Does History Matter?

If I am training myself or undergoing training, does the history that underpins the exercises that I do matter to me or have any meaningful impact on the efficacy of the training? Training typically takes place ‘in the moment’ and the immediate experience of the exercises is often what seems to matter the most. But what about the background to those exercises, their provenance and ‘heritage’? Can exercises come with baggage – either ideological, gendered, colonial or otherwise? And if so, how do we as trainers and trainees address that baggage and deal with it?

One thought on “Does History Matter?

  1. I think the history of an exercise does indeed tell us much about what that particular training method is trying to achieve. An awareness of the genealogy of an exercise will inform us of the assumptions that lie behind a particular practice. Those assumptions will be answering questions like ‘what kind of performer are we aiming at?’ ‘which values or abilities or focus do we regard as desirable?’ Any one exercise will be constructed in order to produce a particular outcome. The choice of outcome will be determined by those assumptions, which in turn will most likely be understood as emerging from the historical and cultural context within which they are conceived. With that in mind, I think the question of the efficacy of the exercise is extremely important. An exercise conceived in one historical moment, within a set of assumptions about how performers function which held sway at that time, will not necessarily be effective in the same way in another, later, moment, when those beliefs have been challenged. In my particular field of research and practice, clown training, it is precisely the inefficiency of exercises evolved from notions of an inner self, typical of the post-Second World War decades, which points us towards a need to re-examine all training genealogies.

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