Conflict Resolution Dances

Farbentanz, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1930-32, Public Domain

Farbentanz, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1930-32, Public Domain

FairiesElves, and members of many Regional Tribes resolve some conflicts through dance. Typically, this is done when the conflict is between two individuals. Occasionally, it is done when groups of Folk are involved.

Conflict Resolution Dances are managed by judges. The judges do not decide winners or losers of a case. They do not even give guidance or make recommendations. Their function is entirely deciding how the dances are to be performed, through a series of phases. The first two phases are nearly always the same, but the judges decide how those coming after are done.

The dances are performed by the folk in conflict, dancing together. The specific conflict is not discussed. The folk do not operate with a goal of addressing their differences. The intention of the action is to cooperate in the creation of beautiful art. Anything that works against that goal is considered unwelcome.

The first phase of the dance is typically very slow, with all movements strictly choreographed and memorized by the dancers in advance. There is usually an absence of music, aside from very light, rhythmic clapping by observers. The dancers go through prepared movements, attempting to perform exactly the same movements at exactly the same time. Perfectly done, they will appear to be mirror images of each other in motion.

After they have gone through the initial phase of the dance, they begin a second, improvisational phase. Tonal music is played to support this, although it is performed rather quietly. One of the dancers begins by performing a dance of about ten seconds duration. After that, the dancers alternate very brief performances in which each spends about ten seconds copying as precisely as possible the improvisational dance the other has just performed, followed by a new improvisational dance of their own, also of ten seconds or so. Each dancer’s improvised dance is performed in a manner calculated to be well within the abilities of the other. Failure on the part of either performer reflects equally badly on both.

If it is thought advisable, the two opponents may dance simultaneously, providing improvised expressions of their views in the difference. This is done without words. Actions must be graceful. The goal is for both opponents to represent their positions with beauty, dignity, and respect. This phase of the dance is usually done to music with which both sides are familiar. Alternatively, it can be done to music that is entirely new to both dancers, by a performer who is purposely not influenced by the actions or feelings of either.

Another possible phase of the dance is to have the dancers each improvise longer dances more thoroughly expressing their feelings and views of the conflict. This is usually done by the dancers taking turns, though if it is possible, it is considered better for both to perform at the same time, observing and responding to each others’ actions.

In a phase of this type, those in conflict can get very emotionally expressive. They are not, however, allowed to make any sound or express anything specific in language. Since the Languages of Wee Folk are mostly telepathic, it is very important that the dancers project their feelings in a general way, not referring to specifics. This requires a good deal of skill and restraint on the parts of all parties. Failure is tolerated, but is also noted.

If it is necessary to continue, the various phases can be repeated. Judges are also free to make up simple rules for other types of performance. 

If the conflict involves groups of people, similar phases are used, in which the entire groups perform together. A dance in which all dance at once can resemble, or even actually be, contra dance.

Conflict Resolution Dances sometimes fail to resolve a conflict. In such a case, it can be taken up in some other way. Fairies often resolve conflicts by doing processions, for example. Conflict Resolution Dances are often a preferred remediation technique, however, as they can produce superior results. They can leave the opponents in a conflict with a sense of having succeeded in a cooperative effort, which is usually more desirable than what can be achieved by processions.

There are other types of conflict resolution that use performances by both sides in the conflict. Perhaps the most common are joint performances of music. I once witnessed such a performance without realizing that a conflict was being resolved. I am told there are also improvised storytelling sessions in which opponents alternate lines, attempting to lead to a unified work of literature, though I have never witnessed such a performance myself.

One thing I should also mention is that it is considered very bad form for observers to compare the work of the opposing sides in creative conflict resolution. The purpose of the resolution is not to declare a winner, or even to debate issues. It is to promote cooperation as a means to allowing participants to come to resolution amicably, on their own.

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