Spektrum lit the fire outside as drizzle came relentlessly down. We huddled around the flames licking the sides of the coloured tin barrel, getting the bananas ready to toast with a sprinkling of chocolate. The kids excitedly gathered around and asked endless questions..."Where are you from..."? "When can we dance..."? "What kind of Dance...?" "Where is it...?" laughing and replying to everyone as they came, I suddenly didn`t mind the rain anymore. With enough of my colleagues from Spektrum, Stadtwerk and Streusalz around to give a supportive atmosphere, we mingled with the kids guiding them to food, table football, a warm fire and dance. Children and young teens sped with their little cars along the wet tarmac, opening the heavy doors to enter the community rooms. They curiously joined a group led by two professional dancers Griet Vanden Houden and Mirjam Klebel. Introducing them to a combination of contemporary movements as well as street dance, the kids amazingly picked up the steps, adding their own jazz to them. They seemed both excited and relieved to dance. The older ones, a little more reluctant to keep going once the going got tough, Lukas, 12, turned to me "no, I can´t do it"! and he started to walk away. I smiled encouraging him. Suddenly Griet and Mirjam shouted "...and a one, two, three, four"!! the group morphed as one organism to the beat and moved their bodies in collaborative rhythm, to the sequence they picked up jazzing it up with their own steps. Lukas felt the swell of energy in the room, having turned his back on the group, suddenly turned back around swayed by their enthusiasm and integrated back into the dance. Swirling around in a circle Mirjam and Griet led the group to explore their own freestyle in the center. Supporting each other with repetitive, rhythmic movements the group encouraged expressive diversity. Some of the shyer boys, helped each other going in the center two at a time, trying out movements together. The energy was contagious, I found myself swaying and singing, encouraging them to go further. Even a little one, 4 years old, a twin in her birthday dress, couldn`t contain herself and so Mirjam picked her up and spun her round and she let her body be malleable like clay being sculpted into a work of art. Once we had collapsed the physical and geo-spacial boundaries between each other, it was time to relax with lots of cuddles, chatting and free questions further collapsing verbal boundaries. We continued hanging out together, sometimes playing with a 'Wii' program 'You can Dance', but that never became a central focus. The children dipped in and out of this as they liked, running up to us asking us to give them a task so that they could practice writing in English on the flip charts, "quicker, quicker" they asked, their minds alive and hungry through physical action, I was finding it hard to keep up, thinking of another language task for them to do. The atmosphere, was flowing, kinetic, energetic, relaxed and supportive. There were still little arguments and rivals for attention, but these were soon dispelled, as there was simply so much going on. Attention to a negative point could never last for long in such a nurturing environment. We didn`t even have to raise our voice or be harsh towards minor disruptions, they simply disappeared as we sometimes led the flow of attention and sometimes let the kids lead. Perhaps it this kind of flowing atmosphere that real learning can take place, not in rigid structures, constantly asking for set outcomes, but in a space where we are all not quite sure where the energy will go next, but we are all in it together willing to learn and follow alternating leads.
Photos: (c) Tobias Ham
|Photo: Stadtwerk Lehen Kids|