Title of the activity
Reacting to each other
There is no barrier to participation, the organisers should provide a space that allows everyone to move, pairs should pay attention to each other
Activity proposed by
- Become aware of three basic facets of relational dynamics the three possibilities of the “constant movement toward and away from others”: convergence = moving towards, with someone.
Divergence= creating difference with respect to the other.
Maintenance=not reacting to the other
- Help participants explore how they feel when they practice these three different movements.
- Provide a space for participants to learn to negotiate their “adjusted distance” with others, though the exploration of the dynamics of getting closer and further away.
A playlist of relatively smooth music that does not impose itself and lets participants focus on each other is recommended.
- Invite participants to walk in the space, focus on the present instance, enjoying gravity. Now the first person with whom a participant has eye contact with will be their pair. Invite pairs to take some space, and spread out in the room. One of them will be the “subject” the other the “mirror”. In thise exercise, the mirror should do everything the subject does but on their oppsite side, just as a real mirror would do: the same gestures, postures, movements in the same rhythm and style. Encourage participants to use all of their body parts, change the rhythm from time to time, move around the space, explore distance. Tell them to continue like this for a couple of minutes, and that you will let them know when to exchange roles. Add a specific instruction for the person in the role of the “subject”: the aim is not to make something so complex that the mirror cannot repeat it, subjects should take care of their mirrors! After the exchange of roles, give the same amount of time for the pair and , then ask them to find a final gesture, thank each other and let each other go.
- Invite participants to find a new pair now, preferably someone they haven’t worked with so far. Again, there will be a subject and a mirror. The instruction will be the same, with one difference: the mirror can sometimes take breaks, when it does not move. Mirrors are free to decide when they engage with the other and act as mirror, and when they come back to a still position. After a while, ask participants to exchange of roles, and then invite the pairs to close their dance together, thank each other, and then let each other go.
- Once more, ask participants to create pairs. There will be a subject and a mirror again. However, this time, the mirrors are encouraged to do something other than the subject: in fact, they should do something as different as they can. There is not one single solution on how to do “‘something different”’ – make sure participants feel comfortable to play around and do not try to find the “‘one right way”’. The point is to be different, complementary in any way we can. Again, suggest an exchange of roles in a couple of minutes, then invite the pairs to finish.
- Gather participants around to recap what was practiced together: there are three different ways to react to someone: “‘convergence”’: try to be similar, pick up their rhythm, their movements etc. “‘Divergence”’: be different, create distance, do something complimentary or opposite. And finally, ‘maintenance’: we may not movinge at all in reaction to the other. Now Iinvite the group to practice these three motions in a collective improvisation. The collective improvisation has a couple of rules: you can stay out, choose completely freely when you want to step in. Once you’re in, it’s ok, you can do whatever you want, playing with the three reactions, or propose something completely new for the others. You can step out any time you like. What counts for “in” and “out” should be very clear for everyone (maybe “out” is when we are against to the wall outside, and “in” is the space in the centre). The intro starts when someone goes in with a first proposal and from then on, everybody is free to react: converge, diverge, do nothing etc. Leave time for participants to get used to the instructions and start to enjoy the play.
- Observe: if participants can engage in the proposals.
- Ask: what was easy for them, what was difficult, how they felt, what they discovered, whether anything surprised them.
Hints/tips for facilitators
- This is not a starter exercise: before proposing it, participants must have had several intro exercises to warm up and wake up the body vocabulary which they can put into practice with other people in this activity
- There is no objective rule as to how much time each pair activity should take. Especially during the first ‘convergent’ dances, you may want to leave ample time for the pairs to get used to the instructions, get used to each other and really explore the game. Make sure to leave equal time for the pairs to experience both roles (subject and mirror).
- Usually, people find the “divergent mirrors”more difficult, observe what is happening and propose the exchange when you see that the pairs have explored everything they can.
- The third step of ‘“collective improvisation”’ is a more advanced activity. Participants may need substantial practice and warm-up to engage in such a free activity.
Depending on the level of the group, their learning rhythm and preference, you may propose several turns of “mirror games”:
- Repeating the same exercise with a different partner can help learning though the comparison of the different experiences of the same activity, through connection to a diversity of partners
- Adding elements of humour can help keep the spirits up and stimulate positive emotions. This can be done by proposing thematic mirrors, inviting the subjects to show for instance their morning rituals (waking up, bathing, brushing teeth, eating breakfast etc.) being their favourite animal, being on the moon, trying to be flirtatious etc. The only limit is making sure the image you propose is accessible to everyone and not offensive to anyone.
The mirror activity is adapted from Augusto Boal’s Game for Actors And Non Actors (Routledge, 2002)
The concepts of Convergence / Divergence / Maintenance come from Giles and Ogay’s Communication Accommodation Theory.
Giles, H. Ogay, T. (2007). Communication Accommodation Theory. In Whaley, B. B., Samter, W. (Eds.), Explaining communication: Contemporary theories and exemplars (pp. 39–59) Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers NJ
The sequence was developed by élan interculturel.