An amazing story: The ballet dancer with cerebral palsy – dancing in NY
Left: Tamar Rogoff doing “body work” with Gregg
Right: Gregg Mozgala rehearsing
This heart-warming story contains a number of fascinating elements.
Firstly the facts:
In early 2008, a young actor with cerebral palsy, Gregg Mozgala, was appearing as Romeo in a production in New York by Theater Breaking Through Barriers. This innovative group involves a mix of actors, some with disabilities and some without.
In the audience was choreographer Tamar Rogoff – who decided that she would explore the idea of producing a ballet, with this same young man dancing…..despite the fact that he was totally untrained, and could not walk without exceptional distortion and effort.
Mozgala has described his walking style at that time as looking like “a human velociraptor.” He walked on his toes, with his lower extremities turned in, wobbling from side to side to maintain balance. The New York Times report on the Mozgala/Rogoff story quotes him as saying :
“My knees were going in, my hips were totally rotated inward. Gravity was just taking me down. So my upper body — arms and chest — overcompensated, curling back and up.”
Some 9 months later, from December 3rd to 20th, Mozgala will appear in New York, in a production (Diagnosis of a Faun) choreographed by Rogoff, at the Eileen Stewart Theater.
How was Mozgala able to go from his previous dysfunctional walk, to be able to appear on stage as a dancer?
Only a few clues have been offered thus far. It seems that Tamar Rogoff possesses other skills – that lie in the bodywork and movement arena. Whether these involve formal training, or acquisition over the years of particular skills associated with her work, is as yet unclear.
The NY Times report offers this glimpse of the process:
She introduced Mr. Mozgala to a tension-releasing shaking technique, and it was immediately revelatory. ‘My body just really took to it,”
Mr. Mozgala said. “I did that for about 20 or 30 minutes, and when I stood up, I was walking completely differently. My feet were flat on the ground.”
They knew they were onto something. They began doing intensive one-on-one sessions they call body work, Ms. Rogoff using her knowledge of the body and dance-training techniques to help Mr. Mozgala “find” individual bones, muscles and tendons that he had had no command of before.
They started at the top and worked down — sternum, sacrum, knees — with Mr. Mozgala’s body and brain opening paths of communication that had not existed. “There’s a lot of howling, screaming, crying, sweating,” Ms. Rogoff said. But “we often have these huge eureka moments.” The other day, for instance, it was brain, meet lower-leg tendon.
“I said today, ‘I can feel my Achilles,’ ” Mr. Mozgala said. “You have to realize, I have never felt my Achilles before.”
If you are lucky enough to be near New York in the next 2 weeks, this should be a ‘must-see’ event.
What manual methods were involved?
I can see elements of Feldenkrais and Trager work in what was done during this lengthy process of reeducation of the body.
Or, are there aspects of Rolfing/Structural Integration?
There is certainly more than a touch of Facilitated Oscillatory Release, as well as Harmonic Technique involved.
Just what harmonic, rhythmic, oscillatory, shaking can achieve, in such conditions, is something I intend to explore by having an article commissioned for The Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, in which Tamar Rogoff, Gregg Mozgala, and a selection of experts in the techniques listed above will discuss the possibilities.
I’m delighted to say that Ms Rogoff has already agreed to writing a report for JBMT, as have a number of experts.