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Report from Asia

Under cherry trees
there are
no strangers

- Basho

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My recent experiences in China, Taiwan, and Japan 2012  by David Anderson

In places where academic high scores and head-learning can be prized above all else, experiences that awaken artistic sensibilities and creativity not only balance the growing process – they can be healing too.

Since its founding in Australia 15 years ago, WTD’s mission has included reaching underserved communities and taking our work into places that may not otherwise have such experiences.
Three years ago, responding to invitations from school communities in Taiwan and Japan, I brought WTD’s work and artistic approach for learning to Asia.  Last year this outreach expanded to China and to other communities in Taiwan.  This year, responding to a growing interest for this work, I visited nine communities in 2 ½ months, giving talks, workshops (for children and adults), supporting teacher trainings, mentoring teachers, and directing plays and stories.

The theater-creating process awakens a conversation with the numinous, the intangible.  Its success depends on our openness and availability to what is living between us, and to what wants to live between us.  Becoming conscious and more fluid in this conversation, and more aware of its language of movement and language and space, deepens our own sense of the conversation we are having with the invisible forces that work in our lives.  The play process reflects our own life process and helps us to become creative and free in it.  It complements our own inner work and development.

One woman in Taiwan said that, in our work together, she could experience a side of herself she never experienced before – an aspect of herself that is not Taiwanese, not part of her culture, not a woman, not part of her familiar context.  It inspired her because it allowed her to connect to her humanness – to the universal and archetypal human experience that expresses itself in gesture, movement and voice, through ensemble work and improvisation.  She felt a freedom she had never felt before. 

This work allows us to meet and create on a fundamental human level, independent of the context or identity we find ourselves in.

“Of all the places in need of this work, why Asia?” – a friend asked.

In China especially, where strong controls had limited free cultural expression, things are beginning to open up.  Now more than ever there is a keen hunger to enliven the cultural life with artistic impulses.  Recently, a Chinese minister of education held a conference translated as: “Education as a means for cultural renewal.”  He invited many innovators in the field of education to attend this government-sponsored conference.  Ben Cherry, a former Waldorf teacher and teacher trainer throughout Asia, was the keynote speaker.  The conference looked at, among other things, an education model that can meet the needs of children according to where they are in their development; an education for the whole child. 

Things are growing in many ways in China and people are recognizing that a healthy society, a vibrant culture, depends upon a thriving creative life.  So they are seeking experiences that serve this need.  Though this work takes me far from WTD’s activities in Columbia County, the call is too clear and strong to ignore.  The interest and the questions are so full of honest seeking that the work goes deep and far there.  And it informs my own questions about theater and the role of drama in society.

The schedule was intense but wonderfully inspiring.  Nearly every night I dream that I am giving a workshop or working with some students or teachers.  Or I wake inspired with a new exercise or new picture for someone’s question.  I am continually amazed by the openness and enthusiasm for what comes into our space together, and I marvel at where this interest takes the work.  More than ever I recognize the power of a question or a questing to get the work moving.  Every workshop seems to take the themes and the questions a little deeper, and the pictures keep getting clearer.

This 2 ½ months away have revealed new approaches to this shared striving, new ways of understanding how drama work can complement and inspire our inner development (and understanding the role of drama for our human experience), and new insights into how our inner and outer movements can work more closely together.  I look forward to seeing where this ongoing research will lead us next.

I also feel continually grateful to you, our community, for supporting the growth of this work.  Truly, it is community-created.  WTD is a community – a vessel for helping us all to understand what it means to be a human being and how we can become more aware and alive in this process together.

 

Read Part 2 of, My recent experiences in China, Taiwan, and Japan 2012  by David Anderson

 

 

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Visit Walking the dog Theater in Asia on Flickr

 

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