Core Principles

Self-With-Others is based on six core principles. A principle is not a rule, it is (as Barba writes) a ‘particularly useful bit of advice’. It articulates an attitude to oneself-in-action that guides one away from self-sabotage, from blockage and from distraction.

Though the principles are sometimes articulated in different ways – depending on what is most appropriate to the context within which the training is taking place – the six attitudinal pillars on which SWO is based are as follows:

Pursue Pleasure

This is the heart of the training: we seek our pleasure. This does not mean always doing what we like, but identifying what we like in what needs to be done. Finding a personal rationale for engagement with work is the heart of making oneself present in that work.

Have No Opinion

If a performer is thinking about her/his work, s/he is not  paying full attention to doing that work. There is a time for doing and a time for ‘thinking about’ (recall/reflect) and forming opinions (analyse/synthesise). Whatever is encountered in the moment of performance must be reacted to appropriately. Having opinions, whether about oneself or about others, impedes the flow of appropriate reaction.

Only Pay Attention To Things You Can Do Something About

Performers – humans – love distraction. A performer needs to train her/himself to be continually present. This does not mean shutting out the world of distractions, it means becoming aware of everything but knowing precisely what requires attention and what does not. This is the process of becoming present in each task while maintaining a global awareness.

Don’t Be Helpful

A performer must learn to do his/her job, precisely and in detail, in a way that enables others to do their jobs. When one person tries to help another, s/he prevents that person from working out for her/himself how to do their job. We learn by experience and by reflecting on our experiences. If I ‘help’ you, I prevent you from having the full range of your experience, I prevent you learning. I disempower you.

Know Your Hierarchy of Tasks

At any moment in performance there are things that MUST be done, things which, if possible, COULD be done, and things which SHOULD NOT be done. Knowing the difference between them and how to choreograph your attention in a way that enables you to do what you must and some of what you could do (and not paying attention to things you should not do), encourages presence, reactivity and efficiency.

If There’s Nothing For You To Do, Do Nothing

Every action travels a journey, which starts and ends in stillness and contains moments of pause. Knowing when your action requires you to be present but to do nothing is at the heart of learning how to structure a performance. Stillness – doing nothing – is an essential element of the architecture of individual performance and of ensemble energy.

These principles are explored in more depth in ‘Encountering Ensemble’, ed. Britton, J, Bloomsbury, 2013. pp. 100 – 104


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