In the 80's, while I was at UC Irvine doing research on meditation, Jerzy Grotowski was there working with acting students. I never met him, but I did meet some of his students. They looked a bit like yogis and meditators, with a zany aliveness about them. To me, the purpose of meditation is to make you available for life. Grotowski, I found out later, was adapting yoga to help the actor be more available for presence.
Keep in mind that by “yoga” he meant something specific he had been exposed to or was inventing. He was taking some element from the thousands of yogas and playing with it.
A page about Grotowski and Yogi is here:
"When I was young I asked myself what would be a possible job that would enable me to look for the other one and myself, to look for a dimension of life that would be rooted in what is normal, organic, even sensual, but that would go beyond all this, that would have a sort of axis, another higher dimension that would surpass us. At that time, I wanted to study either Hinduism, to work on the different techniques of yoga, or medicine, to become a psychiatrist, or dramatic art to become a director."
Grotowski was, I feel, dynamically adapting techniques of yoga to empower actors in giving great performances. He was not mechanically imitating someone else's yoga, he was inventing his own.
in Towards a Poor Theatre he states:
"... we began by doing yoga directed toward absolute concentration. Is it true, we asked, that yoga can give actors the power of concentration? We observed that despite all our hopes the opposite happened. There was a certain concentration, but it was introverted."
Owen Daly writes that Grotowski said, "that his exercises were not yoga, nor was yoga used as a vehicle in his work because the objectives of Yoga and his work are different. The implication I took from this was that Yoga was for the pursuit of inner knowledge and his exercises were for making actor's bodies more available for performance."
See also here.
A page about Grotowski working with a man having intense electric experiences: here.
I just found this stunning essay by Grotowski: The web link is here.
The Drama Review
Copyright © Jerzy Grotowski
All rights reserved.
Untitled Text by
Pontedera, Italy, July 4, 1998.
According to the wish of Jerzy Grotowski this text is published posthumously.
It is possible that the end of my life approaches. I should like first of all to rectify an information which leads to a false understanding of the work of the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards. . .
Action is not a performance. It does not belong to the domain of art as presentation. It is an opus created in the field of art as vehicle. It is conceived to structure, in a material linked to performing arts, the work on oneself of the doers. Witnesses, outside observers, may be present or not. It depends on several conditions which, under different circumstances, this approach demands. When I speak of art as vehicle, I refer to verticality. Verticality we can see this phenomenon in categories of energy: heavy but organic energies (linked to the forces of life, to instincts, to sensuality) and other energies, more subtle. The question of verticality means to pass from a so-called coarse level in a certain sense one could say an everyday level to a level of energy more subtle or even toward the higher connection. I simply indicate the passage, the direction.
There, there is another passage as well: if one approaches the higher connection that means, if we are speaking in terms of energy, if one approaches the much more subtle energy then there is also the question of descending, while at the same time bringing this subtle some- thing into the more common reality, which is linked to the density of the body. Thomas Richards analyzed his perception, his individual experience of this kind of process, and he characterized it as inner action.
With verticality the point is not to renounce part of our nature – all should retain its natural place: the body, the heart, the head, something that is under our feet and something that is over the head. All like a vertical line, and this verticality should be held taut between organicity and the aware- ness. Awareness means the consciousness which is not linked to language (the machine for thinking), but to Presence.
What can one transmit? How and to whom to transmit? These are ques-
tions that every person who has inherited from the tradition asks himself, be- cause he inherits at the same time a kind of duty: to transmit that which he has himself received.
What part has research in a tradition? To what extent should a tradition of a work on oneself or, to speak by analogy, of a yoga or of an inner life be at the same time an investigation, a research that takes with each new generation a step ahead?
In a branch of Tibetan Buddhism it is said that a tradition can live if the new generation goes a fifth ahead in respect to the preceding generation, without forgetting or destroying its discoveries.
I know, I know. . . in the artistic domain stricto sensu we can say that there exists only an evolution and not a development. And that the work of Beckett, because it arrives after in time, is not more developed than the work of Shakespeare.
But here I speak of a domain that is artistic and that is not exclusively artistic. In the field of art as vehicle, if I consider the work of Thomas Richards on Action, on the ancient vibratory songs and on all this vast terrain linked to the tradition that occupies the researches here, I observe that the new generation has already advanced in respect to the preceding one.
July 4, 1998
Translated from the French by Mario Biagini