Anonymous student guest blogger on the Oficina Intensiva theatre festival at UDESC

28 May

This student chose to post her blog entry anonymously.

Hello, everyone! I’m a grateful participant of the 2016 Brazil exchange, with very little background in theatre, or theatre in the context of social justice and activism. Because of how radically different this trip is from any other experience I’ve ever had, I knew from the beginning that I would love to be a part of it. My premonition was right; this week in Florianopolis has already started to change me for the better.

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Our group in Florianopolis

One of the experiences I have been lucky enough to be a part of these past two days is the Theatre Festival at UDESC (which is the state university just over the hill from our hotel here in Florianopolis).  We began the festival with a sort of call and response drum-circle game/song, in which everyone joins hands and gradually creates concentric circles around a group of drummers. It set, in my mind, the theme of the festival: community. I am not great in social settings, even ones I’m excited about. I really, really don’t dance or bob or sway or anything in public. And most of all, I don’t speak any Portuguese. Like most of my fellow students, I had no idea what was being sung, or what the rules of the game (if it can be called that) were. But despite all of these barriers, I was accepted as part of the group without a stray glance, and I found myself joining in without question.

The sense of acceptance continued throughout the day. The participants were divided by age and given coloured wristbands, determining which workshop block they would be a part of. After a quick break for incredible coffee (as indeed every single cup of coffee I’ve had here has been) we went to our first workshop of the day. For my group, it was a cortejo workshop, which is a traditional kind of dance. As my leaders explained to us, it is most of all an expression, often of religious joy, which is done for days at a time. We started the workshop by playing a name game, where we held a piece of one long rope of twine as we said our names and walked across the circle to take the place of someone else. At the end, we had a beautiful pattern, as well as a chance to start to remember names. Then, the leaders played music, and we were instructed to dance and move to the beat and to walk around, in whatever way we felt. The end result was a large, tangled mess. The leaders explained: all of us are one thread. Every person is connected, and it is important to remember that. However, even more important, in theatre and in life, is remembering that we have to be mindful of those who we share our spaces with. It was a stunningly simple premise with a beautiful conclusion, and I found myself nearly moved to tears by it.

The second workshop, which was about Afro Brazilian music and sound, also touched on this. After playing a name game, we were told to team up with another person and have a conversation using only rhythm that we created with our bodies. The room was filled with stomping and clapping as the pairs stared at each other, calling and responding with the beats they made. After, our leader told us, that it is this way in theatre and in life: we have to listen, truly listen, to those we are with, because all of us have to share the space on the earth.

I came away from the festival feeling as if something had shifted. I no longer thought about what I looked like when joining in group celebrations, which mostly included dancing, because it doesn’t matter how I am occupying my own space. The story I am living is not the most important one, and it is up to me to listen to the stories of other people. As well, I no longer had nerves about meeting new people who don’t even speak the same language. The question of acceptance is not something that’s brought up or thought about here, it is just a given. If you are willing to throw yourself into whatever you are doing, then you belong, and there is nothing else you need.

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