In the week of February 14 to 27, last week of workshops for this project was organized by Youth-Act; our Polish partner organization. The location was the beautiful city of Krakow in Poland.
Fundacja Youth ACT, represented by Filip Krajniak and Mateusz Góreck promotes non-formal education in local schools and implements workshops for the development of young people. They use methodologies with improvisational theater and British drama. The workshops were conducted by the Polish Maciek. Maciek works in the opera theater and had prepared workshops to teach the group the basics of mime, among other things.
The week began with some cautious scanning of the group. Most of the participants did not know each other yet and so there was benefit in getting acquainted. The first day was set up accordingly and had exercises focused on getting to know each other’s names and a little about the person themselves.
A lot of attention was paid to creating a safe atmosphere and the main emphasis was on ‘being allowed to fail’. If you don’t dare well, or something doesn’t work out; ”Fail Gracefully”! We also learned through exercises to support each other, your partner. Because everyone participated it gave you a feeling that you do not have to be ashamed. The construction of the exercises went so gradually that even participants with fear or resistance to theater, slowly started doing more and more.
As the week progressed, the focus shifted to practicing the principles of mime. We practiced portraying emotions and situations in which the use of speech was limited. It quickly became clear how important speech is for us in everyday life, but also how much you can make clear with just gestures and facial expressions.
On the third day, the talking during the exercises had already virtually stopped. The exercises began to look more and more like little pieces of theater. The participants were now also used to each other and were more at ease. This built up nicely as the exercises included more and more touch and required more of the participants than many felt comfortable with at the beginning. This day was also the most practiced with the basics of mime and already some people were doing a small show.
The last day was mostly about practicing the skills learned. Here again there was room for small performances by participants. Also, some extra attention was paid to the methodologies behind the exercises that were done during the workshops.
Between the workshops, time was also spent practicing juggling. This was taught by Maciek in steps. Each day less than half an hour was spent on this but this was enough for many to see a clear improvement in their skills. The last day was spent looking back on this progress with a model that broke down the learning process into 4 steps. These are as follows:
- Unconscious incompetence
- Conscious incompetence
- Conscious competence
- Unconscious competence
This model shows the 4 steps in which you grow. It starts with unconscious incompetence; you don’t know you can’t do something. You have never tried it so you are not aware that you have no skill in it. Then by starting to practice you become aware of this, this is conscious competence. You know you have no skill in it. By practicing you notice at some point that you are getting better at it. You have the awareness that you are gaining skill, this is conscious competence. Finally come unconscious competence. This is the point where you have become so good at a skill that you are no longer aware of how well you can do it. Also, you can often do it without thinking about it, it has become muscle memory.
The beauty of this model is that you yourself can clearly see what step you are at and what you need to progress. For example, it can be explained that you experience frustration when you try to move from step 2 to step 3. This is the point where you will need to practice the most and experience progress and success the least. Only with perseverance and outside help will you get to this threshold
Many of the elements covered in the workshops can help us in our field to better assist youth. Many of the exercises we can adapt to fit within our programs. The exercises introduce youth to each other on a deeper level and can create a group feeling and a good atmosphere.
Also, the focus on using gestures and facial expressions can be a good exercise for young people to come to new insights. For example, it can help them to understand themselves and others better and to express themselves better. Especially for young people who show an interest in themes such as theater, dance and similar areas of interest, many of these exercises can be developmentally beneficial.
The week was very instructive and enjoyable and provided many new insights and contacts. It was a successful week and a nice closing workshop week in terms of the project.