Therapeutic Clowning

The energy of going forward and stepping back is a concept used in therapeutic clowning.  When you’re clowning with people who have lifetime challenges, therapeutic clowning necessitates a way of “reading the energy” of the person and the energies in the room or surrounding area.  I studied aikido—a gentle Martial Art—in order to learn how to feel and connect with existing energies.

For instance, in hospitals you never just walk into a room.  The patient must be in control of his space at all times.  He has to basically invite you in.  A good way to start is to peek around the doorway, and when you’re seen, to draw back and start over—sort of like peek-a-boo.  If the patient wants to see you, he will start playing too, and in some way beckon you in.  When you enter the room, you bend your knees and make sure your head is lower than the patient’s—that his head is higher than yours.  AND you enter obliquely—zig-zagging—so you are NOT heading straight on into the patient.  It is very important that the patient be (and feel) in command of his environment and that you are the guest.  Keeping your head lower than his is essential.

Another clown and I went to a homeless women’s dinner program and did playful activities with them every other Sunday afternoon.  We did everything from balloon animals, to paper-clip necklaces and many crafts.  Around Christmas time some ladies made Christmas cards with rubber stamps and other techniques.  One lady sold her cards on the street and did quite well.

One of the most important skills I had was the ability of when to go forward or when to pull back.  If I would push forward too much, some women would get afraid and upset.  Others would coil back and we’d not see them participate for the rest of the afternoon.  It took connecting with the women, and knowing exactly how to balance with their energies, in order to have successful afternoons of fun.

[March 10, 2014]