Artistic Discoveries in European Schoolyards

Youth Activities | 2011, June 15 – 2011, June 18

Youth Work during the Annual Encounter in Dresden, 2011

Workshops and Performance during the Annual Encounter 2011

In the months leading up to the Annual Encounter, a series of meetings with an international working group, and the directors of all partners devised a plan for the Youth Encounter, which would utilise the stories and themes inherent in the professional co-productions, which would be shown during the festival. The work would also focus on the pan-European nature of this extraordinary gathering.
This plan involved around 120 Dresden youth being ‘shared out’ amongst all companies to devise a welcoming party for each performance. This would give the young people the opportunity to learn something of the country, the company, and the work they were producing. In effect, they would become our ‘interpreters’ for the German speaking audience… a modern day Greek Chorus.
It was a good plan. Except that it didn’t allow for where the youth team at tjg were at with their work. It was in a way an imposition of the group on the individual. In the final weeks before the project, when face-to-face meetings could happen and relationships begin to be built, the plan was stripped back to its barest essentials: the raw materials.
Workshop leaders come in all shapes and sizes; their approaches, techniques, skills and methodologies. We may like to think of ourselves as Europeans with a shared understanding and creative abilities which transcend national bor- ders – but in fact our training, schooling, cultures and personal experiences have a huge bearing not just on what we deliver as facilitators but on how we deliver it. The tjg team were clear in their request: we want our young people to engage directly with these differences, to face them head on, learn from them and see what happens. Can we take away the themes and the plans and just have the people, and more importantly, their skills? Yes we can. But it’s a bit scary. In fact, it’s a lot scary.
We asked our facilitators not to prepare anything, but to just arrive and be open. We then paired them up and asked them to combine their talents to produce an exciting 20 minute ‘taster’ workshop in which all young people could participate. We then split our youth into groups and sent them, con- veyor belt like, around six different workshops covering physical theatre and prop making, costume design and site specific installation, writing and acting etc. It was a mammoth day and by the end everyone was tired, exhilarated and intrigued.
Our main aim through this exercise was to give the participants as much con- trol and choice over where they wanted to spend their days with us. It would give the young writers chance to write, the designers the chance to design, the actors to act etc – but each would be in a group with a secondary skill – perhaps something they hadn’t considered or explored before. In addition, it gave them the opportunity to choose their teachers: to go in a group where they liked the personalities of the leaders. This aspect seemed to be particu- larly important: how often does a young person get to choose WHO to learn from? Schools and youth groups or clubs rarely offer this option. If you have the choice of which group to be part of there are a few questions to consider… who do I want to work with, which friends do I want to stay with, what do I want to learn, what do I want to be seen to be learning, what do I want to be seen to be good at? Peer pressure plays a significant role and trying to get beyond that; to loosen the strength of it, was at the heart of the process.
We ended up with five working groups of varying sizes and ages. There was still some ‘pack mentality’ visible in the groups of friends working together, which of course is fine and to be expected – but there were also some brave individuals who walked their own paths and chose a facilitator or a skill be- fore thinking where their friends were. It was clear that the dancers were with the dancer, the makers with the maker: the noisy students with the noisy facilitators, the quieter with the quieter. The opportunity to make choices had paid off. Over three days the youth worked hard, bonded, laughed, groaned, created, struggled and celebrated.
The five groups could be loosely divided into:
Attila Pomle?nyi (HU) & Richard Hurford (UK)
Text & image
Chloe Osborne (UK), Filipa Burgo (PT), Ilaria Ariemme (IT) & Inga Vares (EE)
Installation & storytelling
Eric Bruenner (DE) & Maija Tuorila (FI)
Costume & group action
Gyuri Vidovszky (HU) & Lotte Lohrengel (NL)
Choreography & character
Marcos Belmar, Paulina Flores, Sebastia?n Leo?n & Mati?as Pozo (Chile)
Physical theatre / pantomime
Our final moment of celebration and sharing came on the last day of the fes- tival, in between the youth festival and the evening of stage shows – a frantic day of on-site rehearsals, installation, lost costume, mass movement, laughter, silver foil, brown paper and apples. Our brightly colour-coded groups made vivid interventions against the walls and grounds of tjg: funny, touching, rau- cous, silent and heart warming. Each team showed a different approach, a different set of skills and a different way of interacting with an audience. It was as always a fleeting moment in time but the images and the snapshots are as strong in my mind now as they were then: a shy smile behind a silver mask, a red apple steady in a white hand, a blue t-shirt frozen in flight, a grinning handstand, a brown paper ship in the wind…
The opportunity to learn and to experience new skills, to build new relationships, to stretch and challenge ourselves is as important for the pro- fessionals as it is for the youth. A huge ‘Thanky ou’ is due to all concerned for making it possible, for being open to opportunity and for rising to the challenge.
Andrew Siddall (UK)

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