The highlight of Semester V was our outreach performance ‘Serendipity’ in April 2014. This was an impressive achievement, especially considering the many obstacles we had to face.
The semester began with Nora Markt’s Intensive Module titled ‘Communication – do what you know how to do’ which focused on diversity, conflict and communication. It dealt with what happens when communication breaks down, how to handle potential problems, and how sensitive and appropriate responses can positively impact difficult situations.
This semester’s Dance Technique training was held by Nadia Arouri, who focused on the participants’ fitness and flexibility through various Yoga techniques. By adopting and eventually perfecting a fixed Yoga routine the trainees could get both their bodies and their minds into shape for the challenges ahead, such as the performance ‘Serendipity’.
An Intensive Module by Maria Arroyo Menendez on dancing with differently-abled people based on the DanceAbility method followed. As its name implies, DanceAbility focuses on EVERYONE’s ability to dance, including people considered ‘disabled’ and wheelchair-bound. The module explored inclusivity and its barriers and additionally introduced the trainees to the limitations and possibilities of wheelchairs in choreography. It also prepared them to deal with potentially difficulties, both mentally / psychologically as well as physically. These modules laid the basis for the outreach production ‘Serendipity’, which started with rehearsals in early March and concluded with the performance in Ramallah on April 5, 2014 involving more than 60 participants focusing on persons with mental and physical disability.
Beginning of July Lina Höhne returned to continue with the Dance Technique training until the end of the semester. She focused on the revision of basic techniques to start with and then moved on to building a strong body-centre, improving the speed of learning and on ‘owning’ the dance. Her module concluded with guiding the trainees in being ‘teachers for a day’ as they took over and taught their fellow students. Through this exercise an important milestone could be achieved.
It was an extremely challenging semester, yet we believe the group managed to emerge even stronger and more equipped to deal with the challenges and difficulties of working in Palestine as an unstable political entity and a society that is redefining itself.
Intensive Module XVII – Communication – January 2014
This module really taught the trainees just how important it is to see, hear and understand the signals within and beyond the words, whether written or spoken. Do we hear? Do we listen? Do we observe the intonation? How do we interpret what we see and hear? Context? Using various methodologies many aspects of communication and especially of communication breakdown and conflict – and how to deal with them – were examined and explained. No man is an island…
Building up on the Communication Module VII, facilitated by Natasha Aruri, which touched upon non-violent communication and focused on presentation-skills and self- presentation mechanisms, this module focused on communication on intra- and inter-personal levels. What happens and more importantly what we can do when communication is broken and leads to a misunderstanding, problem or conflict.
The trainees were taught how to listen, hear and understand what the other is saying and to know how to respond to it in a non-violent way. Various tools and methods of mediation were introduced to sensitise the trainees and train them in the skills necessary to detect whether one is really hearing what is being said, or if one is interpreting what is being said into a message or meaning. They thus learned how to filter facts from interpretation, alongside Schulz von Thun’s theory of the 4-sided message. Also, the 4 steps of non- violent communication learned in Module VII were refreshed and deepened through focused exercises and activities.
Methodologically, the course was built up on: Marshall Rosenberg’s non-violent communication; different concepts of communication such as the above-mentioned theory of Schulz von Thun; Communication Styles as per the Module of Virginia Satir; Eric Berne’s transaction analysis; conflict analysis tools such as the iceberg model, Maslow’s pyramid of needs, the onion model, Galtung’s conflict triangle, and others, and finally a look at tools and methods of mediation.
In the case of mediation, the aim was not to teach them the exact process of mediation, but about the tools that are used within the process of mediation in order for them to develop communication skills that will enhance a clearer awareness of communication processes. They would thus become more attentive to the message that is transmitted, to be clear in situations of conflict and high emotion, which lead to accusations and violent language, to learn how to de-escalate these situations, how to neutralise them and reformulate them into expressions of needs.
The module was split into three parts that started by taking a look at communication styles and needs and the crucial aspect of perception. It then went on to examine definitions and causes of conflict before looking at the tools with which to resolve them.
PART I Getting started: Getting to know one another, building trust, expressing oneself – communication styles
PART II Why do we get into conflict?
PART III Tools and methods with which to react in and solve conflicts. Methods and tools taken from mediation that can help in situations of conflict to de-escalate and bring conflicting parties to a state where they can talk to each other.
The module covered the following topics: Perception, Group Dynamics/Teambuilding, Communication Styles, Causes of Conflict, Conflict Analysis, Hidden Needs Analysis, NVC – Non Verbal Communication, Active Listening, Mirroring/ Paraphrasing, Neutralising, Substantiating, Reframing and Reflection which were given as a theoretical introduction and then explored through exercises and role-plays.
Dance Technique – Yoga – January and February 2014
Yoga is a dance teacher’s best friend – it is effective in getting both our body and our mind into good shape and able to concentrate on the task in hand. Nadia’s classes focused on an intensive Vinyasa-flow series which was repeated daily, thus allowing the trainees to constantly improve and perfect the series. Once this deep knowledge of the movements was achieved they became the teachers and learned how to teach the practice themselves. Powerful empowerment …
As a “gentle” physical and psychological introduction to the new semester Nadia’s classes in these two weeks focused on physicality and getting back into fit and flexible shape, with intensive Vinyasa-Flow Yoga series.
This class always preceded the Communication Module run by Nora Markt, in order to make sure the trainees were physically in shape and ready for the dance ability module that would follow. In this class, a fixed Vinyasa-Flow Yoga variation was held identically every day.
By repeating the same variation, the trainees did not have to worry about new movements and could therefore focus on going deeper into each movement and perfecting the series. They could also focus on maintaining the Ojay-breathing.
The Series consisted of Sun-Salutations A, B, and B ́ and they covered:
– Basic positions, such as the cat, cow, variations of the table position, and the cobra position.
– Downward dog with arm and leg variations.
– Forward Bending: In sitting, in standing, with and without twists.
– Twists: triangle, twists in sitting with bent legs, with stretched legs, and in standing Asana.
– Standing Asana: first, second, and third warrior, and triangle variations.
– Arm Balance: Crow, sideways-plank.
– Upside-down positions: candle, supported head-stand
The class also focused on imparting a deep understanding of each movement amongst the trainees. Therefore, the trainees did not only learn the movements themselves, rather after the first week, the trainees were responsible for teaching parts of the Yoga practice, where each would be responsible during a certain section to go around and help his colleagues find a better alignment into each position. Thus, and yet again, the focus was also set on empowering the trainees as dance teachers and community practitioners.
Intensive Module XVIII – DanceAbility – February and March 2014
Maria de Lourdes Arroyo MENENDEZ
This module built on Nora’s Communication Module at the start of the semester and was a crucial part of preparation for the ‘Serendipity’ performance later on in the programme. DanceAbility’s guiding principle is inclusivity – the breaking down of barriers that keep us apart. Dance is used as a means for people with very different abilities to come together and put aside any prejudices, misconceptions or objections. The material covered in the module was improvised according to the circumstances of the participants and everyone included. EVERYONE can move!
Maria based her work on the method of DanceAbility. DanceAbility uses improvisational dance to promote artistic expression and exploration between people with and without disabilities. Through experiencing movement together, misconceptions and/or prejudices that able-bodied or disabled people might have about themselves and each other are dissolved. The material is drawn from the group present in a given situation and isolates no one. The method supports self-empowerment by offering ways that all individuals can participate fully in expressing their creative choices, including respecting one’s own limits. Following one’s own interest and desire, and applying that to the bene t of one’s community, is a basic of DanceAbility teaching.
Building on Module XVII, this module continued the preparation for the performance of Serendipity in Semester V. Maria led the group in looking at themselves, considering: Inclusion, exclusion, stimuli and response; choreographic composition bearing in mind the different abilities; wheelchairs – their movement capabilities and limitations; communication with deaf-mute persons; creative inspiration – the wheelchair as a choreographic element; choreographic tools to include wheelchair-bound persons. Two rehabilitation staff members from the Abu Raya Centre also participated in this intensive training module related to the performance.
Day 1 was dedicated to learning about each other, becoming aware of differences and similarities, examining the perceptions, feelings and emotions of each other.
Day 2 moved on to the generation of movement, expressing connections and intentions, looking at choreography from the aspect of performers of very different abilities and introducing the wheelchair and its possibilities.
Day 3 was brilliant in that Maria showed how to include a deaf-mute person and create a common language for all, where everyone understands and learns to give directions to a mixed group simultaneously. “The response,” she said, “was incredible.”
Testimonies from the Group
– Abed: I learned with great simplicity to create material. There is a sense to go step by step, it was fun to look at what we generated in a short time.
– Adnan: I understood everything; it was fun, space, couples, and groups.
– Mais: today was very important for me to move from my feelings and I felt much stronger with it.
– Jouline: it was my first time in a wheelchair and this helps me feel more like them, as part of them.
– Hala: I used to isolate myself and in this module I felt more included and I could therefore enjoy the training as well as learn from it.
– Kamel: I learned that I can do many things in the stillness.
– Summar: I like the simplicity and progress of the work; it is very useful to me for my own work.
– Yousef: I had a different experience to others, sometimes I get lost at work and what I did was improvise to include myself. My sense is now rare.
Intensive Modules XIX and XX – Creating a Community Dance Performance from Communication to Management Part II – March and April 2014
The sessions for these modules were interspersed throughout the rehearsals for the outreach performance ‘Serendipity’ and were the means to integrate the artistic side of performing with all the multi-faceted ‘off-stage’ aspects, such as: casting, rehearsal scheduling and management, premises (and how to manage them and keep them and the people using them safe and secure) publicity, marketing, documentation, recording, reporting, dealing with the press and the media, fundraising, financing and accounting … and that is only half of it!
This module extended over the 6-week rehearsal period of the community dance performance, which demonstrated the inclusivity of dance with regard to differently abled participants -“Serendipity” from the 01.03.2014 to the 10.04.2014. This module focused on consolidating the management and organisational skills necessary for the realisation of community dance sessions in general and community dance performances in particular. It expanded on the introductory management module that was held in Semester III.
In this module the trainees were put in charge of the realisation of the management of the performance. Each of the trainees was assigned to lead 3-4 of the above-mentioned subtasks, while being assisted by his/her colleagues. Hence the trainees were team leaders for some sub-tasks and assistants for others.
As in the previous module, the learning and work sessions alternated between individual and group sessions. The group sessions were also split into small group sessions for 3-4 trainees and large group sessions where all the trainees were present.
For the trainees, side by side with the artistic process of creating a community dance performance, this module was a hands-on learning experience of how to organise a community dance performance from A – Z, especially when tackling important social discrepancies as in the case of this performance where 60 disabled participants were targeted. The trainees learnt the following:
1) Rehearsal Management
The trainees learnt how to prepare, distribute and collect application forms, copies of birth certificates or Identification Cards. How to file them and prepare and go through the necessary check-lists. They learnt how to prepare attendance sheets and general participant lists and how to collect and prepare the necessary data for applying for entry permits to Israel for the performance tour and to tackle that early on. They also learnt how to communicate with parents in person or by phone, and to gently but firmly challenge social norms where necessary. They also learnt how to collect, purchase and where necessary dye costumes as well as to prepare props and lighting. Most importantly they developed a sensitive eye to the needs of individual participants and the particularities of their disability when distributing rehearsal clothes to them.
2) Premises and Transportation
They learnt how to look for adequate rehearsal venues, in terms of facilities and location, i.e. developing the necessary partnerships and preparing the relevant agreements.
They also learnt how to organize and prepare a rehearsal venue, a safe environment for differently abled persons. They developed experience in including participants and finding ways with them to maintain the facilities of the rehearsal venue in terms of equipment and cleanliness. They also learnt how to tackle discriminatory difficulties such as those of the public transportation of disabled participants, where they creatively overcame these difficulties.
The trainees learnt how to document the activities through videos and photos, how to edit them and to archive them as well as how to archive and file documents. They also learnt how to take meeting minutes and their importance.
The trainees also learnt how to produce reports and to observe and reflect on their experiences.
After being introduced to the constituents of a marketing strategy/plan, the trainees showed great creativity in devising one for the performance. Not only did they devise the plan, but they also saw to the realisation of it, by doing the research on distributors, items, and prices.
The trainees were also very active on social media, where they posted the pictures and the videos that they had created in the rehearsals on Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and twitter. They learnt how to organise and run a photo shoot and were relentless and creative in preparing and hanging the posters around the city of Ramallah. The dedication, creativity and drive that the trainees showed in the implementation of the awareness campaign accompanying the performance were certainly remarkable.
The trainees learnt how to do a press mapping, and how to prepare a press release. They learnt the tricks and tweaks of grading the attention and interest of press agencies, reporters and televisions by phone and via e-mail. They learnt how to collectively prepare a statement for a press conference, just as much as how to prepare for a press conference. They also had various appearances on television and radio interviews.
6) Fundraising and Financial Management
The trainees were taught the importance of transparent financial management. They learnt the basics of invoicing, book-keeping, getting price offers, and making informed decisions based on price, quality and quantity. Some of the trainees became very fluent and did not only immerse themselves in the details of book-keeping but also started developing fundraising skills under the supervision of the team, where they drafted funding proposals.
During this process the trainees also embarked on important issues of communication and conflict resolution. The trainees learnt how to address their issues of concern to the choreographer and the assistants. They learnt how to protocol their meeting and take decisions that concern the collective. They learnt how to deal with conflicting situations, when a constructive confrontation towards conflict resolution fails. Most importantly they learnt the importance of being a group and supporting each other, especially when they “agree to disagree”: at this point the trainees gradually started learning to appreciate their differences just as much as their similarities, and hence to grasp the values behind the following sentence in the mission statement of YANTE.
“It is heart-warming to see the trainees rise up to this great responsibility of being in charge of so many aspects of the performance, considering that the mentoring was cut to less than half due to the unfortunate car accident our administrative team members had at the outset of the rehearsal phase.” Nadia Arouri
Dance Technique – April/May/June/July
Lina led the trainees through a revision and consolidation of previously acquired technique skills, as a refresher and as a means to enable some members of the group to catch up with their companions. She then moved on to composition and improvisation with particular reference to the Forsythe Improvisation Technique. In the final phase of her classes the trainees did structured teaching practice followed by discussion and feedback. We are making serious progress …
Lina divided the training into three parts:
Part A – Cleaning the process
Part B focused on building a strong body-centre, improving the speed of learning and on ‘owning’ the dance
Part C was an intensive module focused on Education, covering the topics of Teaching & Learning, Knowledge & Intelligence, Order & Freedom and Creativity.
In part A Lina decided to go back to basic technique skills to refresh the technique of the advanced students, to offer them a reminder for their own teaching and to give those that needed it an opportunity to catch up with the others. Outside teaching time, most evenings were taken up watching and observing various performances at the Contemporary Dance Festival and then discussing the works observed.
Lina continued with her technique exercises and also moved on to composition and improvisation. She also introduced them to the five Tibetan Rites, a form of Yoga, and to the Forsythe Improvisation Technique. Towards the end of Part B she created a score, which was performed extremely well by Kamel, Hala and Yousef.
In Part C the group was joined by Olivia Hilde – a volunteer from Austria – who slightly helped with the teaching of the classes in this part and has also documented the classes by taking photos. The plan was for each student to teach a class for four hours during one day, structured as follows:
A a lecture about a book they choose
B a technique class
C a guided improvisation and
D a build-up-choreography
Each class began with a warm up and meditation led by Lina and performed as a ritual, and ended with a discussion and feedback session.
On the other 6 days Lina covered the following topics:
2.Teaching & Learning
3. Knowledge & Intelligence 4. Order & Freedom
6. Fear and Flowering
Despite a worsening political situation which made the participants fear for their own safety, high temperatures of up to 40°C, an almost total lack of water in the training space and the observance of fasting for Ramadan, Part C and the semester were concluded successfully. The Shurouq centre and its garden were cleaned and cleared up. On the final and very emotional day of the semester Lina filled the house with flowers, symbolically representing the flowering of the group and the I CAN MOVE project.
The trainees had volumes to say about working with Lina. Here are some brief excerpts from the trainees’ feedback:
Asef: “Something changed inside myself. I feel different. It was maybe small words that you told me, but I feel the change in myself. I feel that you want to help me. Really, now I want to help everyone that wants or needs help. I want to take this scholarship to dance and to help myself and other people.”
Olivia:“I feel it’s very special what’s going on here. How open the group is, your teaching – it’s really special. And it was possible for me to be a part of what is going on here. It’s incredible how open and welcoming all of you are.”
Yousef: “I really like the classes because I could show exactly who I am. I did not need to act in a certain way or gain respect. It was nearly an escape from the craziness that is happening outside for me. … I think you are the best teacher I ever had.”
Kamel: “Before I thought you’re just a normal teacher but this time, I really feel you are my mentor. I want to be Kamel – the Lina. You are the first teacher who I like and in the beginning it was hard for me to accept myself but you helped me so much.”
And this is what Lina herself had to say: “I feel that I found home and more then that really a meaning for the things I am doing. I find the meaning in you. You give it a meaning, that I share and what I am. Especially in this situation, I feel pressured by this [Gaza] invasion but it makes it much stronger what we do here. It brings it into existence. I see Yante’s goal unfolding. There is such a contradiction between daily life and this invasion. I see that we do gain a lot from this contradiction. I see we gain so much through this space of sharing and being. And I see myself here as much learning as you have been. It is very very meaningful for me what happened….Thanks to Nadia!“