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Animated Magazine
Summer 1999
Sophie Hansen

Patterns in the Sand:

The inimitable work of Jasmine Pasch. Her belief in the potential of movement work with older people has driven her practice for more than 15 years. Informed by phenomenology and philosophy it nevertheless remains practical and dynamic. Sophie Hansen finds out why.



Jasmine at Firkin Crane, Cork
photograph Derek Speirs

I catch Jasmine Pasch on her way to the gym. Physically, Pasch will be "working it with the beefcake", but philosophically, she will be experiencing the flow, which psychologist, Csikszentmilhalyi, theorises as a key component of human happiness. After training as a dancer, and working in education with countless companies, as well as developing a ground-breaking freelance career, Pasch has studied the scientific and medical theories, the psychology and philosophy of dementia and its effect upon the human experience, before coming back to moving herself again. Smiling on the treadmill, she finds phenomenological parallels in the sheer physical pleasure of the movement. "The experience is first class", she enthuses, "and it makes me ask, what it is that makes people happy? Investigating this in relation to the people I work with and myself, leads me to think about physical and psychological well-being, and that is what I am all about." In September, Firkin Crane's Moving Age, an international symposium for dance and older people, will provide Pasch with, "the perfect environment in which to swim; alongside people who wish to improve what they are doing, by thinking and doing. This combination of theory and practice, developed and exchanged within a dynamic community, sustains Pasch's belief in the potential of movement work with older people. "Scientific enquiry does not actually tell us as much as we need to know about the person." Whilst Pasch is clearly enthused by the sciences, she insists, "I am a doer" She is a listener too however, and above all else, a learner. Pasch is looking for "practical information about what I do and how to do it better." She recently attended a conference on autism, which "rather failed to address human feelings of pain and grief and loss around being different. I came away thinking that is all very well, but how does that help us to live in the world together? That would be another area to address at a future conference - how do we rub along? If you have got something wrong with chromosome seven, that should not stop you doing what you need to do as a human being, with a physical, a spiritual, an embodied self. There has been much research in the field of Alzheimer's to do with holes in the brain, tangles in the neurofibres, etc., but at the end of the day we have a group of people who are going to live for a long time and are going to need thoughtful care and need us to make their lives bearable and address them as people." Pasch believes that "the way that someone moves and interacts and speaks with another person makes a huge difference."

So it is the pursuit of a methodology which addresses this total person which has taken Pasch's dance and movement experience into different spheres. "The first staging post for me was The City Lit," she recalls. "At the start of taking on this work I trained as a teacher in adult education and found that hugely different from the way in which I have been taught, through school, college, dance training and everything else. It was the opposite because it addressed the learner and what they needed to know in order to know how to do what I was asking them to do. I really loved the philosophical and political side of adult learning. I tucked into that with gusto."
And Pasch's appetite for learning increased after that. Her next step was Goldsmiths' College, where she trained in psycho-dynamic counselling and gained the confidence to consolidate all her "half baked theories" and start to read and write from a more informed standpoint.
"Following that, I went to the Tavistock Clinic which is very Kleinian based, and for ten years I have been going there to the monthly Learning Difficulty and Psychotherapy Workshop which looks at ways of being in the world when you are different, how we treat people who are different and how they feel about that."

In 1995 Pasch received a Lisa Ullmann Scholarship to pursue her interests overseas. She travelled to Australia, to spend time with Heather Hill, who is undertaking doctoral research into dance movement and Alzheimer's. "Hill introduced me to a more philosophical way of thinking; her approach was phenomenological - how we experience the world and how we describe that." Hill shares Pasch's belief that scientific enquiry is not in itself enough, and their dynamic relationship has taken her into a closer examination of experience as

Key to Well-being.

Following Australia, Pasch travelled to South Africa, to work with children in traumatised communities. There she was astounded by the resilience shown by those who had witnessed atrocities and yet were still able to dance. Eager to know more she read the work of psychologist, Edith Grotberg, on the nature of resilience and "another penny dropped. Certain social interactions help to foster resilience, others destroy it." She quickly made the link back to the learning experiences she had had in her life, and how these related to her work in residential homes. She asked herself, "what improves and what makes worse the things we are doing?" And was thrown back into the practical territory of visits by the hairdresser in the middle of the workshops and financial cutbacks experienced in her work in residential homes. Consolidating her understanding of happiness and resilience, in the amusing form of her Problem Page worksheets, which seek to convert the seemingly insurmountable practical problem into an entertaining and meaningful exercise in human understanding, Pasch has developed a practice, informed by phenomenology and philosophy, and yet entirely practical and dynamic. It will no doubt change, as she takes on the shared experiences of the Moving Age symposium discovers more about the Kestenberg Movement Profile, derived from theories of Laban and psychological development, which is currently tantalising her in the form of a yet unpublished book. Nevertheless, it is guaranteed to remain as complex as the nature of experience itself.

Pasch describes her work as, "patterns in the sand. It is not the sea and it is not the sand, it is the interaction between the two, the dynamic relationship." She could analyse the thinking, and document the doing, yet she would be no closer to explaining the success which occurs within that "magic moment" of experience, which if it is an ameliorated one, however fleeting it may be, is worth all the effort of her 15 years enquiry and that of her colleagues and generations of those to come, for as long as people are able to dance together.

Sophie Hansen, Freelance Writer.

This article, first published in the Summer 1999 edition of Animated magazine,is reproduced by kind permission of The Foundation for Community Dance
tel: 0116 251 0516

(click on address to send an email to Foundation for Community Dance)

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