3rd – 9th July 2023
by Eva Leick
The 7th course of the Khaita Educational Program took place in Samdrubling in Vienna, Austria, from 3rd – 9th July 2023. It marked the beginning of the final year in the three-year training program for new Khaita instructors and experts led by Adriana Dal Borgo, with two more courses to be completed within the next year.
We gathered on Monday for our first session in the spacious and well-equipped gönpa of Samdrubling with several participants joining online – the hybrid method we have all become used to by now. It was a heartfelt reunion since our last course in Phendeling, Czech Republic, in April. The past two years of dancing, learning, reflecting and enjoying together have built a true sense of team spirit, trust and mutual support amongst the group and we were excited for another intense week ahead.
Adriana opened the course by giving space for participants to share about their recent projects connected to Khaita. Many activities had happened, from regular classes resulting in a performance by primary school children in the Czech Republic, a show organized by dedicated Khaita dancers for Ringu Tulku Rinpoche in the UK, the assistance of teaching a Khaita course in Dzamling Gar, to the completion of a dissertation on Khaita in the discipline of Dance Studies. We were inspired and motivated to see the realization of so many different Khaita projects in various countries. We also understood that we are and will be responsible for engaging in Khaita-related activities in the future to spread Rinpoche’s precious teachings in a collaborative way.
The week in Samdrubling was all about teaching. Not only did we speak about what it means to be a Khaita instructor, which responsibilities the role entails and how it is necessary to connect with the state of Guruyoga when showing, explaining and practicing dances, but we also concretely prepared for a teaching scenario: On Saturday and Sunday, Samdrubling hosted an open Khaita weekend workshop led by us. This meant that we had to pick several dances and materials to include in the workshop. This is not an easy task at all given that there are around 400 songs to choose from and a wide range of important information to select! The preparation of the material was further challenging because we did not know to which extent, or whether at all, the course participants would have had previous exposure to Khaita. In addition to that, we had to communicate clearly amongst our group: Who is going to explain which dance? At which point of the session? For how many minutes? In which way? How are the other experts supposed to react when questions or other difficulties arise? Who is going to keep an eye on the time? How are we going to introduce the theoretical background of Khaita and its creation process? What happens if something goes ‘wrong’? Many questions that we discussed and prepared well in advance, under the experienced guidance of Adriana who always reminded us to stay calm and work with the circumstances.
The weekend workshop proved to be a fantastic, new and slightly stressful experience. On Saturday, thirteen people, both from inside and outside the International Dzogchen Community, came to learn Khaita with us. We managed to study six dances, with which we introduced the basic and lateral steps with several arm variations and also included aspects of formation such as moving in two circles and meeting each other while dancing. We also sang some songs to expose the participants to the Tibetan sounds and meanings and invited them to “enter in the melody”, as Adriana points out so frequently.
We received great feedback on Sunday from the new Khaita enthusiasts about our teaching skills and how we managed to evoke joy through the dances. Even though the task of teaching with so many co-instructors was a bit peculiar, we were very happy on Sunday and proud of how we managed to teach as a harmonized group, giving space to each expert to take on the instructor’s role in their individual way bringing forth their own personality.
Bringing forth one’s own personality and developing individual strengths while teaching was also the main focus of our intense work with Gianfranco Brero who joined us online from Peru for four afternoons. Gianfranco is a communication expert and actor who had been entrusted by Rinpoche to develop the communication skills of IDC instructors. He fascinated us right from the beginning with his presentation on aspects contributing to successful communication, both onsite and online. His clear and focused way of speaking was the perfect example. Not only is Gianfranco very knowledgeable and experienced but he also showed incredible patience and compassion when working with us.
Individually, we presented small teaching sequences in front of his watchful eyes and received feedback. While it was challenging at first to be put in the spotlight in this way, we all improved our speaking and teaching skills immensely during these four days. It was interesting to observe oneself and one’s colleagues becoming more and more confident with each try. One example that we all took from Gianfranco’s suggestions for teaching Khaita is the “sacred moment” of explaining a dance. This means that you show the movements in a perfect way without using words, before describing it. In this way, students receive and appreciate the full impression of the steps without getting flooded by information.
All in all, our Khaita week in Samdrubling was eventful and exciting. Teaching the weekend workshop was a success. We will continue developing our teaching and speaking skills in the following two courses of the Khaita Educational Program, giving ourselves time to practice and internalize a lot of new information. The week dedicated to Khaita further ‘activated’ the Khaita scene in Vienna, with regular practice sessions happening as a result of the collective energy.