UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Room to breathe : a retreat for educators Martens, Rachel Dionne


This written thesis presents reflections and analysis of my thesis performance, Room to Breathe: A Retreat for Educators. As both a contemporary theatre practitioner and an educator, my theoretical and practical cross-disciplinary research has culminated in the creation of this interdisciplinary theatre event. Simultaneously a workshop and a work of art, this three-hour evening experience takes place inside an immersive theatrical environment, an aesthetic context designed to facilitate embodied self-reflection. The interactive performance invites educators to consider how we can create more room to breathe within our bodies, within our schedules, and within our classrooms. Inspired by the transformative potential of theatre as a ritual, I directed a four-week interdisciplinary collaboration between myself and three performing artists (Melisa Hernandez, Lolu Oyedele, and Keith Wyatt), using fabric, lighting, sound, text, projections, dance, and music to generate a series of metaphors for educators to observe, and to participate in co-creating. Fueled by what the rhythm of the breath continues to teach me about teaching and learning, this aesthetic experience was designed to engage educators in a subtle praxis of attunement to the rhythm of the breath within the framework of the body and within the learning process. Each educator contributed her unique presence, perspective and way of making meaning to the collective. I facilitated a dialogical exploration of how the embodied experiences that unfolded throughout the evening might be translated into personal and professional practice. In conclusion, I propose that providing educators with an aesthetic experience of liminal space/time can transform body-based practices, metaphors, and conversations into gateways for experiencing mindfulness as an integrated lifestyle: an embodied way of seeing and being. Within this embodied experience, participants can access shifts in perspective, lines of inquiry, and poetic insight that would not be available in an educational context that focuses purely on cultivating intellectual understanding. Attunement to the rhythm of the breath can engender curiosity about, trust in, and surrender to intrinsic rhythm in curricular enactment, inviting educators to engage their whole being (body, mind and spirit) in the dynamic reciprocity of relationships, and in learning and teaching as ongoing spirals of transformation.

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