When to use it?
This practice makes sense at the beginning of a process, to take advantage of the tension of not knowing each other. The intention is to activate a relational awareness and to make participants conscious of the continuous „positioning in relation to“ that we perform in our interactions. It can be experienced as an opportunity to say “no” and to be more tuned to subtle relational nuances.
How to do it?
In this practice, participants are asked to take positions in the room and in relation to each other. There is not an established sequence of turns. The group can start in a circle formation or whatever configuration it finds itself at the moment.
A participant will take a position in space. It can be standing, sitting, lying down, any position is possible. After the position was taken, the person should remain in the place. If the participant feels this position fits, the participant will say “yes”. If it doesn’t feel appropriate, s/he says “no” and tries another position. When there is a “yes”, another participant can join and find a position. Both should again say, “yes” or “no”. If both say “yes” a third participant can enter and take a position. At every round and again after each “no” and new configuration, all should state “yes” or “no” in order for the game to proceed. It might be that one person’s re-positioning affects the positions in the whole group.
The game ends when the whole group is “inside” and produces a group configuration, in which everybody says “yes”.
Variations & extensions
This practice can be combined with a round of introduction. When all are in and have said “yes”, participants will start to introduce themselves – for example with their names and how they are feeling right now. Usually, those introductions will produce a certain affective state – a movement – in the collective, which possibly causes that participants change positions again. When an encompassing “yes” is reached again, the introduction round may continue.
The words “fitting” and “appropriate” that have been used as the reference for the “yes”, might be extended into a more complex metaphor. In my workshops, I use the metaphor “to be in relationship, is to be in a tension of forces” (see sources section for references). Tension is not to be understood as stress, but neutrally and relationally. For example, the body’s-musculature needs a certain configuration and quantity of tension (tonus) to stand up. The light bulb and the electrical wires need to offer a certain tension (resistance) for energy to flow and produce light. The guitar player tenses up the chords (tunes up) to get the appropriate sound out of it. The german word Spannung reflects the neutral quality of tension more clearly: we talk of something being spannend (interesting, exciting); of feeling entspannt (relaxed); verspannt (with tense muscles); or gespannt (really looking forward to), etc.
So in this game of yes’ and no’s, what we are doing is being aware of the relational / spacial tensions (its tone). And we are consciously modulating them, finding ourselves tuned and out of tune, searching for the balance between the forces in play.
This method was shown to me by Phoebe Dahmen-Wassenberg, who has learned it from Britta Pudelko‘s classes at Tanzfabrik Berlin. The metaphor „relationship is tension“ I borrow from Soraya Jorge‘s “Authentic Movement” training. I also relate this metaphor to the philosopher John Dewey‘s notion of aesthetic experience – in which tension of forces and resistance are playing a fundamental role. The expression “positionings” in the title also reflects a basic principle of the “Modus Operandi AND”, a methodology and game by Fernanda Eugenio, which calls participants to position themselves with each other explicitly (regarding what the issue or affect is) and openly (without manipulating the other’s response).