ERASMUS+, Key Action 1: training course
Venue: Bidart, France
Dates: 16—24 August 2023
National team: 2 youth workers
Please read the info-pack.
Hosting organisation: Association La Villa
It was here. Last two week of summer holidays and time for both members of the Czech team to participate on Erasmus+ project called Circus Pedagogy for Inclusion. We knew the schedule for outcoming days but none of us didn’t exactly know what to expect from this course. Both of us had the same thoughts in our minds. Maybe this will be too much to handle for us and won’t be able to make it. We didn’t have any previous experiences with circus but our worries slowly disappeared during first few hours and our anxious feeling has been replaced by excitement and hunger for knowledge.
Soon after we arrived to Bidart, small french village near seashore, we have met our trainers Denis, Anja and Pauline. After a short meetup conversation, they showed us our rooms and gave us information about accommodation rules and routines. We’ve also met other participants from different European countries such as Poland, Greece, Portugal, Malta, Estonia, Cyprus, Belgium, Croatia, Italy, Spain and even one participant from Colombia. Once we all sat at the dinner table, we slowly started to know each other and talked about our journey and expectations about the project. We also talked about similarities and differences of our countries. Later that day, we had a small icebreaker. It was a short dancing lesson from two of the participants. We laughed a lot during this activity and it certainly connected the whole group.
Next day we started for real. Our first group activity was another icebreaker. This time it was official. Small games to remember names of the participants. Sounds easy right? But there were a lot of us so it was challenging sometimes. This form of activities worked great in this big group and it released the potential stress of the members. After we mistaken each other’s names a few times we moved to our first physical activity. We have read the schedule so all of us knew what’s going to come next. A true circus acro-balance exercise. Some of the group members felt a bit worried about this activity and they thought they don’t have enough strength to handle the exercises but we all cooperate on this activity and everyone got own role based on his physical abilities. Stronger ones went to the bottom to form a base and lighter ones went to the top to enjoy the view. Once everybody knows their role, we found out it’s not as hard as it looked. We just did it and it worked. In a few minutes we were able to form basic human pyramids and other human made sculptures. Too bad we didn’t have time to learn more acrobatic stuff.
Another activity was ahead and it was something that many of us remembered from young age at elementary school. We went out and everyone got our own pair of sticks with a cord. All of us knew what are we going to get next. Denis made a small introduction and then he finally gave us the famous diabolo. He told us a bit of history behind this tool and showed a few basic tricks. We didn’t hesitate and immediately tried to copy the movement Denis showed us before. Many of us quickly remembered our time at elementary school and also the struggles we had with this spinning tool. The long-forgotten knowledge was still in there and it all came up to the surface during the exercises. Soon there was spinning and flying diabolos all around us. Denis even showed us some more advanced tricks and told us that all the tools will be available for us so we can practice during our free time.
Juggling was another activity we all wanted to master. Before we started, Denis told us important information. Surprisingly, many people think that juggling as about throwing and catching flying balls. But in reality, it is mostly about picking up balls from the ground. We also found out that some of our group members went on a circus school and they already know how to juggle. At the beginning we juggled with two balls and then we moved on to juggling with three balls. We also did it in pairs with four balls. It was very challenging but it is possible to do it once we synchronize our rhythm. But still. This was the hardest discipline so far. During the course, we also learnt how to make our own juggling balls at home or at the school with the kids.
Anja was ready to show us another circus discipline. This time it was a thing called Poi. It was a string connected to a light cloth ball with colorful tail behind it. Once she was spinning it around herself it started to create geometrical shapes full of colors. Our thoughts were completely opposite than during acro-balance. Surely it looked easy but it was not. Even something as simple as spinning required patience and a lot of focus on your wrist movement and the pois tangled together every time you messed up.
Another discipline was plate spinning. Fortunately, not with a real ceramic plates but with plastic one specially designed for this discipline. Denis said the movement is simple. Just do big spinning moves with your wrist and then continue to make smaller spins. It was mostly about the sense in the wrist than technique itself. We dropped a lot of plates during this training and we were glad it’s only made of plastic. Once we finished with the plates, we moved to another activity. Anja showed us what can be done with a balloons and how to create different shapes and animals. We learnt how to shape a sword or a dog and we had fun during this practice. All of our balloons were given to the kids during our performance on a last day of the course.
Last day was special. We had to show our skills on a stage. We could choose the discipline we want to perform with and then we had time to create a short performance for the audience. We had only one day to do all of this. Performance itself was in front of circa 70 small kids so fortunately audience was not so critical. Both members of the Czech team, together with one participant from Poland and other participant from Italy, made a quick choice. We are going to perform with pois. Maybe it was not a smart move because pois are one the harder disciplines but I guess we all four of us love challenges. We practiced as much as we could and we were confident enough to perform. Showtime was here and we walked on the stage. Once we saw the kids with a red heart painted on their palms, we were ready and every bit of doubt was gone. Pois didn’t tangle and kids were amazed by our performance. Other participants made their own performance and did a great job as well. All of us felt so proud after this.
This whole course was not just about circus. We also had many discussions about inclusion, sociology, psychology and many other different subjects. There were also a presentation of our organizations and many discussions about current topics of European Union in general. Sometimes it was in form a game. For example, the game when one group create set of rules and this group must behave strictly by these rules. And another group has a different set of rules but none of the group don’t know the rules of the other group and once these two groups meet, they don’t understand each other because of different behavior. This demonstrate the communication between different cultures and shows us how difficult could be to understand someone who is completely different than us. This whole course was very inspiring for all of us.