Part of the Coop: A look inside Solo Chicken Productions Groundwork workshops

“Just let your partner take you,” Darryl Tracy, instructor, told the half-blindfolded class. “Let their hand guide you through the length of the room. Feel your body shift with their movements.”

The physical theatre company Solo Chicken Productions started their amateur workshops Monday, Jan. 23. With an in-depth focus on physical theatre, the Groundwork series seemed like a good way to spend $10 and an evening off.

Each workshop is lead by different instructors, and touches on concepts like character personalization and impulse. The first class studied the art of movement, and was taught by renowned dance artist Tracy.

I knew the workshops grew from the production’s more experienced Coop Corps training program, but the director Lisa Anne Ross told me previous experience wasn’t needed.

This felt like a slight relief, because I never considered myself an actor. It was a great hobby in the past, even though I took the role of “Extra No. 4” sometimes, but it had been ages since I was on stage, and I never did it enough to consider it a talent. The St. Thomas Early English Society’s rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was the only theatre work I’ve done since high school.

The class felt intimate and surprisingly relaxed. The students ranged from experienced actors to more novice people. Most simply seemed excited to be there.

I’ve never been a dancer, nor do I have the co-ordination for it (picture a chameleon walking through an oil slick), but after starting with an hour of full-body stretches the choreography-heavy workshop seemed a lot more manageable.

The trick was to do what came naturally, and not worry about onlookers. Every person at the workshop is there for the same reason you are. Once you understand everybody’s there to learn, performing these exercises will feel a lot less intimidating. Ross reminded us our own willingness was most important, saying, “everybody’s going to be working at their own level.”

“We wanted to support emerging artists, because there are so many emerging artists here,” Ross said. “There are a few other professional opportunities [in Fredericton], but there’s not much.”

After all the choreography-style work and plenty of water breaks, fluid movement came easier than I thought possible. Between the new skills, new friends and new opportunities (one of the students introduced us to available dance classes), the Groundwork workshops were worth the Monday evening.

Other workshops in the series will take place Feb. 13 and Mar. 27 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre. Tickets are $15 for regular admission, $10 for students and the under-waged.