Games and play

An important part of human culture, at the roots of theatre, is found in the world of play and games, as mentioned in the introduction.

Basic energy, and an open mood, is first developed through games and play in a relaxed milieu, without pressure and ambitions. Games and play are very useful for constituting new groups and developing social interaction and collaboration with partner(s). Games and play build up mutual trust, respect, creative competition (agon) and collaboration, and enhance spontaneous re-action.

Intelligence can only be led by desire. For there to be desire, there must be pleasure and joy in the work. Intelligence only grows and bears fruit in joy.

Simone Weil[98]

Paidia and ludus

There are two different attitudes to relate to play and games: Paidia and ludus develop the capacities of observation, concentration, reaction and collaboration with others. The joy of absorbing oneself in a game is paidia, enjoyment and recreation. When the involvement of participants develops, when the game becomes important, when skills are developed, when it becomes a profession, the element of ludus dominates. Paidia or ludus should be provoked by the instructor.

Certain games and play teach concentration, observation, reaction, collaboration and memory, besides having fun!

Exercises 1.1–1.10

Exercise 1.1: Mermaid: One person is the captain, giving orders to his sailors. Those not reacting quickly enough must leave the game. Orders: ‘Captain on board!’ All participants must stand in line, immobile. ‘Starfish!’ All participants throw themselves on the floor, face down, legs and arms spread like a starfish. ‘Treasure chamber!’ Everybody runs towards a wall and touches it. ‘Scrub the deck!’ Everybody does the movement of scrubbing. ‘Mermaid!’ The participants lay on their sides, legs together, arch the upper body and look as lovely as mermaids. ‘Jellyfish!’ Participants stand on one leg and make the movements of a jellyfish. ‘Shark attack!’ Everybody must hold the hand of a partner.

The game is quick and wild. The captain will invent further tasks related to pirates.

Exercise 1.2: Amoeba: (In this exercise, also alea, or chance, takes its place). Everybody lies on the floor, moving as amoeba, uttering: ‘Amoeba! Amoeba!’ If two people meet, they play rock paper scissors[99]. The winner turns into a grasshopper, makes the sound: ‘qui, qui!’ and the loser stays what he is, an amoeba. If two grasshoppers meet, they play rock paper scissors, and the winner is now a rabbit: ‘flip-flop’! But the loser again becomes an amoeba. If two grasshoppers meet again, they play again. The winner becomes a gorilla, on four feet now and beats his chest, while the loser becomes a rabbit again. The winner of two gorillas competing becomes a human and is out of the game. The play continues until the last person becomes a human.

This exercise develops relaxed collaboration and fun. I used to propose it sometimes when a situation got strained, and it always changed the atmosphere.

Exercise 1.3: Musical chairs, for 7–15 participants. The chairs are freely arranged in the space. When music plays (or on another acoustic signal), the players move, dance, etc. freely through space, meet each other (or have actions together). When the music stops, each participant immediately has to sit down on any chair. There is one chair less than the number of participants. After each stop, the person without a seat can no longer participate. For the next round, a chair is removed. (Sitting on a chair, contact can be taken by a colleague to quickly change places. But attention! Somebody else may switch onto these chairs!)

The exercise, an old society pastime, develops observation, reaction and tactics.

Exercise 1.4: Sport. The leader calls a sport out: ‘Tennis!’ (Or football, handball, ice hockey, basketball, polo, rugby, volleyball, wrestling, judo, etc.) and the students group themselves quickly as athletes and audience, and then play. Each person finds their role and place in the action, until the leader calls out: ‘Stop!’ Everybody ‘freezes’. ‘American football!’ Then the group organises itself again, without dialogue, into the new activity.

Exercise 1.5: Sport, advanced version: Start as above. But when the match is established, a conflict arises.

Exercise 1.6: The egg. Standing in a circle, a (hardboiled) egg is handed round from person to person. Enlarge the circle: hand over the egg with one hand, and then later, freely and quickly moving continuously in space, holding the egg only with the fingertips. Variation: In the egg is a bomb, so it has to be given away quickly. (To finish, try with a raw egg).

Exercise 1.7: Swish[100]. Participants stand in a big circle at arm’s length. Movements and sounds are first decided and briefly practised. Work with three elements first, gradually adding more later and then inventing further movements.

One person starts by sending a movement to his partner on the left (or the right): Swish: a quick, big movement with the arms, sweeping from the floor upwards in a curve is passed to the next person by saying: ‘Swish!’ Another movement, ‘Plopp!’ describes an upper curve of the arms over the head of the next person, and only the third person continues the game. At the command ‘Boing! all keep their hands up, and the flow of movement is stopped and the movement direction in the circle is changed, and the game continues with the next person. If they says: ‘Turn!’, all participants must turn round in their place. If they say: ‘Change!’ all players must change place with somebody else (take contact, point out) on the other side of the circle. On the command ‘Hoppla!’ all participants must lie down on their backs, rising together again. ‘Tisch-tisch!’ is shooting a person, who must squat down and quickly rise again, etc.

The exercise can be developed from simple movement tasks sent round in the circle and can later incorporate more complicated movements, stops, etc. It develops the ability to work in a group, to react to partners, to help each other and to collaborate, and to work rhythmically and develop physical energy. The instructor may choose a focus for the aspect of the game: (The participants should develop group energy, and maintain it, or collaborate with precision, speed etc.)

The exercise develops collaboration and reactions, and it also functions as a physical warm-up as well.

Exercise 1.8: Fruit salad: The participants stand in a circle. Each person choses the name of a fruit. The names are sent round at random and build a given order. With a movement, the first person sends any imaginary object to another person in the circle (or simply points out a person in the circle). At the same time, he must call the persons new name: as: ‘banana to ananas’ and so on in rather high speed. After a while, participants can change names as: banana becomes orange, orange (sends) to ananas.’ The new names must be remembered! Can also be done by animals, trees, flowers, foods, names of film actors etc.

The one that makes a fault, leaves the circle. The exercise trains observation and memory.

Exercise 1.9: Master to master: to coordinate rhythm, movement, and voice. The common rhythm (on 3) must absolutely be kept. Never accelerate and decelerate the exercise, just keep the common rhythm: 1–2–3. The exercise develops rhythmical skills, memory, and concentration.

Remember the names of the participants of the group. The one that makes a fault, leaves the circle.

  1. Touch your chest saying your own name. (one)
  2. Touch your tights or clap: say: ‘to’! (two)
  3. Send a movement with both hands and arms to a partner in the circle, calling him by his name: ‘Peter!’ (as an example.)

Then ‘Peter’ continues in rhythm, with the described movements: ‘Peter – to – Ylva!’

If you have problems, you do the movements and say: (rhythmically, on 3 beats always) Peter – is – Peter, Peter – is – Peter (maximally two times, then you must pass it on: ’Peter – to – Ylva’, and so forth.

Variation: If it is your turn, you may change your name by: (rhythmically) Ylva – turns – Susan, SusantoX…

Exercise 1.10: Passing and receiving[101]. The participants move freely in the space. An imaginary ball is passed around. From time to time, it is transformed into a medicine ball, a tennis ball, a rugby ball etc. The receiver adjusts.

Warm-ups and limbering-up exercises

The group stands in a circle or a row, or moving about freely. Rows, where everybody can see the instructor, are the most effective formation for the following exercises.

Exercises 1.11–1.24

Exercise 1.11: Running in small curves first, then in sharp angles.

Exercise 1.12: The group is moving through space in various ways. The instructor makes them walk, run, skip, hit their buttocks with their heels, walk with very big strides, with very small steps, jump with their legs together, forwards, backwards, sideways, walk on tiptoes, heels, knees, the insides or the outsides of their feet, deep in the knees, rolling backwards over one shoulder on the floor, rising together, and continuing forward running, etc. all on the orders of the instructor.

Exercise 1.13: Walking on four feet in a big circle, moving like tigers, elephants, bears, lizards, seals, kangaroos, worms, frogs, ducks, etc. (Good exercises for the spine!)

Exercise 1.14: The metro: Exercise in a defined space. The participants move freely at a sportive tempo, never touching and never stopping their activity.

Variation 1.15: Using the dimensions of the space: as in exercise 1.14. Moving ‘high up’ (adding jumps), in the middle, or low on the floor (on four feet, on the knees, lying down, etc.), never stopping, and always relating to others: climbing or jumping over a partner on the floor, creeping between somebody’s legs, etc.

Exercise 1.16: Same exercise as above: but the moving space is gradually reduced, and the participants move more slowly, never touching. On a sound from the instructor, there’s an explosion: all participants run quickly towards the closest wall[102].

Variation 1.17: Madman in the metro: Same exercise as 1.14, but a madman moves around, trying to touch or to catch people, while dancing around freely. The others must avoid him without getting hit, with their own movements and not letting themselves be disturbed.

Exercise 1.18: Squatting and jumping by putting hands on the floor into the cobra position, extending the body into the ‘banana position’ and jumping back into the squatting position. (Quick warm-up).

Exercise 1.19: Sun salutation (Surya namaskars).

  • Position 1: Stand upright, feet together, breathe freely, palms joined in front of the chest,
  • Position 2: Extend the arms over the head, at shoulder-breadth, and bend the back, inhale.
  • Position 3: Bend forward, touch the floor with both hands and exhale.
  • Position 4: Extend the right leg back, flex the toes, bend the left knee, inhale.
  • Position 5: Left leg back besides right, feet flexed, arms up, body in a straight line, hold breath.
  • Position 6: Bend arms, chest and forehead, knees touch the floor, pelvis high, exhale.
  • Position 7: Straighten arms and legs, raise the upper body back, lift the head (cobra), inhale.
  • Position 8: Thrust the pelvis up, extend arms and legs, heels down, exhale.
  • Position 9: Big step forward by right leg, left knee to the floor, chest forward, head up, inhale.
  • Position 10: Bend forward, head up, assume position 3 again (other leg!) exhale.
  • Position 11: Arms raised, palms together, repeat position 2, inhale.
  • Position 12: Back into position 1, exhale.

Start again with the other leg. The exercise is repeated 20 times. There are many variations.

Exercise 1.20: Skipping rope. (Both alone and with partner(s).)

  • Change foot for each jump.
  • Jump while advancing.
  • Each 3rd turn of the rope is a jump.
  • Four backward and four forward steps.
  • Cross the rope.
  • Swing the rope twice when the body is in the air, etc.

Exercise 1.21: Dismemberment pattern: Moving (up and down, right and left, rolling, etc.) successively different body parts, such as shoulders, elbows, knees, legs, hips, ankles, arms etc. according to the orders of the instructor, as in gymnastics. Or even better: giving each movement an aim (examples: the shoulders want to free themselves from the body. The pelvis is like a finger licking sugar from a bowl, etc.)

Exercise 1.22:[103] From a four-feet-turn to the bridge, in diagonal. Stand in a corner, 90 degrees into the diagonal, and down in four-feet position: Turn one arm, the upper body and the pelvis over into a bridge and turn thereafter over again to four-feet position. Push onto the shoulders and arms, and hold the pelvis high. Keep the angle to the diagonal and continue.

Exercise 1.23: Handstand-braid in diagonal. Same diagonal starting position as for the previous exercise. Go up into a handstand (at least one leg should go high, the other leg touches it shortly) and return, then turn the body 180 degrees, and go up into handstand again. The movements should be done in a flow, in the form of a braid.

Exercise 1.24: Nirvana jumps. Start in squatting position, head downwards (the egg position). Jump forwards with the help of the arms and up into the banana position, arms extended upwards and back, (look at the hands) and jump again into squatting position, without any intermediary movements (about 12–40 jumps).

By warming and limbering up, the transition to body education happens smoothly.