Tag Archives: Embodiment

Grounding Practices that Enable Emergence in Dialogue

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Design and engagement practitioners have adopted mindfulness approaches to large group participation recently, that help participants move from “heady” intellectual interactions to more embodied states of presence and awareness. Perhaps the most well-known approach is that of Theory U (Presencing), which has been applied in a huge range of process contexts, including in the 2015 Unify Toronto series.

Stephen Sillett and Jenny Jimenez  present insights into the thinking behind how this work is informed by dialogic design practice in long term community development. They explored:

How can we quickly enable diverse groups of participants to gain trust in their engagement and go deeper? (Using approaches appropriate to the people, place and purpose.)

How might we facilitate participants to feel both free and grounded, through emergent embodiment?

What would help support each of us to risk approaching the Edge of what we know, or to enter into an unknown area of inquiry?

 

Stephen Sillett shared theory and practice behind the “Come to the Edge” performance they coordinated in Belgium last month. Jennifer shared how this approach relates to developments in the disability arts movement and the shifting relationship to time. This involves grounding practices, but also practices that help people become transport to other realities, and involves crossing different types of thresholds.

The DwD engaged approaches to enable free exploration and collective trust and comfort to be achieved through intentional process design. We will share situations where we (ADCID) have helped participants with complex disabilities who can feel burden with frustration at their situation, and resigned to a state of endurance. We have developed different approaches for these contexts, which have adaptations from actor training, and mental space psychology.

Working with pre-verbal approaches, and metaphorical representations of burdens, we found major impact on communities who use alternative and augmentative communication. These can be used in the design of other dialogic engagements, and also for activities seeking to use dialogue as part of participatory design methodologies.

Several exercises were used to open up participants to deeper engagement:

  • Chairs and Tables – exercise that uses a simple spectrogram followed by metaphorical objects which become psychoactive and which the group can bond as we unburden
  • Passing the energy – exercise that opens up individuals and establishes a group dynamic.
  • David Grove’s Clean Space – deeper engagement around an outcome

 

About the Presenters

Jennifer Jimenez has a background as a scenographer, theatre-maker, and arts educator. She seeks artistic projects rooted in devised collaborative processes where all elements can play an active role in creation. This can take the form of integrating lighting and design into the rehearsal and creation process, working with community members to create a performance piece or devising an audience interactive piece, where those present are actively involved in meaning making. She has participated in training workshops in collaborative creation with Ariane Mnouchkine’s Teatre Du Soleil, and in Image and Forum Theatre facilitation at the Centres for the Theatre of The Oppressed in London, Toronto, and New York. Jenny has a Masters in Devised Theatre Creation from Central School of Speech and Drama in London, UK, and a BFA and BEd from York University.  She has taught drama and visual arts in the Ontario Secondary School system and in the UK.

Jenny Jimenez and Stephen Sillett are co-directors of ADCID (Aiding Dramatic Change in Development), where they facilitate and direct dialogue, drama and art processes for healing and community development. Through ADCID projects and in partnership with other social actors, they explore approaches that engage community members in conversations, consciously orientated to maturing visions of the future. Research interests include the facilitation of non-verbal and spatial meaning-making practices within group workshop and the creation of interactive performance. They direct the InFusion Labs process where theatre artists, therapists, scientists and social practitioners explore spatial approaches to exploration and discovery.

 

The Wisdom of Movement, Song and Story: A DwD Workshop in InterPlay

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Last February 11, Rehana Telpara guided a smaller group of DwD session participants in hybrid forms of reflective play call Interplay. Rehana introduced herself as an InterPlay leader in training, with more modesty than necessary led us through a series of exercises that awakened the playfulness in everyone there. Emotional interactions occurred and we left more relaxed, connected with one another and aware that we had shared an experience with everyone in the room at a meaningful level.

We began with a series of gibberish vocalizations that engaged us all in uttering and attending to what initially seemed out of context, content free nonsense. Seemed, but wasn’t really. Rehana who is clearly one of this world’s genuine seekers, brought us face to face (literally) with the simple truth: whenever someone interacts, however loosely, with another, communication happens.

Following reflection, we moved into movement in pairs, suspending an imaginary beam of energy between each other while carefully moving. This activity continued into a journey around the room inspired by the music being played. We moved from this activity into more personal explorations through floor based movement. We then convened and had a dialogue about the experiences, which sparked a number of interesting reflections by participants, making connections to personal events and fields of psychology some had been exploring. We finished the session with the group harmonizing our voices, an activity that had a spiritual quality, and ended the session beautifully.

During the session we learnt of Rehana’s own journey to Interplay, through a trip in the Himalayas where a gentle woman named Neesha described this systematic, yet spontaneous approach to basic dialogue that connects without confronting the other. Again, as the DwD website announcement explains, we need to recover that ability lurking mischievously dormant in all of us: “to laugh, savor and relax.” Interplay’s own website, www.interplay.org gives a fuller picture of the process we sampled at DwD.

In InterPlay, we pause to notice our physical experience. One thing we notice is that affirmation (versus critique) produces more of what we want! We often invite people to witness others or to be witnessed as they practice an InterPlay form. In InterPlay, witnessing means, first, noticing my own physical experience as I watch and listen and, second, affirming the person I have witnessed by telling them my own physical experience in just a few words or images. There are two reasons for this: 1) Most people find at least one of the forms we teach to be pushing the envelope of what they think they can do. When they are witnessed doing it and affirmed doing it, they begin to experience themselves as actually able to do it. If that were all (achieving some internal sense that I am able to do something I could not do before), it would not be enough, but it isn’t all. I have seen over and over again how people actually blossom in this process. They seem magically to create works of beauty and power that were unimaginable earlier. 2) Equally important, the witness has an experience of his or her own.  Tom Henderson, “How Interplay Can Help Your Organization”

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the object it loves” – Carl Jung

 ABOUT THE HOST

rehana

Rehana Tejpar is a mother, dancer, theatre artist and community arts facilitator dedicated to staging stories of social importance, and evoking community dialogue. Using popular education, Theatre of the Oppressed and Art of Hosting techniques, she has been designing curriculum and facilitating leadership programs with young women, children and youth in Canada, Kenya and India for the past 10 years. Since 2011 she has been playing with InterPlay and is currently a leader in training. She is an active performance artist in dance-theatre and is currently working on Eventual Ashes’ Ocean Carving: A Performance in Water, to be performed in the 2015 Rhubarb Festival.

Rehana and her colleague, Agnotti Cowie have scheduled a three day “untensive,” they call “Unlocking the Wisdom of Your Body: Toronto InterPlay Art and Social Change” March 27 – 29, 2015. For more information, contact: rehana.tejpar@gmail.com

Action Methods and Dramatic Expression: Finding your Role in Community Engagement

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November 2014 DwD hosted over 25 participants. After introductions, Stephen Sillett cleared the space and everyone got on their feet and we positioned ourselves on a simple Spectrogram, an highly versatile Action Sociometry method. Think of the Spectrogram as a graph on the floor, in this case, one end represented being very comfortable participating in the session and the other end representing, not at all comfortable. We were invited to stand in the position that best represented how we felt at that moment. We then starting a drama activity, with the whole group milling around the room, shifting our attention from the spaces opening up on the floor and stepping into them, to the other bodies in the room, and finally to greeting other participants as they moved around the room. We continued milling, and started to follow 2 people in the room, we then attempted to place ourselves equidistant between the 2 people we were following, then slowed down until the group came to a stable arrangement. This was a interesting activity, with shifting in dynamics. After the activity, all the participants reflected on the experience by again positioning themselves on the Spectrogram and then observing any personal or collective shifts regards comfort levels.

We next experienced some exercises from the world of physical theatre, looking at how personal and social space relates to perceptions of power, and how we interact with that in non-verbal ways. While exploring these activities, participants were asked to stay alive to the experience, and reflect on how it may relate to engaging people in community conversations.

Part 1. Shared inquiry: How can we involve people more fully in Community Dialogue?

Participants split into break-out groups, and a shared inquiry into what it might mean to bring the “whole person” into community dialogue began. The inquiry raised questions about definitions of the “whole person”. Does this refer to the physical and mental aspects of a person? What other aspects, could/should be included?

We then formed a large circle, and shared some points raised in the shared inquiry. Here are a few:

  • How cultural aspects of the person always exist during our engagement – either visibly or invisibly.
  • Values are always present at some level during our community engagement.
  • Challenges exist in online communications, as this limits how much the “whole person” can be engaged in group conversations.
  • We always marginalise certain aspects of ourselves when we engage, and this changes in different contexts.
  • A state in which the “whole person” is engaged, can never be fully attained.
  • Body scanning and meditation practice, can help bring the body into the space, and deepen engagement.

We ended this part of the session creating a Locogram, another Action Sociometry exercise (see The Living Stage for more info.). Participants engaged the exercise by reflecting on a particular situation, during which they were trying to deepen conversations. They then positioned themselves relative to a central point in the room, having done this we created body images to convey our thoughts and emotions from recounting that experience. This exercise was not unpacked, as we needed to take a break and prepare for part 2 of the session.

Summary: Part 1 of session helped participants experience:

  • Approaches that build community trust and release communication barriers.
  • Multiple perspectives regards how we engage with each other.
  •  Two simple yet powerful, Action Sociometry methods

Part 2. Strategic Action Fields

While the first part of the session worked through established methods, the 2nd involved Interactive Scenography, an innovation that Stephen and ADCID have been working on in their InFusion Lab sessions. For this part, participants were invited to take a performative journey, into a single Strategic Action Field (SAF) of their choosing. This was a personal journey, with others present and simultaneously creating their SAF at the same time. There was no external audience for this performative act, everyone was participating in the creation and exploration process. Participants created their field, explored it, and looked to discover what this may mean to them. Photo elicitation and fabric was used to help each participant to individually enter into a dialogue with the space, and generate a landscape of understanding. This was a shallow dive into what would normally be a longer, even multi-day process.

The goals for this final activity was more open. One outcome was that the activity provided an experimental insight into working with this emerging process. Another was to give a sense of ADCID’s approach to complex work across Fields of Strategic Action, and spark insights among those present. Stephen would like to thank all those who took the plunge into this activity, and appreciates all the feedback received after the session from members of the DwD community.

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Background: Through his years of practice in international development and collaborating with local community-based organizations, Stephen and ADCID  have found these processes very useful. They have been used to shift the relationships and dynamics that local Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) have with marginalised populations they serve. When working on projects in Africa and Canada, Stephen finds this depth of group inquiry to be particularly relevant to long-term, capacity focussed projects..

About the Host

ssillett

Stephen Sillett is co-executive director of Aiding Dramatic Change in Development (ADCID), and helps the organization research, facilitate and direct dialogue, drama and art processes for healing and community development. Through ADCID projects and in partnership with other social actors, he is exploring approaches that engage community members in conversations, consciously orientated to maturing visions of the future. Research interests include the facilitation of non-verbal and spatial meaning-making practices within group workshop and the creation of interactive performance. He directs InFusion Labs where theatre artists, therapists, scientists and social practitioners explore spatial approaches to exploration and discovery.

ADCID’s community-driven approach, has evolved over 10 years in rural South Africa through:

  • Peer Influence workshops in Schools across Ingwavuma, South Africa – supported by Health Canada
  • Water and Sanitation project in rural South Africa supported by Oxfam Australia . Large-Group community dialogue and reflective Inquiry process using Socio-Drama Topography.

ADCID has also been focussing on 2 areas of engagement with communities in Canada.

  • CrossGEN: Connecting across Age and Culture. Connecting newcomers with long-term residents to form networks that can inform service provision and innovate ways to deepen interactions in our public spaces. Supported by Ontario Trillium Foundation.
  • Imagining Possibilities a project with communities with communication and complex physical disabilities to participate in a community arts journey and engage with others through story creation and performance. Supported by Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council and Toronto Arts Council.

Designing Group Dynamics through Movement

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From Terri Chan’s recent blog post on the Social Presencing Theatre workshop:

In this post, we will explore ideas of presence and movement to further dialogue from only words, and the immense power that they bring to groups in building trust and synergy. I was at an event last week exploring Social Presence Theatre with Toronto-based Design with Dialogue (DwD), a monthly event to co-educate community design practices.

July’s DwD featured Patricia Kambitsch from Playthink and Heidi Madsen from Ohio AIDS Coalition (both of them wear many hats, as all creative people do). Our group was lucky enough to also have had the guidance of Penny Williamson from Centre for Courage & Renewal and John Hopkins University. Throughout the night, we were guided along a series of activities that incrementally built on one another – and we were encouraged to use minimal words and more gestures and movement to convey how we envision our future to look like. We all made our own small gesture to convey our vision and shared it first with our partner and then to the entire group, and this marked the beginning of utilizing presence, awareness, and body language as powerful tools of communication.

They say 80% of what is communicated is nonverbal, but we are so hyper-aware of our bodies (the very reason why the Dove campaign is so successful) that I wonder… what are we communicating with our bodies?

Read much more at Designing Group Dynamics through Movement

Homo Ludens – The Playing Body

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An exploration of our physical relationship to media technology

October’s DwD session was hosted by Antje Budde of the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studiesat the University of Toronto, affiliated with and inspired by the exhibition “SPLICE: At the Intersection of Art and Medicine” curated by KMDI Fellow and international artist Nina Czegledy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WORKSHOP CONCEPT & CONTENT
Digital technology has a drastic impact on our lives and the way we communicate with each other. This has strong implications for how we engage our bodies in our communication, especially now that we are in constant contact with mobile computing devices. Through a series of live and mediatized physical exercises facilitated by theatre performers, this workshop will explore the role that our physical bodies play in this shifting technological context. 

Do we have to fear new developments or can we courageously embrace them? How can we maintain control over our bodies and body images? Playfulness and a healthy dose of doubt are a perfect mix to keep an empowering distance between us and the at times overwhelming demands of the multitude of devices now attached to our bodies and minds.

The workshop was created by the Digital Dramaturgy Lab (Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies at UofT) and SLICE. The session will be conducted in collaboration with graduate students from UofT, York University and emerging local artists from Pandemic Theatre in Toronto, including: Art Babayants, Aidan Dahlin Nolan, Douglas Hamilton, Myrto Komarianous, Kat Letwin, Montgomery Martin, Tara Ostiguy, and Michael Reinhardt. 
Opening dialogue with roughly 50 participants inviting performance and participation.
One group improvised by performing and recording soundscapes (of city, farm, office, factory) with found materials. In the auditorium, the second half of the group built human shape tableaux to structure these same settings,
Presentation of the soundscape and human shape video mix, followed with inquiry and dialogue into the experience.

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HOST   
Antje Budde, a graduate from Humboldt-University, Berlin and the Central Academy of Drama, Beijing, is an Associate Professor at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto. She is currently in the process of establishing the Digital Dramaturgy Lab in association with her home department and Knowledge Media Design Institute (KMDI). Her upcoming experimental performance piece “Artaud’s Cage” is investigating the possibilities and challenges of audio-visual motion tracking technology in live performance and will be presented as part of the conference “The Future of Cage: Credo” which will take place at the end of October 2012 in Toronto.