It’s horribly clichéd to talk about journeys and experiences but that’s just where I’ve been for the last two weeks.
After 10 or more hours (3 days -3 or 4 hours at a time) of pre-first performance rehearsals we, a few singers who perform regularly in HUG, plus a group of us who auditioned at the end of August, have just completed a run of up to 4 performances a day.
HUG is a truly immerse experience-the audience members wear blindfolds and sit on chairs that have been choreographed, before the unaccompanied singing begins, gradually building up into a swirling mass of sound that must feel as if it overpowers and drowns the listener at some points.
Using breathing patterns and a variety of singing and humming techniques the listeners are alternately cosseted and challenged by sound while taken through a dance of hugs, some formal,some intense and personal, all the while having to totally trust their hugger who has complete power and control.
It is an extraordinary position to be in, as the hugger, for how often does one have total control of a situation and yet be 100% giving? It is empowering, moving and incredible to be the hugger, how much more so it must be to be the huggee , to hand over the metaphorical keys and be completely cared for. It is hardly surprising that tears flow and emotions run high.
Nor is it surprising that, after the experience of a few performances, our minds and bodies start to attune to the dynamics of a room of blindfolded people. When we enter the room we can already feel the reactions of the huggees-we can tune in to their fear, their openness, their ability to relax, their anxieties. We are reprogramming our bodies to use those unlabelled senses that have evaporated through social sophistication and modern life, those senses that perhaps were what helped humans develop, all those generations ago, into what we are today.
It has been a remarkable experience only heightened by sharing it so closely with others. The process has exposed all of us in ways we didn’t know we could, in such a short space of time.
The performances are now over,there is a massive hug shaped hole in my life but I’ve been left with some good friends, incredible musical experiences stored in my mind, wonderful memories of extraordinary hugs and the knowledge that I have the confidence to hug anyone. Chosing to be intimate with a stranger is an extraordinary thing but ultimately empowering for both the hugger and huggee. We can make good choices in life and these gestures of shared experience are definitely among the best.