Self-With-Others is a psychophysical approach to training performers in the context of ensemble. It trains each individual by facilitating encounters with him/herself in evolving and dynamic relationship with others.
SWO concerns ‘self’, ‘others’ and, crucially, the mechanisms of being ‘with’.
SWO is a principle-based approach to training. It offers participants am interlocking suite of ways of thinking about themselves, about relationship with others, about the act of performing. The core principles are simple ‘attitudinal’ guides that help a performer – under the pressure of the live moment – to be reactive, present, live and fearless.
SWO is focussed on developing liveness, presence, charisma and fearless reactivity.
SWO is based on fixed and improvisational structures that allow a trainee to encounter, explore and manipulate core principles while engaged in disciplined physical task. The trainee encounters the dominant or habitual structures of her/his thinking – ‘thought paradigms’ – by observing how she responds to unfamiliar tasks. The core principles embedded in SWO challenge him/her to alter existing thought paradigms that impede the free-flow of impulse, and hinder detailed engagement with the unfolding moment of performance.
Frequently the training is experienced as a via negitiva, involving the eradication of blockages to effective use of the self, rather than as a process of acquiring skills.
Through observing her/himself in action, a trainee encounters the structures of his/her thought. By altering the structure or protocols of thinking, the trainee develops his/her capacity efficiently to pay attention and react to physical task. This is the heart of the psychophysicality- the holistic training of mind and body as an inter-dependent organism.
SWO is a pedagogical approach based on a simple five part learning journey:
Experience – Recall – Reflect – Analyse – Synthesise.
Part of the discipline SWO encourages in performers is the separation of each of these stages – that a performer not think about her/his work while s/he should be focusing on the experiencing of that work. This encourages liveness, presence and spontaneity of reaction.
SWO operates across three domains of learning simultaneously. They are referred to as:
1. The Use of the Self – encounters with the bodymind in action.
2. Models & Metaphors – each exercise as a model of, or metaphor for other activities.
3. Principles – encountering and embodying SWO’s core principles within the flow of action/reaction.
Britton has developed the training through extended periods of practical research with ensembles in a number of countries, especially Australia, Greece and the UK. He cites two key influences, or lineages of training. The first is the work that emerged from the Laboratory Theatre movement in Europe in the twentieth century, most particularly as researched by Grotowski and Barba. The second is the work that emerged from the world of Dance Improvisation in the US in the later half of the twentieth century – especially as developed and transmitted by Al Wunder, with whom Britton worked for a number of years while living in Melbourne.
SWO is further understood by Britton’s reading of Flow Theory (Cszikszentmihalyi).