Dr Andrea Maciel of Intercultural Roots talks about the relationship between arts and health, getting active online and their current programme of online artist led discussions.
When did Intercultural Roots form and how did it come about?
Intercultural Roots (IR) is actually a partnership of two charities – IR for Public Health and IR for Traditional Embodied Arts. The Charity Commission have very strict constraints around health objectives thus the split between arts and health. IR was born from the IFTR Embodied Research Working Group that Dr Alex Boyd co-founded in 2015.
You’re currently running a series of artist led discussions – what have you learned from them so far?
We are inviting a highly experienced constellation of scholars and artists to share their practices in a provocative relationship within the public sphere, looking at art and health as tools to promote social change. Each constellation has a theme and points of interest to converge artists and practitioners to reflect and go deeper into their practices.
The response and feedback from the public have been very positive with people reinforcing how helpful it is to be part of a lively exchange of knowledge within practitioners. It has promoted network, personal growth, connection and meaningful experiences both for the public and practitioners.
Your classes promote mental and physical health. If you could recommend one exercise to do everyday to support mental health, what would it be?
‘Happy Days’ is an ancient Chinese taoist (daoyin) breathwork exercise. Stand vertically with your heels together and arms by your sides. On a long 12-16 second 3-sectional in-breath lift your heels as you cross your arms in front of your chest and up to the ceiling keeping them straight – then on an out-breath making a strong ‘Sss’ sound, circle your arms back down to the side with your palms facing forward while you lower your heels.
In what ways are mental and physical health connected, and how does one support the other?
Everything we do is psycho-physical – it’s unhelpful to separate body-mind. This is what embodiment is about and also speaks to our ecology with our environment, we affect and are affected both at the same time. A practice that involves feelingly-thinking rather than being to an extreme of cognitive or physical can be considered embodied.
Your response to the pandemic was very quick, how did you manage to create a programme of classes and get them online so quickly?
There were three main factors that enabled Get Active Online to be running within 5 days of realising lockdown was coming. We had already built a community of practitioners from our studio based labs who were already contracted to deliver sessions. We had National Lottery funding already secured to film sessions for people with limited mobility which we applied to live online sessions instead and we were able to use a Zoom Pro license at no cost thanks to the University of California, Davis (Theatre & Dance). It probably also helped that our Executive Director Dr Alex Boyd’s first degree was in computing!
What’s next for the company?
We’re currently developing a beautiful new InterculturalRoots.Org website that deliver our ‘arts for health and social change’ motivations. Our weekly Get Active Online classes for health and well-being will continue while we also launch our new international Practitioner Hub and Ripples projects – watch this space!
For more information on Intercultural Roots visit their website https://www.interculturalroots.org