Picture this: You enter the meeting room and there is a circle of chairs for 30 people. (If there are more people, concentric rings) Off to one side is a stack of drums, large and small. On the chairs are brightly colored tubes of different lengths, and a stick. Some chairs have shakers on them. As the participants enter the room, they get the feeling that is going to be a different kind of team building event than they have been to before. You look over at your client, the human resources director of the organization and she nods as she sees the joy in each persons face as they pick up the instruments and start shaking or tapping the tube on their hand, their heads, on someone’s shoulders near them. Some of them picked up the stick first and are tapping the tube. The group has already rediscovered play!
Into this happy scene walks the facilitator who heads straight to the center of the circle with out speaking. There, out of a collection of tubes on the floor, he picks up one tube and starts tapping a simple rhythm pattern on it with the stick, exaggerating the movements and their relation to the beat. He turns around, smiling and getting everyone’s attention, and as they keep playing, he motions for them to sit, if they are not already. He grabs a shaker and reinforces the movement. The groove continues as he keeps making eye contact with each individual and people add their own variations. This stew of sound cooks for a few minutes and when it is ready to end, Kim walks around his spot with large motions, arms raised, getting everyone’s attention. At the right moment, he jumps up, lands in time with the beat and stretches his arms out horizontally, (“safe”) to end the groove. With a shaker in one hand and a tube in the other, he initiates a new wave of sound, a roll of unmetered tones that everyone one picks up on and jumps into. Everyone who might have felt left out of the first groove can participate in this new wave of sound. The facilitator motions the sound volume down, then up, then one side up, the other side up, then everyone loud again. One final jump and cut and everyone ends together.
Again with out speaking he holds up one tube (they are all a different colors), points to it and starts a groove, quickly changes to another color tube, holds it up, points to it, and starts a different complimentary groove. He senses how far he can stretch the group with different patterns and works with them accordingly. At the right time, he walks around his spot in large motions with arms raised, getting everyone’s attention, and when he senses everyone is with him, jumps up, lands in time with the beat, stretches his arms out horizontally, and ends the groove.
In the 10 to 15 minutes that have passed, the group has already learned many things: some cues and signals, the facilitators style, how each individual contributes to the sound and how each part is the basis for explorations and improvisation. As these experiences settle, the facilitator introduces himself (or is introduced), then offers an opening statement:
“We are here today to experience joy, powerful play, unity, community and more through the power of rhythm. We are all rhythmic beings in a vibrating universe. Everything is pulsing and waving from the sub atomic particle to the largest galaxy and beyond. Our love of percussion, drumming and rhythm is a natural outcome of life in the body. I invite you to drum on your body.”
Kim starts to drum on his thighs, then adds chest and a clap, a foot stomp. As the people join him they laugh at the silliness of it, and they experience the beneficial effects of body percussion, which is part of several healing traditions from around the world.
After a brief session of body rhythm Kim moves the group into vocal rhythms and combines them with simple movements. At the end of this 2 or 3-minute segment, the group is probably warmed up and a window of communication may have opened. Kim takes that moment to deliver a metaphor regarding the specific business or personal issues at hand. Your group is now primed and ready for a full-on rhythmic team building event with improvisational music circle as it’s base.
For short events, ice breakers like this can be enough to catalyze an inspired group mind to approach the issues at hand. For longer events, helpers can move drums into position for each participant, and for a more dramatic opening, I can start the whole event with drums and get everyone going in the same manner as described above, but with larger instruments. The effect of the drums, their frequency range and power effect peoples more deeply as the long waves penetrate the body, mind and spirit. The focus, attention and body awareness needed to hold the rhythm is available to everyone and is a transformative experience as well as being FUN!
I lead by example with minimum talking, however I am an expert and gifted teacher and if people want some instruction I can deliver it to them in a harmonious and un-threatening manner that will serve their needs and bring them success.