Paul Harman about Augenblick mal! 2015

Bright Sun, Dull Plays, Good Talk, One Masterpiece

Augenblick mal! 2015 in Berlin was one of the best gatherings of TYA people from around the World that I have enjoyed in 35 years membership of ASSITEJ.

The Artistic Encounter discussion groups drew on Open Space principles to give everyone a chance to speak, discuss, debate and learn. Keynotes were short and by independent academics with no axe to grind. With 12 new topics to choose from each time we met, related to an overall theme, everyone could focus on what they found most interesting. You could meet new people as you went from conversation
to conversation and also get to know some people more deeply when you found they had the same interests as yourself. A great model for open debate.

Members of the ASSITEJ Executive Committee played an active role as facilitators, which means they were listening to what TYA people from 40 countries had to say about those universal values and principles which unite us. But when we also hear about local problems and different cultural perspectives, we are made aware of the wide diversity of conditions, which limit some of us. Our preconceptions about our own work are challenged by other people’s experience and perspective.


While most of the German shows were by general agreement shallow, technically too complex and uncertain in their relationship to children, one extraordinary youth dance piece made the journey worthwhile. Raw, from Belgium, uses what children can do as physical movement as the dance vocabulary to create a highly sophisticated story. The choreography provides a secure structure for a committed bunch of kids, from 6 or 7 to 11 or 12, with an older woman and a younger man, to show images of emotions and relationships in the raw. In some kind of wasteland, two emotionally distressed adults are observed by a tribe of almost feral kids who sometimes try to copy the tortured movements of the adults, sometimes enfold them with tenderness or passionate demand for attention, sometimes resist their embraces or imposed discipline – being put to bed, stroked, cuddled, or manhandled.

The images so created could be read in different ways, according to one’s own experience of physical and emotional contact with adults when a child. I felt nothing but warmth and security radiate from the young people, whose dance seemed so instinctive, natural and voluntary. Others might find some images and the nakedness of tiny bodies disturbing. It had artistic integrity, a satisfying shape and rhythm, it posed important questions about the relationships between adults and children, and between children as a tribe and as individuals.

Meeting Friends and Colleagues

In such an ASSITEJ Gathering we too meet as young and old, artists and observers, newcomers and old hands. In Berlin, the organisers and our hosts made us all feel welcome and part of a family. There was a particularly good balance of cultures and countries represented this time. The 38 young practitioners from 20 developing countries in the Next Generation programme mingled with groups from China,
Korea, Norway or France, and of course with the many German ASSITEJ members.

UK and Ireland were modestly represented and so were 20 more countries with established TYA networks. With plenty of opportunities to enjoy the sunshine together in such a relaxed and spacious city, many new friendships could be forged. A great learning experience.

Paul Harman Open Space Paul Harman,
Honorary Member of ASSITEJ

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