, I guess artistic expression was threatening the family’s issues. Expression was the main taboo in this family, many secrets and drama were lying underneath, but there was no way to talk about them. I deliberately was cutting myself off, depraving myself from any nourishment that could help me to develop. Making a cocoon of loneliness. My intuition was telling though “it’s a question of time, one day you’ll be free and do what you want, keep preparing yourself for this moment”. I was training my body as a gymnast, dancing and singing in the living room. Madonna, the pop star, incarnated the freedom of expression I was longing for. She taught me an important lesson about the “role” we play in the stream of life, not depending only on our talents or gifts but on choosing to take a path most probably challenging.
I met a visual art teacher in an atelier, she helped me to find a vision and understand the rigor and the structural aspects of culture and art. She understood me, she was a lesbian. I could connect with her. No judgment there, at least someone similar to me. With her help I entered the university of Visual art, my incapability for communication was hitting a top, I couldn’t even talk to anybody. I was involved in a kind of dramatic love story with a hairdresser, encountered at the chorale. It went really bad. Then I had an affair with an older girl, it didn’t go anywhere either. I knew I was standing beside my life, on the wrong track. To do a therapy was even forbidden by the family taboo issues about expressing the heavy history we were all carrying along. It did happened at the occasion of the military service, which I didn’t want to do. For that I knew a letter from a psychotherapist would help to be dismissed. I was so unhappy at this time that it wasn’t hard to let few words out of my mouth that would liberate me from the military obligations. I did a psychological therapy for a year.
It helped me to be back on track and to get some sense for life. I entered l’école des Beaux Arts after my bachelor by equivalence. I begin to frequent theaters and operas; I was fascinating by the Bel Canto, the classical voice. I had a good culture in art history, aesthetics, and art philosophy. L’école des Beaux Arts helped me to develop my artistic visions; my two diplomas were very successful with jury’s congratulation (3rd year) and a mention (5th year). My work was an attempt to combine different discipline like movement, voices, graphics, stage décor, costumes…as a total performing art form. I started at 23 years old to take my first dance atelier with a local company, after seeing their show. I was so embarrass with my body. Then I register for a real dance workshop with a choreographer in residence, I thought I would make drawings of the dancers, but I started the class and stopped at the end, surprised that I could follow almost every steps. The choreographer was very nice and encouraged me to continue. I did with local dancers. By the last semester of my graduation year, a friend from the dance class gave me a flyer about a new school that held a contemporary dance and art program in Brussels: P.A.R.T.S.
The audition was a week later in Paris, I went and passed the first round and a month later the last part in Brussels. I knew as a beginner the only chance to get in was my curriculum as a visual artist. The staff liked me and I entered the dance world through a really big door, and I was 25 years old. I was finally on track with my life, but with a very big pressure on my shoulders to succeed in becoming A Dancer.
P.a.r.t.s was not really a dream come true. I felt always on the side, the pressure for excellence being omnipresent, my body was getting more and more rigid and tense, although I met incredible artist and artwork, and learned a lot. My emotions were triggered under the stress and became out of control, I was in love, I was feeling like a failure, I was in a fight and struggling with my body, I became very limited. I was kicked out at the end of the second year, and it signed the act of my chronicle insecurity and lack of confidence for the next ten years. I was being condemned by the school, the staff “ we don’t think there is a place for you in the dance world…your physical abilities are too restricted…you don’t have any presence…”.
Rejection. What was this feeling? Entered families issues again, Rejection was the main syndrome heritance from ancestors trough my mother side, low self-esteem from my father lineage.
I went to Paris to cope with a dance carrier and keeping on training my dance skills. There I met a dance teacher, Josee Cazeneuve, she was integrating Feldenkrais method, Qi Qong and Taichi in her class, and she was in link with all kind of alternative body therapies. We became friend. I did all kind of workshops then: body mind centering, Feldenkrais, Rolfing, dance contact and I studied with a Qi Qong Chinese master for three years. At this time I started to be more in contact with the energetic therapy. It helped me a lot to realize that many of my physical problems were linked to damaged or inappropriate energetic patterns in my body. I wasn’t grounded, that was why I couldn’t hold a balance, neither my feet could work properly since I wasn’t touching the ground really. I was very mental, my all presence was standing above my physical body, I couldn’t be down on the earth plane. So I had to learn to activate and develop other connection, more awareness and understanding within my body. A Qi Qong retreat changed my all life in 2000, I was having my first strong spiritual experiences for a year, with intense meditations, side effect, realization. I was not afraid of death and dying anymore, I felt Unconditional Love. This journey was a real blessing.
Summer 2001 I met Katie Duck, a master of dance improvisation. She noticed me and proposed me to join her collective in Amsterdam Magpie music dance company. So far I was working as a dancer for company or project. I could see the further development in such work while using my own skills and my personal potential. Magpie Music Dance Company helped me to loose total confidence in my skills and to regain it eventually. Dancing with this amazing group of artist (Katie Duck, Vincent Caccialono, Martin Sonderkamp, Eileen Standley, Michael Schumacher, Masako Noguchi) was a thrill, a blessing and the most humiliating situation ever. It was the destruction of the ego as well as a transcendental ritual experience. The alchemy and the magic of this group was a source of real motivation. The vision of Katie, intellectually critical of the conventional dance world, was an extraordinary stimulation and inspiration. Katie played and still plays an amazing role in my life holding the alchemy between the polarization of the vulnerability and exposure of this work and the perseverance in remaining passionate about the exchange between a performer and an audience.
I had curiosity to understand what really happens when a group of dancers and musicians improvise in front of an audience. Discovering the Here and Now. I started to read A.R Damasio, and research about neurosciences, model of consciousness, the body awareness and the brain. It became a research project called Brain Study.
At this point I understood that the body is a Key, despite my intellectual confidence. I can’t avoid it, it manifests itself and triggered all my issues; As a matter of fact it is my medium as a dancer. I realized that I didn’t know anything really about it. I understood the Body is not one physical object, it is plural and complex. The movements of my mind, which I’ve been so much in touch with, designed the body of my beliefs system. My emotions, especially the inability to express them, design another body. These several bodies are intertwined and interrelated. Everything we experience transits through the Body, shaping and modeling it with memories, emotions, environments influences…it is the constant place of exchange between the world and ourselves.
So how was I present to this? Since I couldn’t bond as a child I had to work out strategies to cop with this. Above all the choices for a carrier I had chosen performing art. What a funny paradox. I created a solo with a French stage director based on Molinier’s Photographs, a fetishist artist, so I was dress (or undress!) with garters, high heels in a confrontational situation for 50 minutes, this piece was a success, it toured in several festival in Europe for 3 years. I was petrified most of the time but through the experience of performing in front of an audience I was re activating my birth process and had to find way to bond with this audience. Each time I have been performing I have been challenging this bonding again, and I have born again several time. And this came through the experience of Presence, Body States, and with the understanding that a chance was given to me to re create this bond with the world in a different way. I understood as well the beautiful process that occurs between performers and public.
To understand the body I lived diverse and complementary experiences.
The study of my own process, my life’s history, my family and ancestors, my beliefs and fears led me to discover and integrate several approaches of therapy. As well as a chronic physical injury led me to try out so many manual therapy, holistic medicine and energetic. I have experiences in somatic movement with BMC, Feldenkrais, Yoga , Continuum Movement; in energetic healing with Qi Qong, Reiki, intuitive healing, Shamanism; in personal development with the work of Byron Katie and Don Miquel Ruiz about belief systems.
When I teach a workshop on improvisation or presence, or in my own work as a choreographer, all these elements are present, included. It is not therapy though, I don’t really like this word. One difference is that I don’t have any opinion or diagnostic about what is shown or given by the participants, it is a creative process therefore we are in the Playing about creating, transforming and magic. Others would say that my work aims for high-functioning people. I don’t like making separation between human beings.