The Implications of Dance Playshop
Monday, February 21, 2011 at 09:53AM
JP Harris

Sheila and I had the opportunity to hold our Physical Awareness workshop as one of the "Playshops" at the Taos Institute's Play with Purpose conference two weeks ago. What follows is the post-playshop summary we created for the participants which describes what we did and what people experienced.  Following this is a 16 minute video of Charles Limb speaking on the topic of the brain, improvisation, and creativity. 

During the one hour workshop the group choreographed and performed a dance which they collaboratively created based on a short movement phrase.  To do this, they had to improvise together in the same way that a Jazz musician improvises on a set of chords. But, what makes this experience different, was that we weren’t requiring people to learn some complex technique or method but asked them to use a tool they were already familiar with; their bodies.  By seeing each other move, creating movement together, improvising, the participants were able to activate the creative centers of their brains. By watching someone else move and then trying to replicate those movements, they were activating their brain's communication centers and preparing themselves for intense listening.  Through dance, we were able to bring these people into a high state of receptively and group collaboration.  What follows is the summary:

Now that we have a few days distance from the playshop experience, we wanted to share with you our thoughts about the experience. We also wanted to summarize what we presented to you and let you know what we had heard from you about the event. We invite you to continue the conversation with your comments and observations about what may have continued to resonate for you.

We began the workshop with a 5 minute introduction of concepts of dance, improvisation, play, performance and collaboration that looked at:

To start the process of awakening the dancer inside each of you, we worked on increasing your physical awareness. During these first stretching exercises you prepared your body to move but also became more aware of your body’s state. With the partner stretch, you practiced increased observation and awareness of another person’s body.

Leveraging this enhanced awareness, we taught you a dance phrase. You learned it for two purposes:

We then asked you to create a new dance in groups with each other based on this movement phrase. Here you practiced improvisation, collaboration and learning from each other. You played together with the purpose of creating art. You were all artful.

At the end of the Playshop, we asked you to perform your creations and also act as the audience for your fellow participants. This was an opportunity to act, listen, and respond to each other through your performances. Performance is not complete without an audience reaction. Thus you were able to experience both sides of this interaction as performer and as audience.

Finally we joined together in a short reflection period.  We treasured your participation and creative work and reflections. The following is an outline of what we heard as your reflections.

What follows is a lecture by Charles Limb, brain researcher and musician, where he describes the work he is doing exploring the brain and creativity.  The parallels between his work and what we are discovering through our experience based workshops were so clear, I wanted to share them with you here.


 © 2011 by Sheila Peters and JP Harris. All rights reserved. 

Article originally appeared on onECM Practice - Consulting as a Performing Art (
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