In the past two years, I have had the fortune of holding space for various demographics. While there is no way of determining how the first session will flow or how the plan will materialise, there is a common shift that takes place amongst the participants during the session. Be it in a corporate space, an NGO space, an educational space or a one-on-one session with a client. Of course, there could be exceptions and in no way am I suggesting that this is the norm.
I am going to try and name this shift in this blog post.
Very few know what exactly an Expressive Arts Experience entails, so when a participant enters the space for the first time ever, the body language is usually unsure, skeptical and the general feeling is “I have no idea what I have got myself into”. As a young facilitator, my body language is a mixture of a varied range of emotions like eagerness, rooted in my knowledge and belief in my practice, a tinge of excitement, mixed with a little nervousness.
The session begins with establishing the tone of the practice as well as the tone of the facilitator. A sense of warmth combined with responsibly introducing the participants to the world of Expressive Arts. The introduction is then followed by a check-in which happens on two different planes of our being - the physical body and the inner (mental and/or emotional) landscape. This often acts like an ice breaker. There have been some instances when participants have shared that - “This is such a novel way to share what I am feeling”. There have also been times when there hasn’t been a direct naming of the experience but a shift has begun to take place in the general quality of the interactions, whether in a virtual space or a physical space. The first session encourages the participants to come in connection with the obvious aspects of their identity for e.g. their name, an object that means a lot to them, a favourite colour, etc. One also notices the bit by bit melting of barriers and emerging from those barriers into the open. And the idea is also to keep the session very simple, playing out activities that aren’t intimidating. Breaking down movement to gestures, art to scribbling or just lines, writing to words, slowly introducing various art forms and easing the participants into the process.
In my experience I have noticed, it helps immensely when the facilitator accompanies the participants in the doing or making of art. It shows that this isn’t a “you and I” experience, it’s a “we” experience. When we begin to get in touch with our identities, there comes a moment when the general revelation in the space is - “I never thought or saw my name/ object/ colour with this lens”. Suddenly an aspect that seems menial becomes layered with meaning, attachment or in some cases estrangement, and sheds light on a different perspective towards something that we barely took notice of before. At the end of the first session, the most frequently observed feeling amongst participants is that of connection with themselves - while for some others, the experience was new - which left them curious to know more about how the process unfolds. As this happens, the facilitator tries their very best to continue to hold space tenderly and respectfully.
I have the honour to witness this every so often in my practice and it truly is a gratifying experience.
Disclaimer : This blog post is based on my personal observations. This is in no way an assumption that this is the norm. Experiences will definitely vary depending on the facilitator, the setting, the group dynamics, and the need of the group.
Written by Charvi Budhdeo.
Founder of The Movement Spectrum