Friday, April 18, 2014

Dispatches from Urban Acrobatics Chicago Day 2: The Workshops

Yesterday we held back to back workshops at Alternatives, Inc. The first, a tagging workshop, was led by Werm. After a run to home depot with some of his family to pick up materials for the temporary wall for the show, which involved a discussion of what CAB stands for "Chrome and Black," among many other titles, and putting up a Werm on the already heavily tagged lockers in Alternatives, he wrote out an alphabet in his hand written style with upper-case and lower-case letters.

Wall-to-be. Photo credit: Caitlin Bruce
With waves of five to six youth arriving every twenty minutes, he broke down tagging into six steps. "First, you have to write your name in legible letters, spaced apart." He walked around checking on youth's work, helping them space and increase the size of their letters. 
Attentive students. Alternatives, Inc. Photo Credit: Caitlin Bruce
"Next, you need to put an outline around them." "Like bubble letters?" a student asked. "It can be." He wrote WERM on the whiteboard in black marker. Some of the students picked up the form easily, writing large proud letters on their sheets of paper. Others had to go through several versions, first finding that when the letters are too small, they crowd together and an outline is not possible. After the outline stage Werm signaled the next step. "Now we make a three-d. You have to have short lines extend from the edges of the letters all in the same direction." 

Werm demonstrating making three dimensional letters. Alternatives, Inc. Photo Credit: Caitlin Bruce
This step was harder to follow, some students with colliding lines creating multiple planes of movement. He walked around explaining how the shadow must fall, and pointing to the board. The final step was to connect the edges of the three-d shadow. Finally, students were directed to choose a lighter color for the inside, and a darker outline for the outside. 
A tagged by one of the more advanced students. Alternatives, Inc. Photo Credit: Caitlin Bruce
Wrapping up, Werm demonstrated how one could draw an aura around the letter in the form of a cloud, shapes, shine, and so on. We concluded by describing the project to the students, and suggesting that in the circus exercises they should think about how they could integrate graffiti styles, or even the practice of painting. One of the more eager Circus students tried juggling paint cans, an object he had not juggled before.

Juggling paint cans. Photo credit: Caitlin Bruce
The tagging workshop was followed by some circus exercises, led by Polly. The first was a movement exercise where students were put in a circle and each had to imagine a movement that either positioned the body up in the air, a standing level, or low down. A movement level could not be repeated twice, so, for instance, if someone did a pose on the ground, the next pose had to be standing or up high. With eleven participants, the movements were repeated over and over to make, what one student described as a "weird dance," but a dance that was collectively written by the participants. Following the dance, the smaller group began working on making pyramids, and team-work exercise that requires clear communication and collective effort. "You can't just climb up on someone," Polly cautioned one of the smaller students who would be on the top of the pyramid, "You have to tell them, and make sure it's ok." 
Human Pyramid. Alternatives, Inc. Photo Credit: Caitlin Bruce
After directing the students into making a vase-like shape with one level of the human statue facing in one direction, and upper level facing the opposite way, Polly suggested that the students find their own shape that includes every participant. What resulted was an elevated bridge-like structure that visually mimicked the shape of Chicago's bridges and overpasses connecting both sides of the river, surfaces that are important targets for tagging.
Teamwork, to make two bridges. Alternatives, Inc. Photo credit: Caitlin Bruce

Today will begin the planning for Saturday's performance. We hope to see you soon!
Werm making his presence known at Alternatives. Photo credit: Caitlin Bruce

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