Reflections on a flow-based warm up?
Katie and I had talked about how to facilitate a flow state, is this even possible and what can we do as facilitators of learning, dancing and performance to enable dancers to achieve this state? I led this opening short session with the dancers to explore in practice what might help and what might not.
My first questions with this is, is this possible, to create a warm up period for professional dancers which allows them to get into the zone, in a way which is useful for someone else’s rehearsal. The additional issues here might be that the dancers do not know each other well, we are all working in an unknown space and the planned outcomes for the project at this stage are not known. Is it possible to devise and refine a warm up which can engender a sense of being in the zone, in flow with these conditions? I am not sure we solved this but it is useful to reflect on these issues, in the context of this project I think.
The content of the first warm up session was:
Lying down arrival time: focused on allowing time to arrive physically and metaphorically, to acknowledge the weight of the body, supported and cocooned safely in this time and space and to support the notion of dwelling, savouring and enjoying the process of arrival. Taking pleasure in the present moment.
A question which arose from Hamish/ Tom feedback – by focusing on this moment, not projecting forward or back, do we then automatically bring attention to that and then the dancers lose the focus on the present moment. Language and tone here seems key to bring attention to the moment so I have been experimenting with softness and quietening the tone, saying words about past, present and future, or playing with the images of this, rather than being so explicit. I am interested here in active listening being applied here – by dancers, Katie and myself, but facilitated by me, and for this to be a reciprocal notion, of active listening and responding. How does what I say and do impact on the dancers, and in turn how does their response impact on what I facilitate next, why do I make those decisions and take the routes we end up taking?
Shifting weight to different surfaces, shifting attention to texture, weight, the contrast of dwelling and journeying, to cultivate an emphasis on focused concentration, but also adaptability within this concentrated state.
Moving upwards so pushing the comfort boundary from the floor to the space itself, changing and shifting time spent on the floor to moving on it and over it.
Shifting focus to include an awareness of the space itself to a focus on the dancers in the space. Emphasising the opportunity to share moments of energy, movement action, dwelling and journeying.
Here I was really interested in exploring language to support pleasure and enjoyment which comes from my work with James Hewison too – so dwelling, journeying, savouring, linger, seeking and exploring, connecting, being in the moment, present, alive.
Lots of control handed over to the dancer in the choices he/she can make physically, spatially and temporally
With this opening sequence of tasks too, I wonder how much the theories of social flow combined with opportunities for solo flow are being provoked here. There is lots of room for play here especially once the opportunity to draw from another partner is explored. Social flow is significant here, especially if this piece is to become a solo piece. Charles Walker’s work on ‘social flow’ (2010) discusses the “contagious nature of emotion”, the fact that “people working together actually raise the challenge of a task” and therefore requires us to call on a greater skill-level to be able to meet that challenge”, and also cites previous research showing that “groups take more risks than individuals”. How will Katie create a context which exploits this when working with a solo dancer? Does the rest of the team (choreographer, filmer, researcher) contribute to the social flow construct, or is it activity specific: i.e. dancing; filming; choreographing; researching?
Roll down: set material, which was set quickly, and then in the exercising of the material was changed in terms of timing, dropping sections of material and being responsive in the moment to change and adaptability.
So playing here with the notion of skill-challenge balance in adapting material and being responsive and present to that change, rather than the material itself being suitably challenging. Also in here, allowing time to hang over the legs and for the dancer to use that time in a useful way for them. Batson suggests this in training for proprioception – allowing time, and I wonder about its applicability to motor learning, supporting autonomy and intrinsic motivation also, also divulging control to the dancer themselves.
Foot dance: Again speedily taught material with changes in timings, shifts of weight and changes of focus designed to focus concentration and relinquish control. An emphasis especially on physically problem-solving the transfers of weight at the end of the phrase. And then when facing a partner the opportunity for play and light-heartedness is encouraged possibly… by how they approach it (social interaction) but also with how it is set up ‘it’s just a foot dance’.
I am very consciously calling this a foot dance because I am interested in the personal feelings, emotions we have in recalling dancing, because there is perhaps an emphasis in professional dancers on training not being dancing, and performance being dancing. If we call something a dance, do we perceive it differently and therefore relate more pleasure to it, because is it the dancing we get flow from??? The interplay towards social flow here is re-emphasised and then segues in to the next more dynamic and playful task of running, jumping, skipping. I wonder, depending on the discipline of dance one does, whether one experiences more flow in set material, compared to improvised material; why do some people experience flow more in one genre than another, which personality, experience, age and social variables are at play here?
Running game: Walking, running, dodging your friends, skipping, jumping, rolling – simple locomotive tasks responding to instruction – the development of this is to encourage ownership of the dancers to call out instructions, or devise their how, in the moment perhaps?
The action of skipping seems to bring about pleasure, can certain movements elicit flow? How does our personal history interact with experiencing flow here and where does this come from? How does the music in all of these activities impact on the flow experience, or preparing dancers to attain that state, in rehearsal particularly?
Overarching thoughts right now to explore:
- the balance of set and improvised tasks
- the opportunity to play, within set and improvised tasks
- the relationship of play to flow from a theoretical perspective
- the relationship of flow and social interaction – theories of social flow
- the notion of control: is losing control also being in control, because you have made the decision to relinquish control physically – mentally are you still in control?
- Active listening…