Posted by jlubans on January 19, 2016

Caption: Not your usual display of expert juggling

One of my former students told me about the Gandini juggling troupe. She saw their one-hour show, “Smashed!”, in Riga’s Vermanes Garden and wondered – in spite of a stage full of shattered crockery, upended chairs and dozens of squashed red apples -if what they did was not about teamwork, an upside down version, of followership gone monumentally awry?
The show offers up ubiquitous symbols of the “office”, the workplace – the suits, casual Friday sweaters and dresses; the precisely aligned nine armless chairs, along with the geometric precision of the apples distributed over the floor, and the ritual of an afternoon workplace tea break.
In class, I’ve will use two segments (tableaux vivants) from an hour long video to demonstrate and to discuss aspects of un-teamwork, of failed teamwork. (Here is a 4.5-minute condensation for a quick glimpse of the Gandini jugglers.)

Caption: In pursuit of failure.
One of the segments I’ll be using is of a disruptive worker who, with a paper baton, does all he can to disrupt the eight apple jugglers, literally getting in their faces and slapping them with the baton. A persistent pest – an alienated follower or incompetent jerk or even an envious boss - his one ambition is to make everyone fail, to screw up the organization. He succeeds, but there is some payback. At the end, the group spurns him and won’t give him a seat back in the “office” area of nine chairs.

Caption: Entropy happens.
Another segment, near the finale, is called “Drop It!” The most destructive, it flips the envious individual vs. the group to a group hell-bent in opposition to individual success, willing and wanting to destroy the organization lest anyone succeed. Each juggler in turn is derisively shouted down or otherwise discombobulated so their juggle fails, apples crashing all over. At the “Drop It” conclusion, the group’s entropy - it’s falling apart - is manifest in dozens of apples littering the floor amidst smashed teacups, saucers, and teapots.
The finale restores some order as the troupe gingerly steps through the debris, demonstrating it’s earlier insouciance, expertly juggling apples to the sound of the bistro-ish, “I always wanted to waltz in Berlin….”
I plan on having my students in the upcoming fifth (!) iteration of The Democratic Workplace at the University of Latvia do some juggling either before or after the Gandini discussion. The “Balloon Juggle”, it will challenge the group to juggle an increasing number of balloons (a growing workload introduced by an unsympathetic boss) to keep afloat as many balloons as they, the team, decide they can, to sort them by color, etc. They’ll get to define what their success will look like. We’ll see if they improve on the Gandinins.
Caption: Back in synch.

© Copyright John Lubans 2016

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