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Dancing with dissonance.

Was a long day and it is almost midnight. I didn’t find a moment to write earlier. Had a full day at the academy, it is time for final evaluations. Each student has to present the overview of her work, hold a short speech and engage in a conversation with the tutors. I love these days, despite the intensity of the moment. Seeing the final presentations with drawn conclusions is truly fulfilling and inspiring. It is a moment of celebration, a kind of purification ritual where students can step back, look at their work from distance, reflect as part of the ritual, wipe out things that seem irrelevant and move on to the next stage. I never noticed how ritualised this activity is. The corridors and spaces are soaked with the assessments energies which have a slightly sour sweet smell to it. A little sweat, coffee, baked goodies from the canteen, candy, chocolates and freshly printed photographs. The atmosphere is lively, slightly tense and excited, but overall pleasant. This year was also a little different, we changed the procedure to try a different way to assess in order to place more focus on the dialogue between tutors and students.

Apart from focusing on the works, I was noticing how the conversations are being held. I got a chance to play with some of the freshly acquired tools to energise the conversation and keep the energies flowing. I guess the main challenge is how to gently communicate points for improvement without the other person shutting down. What are the requirements for a conversation to stay productive and fruitful? There are many ways to steer the dialogue. I intuitively can distinguish two main approaches. I didn’t think it through well, so look at is as merely a playful proposition rather than a validated theory. I divide these tools into embodied/emotional and intellectual/rational. I’ll start with intellectual or rational techniques. These address rational thinking and a good example is Socratic dialogue. When building knowledge is based on mutual understanding through reasoning. Questioning, rhetorics and logic play important role here. As a result an in-depth conversation can emerge which allows for solid and stable energy to be born out of such a conversation. Dialogues like this are quite exhausting as they ask for a lot of mental effort - the concentration has to be maintained at all times. If you lose it, you are out of the flow. It can almost be experienced as a form of meditation. I think that this group of practices is handy if we need to move the energy within a conversation in-depth, allow it to ground within a topic.

Another approach, which I personally find very appealing, is embodied/emotional. It is quite a risky way to allow the energies in the conversation to flow and generate. The aim is to produce a physical response in the body which would resemble an emotion and allow energy to arise. It can result into a, most often, uncomfortable experience, or - it could also be a comfortable one. Allowing that experience to be part of the conversational space, while tapping into the creative energy that comes with it, is intriguing. Friction and short-lasting dissonance which was purposefully invited to participate helps the energies flowing. Sometimes referred to as dancing with dissonance is an experiential technique that was inspired by improvisational dance. The main goal is to transform discomfort into creativity. I am very intrigued to try and open up that resource. I do feel that sometimes the dissonance I am in causes me too much discomfort which I can’t overcome, but imagining it as a dance definitely makes me want to try it.

I’ll stop it here. Tomorrow is the second round and a new group, let's see if I can try and engage with someone in a creative dance of dissonance during the assessments. I feel the slight excitement of anticipation going through my body as I write. There are couple of other good conversational techniques and guidelines I would like to share tomorrow so you can play with them as well.

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