Movements with Mrs Adie
When the author began participating in Mrs Adie’s movements classes in Newport in 1982, the group had tripled, and she would have three separate classes of about 30 people in each, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, respectively. We would arrive early to change into movements costumes, and each class would begin at 7.00pm and end at or about 8.00pm. The costumes and the changing were more important than I then realised. We wore white woollen costumes of the type often seen in pictures of the Paris group, with a golden ribbon around the forehead. They were vaguely influenced by Eastern dress, they were loose, and they were functional. I was quite surprised when, after the death of the Adies, Dr Lester told me that this was most unusual in Gurdjieff groups to change into such clothes before each class. “That is something Mr Adie did to make a demand on you, I would say.” I had to ask him again to confirm it, as until that moment I had taken the wearing of such costumes for granted.
Now that I look back on it, I see that it was a demand, and a good one. We were given our costume when we joined, and we had the responsibility of looking after it. We were told how to wash and care for it. before the combined movements class at the end of the year, we would make sure they were ironed. An ironing board and iron were set up for last minute adjustments. It brought at atmosphere to the class. There was variety: people are always different, but it was not a wilful variety. The uniform, because that it was it was, helped to bring the class together as a class. Even the golden ribbon had a contribution: it brought one’s eye to the line of foreheads. It all helped us to at least something behind. but more, it was a way of instilling a sense of respect: respect for the class, and respect in the body.
The classes had individual programs of four, or rarely, five movements for the year. Each movement had a different feel, so that if one had a vigorous nature, another would be more fluid, and there was invariably a lengthier prayerful piece in the ensemble. Some movements might include a canon (meaning that the count would alter according to some rule or ‘canon’, e.g. 1-2-3, 2-3-1, 3-1-2) or a multiplication [a canon based on the sequence 1-4-2-8-5-7, the sequence of the inner lines of the Enneagram. At the start of the year, one of the “movements” we were learning would be an exercise of Mrs Adie’s own devising, and as the year progressed, and we were sufficiently occupied with the Gurdjieff movements we were learning, that one would be abandoned.
Before the class, we would practice the movement in the hall. The hall featured a substantial mirrored wall in three segments, from which the protective curtains would be drawn aside before each class, so that we could correct our positions, then closed when the class was ready to start. A platform was set up at the front, at a height which matched the stage behind it where her piano was placed. It was Mr Adie’s design: some boards and foam batts beneath, the boards being pinned together so they would not slip while Mrs Adie was teaching us (when it was not needed, it could be easily dismantled and stored away). So Mrs Adie could see us from behind her piano, but she could also leave the piano and walk forward on the platform, which brought her closer to the class on the floor. It also had the fortunate result that people in the ranks behind the front did not need to leave their files to see what Mrs Adie was demonstrating. Such a simple thing, yet such a help by removing the temptation to leave position.
From that platform, she demonstrated the movement. She also had a hand drum so that she can stand on the platform and keep time, watch closely while we were taking the postures and gestures, and learning the displacements. Sometimes she would come down from the platform, correcting our postures and gestures, and making suggestions as to the inner effort. Later, when she had an assistant, that assistant would go through the ranks, correcting postures and gestures. Mrs Adie was quite alert to changes in a person’s state, and would swiftly make some subtle requirement of anyone daydreaming or too tense to be able to participate, yet I recall nothing in the least confronting in her manner.
Another aspect she brought to the movements, which, incidentally, I do not recall anyone else to have brought quite the way she did, was her reminding us to sense where we were in relation to the rest of the class, especially to those on our left or our right, behind or in front of us, especially if there was a displacement (e.g. in the Multiplications). I always found that when I remembered to sense the person to my left or right,. it made a tremendous difference to my state.
We studied the same movements over the course of the year (or ten months, as mid-December to mid-February were, by and large, holidays). This meant that by the end of the year, we had a pretty good sense for the movement as a whole.
We got to this state by an interesting method. Exactly as Dushka Howarth recalled of Gurdjieff, Mrs Adie would begin by teaching one part of the movement, for example, hand gestures. We would learn this to the accompaniment of the hand drum, and as we improved, the piano. We thus developed a sense of the rhythm and duration of the movement as a whole at a fairly early point. As she wrote in the letter to Mme de Salzmann, there would be some careful thought given to presenting the evening class “in such a way that their attention has to be strained a little but not so that they get confused”. This is it to the precise point: Mrs Adie was demanding but never, ever, confusing or even unclear.
Then, on another occasion, Mrs Adie would add, for example, some feet movements. At other classes, we might be shown a head movement, and later, a displacement, so that now we would be moving across the floor making various gestures with our limbs and our heads. It would seem that the movement was now complete. Then, on another day, just as we started to acquire a sense of mastering that movement, Mrs Adie might teach us some words to go with it, generally words such as “Lord Have Mercy” or “I Wish to Have Being”. We would feel as if we now had the movement in its entirety.
Just when we had a good sense of that, a series of bends to the right, left and back upright, might be added to take during a portion of the movement. And so it went, until just before the end of the year, we would really have been shown the piece as a whole, and would be ready to show it at the “combined movements” meeting which closed the year, when the three groups would meet together.
Each group would work at its program before the others (there was nothing of a “performance” about it), and then, at the end, we would all learn “number 39” together, one of the very last movements Gurdjieff taught (if not the very last), and one which belonged to the esoteric series. That is how we came to have a sense of the movements in us.
Joseph Azize, 25 April 2020