Body Music in silence. How a non-verbal approach can help to manage a group of children.

Sixty minutes of body music, singing, movement and body language. Not even a word, not a single interactions through language, all happened via non-verbal communication.

Two years ago I was in Italy, about to begin a body music event for primary school children. It was a one-off workshop so I met most of the children that day for the first time.

I didn’t plan to lead the workshop completely without speech but, before starting the session I observed the children’s behaviour and I’ve decided to try that approach.

Why?
Well, they were so excited to start the body music sessions with their friends that they were unstoppable! Speaking, laughing… making lots of noise!
I tried to introduce myself before entering in the room designated to the event but they couldn’t stop laughing and joking with each other. I asked them some few questions to open the communication and their listening but their interest at that moment was to speak between themselves.
I felt quite scared and powerless, not ready to start an event with twenty children that were not listening, in a space that it wasn’t mine, with their parents outside the room expecting their children to learn body percussion and have fun. How could I do that in a situation like this?

In that moment of stress and confusion, something came up to my mind: I needed to use a different way to communicate with them, to catch their attention, to surprise them and make them curious!

So, in a couple of seconds, I took the decision to continue without language, hoping that that idea would have work. Instead of trying to explain to them why they should have tried to calm down, I chose to use my most powerful “tool” to engage them: music!

I started tapping a rhythm on the wall and they all immediately stopped speaking to observe and listen to what I was doing. I continued the rhythm on the table, on the floor and eventually on the door of our room. That rhythm became our common way of communicating and exploring the new space. We entered slowly in the room, tapping the rhythm all together on the walls, playing a simple start-and-stop game, that I led through non-verbal communication.

They were so engaged and focused that eventually neither one of us felt the need to speak over the course of the session.

We did many body music activities and everything happened through imitation and improvisation. We had lots of fun, sometimes laughing because of the difficulty to understand each other without speaking (actually, that became a game itself!).

Choosing to rely just on non-verbal communication left much more space for music. Sounds and silence were the only elements to play with.

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