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  • JoAnna Mendl Shaw

The Folding Score

A creation process that creates a visible after image...

In November 2013, The Equus Projects was invited to teach a daylong session on Physical Listening and Strategic Decision-Making for mid-career Naval engineers at the Naval War College in Newport, RI. We were to work with a handpicked group of 25 engineers who made up the elite Strategic Studies Group (SSG) a think tank that convened for two years to brainstorm innovative new ideas.....Our eight hours with the SSG was the kind of information sharing and brainstorming we all dream about. Active, creative minds tackling interesting ideas.

One of my priorities was to introduce the notion of modulating weight, exploring a full range of movement quality possibilities, especially when exploring weight. I wanted the SSG folks to experience modulating from light weight to strong weight. In order to very directly access light weight, we worked with paper. Folding, manipulating, paper. Each duo received 5 note-sized pieces of white paper. First, we explored multiple spatial assemblages, placing flat paper in varied designs, noticing a partner’s choices, making small adjustments to borrow just one spatial element in a partner’s layout. Then we introduced a duet form in which alternating turns the duo created a collaborative design with verbal discussion.

The outcomes were surprising. While we had envisioned large spatial design of flat paper, these engineers folded, balanced, crumpled and piled the paper into small villages. The outcomes were delightful and excellent demonstration of our human capacity for collaboration with no verbal discussion.

Since November 2013, we have used The Folding Score in multiple situations: Composition classes, a convening of arts and literature faculty, as party entertainment, as an exercise for a Physical Listening curriculum in an elementary school, in 3rd and 4th grade classes in Chicago, as a post 2018 election healing process at Shenandoah University, at the Creative Problem Solving Institute’s 2017 and 2018 Annual conferences in Buffalo.

What is utterly compelling about The Folding Score is that the creation process is recorded in a visible after image. Invariably participants find the process evokes rich discussion about seeing the whole, sensing gestalt, cooperation (and sometimes non-cooperation), willingness to support an idea, desire to create change. The list of talking points is expansive.

Early in the score development, we began using color note paper, which made for an even clearer delineation of who contributed what to the final design. We always limit the number of note papers to 5 per person. Even with a total of ten, the process for any one duo has taken up to 30 minutes. One must be patient. The process encourages participants to wait for one another to decide and seems to inspire patience in a world that is so often anxious to get things DONE.

Photographing Folding Score outcomes since the very beginning of our investigations in 2013 has resulted in over 150 images, no two the same.

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