I’ve been doing a workshop “Using drama in learning” conducted by “Theatre Professionals Pvt. Ltd. On Day 2, our facilitator introduced us to a fantastic technique “Columbian Hypnosis” with three different levels, followed by another activity based on “Forum Theatre”.
Description of the activity
The participants were in pairs. There was music playing in the background. One participant raised one hand to the eye level of his / her partner. The latter looked at the raised palm and followed it. Both the partners had to maintain the same distance throughout. We did this activity twice by switching the roles.
Experience as a follower
In the beginning I was the follower. I was amazed to see that I could follow someone so easily without thinking. With my entire focus on the raised palm and wonderful music in the ears, I lived only in that present moment. In order to follow the hand movements exactly, I was compelled to move my body but I did not feel any discomfort at any moment. The activity certainly succeeded in removing inhibitions. I was led all across the room!
Experience as a leader
When it was my turn to lead, I started listening to the music more carefully. However, I was not all the time in the present moment. I was also speculating about different possible movements. The music kept bringing me back to the present moment. I had to be also careful about my hand instructions in order to avoid my partner bumping into other participants.
Mutual leading / following
The next logical level of this exercise was mutual leading. The challenge here was in following all the rules simultaneously: maintaining the same distance throughout, follow the hand movements and give instructions through one’s own hand movements – to follow as well as lead.
I felt that in the beginning, I kept leading for a while. I realized my mistake, refocused on the partner’s raised palm, started following too. My own hand movements were automatically restricted. I remember the precise moment when I stopped leading and the partner took over. It took a while for leading and following simultaneously. Once we got it going, the feeling was fabulous: the realization of the exercise at work. At the end of the activity, my immediate and spontaneous reaction was, “It’s as good as dancing!”
General learning outcomes
The activity enhances focus, concentration, movement and coordination. It’s a great tool to work on rhythm and tempo. Needless to say, it is based on improvisation and team work.
Level 3: Chain leading
Description of the activity
One participant stands in the centre with both the palms raised. Each hand is followed by one more person. The followers also raise a hand and lead one more person and so on. Thus, the person at the centre, the chief or the great leader is giving instructions with both the hands, not only to the immediate followers but the entire group.
Experience as a participant
In this wonderful exercise, I was at the fag end, taking orders and following. My vision was limited to my immediate leader’s raised hand though I was aware that the person at the centre was running the show. At times, I did feel like a puppet, but my experience was not at all negative, I did not feel ignored or oppressed. I realized why it was so when the ‘chief’ later admitted that she was aware of everyone. She has certainly developed a very good peripheral vision! In view of not causing discomfort to the last teammates in the chain, she refrained from making extreme movements. I think the participants in the second and third rank, who had to follow instructions and lead accordingly, had the toughest job. But they managed wonderfully well.
Application in other fields
The scene created in the chain leading activity is a perfect allegory of corporate sector. Imagine how a CEO has to orchestrate his team. The middle management that has to take instructions, follow the top management’s plan and get it executed by their subordinates in turn.
I’m more interested in exploring how these various activities can be used in a classroom. It’s important to note that the leader needs to take care of the followers and be responsible for their safety. The activity succeeds when the followers place their trust in the leader. Thus, these activities could be useful in building qualities such as trust and responsibility to make the group work better as a group. In a classroom scenario, it seems ideal to resolve conflicts. Why not try them to address the issues of bullying? It would be interesting to observe how a bully behaves when he’s made a leader and / or placed at the end of “the chain”. Undoubtedly, the teacher-facilitator will have to be vigilant during such an experiment. With a good “side-coaching” (instructions given during the exercise), a teacher-facilitator will be able to bring about desirable changes in the bully’s behavior. A bully is a natural leader. This activity will inculcate in him a sense of responsibility that should accompany power. Similarly, a meek learner-participant can be trained to take up responsibilities too.
The last activity of the day in our workshop was also based on “Forum Theatre”. I’ll write about it in detail another day.