1 What is the dance of emotions?

The dance of emotions is a section of the “ESCAPE ERASMUS+” project and its general objective is to promote the development of Emotional Intelligence in educational contexts (in this case of prisoners and psychiatric internees) through theatrical pedagogy and dramatic play.

In the same way, it is expected that “The dance of emotions” will be addressed to the staff of the penitentiary centre of reference with a double objective: on the one hand, to experience the activities that will be carried out with the students to promote intrapersonal knowledge and, on the other, to promote the expression and understanding of emotions as a means to promote a good working climate through interpersonal involvement.

In all artistic perspectives, theatre has established itself as one of the most favourable trends for the development of emotional intelligence in educational contexts. First of all, because it is an integrative discipline; that is, it offers the possibility of combining other expressions such as image, music, movement, writing ... And, secondly, because it offers the possibility of working with participants in a global (Motos and Navarro, 2003) and transformative perspective, taking into account the personal and social sphere.

According to Mayer et al. (2000), emotional intelligence is “The ability to process emotional information accurately and efficiently, including the ability to perceive, assimilate, understand, and regulate emotions.” Following this model, according to García Castro and Palomera Martín (2012), the skills or competences of this area of development form an “ascending hierarchy”, from the most elementary psychological processes (emotional perception) to those of greater complexity (regulation of affective states). In this way, we can organize the components of emotional intelligence into emotional perception, emotional facilitation, emotional understanding, and emotional regulation or management skills. If we take into account that the theatre allows, in a given social context, the participant to develop a process of internal investigation in which he experiences specific situations and reflects on what he feels, happens or observes in himself, we are in the presence of an unparalleled opportunity to make a training process in theatrical techniques as a way to develop his emotional intelligence of the person. Or, in other words, we transform theatrical pedagogy into a functioning model according to the paradigm of emotional education.

There are numerous investigations that promote the theatre as a valuable teaching tool in educational contexts and in all evolutionary phases. Gil Olarte, Palomera and Brackett (2006), Lopes, Brackett, Nezlek and Schütz (2003) analyse the remarkable reduction of oppositional behaviours and the promotion of adaptive behaviour in social relations, in addition to learning and integrating coping strategies based on resilience (Fernández-Berrocal and Extremera, 2006; Gohm and Clore, 2002).

In the awareness that there is a subtle methodological difference between theatre or dramatization and dramatic play, in the work proposal that is developed in this manual, both perspectives are related taking into account another fundamental objective of this project - to understand the dramatic context as a generator of behaviours and actions, producer of close relationships between the participants (behaviours, actions and deep relationships between the participants) (Mantovani, 1996). The theatre naturally favours the emotional education of behaviours and actions because situations full of emotions are staged and others are evoked that the participants must assimilate and learn to manage. Through interactions, it deepens the development of the ego in context, offering the opportunity for each to continue learning from other participants through their own emotional idiosyncrasies.

In addition, there is a perspective that transcends “the social” and that, particularly in prison contexts, is of great importance: culture. Origin, identity and cultural characteristics are essential for the reintegration or improvement of the quality of life of many people in a situation of social isolation. Especially when there is a very significant component of cultural diversity. Recognizing, knowing, identifying and sharing the personal culture of origin is an indispensable factor for the recovery and integration of the individual into society. For all these reasons, and as Motos (2003) argues, theatre or dramatization also represent a “total” language.

In this methodological proposal, what was previously expressed in relation to the development of emotional intelligence assumes a very significant relevance since it transforms the viewer into a participant and, above all, because it proposes an absolute mastery on the part of those who share the session, staging and emotional learning (García Gómez and Vicente Hernando, 2019). All this opens up the possibility of transforming the reality of the participants through a dramatic game. In this sense, emotional education has a significant relevance, since this “staging or play” can be the object of an infinity of situations that allow to know and analyse all the emotional images that the individual puts into play in the collective representation, experiencing and learning. Theatre is an opportunity to “problematize” all perspectives that affect the emotional sphere. In other words, it is possible to learn from a feeling, an emotion, a perception, a thought ... through dialogue and staging, experiencing the transformation that happens for the benefit of the person and the community in which we live. It is an opportunity for people to be helped to express themselves, learn and change their reality, or at least to understand it through critical thinking.