Brussels Wrap-Up

Liz and I had two homes last week in Brussels: The sleek-boutique Pantone Hotel, whose eye-popping décor is inspired by the color matching system used by designers and printers, and La Refinerie/Charleroi Danse, a contemporary dance center which houses studios and offices in a beautifully renovated old brick sugar factory. Both have been welcoming and stimulating environments.

Liz Lerman in the color-rich lobby of the Pantone Hotel.

During the final days of Feedback Tools for Creation, we gathered up some loose ends and did a series of concurrent Critical Response sessions focused on the interests of the varied participants. Coaching has been a major theme of the week, that is, how to use the Process and its principles not so much to review a work in progress, but to guide a task or endeavor, be it choreographic composition, teaching, or collaboration. This often means making a departure from the strict four-step system of CRP.

Among Friday’s sessions were a conversation with Sylvia, who – among other things – works as a coach with circus artists to improve the choreographic and theatrical integrity of their acts. On video, she showed the results of one of her coachings with a trio of acrobats on a Chinese pole and then talked a bit about the challenges of giving these artists guidance and direction in a context where they still needed to maintain ownership of the work. Then Liz led the group in a modified-CRP coaching-the-coach session combining response and problem-solving that offered Sylvia some new ideas for how to engage with her artists.

During one of the breakouts, I worked with Baptiste and Florence – our two primary hosts from the Contredanse staff. They sought help in thinking about their collaborative relationship and devised a fictional situation in which to roleplay aspects of their working dynamic. In their scenario, since they are both architects, they each came up for a design for a vacation house that their families would take turns using, with a specific plot of land and specifications for size and budget all stipulated. With the results of this very concrete task in front of us, they offered each other a series of step ones from which we established a list of shared values and goals for the house. Then came a round of step two/step three questions, which helped to zero in on some of the main issues in the project on which they would need to problem-solve and find common ground. On this topic, I suggested that it might be fruitful to brainstorm a list of multiple solutions to key problems rather than for each of them to retreat and seek single solutions on their own. One of the ideas that emerged strongly was the value of framing not only your own neutral questions but of asking the neutral question that you think the other person wants to ask you. When this happened spontaneously during the conversation it proved to be a breakthrough for all of us.

The day ended with a CRP for Liz and me assessing our week of training, coaching and coordination. Like everyone else we were a little nervous to be in CRP’s artist’s “hot seat,” but like everyone else we got some great information that will help shape future encounters. We were both very touched by the warm round of applause that followed the session.

It was a remarkable week and we are deeply grateful to the artists who invested so much in CRP and its possibilities. All our thanks to Contredanse for bringing us, especially to the remarkable Baptiste and Florence for the wonderful care they gave us.

Vive Contredanse!

About John Borstel

John’s role with the Dance Exchange encompasses functions in documentation, dissemination, and dialogue.