This year my autumn term started with flying colors, or should I rather say with dancing steps at Mustio Manor, where Dancing English Teacher had been invited to give a kinesthetic workshop to Finnish business professionals from various fields of expertise. The Finnish name for Mustion linna is actually even more grand as the word “linna” stands for chateau. Take a perfect August day with cliché-blue skies and a classical Palladian garden and you will have the perfect mix for a movement-based team building workshop. Upon my arrival at Chateau Mustio, I was first greeted by a sculpture portraying the antique goddess Diana. I took this as a promising sign as I recently had learnt that Queen Kristina of Sweden (1626-1689) had been fond of the art of ballet and even performed in the role of Diana. The setting soon turned out to be even more promising when I met my group of business people and they announced that they had stayed long enough indoors and were longing to get out into the sunshine to explore the splendid premises.
For once I had enough space to move about – acres of green lawns specked with occasional ponds, pavilions and fine art. This was as close to Jane Austin and British noble estate as you can get in Finland, you could even expect Mr. Darcy to materialize at any moment from behind the oak trees. Yet, even more inspiring than all this finery, were my students for that one afternoon. Over the years I have thought a lot about the concept of Homo Ludens, the playing human often mentioned by Professor of Educational Psychology, Kirsti Lonka. Additionally, it should be noted that the human being is very much Homo Mobilis, a moving being – there is an intrinsic need to move. As goes for Mustio Manor, it was not at all difficult to get the group of business professionals to explore the world through movement, both individually and in groups. We even managed to put together a choreography involving everybody as well as living sculptures in smaller group with the classical garden serving as pastoral stage setting. So for three hours we mainly danced and rediscovered the joy of darting into space and exploring the world through all senses.
As a matter of fact, I had prepared a 3-hour theory lecture on the body in communication – just in case. However, people did not wish to stay indoors for too long and hear me talk about the benefits of movement, they wanted to get out to dance, to move and to walk precariously on a rickety bridge to contemplate the beauty of the famous pink water lilies of Mustion Manor. They wanted to feel the benefits of movement in their bones and muscles. Once again I ask myself, why is there so much Logos in our education, all the way from primary level to adult training? Why are there so many unnecessary words at the expense of other means of communication? Why don’t we leave more space to the imagination? Luckily there are other educationalists asking the same question. I recently published an article “Beam Me Up for Business: Porvoo Campus Playground” in Creative Acadmic Magazine, UK, in a special issue on “exploring play in higher education”. So I don’t feel alone anymore with my questions, quite the contrary, nowadays I get lots of positive response for my work with kinesthetic learning when I meet people outside my daily context.
At Mustio Manor I had the privilege of having an observer present during the entire workshop, my hostess for the day, who has shared her insights in her Haaga-Helia teacher training blog, kindly letting me to share it here. Thank you for being brave enough to invite me! It was a true joy to take Dancing English teacher outside my usual context – I could even say that Homo Mobilis was here. Don’t worry, I did not leave such a tag on the pedestal of that goddess Diana sculpture. It is just imprinted in my kinesthetic memory, my skin still remembering the perfect summer day in late August.