A BOLD Presentation

March 8 – 12 2017 saw the inaugural BOLD Festival in Canberra, Australia. The BOLD Festival, celebrating the legacy of Dance in Australia, is the brain-child of Liz Lea, dancer, choreographer and event organiser.

As a new comer to the dance theatre scene, a ‘mature mover’ (over 50), and facilitator of dance and performance, I was honoured to present and perform at the BOLD Festival.

The invitation came about through the successful project, “The Forging of Men”, designed and performed with 6 rural men, under the directorship of career theatre-maker, Sue Hayes.

The presentation to The Bold Festival was in the form of a short Pecha Kucha (powerpoint slides presented within 5 minutes). Below is the text to go with the slides. To enjoy the presentation, please open the slides and arrange them beside the text below

Slide 1 Cover slide: This presentation is about my recent journey into dance.
Slide 2 From my years of health work I recognised that a healthy community requires robust empathetic leaders who are the enzymes for bringing that community into integrity and discourse.
Slide 3 ACTUALLY being fully alive, being fully human, is a function of wonder, inquiry, creativity, and performance / action.

Novelty, the surprised recognition of a distinction, is the source of wonder and a vital ingredient for brain development and learning.

Slide 4 Performance is that we are in action in the world and there are witnesses.

Performance is where we get to become adults, leaders, and dancers.

Performance is the wonderful, human thing about life.

Slide 5 The performing arts can be a fantastic access for ethics and leadership training by:

·      supporting the empathetic imagination of the live of others and;

·      the possibilities of self as leader

through the conditions for wonder, inquiry, creativity, and performance.

Slide 6 Over the past 7 years I have designed human sized board games, as a fun approach to movement training, and a way of seeing the world through the body.
Slide 7 2011 – My first dance project with Jess Jones on the Atherton Tablelands.

The project was an awakening for me to the possibilities for facilitating dance theatre work with untrained people.

DANscienCE 2013 was an inspiration – a motivation to develop my own skills as a mature aged dancer, and find that breakthrough into establishing a community dance group.

Slide 8 Mastery – the ability to recognise and perform as by the finest distinctions as a function of performance before increasingly discriminatory witnesses.

Taking any age you were and any skill (technical or creative), plotting novel and masterful experience over time might give some indication of your actual neural and physical ageing robustness.

Slide 9 I have been creating small dance programs for the middle to older aged person for a few years. From that came a vision and a model for an inclusive dance training program that I call rEvolve with connotations for dance as transformative in life.
Slide 10 In my rEvolve program I work with several characteristics of training and design to allow the most embodied expression of an idea. The team works by building through exercises by collaborative feedback until eventually, there’s the performance.
Slide 11 I recently began to feel it is time for me to take a stand for a male culture that is authentic and embodied. At stake is the flourishing of our communities and nations.
Slide 12 In 2015, I found three men who were interested in attending work in dance / physical theatre . We called ourselves ‘Men in Motion’

We won a grant to bring theatre-maker Sue Hayes weekly from Cairns to Atherton to building a performance about our male identity

After we had commenced the development of the work, a further two men turned up, and so a performance was developed, “The Forging of Men”.

Slide 13 The men were, mostly, inexperienced in theatre, dance or any type of performance which gave us a perfect conditions to trial a ‘proof of method’ of the rEvolve model.
Slide 14 There was a moment in the project when Sue Hayes turned to the men and said, “Okay men, tonight you are going to touch each other.”

The contact exercises essential to physical theatre is another potential boon to a transformed male culture.

Slide 15 As the project progressed, one of the men told me, “You’ve been a bit bossy lately. I’m not enjoying myself.” The group conversation that resolved that tension showed up in the performance in what the audience saw about the team work.
Slide 16 I’m now facilitating two groups of about 12 dancers in total:

·      the all-men group for the contribution to male culture that could continue to make; and

·      there’s now an all-in group.

FINE

 

USA Trip May-June 2016

My USA trip was a real zinger.

Coming on the beginnings of a new relationship with a generous, caring, successful, playful and creative woman, conferences, courses, projects, visiting with my son, and chilling out, was interspersed with lengthy viber or skype conversations that were flirty, jokey, intellectual, dissonant, honest, vulnerable, happy, and teary.

The Landmark Global Transformation conference, my entry event in San Fransisco, rode on the theme of ‘Wonder’. One of my all time favourite topics, wonder would anchor the whole trip and come back, specifically, again during the Alba Emot Course in Asheville, North Carolina, a couple of weeks later.

Although Global Transformations took the ‘Wonder’ theme, it was a wondering about leadership that took my ear. Gladly, presenters I had met a couple of year ago, facilitated a couple of beautiful engaging structural movement communication work. I attended those sessions for my work in dance and it gave me another access to my hearing on leadership. Initially that hearing on leadership was all about what I need to be a leader of my rEvolve project. As my trip comes to a conclusion, that has transformed into rEvolve being the possibility of a leadership training program, ‘Moving into Leadership’.

The idea of moving into leadership is a more clear consolidation of the work I am doing around sustainability and climate change, men’s culture, and dance, into an integrated work, a leadership training program.

From San Fransisco, I flew over to Denver, Colorado, for a few days, to catch up with my friends in Art as Action. Staying at an Air BNB nearby, I was able to ride a hire bike into the city, and even on the light rail to Jefferson County where I could ride to hiking paths. As with my previous experience in that part, life at one mile high can make the legs ache in bike riding unusually earlier than at my home altitude in Australia of half a mile. I learnt how to use Lyft.

It seemed that each time the past two years I’ve seen my friends in Art as Action they have been grieving over the loss of a loved one. Last year the grandfather of the director had passed away. This year one of their music/dance colleagues and his partner were killed in a car accident. I want to make some bigger sense of this coincidence. It only mattered that I could be some community of listening around the grief. Sarah Leversee welcomed me into her Reconnect Class based on Dance for PD and it was wonderful to see the liveliness of that ‘older’ dance class.

It was a special treat to spend a few hours over lunch with Wayne Gilbert, performance poet, retired literature teacher, and recent (having Parkinson’s Disease) dance performer with Art as Action. Wayne is a volunteer poetry teacher to the State prison to the north of Denver. His experience of the attraction of poetry to some hard men, has been profound. At one of his earliest classes, having delivered a poem on Parkinson’s Disease, he was astounded that a hand immediately shot up. The owner said, “Yeh, I get that poem. It’s like how I feel about being in this prison.” I find myself amazed by the nature of the human being around their limiting circumstances, their authentic relationship with those limitations, the access they find to some expansion of those circumstances and they contributions they choose to make, nonetheless. There is some inspiration there, for all of us, and I store that idea away for a way to provide access to that inspiration for everyone.

It was great to spend a week chillin’ at my son’s place in Riverside, California. We had a number of social outings together including a Baha’i meeting. We played an hour of table tennis every night. I got a little heat stroke doing a hike in the desert hills at the back of his place, and the effects of that took quite a few days to remedy, reminding me, among other things, that I’m not as young as I used to be. It was lovely to spend a sedate four hours with my son in the UCR library while he played with an assignment for his masters degree in social work. Sometimes I think I should be in conversation with my son, seeing that we can’t see each other much across the seas, but I profess one of my greatest joys is just to be in proximity.

The next phase of my travel was to spend a few days with Sue Blythe on the Sustainable Farm, Hampton, Gainesville, Florida, around her Future Flash Climate Change Project. Sue’s work has expanded to engage commitments from some fabulous environmental players in Florida, including the manager of the ‘Sustainable Floridians’ volunteer training program out of Florida University, Lanny the Earthman, Actor Jan Booher, and Dave Room San Fransisco based creator of Pacha’s Pyjamas. As I write this I’ve just finished a Skype conversation with Dave Room, opening the way for his work to find expression for children environmental education in Australia.

From Gainesvile to Asheville to the Alba Emot course with Laura Bond. What a fantastic 9 days, learning and training in primary emotional expression, Feldenkrais movement, and exploring related experiments in life story, text, voice and dance with an extraordinary teaching team. So much to bring back to my dance and theatre work but also into the possibility of leadership training.

And so, this week another chill out and exercise at my son’s place in California. It’s a hot summer week in the desert, 113 F early in the week. Time to meditate, play with movement training (God I need it), and have dozens of small conversations with him around his life. He became an American citizen while I’ve been here. Looks like another feather in his global citizen’s cap.

Two nights ago I woke in sadness. My time here is slipping away. Today, I’m prepared for a great weekend with my son, at the beach, in LA. It is time to go home.

Employability now vs the Future

Just finished listening to this talk back with Melbourne restaurateur and youth mentor Peter Coronica. Peter has employed over 1000 young people over the last 25 years.

He says parents play a vital role in preventing youth unemployment by getting kids off the sports ground, out of music class and into paid work as early as possible.

While broadly supporting Peter’s premise and experience, I took some exception to his ‘priorities’, wondering where those choices that he made, came from. Over the years i have read and listened to an array of educational experts and my conclusion is that a learning culture shows up with these characteristics that are applicable from 0 – 99 year:

  1. Mimicry and modelling;
  2. memorization;
  3. physical development;
  4. creative development;
  5. socialization, community engagement, and empowerment;
  6. exposure to the natural environment;
  7. building a knowledge base;
  8. technical skills.

I realise that many of these characteristics come from people who have spent their career on one of these items as has Peter Coronica. And their individual focus tends, i think to skew that characteristic from its appropriate expression as within a wholistic framework constructed from all characteristics.

There is more I can say specifically about this framework for age appropriate development and learning, however the framework implies a great deal of change in the structure of education, learning, culture, productivity and economics. However, i believe it is the surer future for our children and young people: to have it all.

Taking a Risk.

Tim Gill writes in ‘The Guardian“In the 1980s and 1990s we collectively fell prey to what I call the zero-risk childhood. Children were seen as irredeemably stupid, as fragile as china plates, and utterly unable to learn from their mistakes. Hence the role of adults was to protect them from all risk, no matter what the cost.

In the past years we have begun to realise the flaws in this zero-risk logic. The constant stream of jaw-dropping anecdotes – children arrested for building a tree house, teachers having to complete reams of paperwork to take classes to the local church, schools banning chase games – has brought home an insight that should have been obvious from our childhoods: children need challenge. They need adventure. They need uncertainty. And they need risk.

Children learn a great deal from their own efforts, and from their mistakes. If we try too hard to keep them safe, we starve them of the very experiences that they need if they are to learn how to deal with the everyday ups and downs of life. What is more, children themselves recognise this.”

As a father of the 1990’s, I was both to blame for ‘chaperoning’ my sons through life, but also of often being disappointed that they didn’t want to get up at 7am on the weekend to go hiking (although, I occasionally just dragged them out of bed and off). I often saw danger that they couldn’t manage, in many situations, although much of that perception was related to ‘near misses’ I had during my own childhood and teenage. Some of the near misses are my proudest moments, some are my most shameful examples of bad judgement. Perhaps of the latter I was also angry that they happened because of lack of parental guidance. And so, my over-protection was a response to a lack of perspective on the true nature of things. As I get older, I find a certain forgiveness of my own lack of judgement and my parents lack of understanding and intervention, has allowed a clearer view of the needs for risk in the developing child’s life. I have come to the view that this risk can be a family and community process, rather than the unfettered movements of an unaware child, and, in that, elements of mentoring, encouragement, drawing lines of inquiry, can ensure the child stretches themselves, emotionally, physically, spiritually, socially, and intellectually. What children need is for adult’s to take a risk.

New Culture Of Learning Pt IV

This is the final in my progressive reviews, as I read the book, ” A New Culture of Leanring” by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown.

The last third of this book certainly makes it all come together. However, at a megre 116 pages, it lives up to its own hypothesis that inquiry best starts with an answer that leads to a question.

So let me just summarise the elements of learning as amplified in these last sections of the book. I have decided not to get bogged down in the new media exploration of Brown and Thomas, in order to extrract the underlying principles that should apply to all progressive learning processes.

1. The role of the collective. Collectives change and shift with the changes of the world around them.

2. The development of tacit knowledge. This goes importantly to the problem I began to raise earlier, how does one learn skills that require academic and physical skills eg carpentry or my own profession, physiotherapy? Tacit knowledge, the extrapolation from experience, and the creation of new action and therefore new experience, and therefore new extrapolations, is all important. Real learning must become tacit ie through action and experience.

3. Inquiry. Students learn best when following their passion within a bounded environment. The bounded environment is an answer, withing which a question can be asked, to which answer begets a myriad other questions, questions beget trials, and thus learning becomes a continuous and burgeoning process.

4. Indwelling. When methods of inquiry become so well practiced, they become second nature.

5. Utilise dispositions of all actors in the team.

6. Evaluate the outcomes, value diversity of skills, thrive on change, see learning as fun, live on the edge (innovate, try radical approaches)

7. Collective indwelling. When the collective practices as per point 5 and 6 above, become second nature, collective inquiry becoems secodn nature, with all the productivity for learning that implies.

8. Knowing, making and playing are integrated aspects of vitality in learning.

9. Play is especially important. “It precedes culture, it is who we are.”