Andrew : Along that idea it’s kind of like the canary in the mine idea. If you’re aware of what’s happening with the canary then it can save the minors and so people of color, especially those who are most marginalized are the canaries in the mine, and so in order to even know what is happening with the canary in the mine, like we have to have a relationship with them. We have to be moving with them, dancing with them.
Craig: Hello, I’m Craig Constantine. Welcome to the Movers Mindset podcast, where I interview movement enthusiasts to find out who they are, what they do and why they do it. This is episode number 81. Andrew Suseno, ancestors, Parcon Resilience and racism. Andrew Suseno’s Parcon goes beyond the physical to create community and fight racism. Andrew discusses his family, ancestors, and their role in his identity. We explore what Parcon Resilience is, why he created Parcon Resilience and his vision for the anti-racist work it does. Andrew unpacks various pieces of racism in modern America, how Parcon Resilience addresses it and shares why the work he does inspires him.
Craig: Hello, I’m Craig Constantine.
Andrew : I am Andrew Suseno [Hihem 00:01:20].
Craig: Andrew Suseno is a physical therapist, dancer teacher, and the founder of Parcon Resilience. He has studied movement and the body for many years and is a certified orthopedic manual therapist, Laban Movement analyst and Feldenkrais practitioner. Andrew founded Parcon Resilience in 2017 as an anti-racist, relational and environmental somatic form and teaches classes throughout East Harlem, New York and abroad. Welcome Andrew.
Andrew : Hey Craig.
Craig: Andrew, thank you so much for taking the time to sit down today and talk. I say this a lot, but there are so many people, but you in particular that I’ve wanted to talk to you for a while. I first encountered you probably at like a Jesse Danger with friendsgiving her something and then I finally had a chance to take up her Parcon movement session and I totally want to get to unpacking Parcon and contact improv and all of this stuff but the first thing I want to start with is all the guests tend to bring things with them and I’m wondering on the tabletop between us are… I’m going to say three items because I think one of them was one item and it’s now broken so I think it’s really two items-
Andrew : No.
Craig: …three items. Can you tell me who is on the… it looks like an ink like a-
Andrew : Yeah, it’s like a stamp. It’s like an ink stamp. There’s three items and they come from my alter. We have a family altar and in the mornings, my son and I will sit in front of the altar and we’ll light a candle and we’ll say a value that we want to have for the day. It could be like creativity or openness or strength and then we’ll ask a question or share a story in our lives. Ask a question of the ancestors. Do you have any stories of strength? I’ll just share what I have from my mom or some stories that I’ve heard about my relatives and things, or we just open up a question and trust that the ancestors are going to speak to us in ways that we don’t necessarily know.
Andrew : The different objects that we have are ways to connect so we usually pick an object when we’re opening the door. Let me say it in Indonesian because I’m Chinese Indonesian American, and we say buka pintu, which means open the door and then we count to six in Bahasa, which is the Indonesian language. For example, I was holding a stamp that has imprint of my father’s picture on it though I think when he was like maybe 20 or something and 22. I have no idea where it came from, except for maybe he was a doctor so maybe they made these imprints for some reason, I have no idea in Indonesia. Maybe they use these for some reason but whatever it is, there’s a lot of questions about my father and random objects and pictures that we don’t know the people’s names to and pictures too but they open up the door for questions and ways to try to connect with a past that’s not exactly here and that we don’t necessarily have the same kind of ready access to… ready access to that maybe white Americans would.
Craig: I meant ready access, like I can go talk to my mom because my mom is still living. You don’t have ready access to your father anymore.
Andrew : True. Yeah. My father passed away 12 years ago now. Yeah, and most of my relatives speak Bahasa, I guess that’s the ready access to and I don’t speak necessarily fluently so it’s difficult to even ask the stories of the ones who are alive. Yeah. The other objects I have, there’s a sea coral and my father was cremated and so his ashes are on the sea so this is kind of like a way to connect with them. The other one is a dried out longan berry which is like a fruit that you can eat in Indonesia that you can get in China down here.
Craig: Size of a hazelnut, right.
Andrew : Yeah.
Craig: I’m wondering if your… I hesitate to say loss of the language, but your separation from… can you remind me the name of the language?
Andrew : Bahasa.
Craig: Bahasa. I’m wondering.
Andrew : It just means speak.
Craig: I love when people unpack. Sounds [inaudible 00:05:15] but it’s just this simple thing. I’m wondering if your lack of access to that language, does that make you feel more cut off from your family or is it just a concept of like, well, okay. It’s a piece of where we were from that I’m okay not having access to.
Andrew : No, totally makes me feel more cut off and I think it’s really common with second generation Asian Americans. My family came during the 1965 immigration act. That’s when the U.S. opened up the immigration quotas to allow other Asians, other… like most Asian people from different other countries to come in because before that, there was a lot of others Chinese Exclusion Act and there was a lot of laws that prevented Asians from entering the U.S. and so with the 1965 immigration act, professionals were allowed in because the U.S. needed more professionals in general so my father was a doctor and in Indonesia because we were ethnically Chinese, they didn’t allow the ethnic Chinese to specialize on anything their. Chinese were persecuted in Indonesia.
Andrew : In one effort to kind of to try to escape there, because a lot of things were happening to Chinese there, it wasn’t just not being able to practice medicine, but like we literally had to change our last name. Our last name used to be [Ting 00:06:37] and they changed it to Suseno because it was what was acceptable within Indonesia. You weren’t allowed to celebrate Chinese culture, all the Chinese kind of-
Craig: Yeah, you mentioned no Chinese New Year, right.
Andrew : …community centers were closed, no Chinese nothing. In coming here to the States, my parents didn’t teach me any Bahasa because they didn’t want me to struggle with assimilating, which is something I think a lot of Asian Americans, when they first came to the U.S. worried about their children, about how they assimilated and they wanted us to excel and kind of basically fit into the model minority thing, but at a lot of costs to like disconnection from culture and disconnection to family.
Andrew : I didn’t even understand the language my parents were speaking with each other in the household. Like they spoke with each other in Bahasa and I had no idea what they were saying, except for maybe things like, naughty child, got to go to the bathroom, like things that I heard a lot. I’m like, oh, that must be me. Darn it, but I had no idea. I think, I’m married now and I have a six year old child and he can understand whatever my wife and I are processing or working through it and does a lot. If a child is able to hear their parents processing through things and expressing their emotions and being people, are just working through things but I think my parents were doing their best and wanted me to excel and they had their own experiences of struggling with assimilation in Indonesia and then coming here, they wanted to make sure that I didn’t go through that as much.
Craig: Try to minimize that.
Andrew : Yeah.
Craig: It’s going to sound like I’m going all over the place here but-
Andrew : No, go for it.
Craig: When I first heard about contact improv, I was like, that is totally a thing. I’m going to guess that contact improv is not the most interesting topic in your universe that you want to talk about, but I think it’s important that we at least touch on what contact improv is just in case people have no idea what contact improvisation is because it’s buried in Parcon, which is like important. Can you give me the two minute idiot tour of what contact improvisation is?
Andrew : Yeah. Contact improvisation is where usually two, but it could be more, but two or more people are sharing their weight. They’re leaning into one another and through that contact point, which can be any part of the body and you can slide, you can pivot, you can balance so you could be literally balancing on somebody’s shoulder, rolling down to their hip, and any body part could be doing that and so it’s kind of like a conversation, it’s all improvisation so you don’t know what’s going to happen, but you’re listening to how you fall towards each other and it came about from Steve Paxton, who is a white man in the '70s who developed the form with a collective of others, both men and women, white men and women mostly.
Andrew : He believed in the exploration of the bodies through physics, kind of the falling toward each other and seeing what would happen, and blowing up the idea that connected with contact improv was the contact jam idea which is like a different kind of performance where anybody could come in and out of a jam space and the audience wasn’t necessarily just sitting watching, but the audience itself could come in and participate, and so what’s special that I love about contact improv is that it’s specifically part of the ethos is that beginners and experienced people can come together and share an experience and it doesn’t matter what your experience level is because we all are in bodies that fall and deal with gravity and it’s about the connection that happens with… that you don’t know how somebody is going to catch themselves or rebalance or fall but it’s all about that listening that happens between two people.
Craig: I’m going to guess that you were interested in that or had been exposed to that before you discovered parkour, and having seen a little bit of some of the sessions and like done little teeny tiny bit of it. I can totally see how, if you were into parkour you’d be like, hey guys, I got this other bag of tricks and I got this thing in here called contact improv what happens if we try and put the two together and I’m wondering, how did your perception of your own body change as you went from… I’m going to say having an understanding of contact improv and then suddenly you begin trying to move over obstacles.
Craig: Did your sense of self like really… like how did the contact improv play into your parkour experience? Like most people know about parkour and they have a certain idea. I do this job. I feel this way. I shin myself. Like there’s a commonality to the embodied experience of doing and learning parkour and I’m wondering how your experience may have been different because you had a very deep understanding of your body through contact improv and we’re making sense.
Andrew : Yeah, yeah. I mean, I have some other moving background too in addition to contact improv.
Craig: I know.
Andrew : I guess in terms of a contact improv focus, I think I love the idea of starting to… for me, what parkour opened up was, oh, this wall, it doesn’t just have to be this thing I walk by anymore. I can jump on it. I can vault on it. I can have a connection to it, a relationship to it. As I started exploring things, and also, especially through the way that the movement creative with Jesse Danger, like those are the… he was the pretty [crosstalk 00:12:12]-
Craig: [crosstalk 00:12:12].
Andrew : Yeah, that’s where I fell into it. He was very much about teaching you how to vault, but also allowing people to find their own ways to vault. It was like there’s this move that we have here, but like, do what you want to do. Like, what’s the way that you can discover that and how can you find your way through it? I think that invitation into parkour that there wasn’t a right way to do it, there may be… is an efficient way to do it that has been tested and tried but-
Craig: Best way to do it, right?
Andrew : …but there was an invitation to explore and that’s what invited me to bring in the rest of myself. I think for me in learning parkour I loved the use of the hands and the feet and sometimes your bottom-
Craig: Face, right?
Andrew : …but intentionally using any part of my body, which I had from contact improv and leaning into it and falling through there and having it even be a site like my ribs, be a site for a jump even if it was a small jump. That was kind of something that I guess that invitation to experiment invited. I was like, yeah, I want to try improving solutions to this challenge that’s before me to get to do this run from one point to another and because I’m bringing all myself, sure. I’ll roll over my ribs and maybe I’ll do a turn back or I’ll go over this bar in a different… in this way that feels good in my body or that’s like using other parts of my body because I’m acquainted with them or I’ve been using them in different ways.
Craig: I just wanted to kind of chase those trains of thought because I wanted to sort of bring people into… I always had the problem of like, I often know a lot more than the average random person who would be listening to the material and I wanted to start there with like, what [crosstalk 00:14:05] and bring us like all those pieces together, because that’s a pretty obvious succession of things that happen to you like this. Oh, I see why that happened. I see why that happened because what I really want to ask is, okay, so tell me about Parcon Resilience.
Craig: One of the things that I read that really jumped out at me was, I’m not going to get the quote exactly right because I don’t have it in front of me, but you wrote or somebody wrote something that said the Parcon Resilience is interested in and I’m going to say anti-ambulatory types of movement and you’re looking at me funny so I’ll unpack further. The way I interpreted that was the idea that so much of what we do including in parkour but so much of what humans do in general is ambulatory. I’m like two feet per ambulatory. What I found most interesting about the Parcon stuff that I have seen and that I have experienced is yeah, we use our feet, but it’s really not entirely about ambulatory and then it gets really interesting when you can like take limbs away or I’ve seen people who are in wheelchairs participating in movement with people who are using their legs.
Craig: I’m just wondering, can you tell me about Parcon Resilience, and if I’ve picked out an interesting piece of like the attempt to make nonambulatory movement not quite so normal or like not the thing that is the thing that’s only ever seen.
Andrew : Yeah. Well, I feel like we haven’t really fleshed out what Parcon is yet still.
Craig: That’s very likely. Do you want to do that? Want to do Parcon?
Andrew : Let’s take a step back. Yeah. Jesse was curious about the way that I was coming up with movement, right? After a while I started sharing with him ways of improvising, both contact as well as just dance improvisation and then at the art of the first art of retreat, he invited me to teach a contact improv class and I started teaching it outside and was teaching from a place of open questions. Like if I just tell you that contact improv is about two bodies falling towards each other in a way that you can take care of yourself and not hurt yourself. Let’s start from that.
Andrew : Without giving more instruction on that and just had people starting to explore falling toward each other and how to come to the ground and come out, that led to exploration on different environments and terrain. First we went on a speed bump, then we went towards a bench and then eventually it was in a gazebo where there was rafters and you could hang from the rafters and somebody was on your back, but you were also holding yourself part of your weight up by a rafter and you could spin on a rafter in a different way because somebody was underneath you supporting your weight, which might have been too heavy if you were by yourself but then you could almost like swing and jump with your hands because your back was being supported by somebody underneath you and make it all the way to your feet on another railing on another side.
Andrew : It was like being able to engage in the environment together in a way that you would never be able to alone. That for me is part of one of the core aspects of Parcon, is discovering one’s potential with ability and intention in an environment while you’re in a relationship with others and forming a collective, forming some kind of relationship that’s empathetic. All the things that I was talking about with contact improv, Parcon in particular is about using any part of the body in the environment, not just a flat even floor environment but like on a tree or on a slant, an incline and while you’re doing that with another person. It’s kind of the combination of those things.
Craig: I think that makes perfect sense.
Andrew : Back to the Parcon Resilience.
Craig: [crosstalk 00:17:48] what’s Parcon Resilience.
Andrew : I thought you were going to say anti-racism, but you said anti-ambulatory. Just curious-
Craig: We’re going there too.
Andrew : Yeah. Let’s stick with anti-ambulatory.
Craig: I’ll show you what’s going on behind the curtain. What’s going on behind the curtain is there’s all this cool stuff I want to get to, which is like anti-racism and like the shifting of the focus from everything being white centric. I want to get there, but sometimes I’m afraid that if I just go straight there, it’s too complicated so I was trying to like explain.
Andrew : No, no. That’s fine.
Craig: …hey, if you want to just jump on stop, I want to try and tease you away, but you know what? You can go wherever you want.
Andrew : No, let’s do the anti-ambulatory. I like that you started there. If you kind of think about the being able to do things that go beyond how I normally relate to my body and how I normally relate to a place, our built environment is very ablest.
Andrew : Right? And so there might be no ramp for somebody in a wheelchair to get up to a certain place or… and so when somebody is Parconing with somebody who might be in a chair who might have the ability to maybe do a couple steps if they had somebody who is in kind of a dynamic balance with them or helping take off some of their weight, then all of a sudden it becomes possible. There’s this invitation across ability to be able to create new possibilities for being in public, for being in the world and it’s not just a singular thing.
Andrew : It’s like who are we as people in relationship, because both people are transformed. The person who might be considered or seen as able-bodied is having a different relationship that’s not about therapy, that’s not about doing anything for the person who’s in a chair or whose differently ambulatory but we’re sharing in an expressive dance experience, right? It’s like a mutual dance experience that both people are having a mutual contribution from. That they’re feeling a mutuality with.
Andrew : In terms of the anti-ambulatory nature of it, I feel like core to it is the desire for exploring and the desire to connect within the form is equal or open for people of all different abilities, whether you’re moving your legs or not, or even if you couldn’t move your legs and you’re in a chair and you only could move your chair with your head or tilt of your head and that moved the chair back and forth or to the side but that choice enables partnership to navigate a space differently-
Craig: Right, than either of them would [crosstalk 00:20:41].
Andrew : Than neither of them would be able to by themselves and that that landscape isn’t just the particular, but it’s a landscape that’s political and social that can be internalized as a different… like purposefully internalizes as a way of being in the world differently. Like, oh, I can connect with people with disabilities differently. I can actually have a relationship with them. I can, right? Yeah.
Craig: And then one of the other obvious big things, because I mentioned it in the introduction was talking about anti-racism and Parcon Resilience as a vehicle for that for… maybe not tearing it down, isn’t the right word, but highlighting or illuminating the places that aren’t racist, would that be a better way to showing people opportunities for experience that don’t involve racism?
Andrew : It’s really important to me that Parcon Resilience is POC centered. And POC I mean person of color, and a person of color across intersectionality. Intersectionality being that we exist within an intersection of identities so I can be a person of color and I’m a man or person of color with disabilities or person of color who’s a senior or queer person of color or whatnot, but that the focus for Parcon Resilience as an anti-racist group is that it’s an anti-racist group for all people of color across the intersections.
Andrew : I think along that idea, it’s kind of like the canary in the mine idea. If you’re aware of what’s happening with the canary, then it can save the minors and so people of color, especially those who are most marginalized are the canaries in the mine and so in order to even know what is happening with the canary in the mine, like we have to have a relationship with them. We have to be moving with them, dancing with them. I always am making mistakes in trying to put myself out there because I am a Southeast Asian man of color, but I’m also a cis-male, heterosexual male-
Craig: Married with a kid.
Andrew : Married with a kid, middle-class and like I have all these things that are intersecting that I have a lot of blind spots and maybe I can be pushing some things certain ways and advocate in certain ways but I have to follow the lead of other people and be creating a resources and sharing platform and learning all the resistance works that’s already out there because there’s so much good work that’s already been put out there that… in building with others I should be educating myself in that work before I engage or as I’m engaging.
Andrew : I say all that because at least locally in New York City, I do my best to try to keep all the events POC majority, because it does a lot for… in a group of people if there’s a majority POC then we don’t have to think or we don’t have to justify why we should be talking about race. We don’t have to justify why people of color and their issues are important. Whereas when I’ve been in white spaces before, or for example, contact improv or parkour spaces that have been more of white majority or white focused bringing up race or talking about race, it seems like I’m bringing… makes it feel to me as a person of color like I’m bringing the baggage. That I’m bringing up some shit that shouldn’t be brought up and when as a person of color, it’s like, it’s the stuff that we’re experiencing every single day. It’s the air that we breathe and arguably it is that way for white people too. It’s just, they happen to be-
Craig: How’s the [crosstalk 00:24:33], right?
Andrew : …on the privileged side of it. Parcon Resilience is a way of practicing ways of being, ways of listening, ways of interacting with others that respect and honor people of color and a race consciousness. While Parcon Resilience is POC centered, it is a form for all people who want to be raised conscious across intersectionality. With that said what I was thinking, one of the ways that I talk about it is by bringing up an article by a woman named Andrea Smith, she’s a Cherokee activist writer and she wrote an article called Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy. We can slowly piece this one apart. Heteropatriarchy males are on top where the cream of the crop in the world is here for us and we can dominate everything and it’s all about domination and it exists on this binary, right? That there’s men and there’s women and then all the things in between, or people who… not even in between, or that don’t identify as men and women aren’t worth even being on a radar-
Craig: [crosstalk 00:25:55].
Andrew : Yeah, but it’s basically about men dominating anything weaker, even weaker men. Right? That is kind of the basis for racism in the sense that it’s white men that were pushing for the three pillars of white supremacy and binary models of like us and them. The three pillars of white supremacy that Andrea Smith talks about is slavery, genocide and Orientalism. Oftentimes in America we just talk… the discourse is usually around black and white with slavery and what fails to get seen… but it’s getting seen more, is genocide which is racism against indigenous people and the erasure of their existence and their relationship to the land. Yeah, and treating them as if they are in the past like they’re not even here.
Andrew : Then Orientalism, which is something that Asian Americans and immigrants face more, which is always being treated as foreigner. I was being treated as the other. The common thing as an Asian American that I’ve been asked throughout my life is where are you from? And I’m from-
Andrew : Illinois, yeah. Born in Chicago. No, where are you really from like that’s kind of the-
Craig: Mom and the dad.
Andrew : But that those three pillars, right? That those three ways of othering people are things that white supremacy sits on and keeps on re-performing itself all the time. Parcon Resilience is a movement or I want to say somatic mindful, mind, body approach to trying to embody a different relationship to those pillars. For example, with slavery the body is treated as property and in that sense, the labor that was done by African Americans was their worth. It didn’t matter what their culture was. Didn’t matter their family connections, didn’t matter their intelligence, unless it was being used to produce something like, I don’t know music or poetry or anything at the time, that was for white people to be entertained.
Andrew : Everything that wasn’t for production was waste in a sense. That said we can’t do to others what we don’t do to ourselves and so that process of dismissing, erasing one’s emotional relevance, erasing one’s sense of culture, cultural relevance, erasing one’s sense of ability to create the world, that’s something that was traded in the act of doing slavery and has been passed down generationally through white people, been done onto black people and then passed on to everybody else who has come to the U.S. and become American and whatnot as one of the embodiments of a pillar of white supremacy.
Andrew : Within Parcon Resilience, it’s super important for us to orient to our fullness and part of fullness is like, first what’s our felt sense of the world like very… artists will feel into things. Like if you think of a painter they might paint their feeling of love and you’ll see the colors and see certain vibrance and there might be depth to it and-
Craig: And then texture of what they create, right?
Andrew : Yeah. It’s so important for all of us to be in touch with that, all of us to be in touch with an artful way of connecting with each other, but why are the arts so separate?
Craig: Why does it have to be over there in the arts?
Andrew : And part of that, I think is this legacy of body as property. There’s this distancing from emotions and as men growing up in the society, the one emotion that we feel most connected to is anger, but it is not supported for us to be in touch with our mourning and our tears and our… any kind of expression.
Craig: Joy, like love. Anything other than anger. Anger is pretty much good. You can have more anger.
Andrew : That’s like emotions, just emotions, invoking of ancestors connection to ancestors. I speak with my wife who is a white woman and she knows a little bit about our family history, but doesn’t know about any history going into like, was she connected to slave masters of any kind and like how does that history all of a sudden get forgotten like where is that… then the lack of accountability for that relationship. Part of Parcon Resilience is like, well, how can we connect with our ancestors and feel that if I’m drawing on a sense of strength for myself in my life, I can call upon strength from stories that I might’ve heard about my ancestors, because that was passed down through the generations to me in the ways that those relatives acted, in the ways that it was passed down to my mother. Like there was some form of resistance or strength, something that I can draw on and I might not know directly how it manifest but I make the space for it to happen. I make the space for it to express through me.
Andrew : Making the space for the unknown to happen, for the illogical to happen, for channeling almost to happen. I think just orienting to how we are situated in the world beyond our individual self, because in… like if we think about somebody going to the market to buy things which is at the root of slavery and capitalism, then we have the individual who can go and buy products and a person as a product, but anything is a product. We’ve all learned to number one, see our own skills and our own experiences almost as products and we turn everything into this thing that can be commodifiable and sellable and lose sight of a wholeness that’s not sellable, like a wholeness that’s just us and our experience that’s not about money. That’s not about getting ahead in capitalism because we’ve learned to see ourselves as products and how much we’re worth by the hour.
Andrew : Within that, whatever, $12, $15, 20, whatever, you’re making an hour, your emotions don’t belong, your ancestors don’t belong. The rest of you doesn’t belong. It’s all… like it’s there, right? Parcon Resilience, we take the opportunity within that pillar to like invite a fullness of our body being, a fullness of feeling, a fullness of connecting with things that are important to us.
Craig: I’m wondering it does… I think that makes it pretty clear what your vision is for the thing that you’re creating, Parcon Resilience and I’m wondering how, and I’m hesitating because I’m not sure if I should ask you what you thought it was going to be, or just straight up what did it actually turn out to be. Let’s just go with what did it turn out to be. Did Parcon Resilience end up being a vehicle for helping individual people like the people who will come to the classes, the people who actually participate in it and with it, whether that’s spontaneously joining a jammer, they come to class regularly. Did it wind up being a vehicle for helping those people, or did it become a vehicle for, yes, we’re all here but somehow we’re helping the random society that we’re bumping into.
Craig: I’m wondering how that played out. You’ve obviously created this thing and I know it’s spread to other countries. I’m just wondering, did you discover that it’s helping… because I guess it’s doing both, but what is it really accomplishing? Is it helping the people who one by one come in and experience it or is it actually going to change a larger number of minds by people who brush up against it on… just they ran into it on one day in a park?
Andrew : I mean, it’s difficult to know what the impact is of people who run up against it in the park, at least at this point it is only a few years old. Mostly it’s been along the populations that I’ve been connected with through dance. People of color within the improv and contact improv community and, or just the dance community in New York City as well as people who are engaged in anti-racist movements and part of ACRE, which is Artists Co-creating Real Equity, which is a group that comes out of the undoing racism workshops done by PISAB. PISAB is another acronym for the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond and they’re an organization that is out of New Orleans that does these weekend workshops all over the country and they’ve reached over 400,000 people with their workshops to help people learn about this first pillar that we’re talking about, the white black pillar and understanding racism and so a lot of the activist and anti-racist community that I’ve connected with has been through them.
Andrew : As the work is growing, I’m starting to connect with other communities. At the end of last year we did a workshop at urban planning and equity, like a conference for urban planning and equity, and that was exciting. It was the first time but it was really clear that being able to move and orient in your environment differently, opened up different ways of perceiving and understanding other people’s experiences for urban planners. Period, right? And so there’s just so much room for exploring things there.
Andrew : This year I’ll also be doing some stuff with the [National Educators Alliance 00:36:52] so with teachers and some teacher unions in New Jersey, and also just doing some more stuff with dancers and improvisers just around because that’s the lowest hanging fruit for us.
Craig: [crosstalk 00:37:06] like what’s the metaphor for that. It’s like lowest hanging fruit, right?
Andrew : Lowest hanging fruit, but I’m-
Craig: People most likely to follow you.
Andrew : …interested and excited in this work getting out there because I really feel like it can orient us to other ways of connecting to the world and connecting with each other.
Craig: Yeah. I’m interested in trying to capture some of the… I’m not quite sure whether to say cross pollination. What I’m thinking is, in my head I’m picturing the video from the High Line flash mob. High Line is, for those who don’t know what it is, the High Line is a linear park. It’s an old elevated railway converted to a linear park that runs down the West side of New York City. I don’t know, 40 blocks or something. It’s pretty big, but it also runs through like Chelsea and some upscale racially divided shopping mecca, runs through some buildings like it’s… It’s not the most diversified environment. It’s actually literally elevated above like the normal street level and I’m wondering, first of all, did that factor into your decision to, hey, let’s do a flash mob jam on the High Line or was it… I mean, there are some cool spaces there. I’ve been up there.
Craig: I’m just wondering, did that factor in like, did you go to that space to have the flash mob because it seemed like a really glaring place that could really use a little bit of this experience? Or is there a completely prosaic backstory as to why it happened there?
Andrew : Well, the High Line had hired us to do a performance for their opening of the season and so we were doing the flash mob as a way of scoping out the space and the environment they were going to be in. I mean, we bring… Yeah, we bought our community there and it was a flash mob of people. Yeah, it was kind of interesting to have a bunch of us across ability and people of color there like in the space doing our thing. I wouldn’t say it’s totally white in that area. I mean, there’s a diverse crowd that came through as we did the flash mob, but the focus for us at that time wasn’t necessarily audience interaction. Yeah. It was more to scope out the space for a later project.
Craig: I love when things don’t go anywhere where I was thinking, but did you get engagement? And now maybe let’s just like unfocus from that event since I picked the terrible example. Are there any… I love to collect stories. Stories are my thing I love to and there’s a whole shtick I like to say about that, but I’ll skip it for the listeners but what I’m thinking is, are there any particular experiences that you’ve seen passers by or bystanders that you’ve seen happen or experiences where I got [inaudible 00:39:55]. There’s a million stories about random people who stop and go. What are you guys doing? Like that’s kind of a common one, but I’m just wondering if you could explain or show some of the transformation in the tangentially contacting public that has occurred around these events that you’ve run.
Andrew : Yeah. I mean, some of it has been… there’s a range of reactions, right? When we’ve done it in some of the parks in my neighborhood here in Harlem, East Harlem. When my son was four, I did it in Jefferson Park which is nearby here, which is sadly being torn down right now but it’s being upscaled to some kind of new playground, but anyway, we don’t go there.
Craig: Yeah. Don’t get me started on crappy playgrounds that are purpose built. Like-
Andrew : I miss it.
Craig: In Jefferson with your son when he was four.
Andrew : In Jefferson with my son we started playing with things and some parents started getting interested and so I basically just held open classes. In terms of public, it’s just like, what are you doing? Oh, we’re doing this. Oh yeah. Let’s have mother, father, kid engagement. It ended up being a class of six to 10 people. It’s totally free to the community. Whoever came by, let’s do it and that’s similarly happened in Canada when we did some Parcon class outside of the playground there’s kids there, you just open it up. Anybody who wants to participate, you’re welcome to join and kids and family join in.
Andrew : In terms of those environments, but when we did it… East Harlem is predominantly Latino and when we’ve done it more in Central Harlem, which is more black, the responses were that they didn’t want their children to be rolling around on the ground with us. I take that as like, I think there’s a lot more work we could do to be connecting with families and making it welcoming to understand what we were doing and so maybe some preparing our material better or preparing our spiel better or welcoming better could have made it more welcoming.
Andrew : Part of it as I put the onus on how are we engaging within forces that are already present and might be supporting an interaction to happen and others that might be not like we were adults in that other example, that latter example. We were adults without any children and I think [Jeff Aco 00:42:44] was with us. One black man and the rest of us were not black, entering a space that… we were just taking up space, which wasn’t necessarily agreed upon by this family and so-
Craig: Plays out a certain way, right?
Andrew : Yeah.
Craig: People form a preconceived notion, turns into their first impression in the blink and you can’t really change that.
Andrew : And so we’ve had other times when people just start videoing or filming and come really close, but they’re not asking for any consent and so those have been discussions within the Parcon Resilience community of like, so are people okay with that? Are they not okay with that? Sometimes people are okay with that and sometimes people are not okay with that, so how do we intervene the public that way and sometimes the people videoing are like, would you like to learn more about what you’re seeing or what you’re doing? And if they get skiddish and they go off and like I guess not.
Craig: Solve the other problem too.
Andrew : But sometimes they join in. Sometimes they’ll come and they join in. Other times we’ve done stuff in… again, East Harlem in my neighborhood just with adults not with children, and brown and black people walking by will ask us what we’re doing. Is that some kind of fitness or personal training thing? And we’re like, “Yeah, it’s the way to get into your body, enjoy your movements.” And they see us doing it and I think the fact that it’s POC majority thing it feels welcoming and maybe half the time they join and half the time they just watch for a little bit and then kind of mosey on, but there’s not an alienation.
Andrew : For some reason with the POC adults that have seen it in stuff, there hasn’t been an alienation with it or there hasn’t… I mean, sometimes they’ll be videoing too but it’s not in the same way sometimes we’ve experienced from kind of a white voyeurism. That’s just like there and it’s like not engaging.
Craig: Six feet off right.
Andrew : Yeah. Another pillar would be genocide and with that, the land is made into property and the excess of the land would be the people. The people are vanished, their culture is vanished. They’re seen as not relevant. The spirit of the land is not seen as relevant. This is just something that you do something to build on. I’m curious to know also from you, and maybe we can have a conversation about, what do you feel like your relationship to the land is through parkour? How has that changed for you? And I can talk about mine from parkour and then how it’s shifted from Parcon.
Craig: That’s a good question. I came to parkour late, like when I was 40, maybe 41 or something like that. When you said what’s my relationship to the land, my first thought was not park… like my first thought wasn’t to go thinking about parkour. My first thought was to think about my experience… I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, not like super crazy world where we had horses and buggies, but 20 minutes to anything kind of rural. Around me was farmlands and woods and winding secondary roads and 45 minute school bus rides to get to school, that kind of thing.
Craig: For me, my experience of the land was very much something that I went and played in. We went and… my best friend was a quarter mile away and we ran and biked and did all sorts of crazy things but to me, it was a place that was all around me. It wasn’t like I had a suburban, this is the yard you’re playing and the playground’s over here. It was just like there’s inside, there’s outside. Be home before the streetlights come on. That was kind of how it worked, where the few places where there were streetlights at the intersections of some streets. My experience of my environment was something that I was out in and like the things that I could see like the near horizon were places I had been to and that I knew how to get to and that were… well, my other friend lives like two hills over kind of thing.
Craig: It was definitely something… I would come home with dirt on me. It was definitely like a… I went into the space and that’s where I grew up. Also grew up at home, but like in the space. Parkour with the way I found it was, I didn’t really learn it in an urban environment, but my early practices of it were in built spaces. It would be like in a playground or at a school with a parking lot. To me, I called it an urban experience but it isn’t in any stretch of imagination of urban. It’s definitely suburban but if where I’m practicing my parkour is a cinder block wall, whether it has asphalt parking lot and a tennis court, this is effectively urban, even though all around it are fields.
Craig: My experience with Parker was very different from what I would consider my experience of my environment. I would say, yeah, I had a good experience getting experience from the environment but that being said, all the people that I experienced that with were all my cohort, my age cohort, people who looked like me, we’re all in the same race. We’re all the same middle class. There wasn’t any… there was one person of color in my grade. I think there was a second person of color in my entire… like in the school there were two people.
Craig: There was no racial mixture. It was all based at the same socioeconomic status. It was still a certain perspective on the environment, like this land is used for farmland. That’s what most of it was used for, or this land was used for, or this is the church property. This is my property. That’s your property. We don’t go in those woods because that belongs to the crazy guy. It was still, I don’t know, the more modern, stereotypical perspective of land. It wasn’t like I can just walk in a straight line for 15 miles and it’s all just open space.
Craig: I think I had, I’m going to say exceptionally good maybe compared to today, an exceptionally good experience but it’s still a particular kind of experience with the land. Like if you want, like snapshotty pictures, ideas of like riding my bicycle 45 minutes to my other friend’s house through the dappled sunshine and car crashes and stuff too but like moving through the environment was something I did all the time, but it was still a certain kind of environment. It was definitely a conquered environment. It wasn’t like I had to bushwhack anywhere. There are street signs and there are roads and it was very much the traditional what you would think of as suburbia kind of thing. I don’t know if that answers your question or…
Andrew : Yeah.
Craig: If that gives you-
Andrew : Yeah. No, that’s great. One thing that’s curious to me with… As I said before, when I first started doing parkour a wall became something that I could start to play with, that I could start to have relationship with. It became something that I could, number one, use any part of my body too, and start to have a relationship in that way and it became something that I could start to orient to with my imagination. Whether it was projecting my ancestor onto the wall, right? In my body and in the way that I relate to my body, there’s a certain way that I might hold strength or hold, let’s say strength for now, hold strength in my body.
Andrew : You can just imagine maybe my body or me or your body rolling on the side of a wall, like leaning on the side of the wall and I’d have certain expectations about my ability or that experience, but maybe as part of the wall becomes more jagged and all of a sudden I can’t do that, or there’s a hole in the wall or something about the expectations about the space change what I thought was going to happen, but I’m still committed to the experience of strength of my ancestors and so in that commitment the space is speaking as my ancestors in a way, right? It’s like it’s an invitation to allow the unknown to become part of the way in which we’re relating to our wholeness, to our world, that who I am isn’t just things that I know, but it’s more about my intentions of who are… like what I’m paying attention to as I navigate through the world with both known and unknown forces, right?And it’s my ability to return to that intention and not get derailed.
Andrew : Maybe some people would call that faith or prayer, but I feel like the practice of Parcon Resilience or the practice of keeping one’s attention on something is ability to keep intention even if unknown things come into play, and so in that sense in Parcon Resilience, I’m not just exploring how can I get from one point to another point. I’m focusing on how can I show up in an intention for a given amount of time? It could be a minute or it could be five minutes or it could be from when we’re getting from one place to another but how can I show up in that intention and just witness myself there. Be a witness for how I show up in relationship to the environment or another person while holding that intention.
Andrew : Sometimes it feels uncomfortable and sometimes it feels familiar. In that space of not fixating on what it emotionally feels like comes the possibility for it to be something different, if that makes sense, so that my sense of strength isn’t just what I expected the wall to be and if it fell out of my expectation then it’s not strength, right? No, I’m committed to this experience over a phrase of time to be about strength and the wall is going to be part of that relationship and that expression of it and we’re going to engage in this experience together and I’m going to find a way as my part, my responsibility to reorganize myself, to understand that intention as we move through it together.
Andrew : In that way the space becomes… has an animism and each space teaches something different.
Andrew : Very different. That’s what’s something that’s beautiful about Parcon Resilience for me is that each space teaches something different and if I come to it with a different intention, or if I’m dancing with a different person who has different constraints or different abilities or different history to the space, it does something very differently. Maybe it’s easy to think of with ability. Like if somebody is in chair or not in chair, but if we were downtown in a space where there’s burial site of 40,000 African Americans, and I’m dancing with a black person there and we have oriented to that history, I want to be in an empathetic place in my movement and the way that I’m connecting with them with my body and my somatics.
Andrew : I want to be there as a witness. I want to show up with them as they’re experiencing their fullness, and so part of our process also is to talk about things. It’s not just about the movement but it’s about like, well, what is this for you? What does this mean to you? What are you bringing to this? What is this transforming for you? How can I be with you in a way that is not triggering or hurtful but actually supportive? Or where do I need to be clear about what my capacity is to be able to do that or not. Part of the Parcon Resilience is also about… which brings us to the third pillar actually, which is Orientalism, which I would relate to access. Whether somebody is allowed to be in or out, because Orientalism is about foreignness. Oh, you’re always a foreigner and it justifies the U.S. having wars on other countries.
Andrew : In the relationship to our own boundaries, like how do you know what your own boundary is in relationship to another person while we’re doing it all the time whether you want to or not. You and I have chosen to be at certain distance from each other based on conscious and unconscious needs for whatever. Like, oh, I need to feel a certain amount of ease so I’m going to be at this place or I want to feel a certain feeling of place so I’ve kind of tilted my body in a certain way. I’ve made choices in my body that are subconscious but that are in the place, like literally in space that we are, to support how I show up with you in the space.
Andrew : I brought the altarpieces out here because I wanted to make sure I centered the values that were important to me and so they were an anchor for me. How I show up isn’t just about my individual resilience, it’s about my relationship to the land, to objects that are around me, to the people that around me and how I negotiate my own boundaries and how I work with that access of like, how do I need to take care of myself to be able to know how close or how far to be away from you so that I can show up and can we be in communication so that I can support you to show up in your fullness and then we can have this intimacy, right?
Craig: [crosstalk 00:56:57] best chance for that.
Andrew : Like what is intimacy? I feel like intimacy is this process where people are respecting each other’s boundaries and able to play without hurting each other. I mean, I guess you can have hurt within intimacy but I’d rather behind that play and intimacy, yeah, without the triggering and so the more prep work we can do to support places of intimacy, or I call it a comfort zone sometimes in Parcon Resilience, a comfort zone without triggering into a fight or flight response, then new things can emerge for both of us.
Andrew : With Parcon Resilience in particular, it’s like new ways of reaching for the environment, new ways of engaging with the environment. I can explore strength. I can explore kindness or caring in my body in nonverbal ways that I wouldn’t be able to by myself while I negotiate the environment because maybe the wall is Donald Trump and I’m trying to figure out how to stay in my kindness while I’m negotiating it with another person who’s, I don’t know, either another aspect of myself that we’ve kind of agreed to like go on this improvisation where I’m exploring this part of myself or somebody who’s on the other political spectrum. Whatever it is.
Andrew : Like it could be anything, but it all gets expressed through movement and how I’m sharing or shifting my weight like it all… and that’s kind of where my background is, like a movement analyst and all that stuff comes in because that’s all-
Craig: [crosstalk 00:58:33] things I mentioned are… we haven’t got anywhere near [inaudible 00:58:39]. I think those are very important, but I’m like, I only have so much time.
Andrew : Sure.
Craig: We’ve completely like left all that stuff in the dust and if you weren’t listening super close or you skipped over the intro, you wouldn’t realize the listener. One wouldn’t realize the depth of experience that you’re speaking from. Not like you’ve seen everything, you know all the answers but you’ve done a lot of movement analysis. You’ve done a lot of movement and sometimes when… I often tend to downplay people’s backgrounds and histories and that stuff all gets lost an hour into the conversation. You know it and I know it, but it doesn’t mean that the people listening always have the proper grounded frame for like, oh, it’s just somebody talking through their hat like no people have come from a lot of experience when they say things.
Craig: I think that’s important that people realize the amount of time you have spent analyzing just from a nuts and bolts perspective, analyzing movement, and then analyzing the interplay between movement and emotion or movement and learning and there’s a lot of thought put into the things that you were saying. Does any particular story jump out when I say Andrew, is there a story that you’d like to share?
Andrew : Maybe you can help me with this story it’s about, but with some questions.
Andrew : I’m thinking about one of our community members. Her name is [Ayon Louis 00:59:57]. Ayon is a black woman with cerebral palsy who uses a motorized chair and she actually used to be, I think she’s okay with me saying this, that she actually used to be a patient of mine because I’m a physical therapist. Maybe it was about six years ago and I was teaching some Parcon classes at the time at this place called the [access project 01:00:29], which is up here in East Harlem and it’s a specialty gym for people with disabilities and mostly people with spinal cord injuries, but all different kinds of abilities were there. I would teach this weekly class there and I co-taught it at times with [Colleen Roach 01:00:52] and Jazz once in a while, [Jazz Cyrus 01:00:59] and it’s a good experience.
Andrew : At some point in time, Ayon showed up in the community and I was very excited to see her because she always has this joyful springy energy about her and she’s like, oh, hi, Andrew. Good to see you and I was like, yeah. I don’t know if I remembered her name at first because it felt like it was so long since we’ve seen each other and then we gave each other a hug and ended up getting Ayon’s name eventually but I was like, do you want to try this Parcon class? Do you want to try some Parcon? She’s like, “What’s that?” And I told her about it and she looked a little skiddish. She’s like, I don’t know about this touchy stuff.
Andrew : I was like, okay. We were doing an exercise called no, yes modify. Basically it’s about people being able to assert their ability to say no to another person. The exercise goes, one person is putting their hand on your shoulder and then the person who is receiving that touch either moves the hand away or before the hand even gets there, says no and then you can say, no, however you want. You can be like, no. Like no. Whatever you need to do and then it just goes to different body parts and you do the same with yes. Like how do you really receive somebody? How do you really… and that becomes the premise for being able to take weight and share weight through any part of the body because you’re having a consentful relationship.
Andrew : Ayon did this and it seemed like she was having a lot of fun and… then that was the class and then I think two weeks later she was telling me how it was like changing her life, the ability to say no to men especially, because I think she has experienced a lot of men assuming like they can make advances or touch her or do different things towards her because she’s a black woman with a disability and she found more assertiveness and power within her body and her presence in relationship to these men, some who she’s known before. She was like, this is great. This is really shifting things and so we kept on meeting and I eventually had her co-teach a class to seniors with me in East Harlem and she would come in and they saw her as part of the community and we all really bonded together and she would come to a jam. We had a jam downtown.
Andrew : She moved from somebody who is in her chair and kind of afraid to move out of it to somebody who is like, get me out of the chair and like being… like there’s a picture of us somewhere where we’re on a rock and she’s leaning into an inversion head down and her feet are up and it’s like… she’s like just this big bright smile and she is ready to take those risks with people. She uses the tools. She’s able to like talk with another person, figure out expectations together and find a consensual way to enter and engage in a mutual dance together.
Andrew : It’s just been amazing to see the power of dance and expression in her life and for her to step into being an artist in a way that she hasn’t for herself. She’s like, I never thought of myself as an artist. Like she has such a big heart and such a wonderful way of listening that I’m like, wow, the world really needs to see this and your heart and like… and she’s been there for me many times. We share and process things as a group and as a collective and yeah, since then, she’s part of the core community and we’ve gone to Canada to a Toronto contact improv jam. She’s just amazing. She’s able to move with other people and make the boundaries.
Andrew : She’s taking the tools that we learned in the classes and that we learned together into her life in a way that’s so inspiring. Like she’s like Andrew, I just use Parcon in the shower in a way… to like that she would have fallen if she wasn’t using all parts of her body but because she’s using all parts of her body, she could roll off of her body onto the shower wall in a way that… where the railing wasn’t and support herself and she was more ready to do that so she wouldn’t go into spasticity. There was the application for using the Parcon in that sense, but also just like in her own jumping and claiming into life has been so inspiring and a huge motivator for me to like keep doing this work and to support Ayon and supporting other people like her to do this also.
Andrew : Her story is super special to me and in my heart and hope she listens to that.
Craig: Well, thank you for sharing that and my immediate question is why… this is an actual question. Why did you think you would need my help on telling that story?
Andrew : Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know. Sometimes I don’t know. I wonder how the stories are going to come out and I wanted to make a request if my flow is starting to get stifled or stop, that a question from you could help my flow to keep going. It was more of like be a buddy with me on this journey of telling a story because I haven’t planned it out or anything like that.
Craig: No, that’s totally cool. There are very few people who get to see a podcast get recorded and they might guess by now that there’s a lot of visual stuff that happens that isn’t captured by the microphone. I can have a half of a conversation without making a sound and I do that intentionally so that the your guest talk for 20 minutes and people think oh, man, how do people do that? You’re like, you’re hung out on the line and asked to perform. It’s like, no, no, we’re having a conversation.
Andrew : Yeah, just like a nonverbal.
Craig: Yeah. I’m just not… like, oh, and here’s my 2 cents because who cares what I have to say? Let’s hear what you-
Andrew : Sure, sure.
Craig: …have to say.
Andrew : And I appreciate your listening because that’s part of how I show up. We were kind of doing… for me, like a Parcon anything here too and me making a request.
Craig: Excellent. Yes.
Andrew : Is me using the tools of what I know of like-
Craig: I agree completely. I was kind of hoping that was where you were going to go with all that. Andrew, there are so many things that we could talk about, right? But what I want to do is maybe just… I hate to say zoom out, but maybe let’s just zoom out a little bit. If people have listened this far, I would love to figure out a way to give people something and I don’t want to say like, what’s one exercise people can go and do to be, but like, is there anything that you can ask people to think about or a challenge that they can try?
Craig: I suspect that a lot of people who listen to the podcast are really into the nuts and boltsy parkour or [inaudible 01:08:35] or freerunning very individually movement… individuals moving type of practice and I’m wondering if you imagine somebody like that, is there something that you can ask of them or a challenge you can give them that might help them. I don’t want to say break the mindset mold, but help them think more the way that you are suggesting people approach movement?
Andrew : Yeah. Well, I mean, I think movement has the power to reveal our experience of the world. Even if you’re doing the same line in parkour for example, if you’re doing a sequence of movements during the same line, what if you do that same line with a different focus in mind? Like what if you do that same… you could just try colors, but if you do it as the color red versus the color blue or chartreuse or dark brown.
Craig: Dark brown, right.
Andrew : Like how do those different colors show up in your movement differently? Because is your movement just geared towards being functionally efficient, like is that the goal. As a physical therapist, that’s how bodies are seen. For me, like people come to me for them to fix themselves, but the body is-
Craig: [crosstalk 01:09:54] work, right?
Andrew : …seen as just for function. As a somatic movement therapist, as a dancer, it is… expression is incredibly important and that goes back to the first pillar that I was talking about, right? Of like body’s not just property. The body is something that we express through that our consciousness expresses through. Why not practice expressing our consciousness in different ways through a line that we’re running. If you’re going to do it a million times anyway, like try it with different intentions. If anything, doing it as different colors is going to help reveal different details about the line as you do it, right?
Andrew : You’re going to start seeing things or your body’s going to coordinate in a different way to see different aspects of the place or coordinate differently in your body to manifest brownness or to manifest blueness. You could try an emotion, you could try your political feelings. Whatever it is, allow something to join you in the way that you are relating to your body and the way that you’re relating to the land because it is happening.
Craig: It is happening on land, right?
Andrew : Whether you are admitting it or not, it is happening and we can choose to have habitual relationship, which would be to not question or to not try these experiments.
Craig: Is it Seneca who said the unconsidered life is not worth living I think it was.
Andrew : Or we can try these experiments and see if efficiency can come through the exploration of multiple possibilities, which is a repetition in itself but it’s a little different than constantly repeating the same thing, right? Like it’s a different way to develop the skill through repetition.
Craig: And of course the final question, three words to describe your practice.
Andrew : POC centered.
Craig: That’d be one.
Andrew : That’s one.
Craig: I always say hyphens are free.
Andrew : Okay. Relationship building, vulnerable.
Craig: Thank you very much, Andrew. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you.
Andrew : Thank you, Craig.
Craig: This was episode 81. For more information, go to moversmindset.com/81 and I’ll leave you with a final quote from Desmond Tutu. My father used to say, don’t raise your voice, improve your argument. Thanks for listening.