Creative Encounter, Greece
By: Maria Koliopoulou On: 14th Jun 2014
Dancer and choreographer, Maria Koliopoulou, shares her thoughts and her questions, after her first experience of working with a mixed group in a cycle of regular weekly workshops at the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens.
The workshop was co-led by Maria with Andreas Kolisoglou, dancer, and was supported within the EU-funded Unlimited Access project.
Our group was formed with 30 people with and without disabilities, with and without a prior engagement in dance, who all shared the same enthusiasm to participate in an inclusive workshop and the same passion for physical expression.
Our weekly appointment was on Fridays. Each of us was there to experience a transformation of unique individuals into a magical group that shared experiences, worries, laughter, joy and excitement through movement. The physical context of the workshops gave us a new perspective on what the body can and cannot do, and the chance to discover the potential of the physicality of different bodies’ expression, contact and understanding.
My starting point for the workshop began with many questions:
How do we turn our focus away from our restrictions and recognise and encourage our strengths to grow instead?
How do we run beneficial and productive classes for all?
How can we strengthen the ties in the group?
How can dance provide the means through which we discover each other and the world around us?
How can we reinvent social codes in the course of our encounters?
What if dance as an art form and practice has a singular force that can eliminate distinctions?
I kept a choreographic diary throughout the workshop and here are some of my notes and insights.
Create situations where the whole class is involved. Place emphasis on reflection and attention to what is needed by the group: engage/include everyone, be really attentive to each individual’s way of learning and understanding through their movements and interactions. Acknowledge generosity, a strong desire to share and the ability to find confidence in dance and in movement, as a way to overcome fears, to avoid dead ends. It's so important to give feedback as a facilitator, but also receive feedback from the group regularly.
Dealing with choreography concepts
I introduced practical dance concepts such as spatial arrangement, decision-making in dance, quality of movement, contact, repetition, accumulation, composition and organizing principles. This was important in engaging participants, both individually and collectively as a group, in a procedure of thinking in dance.
We explored, researched and worked on different soli, duets and group choreographic tasks throughout this inspiring workshop. Feedback was given regularly from both the facilitators and the group: we watched each other during the class and we learned how to be creative observers, to be aware and to be able to communicate what we saw to the rest of the group performing.
Developing physio-anatomical, compositional, analytical and performance skills throughout the workshop was a key issue. Here are some of the exercises we used:
Start with a circle, a ‘knowing each other’ exercise, where each of the participants introduces him/her self with their name accompanied by a gesture, continuing by introducing the person sitting on their left hand side and finishing with the last person on the circle introducing everyone with a name and a gesture. It worked super well with great interaction and support between the 32 participants.
Use warm-up to strengthen the body, to develop an awareness of its anatomy and physiology and what it can be trained to do. Many participants were amazed to find that dance classes trained their bodies to a different degree than any other method (physiotherapy or pilates).
We used contact work as a way to explore and understand our own body and other bodies in space and time, sensing and becoming aware, but also breaking the comfort zone; being engaged in an act of constant listening to each other. So this involved: moving in space with a partner at the same speed; moving in space blind; moving the blind body; building trust but also intimate/sensitive touch; and moving through space on different levels (lower level: crawling, middle: on all fours, upper level: standing upright with or without partner).
Play with the qualities of movement, timing and dynamics. We worked on free-flow in movement, repetitive bound flow and sudden timing which is really interesting when strengthened.
We worked in couples and in groups co-ordinating across space and time with each other. So, building a kinetic dialogue whilst facing each other, crossing space, in unison or in a tight group formation, and keeping contact with a specific part of the body, moving together, falling together.
We worked on rhythm and its qualities: recognizing and reproducing the rhythm, using the body as an instrument. We would follow this with dancing, improvising freely to different music, jamming, or leading to the 'ecstasy pool': each one dives in the pool alone for a small solo. The most important thing is for everyone to use their potential but also to accept the fear of being exposed.
'Darkness' would be mostly enjoyed at the end of each workshop when everyone lay down listening to e.g. Bach’s Brandenburg concert No1 in F Allegro: Each person works a routine to the music using simple movement directions such as up, down, opening, closing and then addresses the movement routine to somebody else either from a close distance or from far apart in space.
What we experienced was that dance and movement generally speaking, have a singular force that can eliminate distinctions and drive a group of people into reinventing each other. Valuing differences and pushing boundaries through movement is an invaluable and ongoing experience that everyone should enjoy. We certainly did!