Shoulder-to-Shoulder

Going finger-to-finger and sharing stories
about wanting more support. 
Here's an example of one of the many games developed by Augusto Boal that has been added onto and changed by many of us practicing Theatre of the Oppressed.  Shoulder-to-Shoulder is an ice-breaker that deals with our sense of touch as well as the issues of comfort that come up around touch.  In our Rehearsing Our Work session held in August of 2013, JD Stokely (who received our 2012 scholarship) led a version of Shoulder-to-Shoulder that expands this game into personal storytelling.

While Walking:

As people walk around the space, the facilitator calls out, "Shoulder-to-shoulder!" at which point everyone pairs up and continues to walk, leaning their shoulder against their partner's shoulder.  Facilitator can call out, "Switch partners!" and everyone transitions to leaning their opposite shoulder into a new partner's shoulder while continuing to walk around the space.  This can be further mixed up by calling out other body parts—head-to-head, back-to-back, toe-to-toe, and so on, with people switching which body parts make contact as they continue to navigate the space with one or more other people.

Many Parts At Once:

For this version, participants stop walking when the facilitator calls out strings of juxtapositions to all be done at once—shoulder-to-shoulder and knee-to-knee and thumb-to-thumb.  Once that's gotten awkward enough, facilitator says "Release!" and people continue to move about the space until a new series is called out.

These pairings don't need to be symmetrical.  Things like elbow-to-hand and ear-to-shoulder are valid calls.  In general, always move from the simpler and more familiar, to the stranger and more complex.

Storytelling:

When the facilitator calls "Shoulder-to-shoulder," people pair up and stop walking.  Then facilitator says, "Now, share a story about your shoulder with your partner."  It's a good idea to choose body parts that are not too intimate as the stories themselves are often intimate.  A great one that Stokely gave us was "scar-to-scar" which resulted in a wide variety of combinations!

What the Game is Good For:

A great game both for people who already work together and for those just getting to know each other, Shoulder-to-Shoulder gets people moving and connected with each other.  Gauge your group's comfort level: trained dancers or actors might be more accustomed to less conventional exchanges of touch, while others may have their comfort zones stretched to a place that feels unsafe.  If a group if full of people who have difficulty being touched, the "safe zone" above the bicep has a lot of options—elbow, forearm, palm, back of hand and individual fingers are all areas where most people are accustomed to sharing touch (though wrists can be triggering for some).  Parts of the foot are good too, provided that folks are wearing shoes.  If people are comfortable with this and are having fun, things like shoulders, backs, ears and heads can be added.  Adding storytelling can put the game into context and further break the ice, loosening people up to talk to each other, knowing that we all have experiences and histories with our bodies.

2 comments:

  1. very cool. I have used shoulder as a cooperative game for young people. A nice twist!

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  2. Yep! It's great a great game for kids of all ages!

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