September 19 2019
For the pilot year of Aerowaves’ Offspring (a young audience development initiative), ’Scarabeo, Angles and the Void by Andrea Costanzo Martini (Italy) and 'Blanks' by Ingrid Berger Myhre (Norway) were selected by partners to go for a series of residencies and showings in different centres in Europe. Andrea went to Mini BMotion (Bassano del Grappa), The Place (London), Annantalo (Helsinki), and CNDB, and Ingrid to Mini BMotion. Read the interview with Ingrid and Andrea to find out more about their Offspring experience.
Had you ever taught dance to kids or teenagers before? If so, which kind of experience do you have? If not, which were the main challenges for you?
Ingrid: I actually don’t have much prior experience teaching kids or teenagers, apart from a few occasional encounters with younger audiences in different settings. I was curious about how much stimulation the participants would need, how autonomous their explorations would be or how much I would have to activate them throughout the workshop. I had therefore prepared a lot of content and «plan Bs», in case certain propositions would not resonate with them, or in case they didn’t manage to access the tools I wanted them to experience through a specific exercise for example. I was also prepared for the language barrier possibly being a little challenging, but in fact I found them very reflective and communicative.
Andrea: I did teach dance to kids and teenagers before participating in the Offspring series but not very often. Although I liked the challenge, I was ready to have a very hard time with this task, but in fact it was extremely rewarding to meet kids from so many different nationalities and see in which way they react to the work proposed, both physically and mentally. I think the challenges really vary from group to group. Perhaps teenagers need more convincing to go beyond their familiar and comfortable places, but they have a sense of structure. Kids on the other side will just go for it without thinking twice, but can easily drift away from an instruction, and that I think can cause dispersion.
How did you decide to approach the workshop in relation to your work? What were your main goals for the kids to achieve?
Ingrid: I aimed to make the participants access dancing and choreographic form though playing. I structured all the propositions as games with rules (or parameters) that we negotiated together to experience different possible ways of playing the games, and how adapting the rules changed the outcome of the game. I tried to keep these parameters practical, basic and dynamic in the way they would affect time, space, form and relation. My aim was to offer agency and perspective to the participants: I wanted them to experience how their decision making and interaction with the rules of the game have an impact on the entire group. Lastly, I wanted all the scores to be collective, collaborative and contingent –in order to welcome diverse and individual responses in the group. I wanted the children to experience how one choice affects the next choice and the whole composition of the group in sum.
Andrea: In most cases I decided to first give a short workshop to explore movement qualities through some very simple instructions (behaving like animals, changing textures in the body, working with fast or slow motion, softness or strength and so on). Eventually, I also taught some very simple parts of Scarabeo to the participants, in order to offer them something a little bit clearer to bite on. In most cases, they managed to not only get the material right, but offered a very inspiring interpretation of it as well. I mostly wanted the kids to find their pleasure and joy for movement and dancing. I wanted them to try and go beyond their familiar limits. To make a fool of themselves while taking themselves extremely seriously, or to be very seriously crazy. I also wanted them to experience effort and fatigue, the pleasure that comes from an intensive work out.
Andrea, can you recall different feedbacks and responses from the different groups and contexts you had the chance to work with?
Andrea: At Annantalo Cultural Centre in Helsinki where I worked with some autistic kids I was extremely impressed by the ability of some of the participants to read meaning into the work, while it was a little more difficult to convince them to actively participate and engage with their body.
Overall, what did the experience of showing and sharing your work with children bring to you as dance makers?
Ingrid: The workshop with the youngsters in Bassano gave me new insights as to what principles I consider fundamental to my work. Features such as rhythm, composition and perspective presented themselves in new forms as the children played through my proposals. The encounter with this new audience group required of me to invent new exercises, games, scores and metaphors that could translate these key principles well. I learnt a lot about my responsibility of facilitating a safe space for learning, and the necessary pedagogical tools. Seeing how the children were thinking choreographically through play, and inventing complex patterns through collaborative scores and collective improvisations, reminded me of how many forms one simple idea can take. This was refreshing and inspiring, and I’m grateful for having got the chance to see my practice at play in this new light.
Andrea: I actually found it thrilling and I decided that the work Scarabeo will be from now on mostly presented as a work for young audiences. I rediscovered how much I love to perform for kids. I finish each of those shows uplifted and ready for more. I could understand what actually keeps the audience captivated in my work and what doesn’t….kids are not such good liars: if it’s boring it’s boring! This helps me to keeping it “real”. The work for me has to be received in a direct way, unfiltered and kids are able to do that. I think that we should change the rules about going to see shows: instead of accompanied children we should have accompanied adults.