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ERASMUS+ Project

“The Singing Body – Physical Empowerment for European Values”

In the project “The Singing Body – Physical Empowerment for European Values”, five socio-cultural organizations from Germany, Bulgaria, Portugal, Spain and Italy worked together over the course of 21 months from March 2020 to January 2023: Tanz der Kulturen e.V. (Dance of Cultures) as the project coordinator, Shevitsa Foundation, Popolomondo, Fundación Escuela de Solidaridad and Cooperativa Sociale IL FARO.

We exchanged and developed good practices of an innovative dance pedagogy with live music that uses embodied voice work for empowerment and community building for artistic, cultural, educational and pedagogical contexts:

Dancers, musicians and social workers with different educational backgrounds were brought together in six short term joint staff training events for interdisciplinary exchange (singing, different dance traditions, physical training, theater pedagogy, yoga, contemporary performance art, etc.) and to mutually train each other professionally. Throughout the project, the participants created an interactive performance with live music and participatory dance and voice elements that can bring the internal learning and creative process of working with dance and voice, both artistically and pedagogically, into the public space. Through public workshops and performances offered by the participants during the staff training events, a wider audience was reached. The potential for social inclusion, empowerment and group building of dance and voice work was thus tested on the spot, and teaching skills were deepened through direct experience.

This skill set of teaching dance pedagogy with live music and embodied voice work in social and cultural contexts was put into a practice-oriented manual with additional audiovisual material to be available for other actors in adult learning.

The interdisciplinary and holistic approach to dance (pedagogy) at the heart of “The Singing Body” explores a courageous socio-political vision of lived freedom, diversity, belonging and individual responsibility – and how these values can be experienced, expressed and taught through the “singing body”.

The objectives we wanted to achieve with „The Singing Body” are the following:

Sustainable professionalization of participating staff from interdisciplinary backgrounds and other professionals in adult education and dance: The competencies of musicians and dancers expand into pedagogical areas as well as the competencies of the social work staff are expanded to include creative and artistic approaches of embodiment.

 

  • Transformation of stereotypes, clichés and prejudices from the different disciplines and traditions: as these can show up in the creative process during the project, they can be confronted and transformed through the practice of dance pedagogy with voice work and live music for empowerment and community development.

 

  • Critical examination of cultural and gender-specific attributions and values in dance (pedagogy), art and social work: Dealing with dances from different cultures enables a playful approach and at the same time creates a space for negotiation processes with regard to “European” values ​​and norms. The microcosm of shared experience enables a playful approach to the question of how European values ​​can be lived productively in heterogeneous groups.

 

  • Social inclusion of marginalized groups: As part of the project activities are implemented in public space or in the direct environment of target groups of the participating socio-cultural organisations (workshops and performances), spaces for empowerment and community development are created.

 

  • A paradigm shift in artistic work towards holistic, empowering practice: The project inspires teaching professionals as well as participants of educational and cultural activities to move away from mere imitation and consumption of “perfect” dance movements and elite standards in dance (pedagogy) towards playful confrontation with one’s own body and voice. In this way, it becomes possible to develop one’s very own dances and songs that strengthen individual and collective identities.
Project Results
The result of the exchange of good practice and the synergistic interaction of socio-cultural, pedagogical and artistic perspectives is a handbook for holistic work with voice and movement in adult education with groups.

The manual guides through three main sections:

1. Theoretical foundations – Why combine dancing and singing?
2. Practical applications – pedagogical principles for voice and movement work
3. Concrete guided exercise series combining voice and movement.

The manual (PDF document) is accompanied by video explanations and demonstrations that facilitate the application of embodied voice work for empowerment for adult educators.

 

The video series is available as a playlist

The pedagogical principles and concrete exercises developed and presented can be adapted for other contexts and target groups.

We are so excited for you to apply the exercises of “The Singing Body” for yourself and in your own work. You are most welcome to ask us questions or give your valuable feedback to: info@tanz-der-kulturen.de

Enjoy to sing and dance!

Project Activities/Blog

The full day kick off meeting of the project „The Singing Body“ took place on 31/05/2021 in Fornelos, Portugal. On the agenda was the agreement on common working methods, responsibilities, communication channels and goals. At the beginning, all 5 organizations introduced themselves to each other with their respective areas of work and competencies, and thus how they would like to be involved in the project implementation and what common goals they see for themselves in the project. On this basis, a strategic management plan with tasks and responsible persons was created, as well as the visual identity of the project. The first TPM was a great Kick Off for the first learning, teaching and training activitiy that followed, and everyone from the management team was excited to dive deeply into the interdisciplinary exchange on using holistic dance pedagogy with voice work for empowerment.

Project Activities/Blog

The 3-week „Laboratory“ was held in Portugal from 01 – 21.06.2021 with 18 participants. The local partner organization Popolomondo had organized a beautiful seminar house in the countryside suitable for the creative process, where our group worked intensively over the 3 weeks.

The focus of the laboratory was to lay the foundations for our successful cooperation in the exchange of good practices over the entire project period, both in the group process and in the artistic-creative process. Over the 3 weeks, two workshops per day took place with movement, dance and voice improvisation, led by different participants, as well as intensive music rehearsals by the participating professional musicians. There were workshops and practice reflections on improvisation in African dance, traditional dances from Portugal, bioenergetic work, theater pedagogy with a focus on voice, and yoga with a focus on mantra/breath work. Among the participants were professional dancers, dance educators, musicians and teachers who would like to integrate dance/voice more into their professional practice.

Great emphasis was placed on interdisciplinary collaboration, so that musicians also participated in the workshops on creative bodywork. For many, this was the first time to step out of their role as musicians on stage and to experience their own body as part of the group in motion. For many of the dancers and teachers it was the first time to work with live music. This was experienced as a privilege and enrichment for the pedagogical possibilities of dancing with voice work. Through the workshops, which were also led in teams from different partner organizations, all participants expanded their repertoire of professional practice and deepened their self-awareness of music and movement.

For the introduction to voice work as an empowering element in dance, it quickly became clear that a low-threshold approach was needed to overcome fear and shame – especially since for many the „Laboratory“ was the first time working in a group after months of social isolation. To facilitate the exploration of voice, music has emerged as a central supporting element. Professionally played live music provides the structure and security for experimental voice work. Therefore, there was a lot of space for the music rehearsals, during which 5 songs were elaborated, playing with the themes of the elements earth, air, fire and water.

The 5 songs were recorded and will accompany the project throughout its entire duration as a musical foundation for dance education with voice work as a method for empowerment.

Project Activities/Blog

The LTTA C2 „Intercultural Teamteaching“ took place from 01 – 20.11.2021 in Portugal with 17 participants, hosted by our partner organization Popolomondo.

The process of performance creation, which had already begun with the music in C1, was taken up and intensively developed further with songwriting and vocal elements. The musical foundation was the basis for the explorative voice and movement work that developed over the course of the 3 weeks on the musical themes of the elements.

There were daily music rehearsals and body-oriented workshops on dance, movement and voice, often with live music. Dance of Cultures taught elements from African dance, Shevitsa taught Bulgarian folk dances, and Popolomondo Portuguese folk dances. Participants from FES contributed martial arts and work with emotional kinesiology, and participants from Il Faro contributed theater pedagogy. The two professional singers gave several workshops on voice improvisation. Kundalini Yoga and meditation was also taught.

The question of how methods from different traditions can come together in „Intercultural Teamteaching“ without the individual traditions losing their power or meaning was continuously part of our reflection process. A special focus of this meeting was on transdisciplinary teaching together and professional reflection on pedagogy working with music, body and dance with transcultural groups. We had discussions about „European values“, in particular from a critical perspective of racism: What do „European values“ mean for working and learning in our diverse group? How can we create a culture with the way we work together that is an alternative to societal violent structures? This question accompanied us – women, men, black, white, young, older, professional artists, social workers, … – as a central point of reflection.

It was challenging to talk about political issues with such a diverse group of people who had more or less consciously dealt with them before. Here we learned how helpful creative and body-based approaches can be that translate these issues away from purely intellectual discussion into whole-body experience.

We used methods such as dance of frustration, feeling oneself in contact with others, call and response singing, exploring closeness and distance, meditation in stillness and in movement, etc. In the pedagogical reflection we talked about topics such as (re)traumatization, dealing with aggression, working methods and the responsibility of the leadership, and established rules for working with the strong energies in music and dance in diverse groups.

The developed music, which now included voice work on the themes of the elements fire, water, earth and air, could this time be presented in the form of a public live performance: A lively final concert with free dance in dialogue with live music took place in the cultural beach bar Corto Espaco, which was a great success for our participants and guests alike!

Project Activities/Blog

The second transnational project meeting for the project „The Singing Body“ took place with 10 participants in Hamburg from 07.-10. March 2022, hosted by Dance of Cultures. On the agenda was first a review of the previous project activities of „The Singing Body“ (TPM1, C1, C2) in 2021 and related feedback and reflection of the project management of the project partners. This was followed by an outlook on the remaining project activities until the end of the project in January 2023 and the detailed program development of C3, C4, C5 and C6.

The face-to-face project meeting allowed for an effective management work and at the same time team-building in the management team. All project partners found it particularly remarkable how Dance of Cultures as the meeting facilitator managed to apply some holistic, body-oriented pedagogical elements (as they are the main focus of the project) in this meeting in such a way that a pleasant and constructive working atmosphere was created – even in the case of disputes, critical points and detailed, administrative screen work, everyone remained solution-oriented.

Joint dinners at various locations in Hamburg rounded off the project meeting and enabled Dance of Cultures to fulfill its role as host organization in a holistic way. Now all organizations are very much looking forward to the next LTTA in Granada, Spain, where the participants of „The Singing Body“ will finally get the chance – after so many COVID-19 restrictions in the beginning – show and test their work with dance pedagogy, live music and voice work in public. We can’t wait!!!

Project Activities/Blog

The third LTTA of our project took place with the title „Dance improvisation in public space“ at our partner organization FES from 23.05.-01.06.22 in Granada. After the first two LTTAs in Portugal, which had to take place in a very limited way due to Covid-19 regulations, we were finally able to share the dance education with live music with more people in Granada:

Our group participated in the socio-cultural festival KreArte, organized by FES in Granada. The third edition of the KreArTe Social Art Festival took place in Granada from May 24 to 29, 2022. The festival aims to make visible different artistic practices as a tool for social inclusion. Invited guests, including the participating organization of our project „The Singing Body“, gave workshops for diverse audiences throughout the week: The workshops, which took place throughout Granada, were aimed at students, artists, NGO associations, foundations, social workers and all interested parties.

The highlight of the festival was a big street parade, where all the results of the workshops were playfully presented and celebrated on the streets of Granada. Dance of Cultures gave workshops in Ritual Dance Education with live music on the archetypal themes of the elements fire, water, earth and air; Popolomondo workshops on African dance and European folk dances; Cooperative Sociale Il Faro on intercultural circus education; and Shevitsa Foundation on Bulgarian dance, traditional rhythms and Bulgarian singing.

In addition, the entire „Singing Body“ team of participating educators and artists rehearsed their interactive, participatory dance performance with live music on site and performed it as part of the closing street parade, which was well received by passersby who danced and sang along. The workshops held as part of the festival were also a great success.

An important experience for the participating pedagogues and artists during the performance in the street parade was: Where does animation end and where does real participation begin?

This aspect will play a major role in the next meetings, as this is exactly what it is all about: the equal dialogue with the live music played by both artists and participants. Who leads? Who follows? How do I communicate as a dancer with the musicians? What creative possibilities do I have with my voice and my body to enter into dialogue with the live music?

And how can we thereby invite the „audience“ to dance and sing along in a way that strengthens personality and builds groups – and is not just an imitation of what the „professional“ dancers and musicians do?

Project Activities/Blog

The team of Dance of Cultures was so excited to finally welcome the “Singing Body” crew and our partners organisations to Hamburg and share even deeper the approach of ritual dance pedagogy. The focus of this activity was on intensive group work with dance and voice. And on the methodological reflection on the basic working methods and pedagogical approach for holistic work with voice and movement in groups. We used this time together in Hamburg for internal methodological deepening, integrating the experiences from the last activity. There was again a successful exchange in the methodological deepening between the approaches of the participants, with a focus on contributions from the local team of Dance of Cultures.

For example, workshops in traditional Bulgarian dance and song were led by Bulgarian participants from the Shevitsa Foundation. The live music for the dance workshop was accompanied by Bulgarian and West African (or West African trained) musicians. The Bulgarian musicians themselves were touched by the experience of accompanying their own national traditional dance music, because it was the first time for them in this form.

Stephanie Bangoura (dance teacher) and Desislava Markova (singer and vocal teacher) also led joint workshops. Here there was less accompaniment by live music with a lot of percussion, but mainly with the softer piano. Vocal improvisations were guided in the group and own song/vocal elements with self-written texts for empowerment were created and presented to each other.

Other dance teachers and dancers from Dance of Cultures gave workshops in their methods and tried to integrate the voice elements they had learned for empowerment and group building. There were workshops on African Modern / Hip Hop, Sabar, and Kizomba.

In addition, there were drum circles with the musicians and storytelling rounds with the traditionally trained musicians on the role of dance, rituals and live music in their cultures. Through internal translations, all participants were able to actively participate in the discussion rounds. In this way, an exciting examination of „European values“ in contact with West African traditions took place. Especially participants with mixed cultural identities and migration histories found this valuable:

We were able to create a “third”, transcultural space where everyone was welcome and something new was created/danced/sung together. In the work with voice improvisation with the group, this time even deeper layers of shame were released and the power of the voice to work with emotions was explored on a deeper levels.

All this was made possible by a group-building process that brought the participants (some of whom had not participated in previous activities) very close together in a short time. We had regular reflection sessions between the exchange of the different methods of voice and movement work. The competencies of musicians and dancers were expanded into pedagogical areas, just as the competencies of social workers were expanded to include creative approaches to embodiment in connection with voice. A critical examination of cultural and gender-specific attributions and values in dance (pedagogy) and social work took place in the transcultural team of participants in the discussion rounds and reflection sessions. The goal of social inclusion was also fulfilled on a small scale, as it was very successful to integrate the different participants of different languages and cultural identities into a common group formation and method development process. The work in a protected space enabled a playful confrontation with one’s own body and voice, far from mere imitation and consumption of „perfect“ dance movements. Thus it was possible to develop own songs, which strengthen individual and collective identities – according to the project title „Physical Empowerment for EuropeanValues“.

The activity was rounded off by organized joint activities, e.g. a guided tour through Hamburg which we all enjoyed together very much.

We are excited to be working together again in the next LTTA in Bulgaria soon!

Project Activities/Blog

The activity in Sofia combined the best of our previous activities: Deep internal group building processes and methodological exchange/deepening with dance and voice work – and also opening this protected space to external participants in public workshops.

Shevitsa Foundation was such an excellent host organization and gave the participants from the other organizations deep insights into their work with the traditional Bulgarian dance ensemble and choir that performs internationally. A joint evening was organized in the rehearsal center of Shevitsa, where members of the folklore dance ensemble as well as dance teachers from Germany and Portugal practiced small dance sequences with the group. They danced and ate Bulgarian food together and had interesting conversations about dance traditions in Bulgaria and beyond.

The highlight of the activity was the „Afro-Weekend“ – a weekend of public workshops with participating musicians, dancers and pedagogues from the project partners and a final participatory, transcultural dance performance with live music and a dance concert.

In preparation for the weekend, further workshops on dance and voice work took place in the group of participants, and other educators/dancers were able to present their methods and spice them up with elements of voice work. For example, Eva Azevedo from Popolomondo (Portugal) presented her method „Farisogo Sira – The Way of the Body in AfricanDance“, on which she is also writing her doctoral thesis. Many participants have participated in previous Singing Body LTTAs several times now, so the exchange of methods and the crystallization of the essential principles for pedagogically high-quality, artistically-creatively exciting voice work in dance continues to go further and deeper.

In-depth and artistically demanding workshops on Bulgarian folklore were given by Dilyana Kurdova with live music accompaniment by an accordion player. There was also a workshop on traditional Bulgarian singing with a focus on singing technique and cultural identity in singing. Unusual for Central and Southern Europe singing patterns like ZB 5/8, 7/8, 9/8, 11/8, 12/8, 13/8, 15/8 provide completely new experiences. Thus, through music/singing, a special acquaintance with the Bulgarian culture took place – which in itself has a high diversity and e.g. traditional songs/singing techniques in Sofia are very different from other regions in Bulgaria. Since Bulgarian folklore is unusually well preserved due to the history of the Soviet Union and the associated preservation of culture, the examination of traditional Bulgarian dance and song has also been very exciting for the reflection on different cultures and their change over time and space. Discussion rounds were held again for this purpose.

The artistic team prepared the performance with live music during intensive rehearsal times: a team of 10 musicians (Bulgaria & project partners) rehearsed a handful of pieces, of which each country/organization contributed one – through the mix of different instruments (e.g. djembe, dunduns, balafon and sitar, berimbao, etc.) it became a true transcultural fusion program. The participating dancers developed a short sequence of dance improvisation as a performance, which flowed into an invitation to the audience to participate and dance together in a moderated dance concert.

The „Afro-Weekend“ was a great success: There were percussion workshops on djembe and congas, dance workshops with live music with West African dances, ritual dance education and hip hop, and the highlight was the concert/participative performance, which was broadcast live on Facebook and had 80 participants on site. The full live recording can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/koncerti.bg/videos/469492495071830

The group parted with one laughing and one cyring eye – as there is only one last activity of “The Singing Body” left in Italy, and everyone enjoyed the activity in Sofia so much – our group really formed a strong connection, which makes working together incredibly fruitful.

We are excited to come to Brindisi in October!

Project Activities/Blog

The focus of the full-day meeting from 18.-19.10.2022 was on the remaining tasks for the successful completion of the project and the finalization of the project results: the manual including audio-visual bonus material. The most important thing for the project management team was a successful conclusion of the collaboration in the consortium on site and in person, in order to review the 2 years of the project with all its ups and downs, to reflect and to develop common visions for the future, how „The Singing Body“ and the relationships that have developed can continue beyond the end of the project. The team thus evaluated both the process and the relationship development throughout the project, and ensured the best possible implementation of the last LTTA.

Project Activities/Blog

The last activity in Italy rounded off an intensive time of transcultural methodological exchange and competence development over the course of 2 years of “The Singing Body”.

The work of the host organization, Cooperativa Sociale Il Faro, aims to fill the gaps in governmental assistance by targeting pregnant refugee women and mothers who have experienced violence or are in similar distress, and by creating a venue for cultural events and workshops in rural areas that promote personal development. „The Singing Body“ has held workshops with participating dancers/educators and others involved in adult education right here on site in the old factory building La Fabbrica del Farò (which has been rebuilt as a social and cultural center). The workshops were open to the target groups of the organization Cooperativa Sociale Il Faro and so employees and volunteers as well as women and mothers participated.

The motto „Physical Empowerment for European Values“ focused on the needs of women (and other people) with migration history. The participants of the workshops were able to tell their stories, dance and sing in a transcultural, protected space, through which new perspectives became clear and manifested themselves in dance. This time, more participants led workshops who were not as self-confident at the beginning of the project or had less methodological competence in holistic voice and movement work – but developed it during the course of the project. Here, too, moments of empowerment took place, where leading functions were carried out and new teaching teams were formed. In addition, IL FARO, with its creative team of educators on the ground, offered the consortium deep insights into its own practice, the challenges of social work in rural areas with disadvantaged target groups, and how working with ERASMUS+ projects supports and advances them here.

This activitiy also had its highlight in a participatory dance performance with live music on site at the Fabbrica del Faro.

The activity was concluded with a feedback and reflection session, looking back on the last two years and everything that we experienced and learned together: And into a connected future, where we continue to create spaces of empowerment through holistic dance and voice work, each and every one of the participants and partner organisations in their unique ways – but connected through our “singing bodies” that will resonate with each other for a long time into the future.

We would like to thank everyone who made this project through their participation and contributions so very special, our partner organisations and their teams, and everyone who came to our performances and workshops and created special spaces of community and empowerment with us!

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