The Masks We Wear: Massage Therapy Students Learn Through Movement and Masks

“There are three masks: the one we think we are, the one we really are, and the one we have in common,” Jacques Lecoq said.masks

This was the concept behind Denise Rinehart’s workshop The Neutral Mask: Movement Analysis and Body Awareness that she presented to the Pregnancy/Special Populations massage therapy class this quarter.

Denise is the Artistic Director of Theatre Amoeba and presently teaches movement at Cheongju University and directs various artistic projects in South Korea and throughout the world.

This interactive presentation is a tool used to explore what everyone has in common as well as assist participants in developing an awareness of their body and personal habits. The question pegged throughout the workshop was simple, what are the parts we are playing in our everyday lives?

“Through the Neutral Mask participants discover a state of calm and openness to space as well as an awareness of physical and

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All of the workshop participants with presenter Denise Rinehart (holding the red clown nose).

emotional ‘background noises’ within each person’s movement and physical presence,” Denise said. “The neutral mask exists before the action and lives in the present.”

Workshop participants worked barefoot and were asked to wear neutral black clothing that would allow movement, but not be too loose. This helped participants focus solely on the movement without distractions. Participants learned to observe each other’s movements, which in turn made them more aware of their own.

“The one thing in common with all workshops is that participants should walk away with a stronger sense of body awareness and stories that their body is telling.”

In addition to working with the neutral masks, participants also did some work as clowns, wearing red clown noses and transforming themselves in front of others.

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Massage therapy student Brittany Greig performing as her clown.

“The clown is the one who makes people laugh about themselves. It‘s a really profound teacher, and it’s a very ancient archetype,” said Denise. This exercise helps participants reach out of their comfort zone and learn to celebrate failure by exploring boundaries.

“There are many ways this could be incorporated into massage,” said massage therapy student Monica Bullen. “Massage is very intuition based and this experience draws on that. It makes you more aware of the unspoken things people do not say, therefore making you pay more attention to your clients. By paying more attention to your client’s unspoken things, you are able to better glean information to assess and treat your client.”

Theatre Amoeba and Denise Rinehart will be offering a series of physical theatre workshops in Madison and Milwaukee during 2015.