In early 2014, with the assistance of Yorkshire Dance and UnLtd (a business development agency) I ran a two-day introduction to Self-With-Others in Leeds. The grant I received meant that I was able to run it without charging participants. Around 40 people applied for the 15 available places.
The group we invited to participate was a mix of local, national and international practitioners across theatre, clowning, dance, improvisation and music. All had significant levels of professional experience and all had – as part of their regular work – a role teaching others or facilitating groups. Some worked in education (community, school, tertiary, higher), some in community contexts, some primarily in performance contexts.
With the exception of some members of DUENDE who attended, all the participants were encountering Self-With-Others for the first time.
In the weeks after the workshop the participants were asked to reflect on their experience . This is some of what they wrote (as they wrote it apart from some minor edits for the sake of clarity)
- Self-With-Others is a simple, joyful, fun-filled physical training for performers, led by one of the most positive and charismatic teachers it has been my pleasure to learn from. As someone who trained at and now teaches at drama schools, I find that what can lack in many students is the joy to perform. In some ways this workshop shared some similarities with Philippe Gaulier’s Le Jeu workshop, admittedly they come at it from different angles, but the performers joy and pleasure are key to their growth and to the development of their craft. What Philippe teaches through game, John Britton teaches through the dance. Were Self-With-Others taught early on in the course and re-visited at various points in the year I am sure that students would get more from their training. John’s description of the workshop as pre-performance training is a fantastic way to see Self-With-Others, it teaches the student key fundamentals, some of which include being fully present in the work, dedication, focus, finding ones joy in the work, plus it contains some of the simplest exercises for understanding impulse work that I have found. It helps to prepare both the body and mind for rigorous work, at the heart of which is the performers pleasure.
- An invitation to explore building ‘ensemble’. It is rooted in the body, which is itself rooted in the mind
- A performance practice for investigating the body-mind interrelation, creativity and connection.
- A performance training method that stresses the importance of pleasure and play, but also discipline and rigour. It teaches how to be present, prepared, calm, and passionate on stage
- A way of understanding, reflecting on and articulating the personal and group processes including the physical, psychological and spatial.
- The training of a performer to develop simultaneously a deeper understanding of the self, as well as the way a performer interacts with other things in the environment
- A flexible and inclusive approach with a focus on the pleasure of learning.
- It is the most accessible way to teach presence in performance that I have come across.
- Very supportive and safe framework in which to play, experiment and learn, very embodied, wise. Learning to be in the present with others, learning to perform with and for audience, while also feeling safe and supported, learning to feel the rhythm and respond to it
- The exercises are simple, the training is deep and personal and it asks that the student meet himself and others in the moment, in the ever-present now.
- An open Self: open towards her surroundings, aware of what is happening around her; as well as listening to her ‘inner’ dialogue with oneself
- It provides simple yet effective ways to constitute open and supportive work environment; most importantly, the work is mindful.
- Self-With-Others is a method of mindful performance in which the participant learns, through their own experience, what it means to be fully present to both self and others in ensemble work.
- Self-with-Others is the essence of ensemble work (or any work). How the individual is an integral part of anything and how it needs to be nurtured through the interaction with others.
- Finding the rigour of your own judgement is always a challenge and this practice ask you constantly whether you are giving your best, what is your best and how do you channel ‘your best’ through a pleasurable practice.
- The rigour and attitude of the work. The seriousness by which the work is approached; but the discipline to always look for exactly what gives you pleasure
- I often facilitate the beginning of rehearsal processes or work in ensembles that must make work quickly. These games and exercises create an active listening and ‘groupness’ that is concrete in a relatively short time span. If I’m working with a group that only has two weeks to make a show, this kind of activity is perfect for those first couple of days before you start making and constructing work. And indeed throughout the rehearsal process. It’s also invaluable for touring companies who need to have a shared language with which to warm up and keep their work fresh.
- Even more than the exercises, John’s manner and style are things to be admired and learned from, from the moment of walking through the door John’s positivity and conscious engagement with all members of the group put us at ease and began the very thing he was teaching, the creation of an ensemble.
- Many of the key messages from the training are applicable to non-performance work and can apply across a variety of contexts. The main one being, find pleasure in all that you do.
- Over time this way of working develops an inner confidence in a person as they start to really work out and know who they are, and know who they are in relation to other people.
- To overcome confidence issues and insecurities, be mindful, just play, not to put too much pressure on yourself and enjoy the creative journey and above all, BE YOURSELF!
- Students coming together for the first time need to learn to play with one another, to become physical, they need to develop an awareness of their bodies and its flow of impulses, they need to learn focus and concentration, to work from a place of fun and discover their own habitual patterns, especially mental patterns that can hold them back. Self-With-Others helps to develop all of these and should be a required learning for all performers at the beginning of their training.
- The need to overcome ‘bad’ habits, insecurities, confidence issues; the need to accept the other openly and without judgement; the need to allow oneself to fail; the need to learn to enjoy the work (rather than blindly repeating exercises/movements) thus creatively engage with the work.
- Understand and investigate: the discipline of the performer (what and where is the work); the necessity of the training where one’s own creativity lies; the artist’s role in the community and the world.
Excited, apprehensive, exhilarated, connected, eyes, breath, sweat, sharing, humans, listening, whispers, us, me, with, them, dancing, bodies, openness, love, inspired, tired, bright, agile, big, strong, happy, starting fresh for the first time each time, refreshing, developing confidence in the approach, creating questions in yourself, opening up areas that were closed, developing relationships in unconventional ways, understanding humans on different levels, developing new ideas/new ways of interacting, energising, purposeful, educational, inclusive, creative, knackered, exhausted, fullness, richness, processing, experiencing, playing, feeling safe, working in a very embodied way, self-confidence, openness of the expressive means, easiness in connecting with others, inspiration, creativity, reminder of one’s own role in the world, re-evaluating life values and choices, presence, calm, acceptance. pleasure, smiles, nurturing, properly fed, relax mind, flow of thought, loving the body, invigorated, refreshed, happy, energising, laughing, being, playing, listening, seeing, opening up, friends, no stress, invigorating, buzzing, beautiful, reassuring, encouragement, letting go, eye-opening, simple, deep, liberating, challenging, insights, tears, laughter, joy, stillness, energy, surprise, negotiation, warmth, reassurance, challenge, touch, balance.
- The ethos of listening, openness, giving, receiving, me, you and the others around me is a fundamental practice for those, like myself, working in devised theatre and performance.
- Reconnect with own creativity
- The workshop has inspired me to do more and reminded me why I love dance.
- To access a space of play, to learn more how to engage with, and support people to do the same, to learn how to create a safe, supportive, experimental, and open space, to engage with others in an ongoing embodied process, to work together with and through the body, to learn how to diffuse stress and relax people, to enjoy myself while learning!
- To meet myself again as an artist to recall my creative process to reconsider, testing and confirming the practices’ values I use.
- I felt exhilarated for days afterwards and felt that it absolutely re-affirmed my artistic practice. John’s philosophies and approach spoke to me and reassured me that it’s ok to be doing what I’m doing, to be me and to stay on my path as an individual.