Movement Workshops

Clark Elementary After School workshop participants

During Phase One, a series of movement workshops engaged community organizations, covering a range of demographics and relationships within the project area. As an intentional strategy, the project team sought out partner organizations with existing programming and involvement within the project area. The projects asks: What further complexities might be revealed if we consider a site based on its visible shared natural resources and topography verses its imaginary geopolitical lines? What if we were to expand the first phase of Lawrence Halprin’s Take Part workshops to include more participants and their personal responses to the natural and built environment? What if we amplified the influence and effectiveness of Anna Halprin’s movement-based practices when moving through the landscape? What would it require to take on Alison Hirsch’s call for “reaching a larger public” and allowing the process to be “more open to unexpected input”?

To address some of these question the project team designed and facilitated alternative ways, applicable to a range of demographics, to “see,” experience, and analyze the Pollock’s Branch watershed. Through embodied forms of analysis that prioritize the human scale—including movement within the landscape and guided sensorial experiences—the workshops invited participants to investigate the complexities of the watershed as it is lived and felt by the residents. Through four phases—tuning, noticing, conversing, sharing—participants were encouraged to use the body as the primary investigator to collect their personal experiential shifts throughout the landscape. Ultimately, the project’s interdisciplinary process was to re-envision and reinvigorate Halprin’s Take Part participatory design process.

The project team worked with the UVA Scholars’ Lab geospatial specialist to utilize a smartphone application—Esri’s Collector app that was used by workshop participants to record their responses to the project area landscape. Collector is an excellent mapping application that can be downloaded onto smartphones to collect data in the field. Collector works seamlessly with ArcGIS mapping data. Photographs and videos taken with the smartphone can be geo-referenced to the ArcGIS mapping. The geo-referenced data collected through the smartphone app facilitated the locating and mapping of participant responses to the environment.



Clark Elementary After School workshop

The workshops began with attunement exercises to expand participants’ perceptual awareness of self, other, and environment. This tuning phase borrows from several contemporary dance practices including those of Jennifer Monson and Barbara Dilley.

Noticing (Figure 5.2 & 5.5)

Walkable Watershed workshop

Then, with heightened senses, participants were invited to rediscover the assigned site during a guided silent walk that emphasizes embodied noticing. By encouraging observation through sight, sound, smell, and proprioception simultaneously, embodied noticing attempts to keep participants in a present state a mind, opposed to thinking into the future about what they would change about the landscape.


Clark Elementary After School workshop

During the third phase, conversing, participants were welcomed to converse with the natural and built environment via a series of open ended prompts that personify the sites: How would the site introduce itself? Do you have a question for the site? Tell the site how it makes you feel. The personification of the site within the prompts attempts to reiterate the direct connection between the body, the site, and the individual’s response as well as continue the practice of remaining in the present opposed to considering future design.


Mary William's Senior Center workshop

The reflections that emerged were documented via the participants’ own handwriting on dry erase boards. Portraits of the participants in the environment with their thoughts were then taken using the Collector app. The Collector application enabled each portrait to be geotagged and essentially to become part of the map. See the screen shots of the Collector app below for more information on how the Collector app works.


The responses provided by workshop participants were downloaded from the Collector app and cataloged, analyzed, and sorted. The review of the participant responses resulted in identification of several topical themes. The locations of each photograph were tagged based on the thematic content of each response. This allowed the project team to integrate this categorized data into the teams’ Digital Atlas.

These interpretive forms of analysis become the project’s crowd-sourced data that is presented as documented by participants in the Digital Atlas. This data was also used by the project team to gain new insights into the character and values of the watershed. This analysis extended beyond traditional cartography and informed a series of maps grounded in cultural landscape theory. The fusion of public movement workshops, participant documentation, and narrative mapping transformed the project team’s understanding of the vital relationship between humans and public space.

You may download the booklet used to guide workshop participants here

Partner organizations include:

Clark Elementary School After School Program
A four-session workshop designed for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders that live in the Ridge, Garrett, and Belmont neighborhoods. Focus Area: the neighborhood areas between Downtown Belmont and the Garrett Street neighborhood 
Jefferson Board for Aging (JABA) Mary Williams Senior Center Weekly Activities Program
A three-session workshop designed for the member-based senior community housed within the Jefferson School City Center. 
Focus Area: the Ridge Street and Old Ridge Street corridors
Walkable Watershed
An open workshop that was part of a larger daylong public event hosted by Walkable Watershed for residents that surround the recently constructed Pollock’s Branch Trail.
 Focus area: the new trail corridor along Pollock’s Branch from Elliot Avenue to Moore’s Creek
HackCville Arts Workshop Series
A workshop for the UVA member-based organization that offers free programming for students interested in innovative entrepreneurship. Focus Area: the 2nd Street, SE, corridor from Historic Court Square to the Ix property