Friday, September 14, 2007

Training Squirrels, or: Shahrukh Khan is the Answer to Everything

I was emailing with friends about my class, and one of them told me that I had to stop acting like a "director," all artistic with the black scarves and the woo-hah, and start acting like a coach.

"But that's sports," I whined. "Sports are... eew!"

However, my friend had a good point. Being all "artistic" wasn't working. So maybe I needed to change my perspective.

Fine, I thought. Let's see what happens if I try this Chak De! style.

I suddenly considered it a very good thing that I had recently written a post about sports movie clich├ęs. Because the first item on my list (let’s assume I didn’t have a fall from grace, and skip the exposition) was to break down individual barriers and attitudes and turn my unit into a team.

So I thought about past experiences I had in which I felt like I had been part of an acting team. And then I remembered a particularly sadistic trick used on the first day of class when I spent a summer training with Anne Bogart and SITI Company.

I told my students to stand in a circle. We had already learned a group warm-up, involving both yoga and calisthenics. I told the students that, without speaking to one another, they were to do the warm-up. Simultaneously. Every time they fell out of sync, they would have to begin again.

This is a very difficult exercise. The first part, for example, is very simple: raising the arms above the head. But when a group has to begin raising the arms at the same time, continue to raise them at the same rate, and reach a simultaneous stopping point, it becomes harder. Thus it took several tries before my students could accomplish even this first action.

The pushups begin early into the warm-up. The first time my students completed them and I told them they were not all moving up and down at the same speed (and they would have to begin again), they giggled a little. A few halfhearted attempts later, they realized I meant business. And then, just like I had hoped, they began to get into the game.

This lasted for about forty-five minutes, and they were becoming very good at listening and watching and working as a team. Until, unfortunately, one student (the self-appointed class spokesperson and “leader”), decided he would take control, and stepped out of the circle, as if to say “I’m done with this.” I ignored him, and the rest of the students continued working, but… clearly I will have to find some way to bring this particular individual in line. Which is exactly what SRK had to do. ^__^

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