Musician Carlos Snaider '17 discovers the importance of ritual at the Ay Ombe Performance Retreat.
By Carlos Snaider '17
Artist Development Fellow '15
Recognizing one's own solitude
Ay Ombe Theater was founded by performer/author Josefina Báez in 1989 as both an artist community and performance practice for any creative medium. The cornerstone of Ay Ombe is Performance Autology© (PA), a practical philosophy for the creative process based on each individual’s biography coupled with a personal exploration of emotional and spiritual wellness.
The experience was transformative in a number of ways when I attended in July, but learning about the incorporation of rituals into my creative process is proving most exciting to me in the immediate aftermath. During the ten-day retreat, Báez introduced us to a variety of rituals, health practices, and other natural stimulants for the mind and spirit. We learned about and experimented with biomechanics, yoga, meditation, Chinese calligraphy, prayer, Ayurveda oil massages, flower essences, fermentation and more, all in ritualistic fashion, all potential tools to be used at the discretion of each individual. The breadth of concepts in Performance Autology allows the individual to encounter its principles at any stage of development and for any type of creative act. (I was one of two musicians out of 11 participants; the rest were dancers, writers, performance artists and scholars. Maybe now it is clear why the definition for PA is so loose!)
The importance of ritual struck me forcefully during the retreat. In addition to working in collaboration with others, much of each day was dedicated to individual projects and consultations with Báez. One afternoon early in the retreat I had a moment of intense revelation. Even now it is difficult to put what I felt into words without sounding trite, but it had to do with realizing the grandiosity of the universe and the smallness of our lives, and how futile much of the knowledge we acquire through education stands in relation to the knowledge self-acquired from experience.
In short, I recognized my own solitude. Initially it was quite terrifying, yet luckily I could spend the rest of the retreat coming to terms with it. Eventually I came to embrace my solitude as a universe in itself (my internal universe), and all of a sudden a world of possibility opened up. Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet captures the feeling: “We must accept our reality as vastly as we possibly can; everything, even the unprecedented, must be possible within it. This is in the end the only kind of courage that is required of us: the courage to face the strangest, most unusual, most inexplicable experiences that can meet us." When there is possibility, creation thrives.
Rituals aid the recognition of possibilities in every moment. They operate in solitude. The repetition of any kind of action for a period of time acquires sanctity unique to the individual. It allows us to consciously curate our own paths, reinforcing solitude as a realm of possibility, not fear. With respect to the creative process more specifically, rituals can create a space to operate within during a particular project, even cultivating the very thoughts that enter the mind throughout a creative act.
I continue to maintain a number of rituals from the Ay Ombe retreat in my own routine. As I prepare for the Banff International Workshop for Jazz and Creative Music, I look forward to exploring rituals related more specifically to music and my instrument.
Carlos Snaider ’17, a resident of Cabot House concentrating in Sociology, was awarded an Office for the Arts/Office of Career Services Artist Development Fellowship to attend the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music in Alberta, Canada. Snaider currently serves as the student representative on the Board of Directors for the Colorado Conservatory of the Jazz Arts, a nonprofit organization providing jazz education opportunities to high school students. He serves as a DJ and host for two weekly radio shows on 95.3 WHRB Cambridge, one that plays jazz and the other hip-hop/R&B. Snaider hopes to pursue a career as both a musician and an educator after graduation.