Walk and Talk
Step 1. Practice Passes: Ask participants to position themselves along a wall facing into the room. Explain that you’ll be asking them to walk back and forth from their starting position across to the opposite wall; each one-way trip is called a “pass,” so a round trip back to their starting positions consists of two passes. Have the group practice just walking first, asking them to make two passes, one pass, etc., a few times. If you want to boost or channel the energy level of the group, ask them to vary their speed by walking slower or faster.
Step 2. Simple Prompt: Now explain that you’ll be asking the group to talk out loud while they walk in the back and forth pattern that they’ve established, in response to some suggestions, ideas, or prompts that you’ll be offering. The object is simply to keep talking out loud. Anyone who runs out of things to say can try filler like “I can’t think of anything to say,” until something occurs to them.
To get the group walking and talking, start with a simple prompt about something immediate. “Find an object in the room and describe it,” or “Describe what you’re wearing.” Simple ideas can be walked-and-talked in one or two passes.
Step 3. Respond, Refine, Save: After a few rounds of simple prompts, you can begin building to a more complex, evocative, or emotionally potent prompt. Such prompts can relate to the goals at hand: the theme of a workshop or choreographic project, current events, or common concerns of participants. Example of such prompts are: “Describe a time when you experienced an injustice.” “Talk about a memory of birth, death or first love.” “Describe a special place you used to go to as a child.”
When you arrive at this prompt, start by assigning participants to walk-and-talk their responses in four or five passes. Then ask them to repeat the same story or description, but state it in three passes, then in two passes. Finally allow participants only a single pass in which to speak the most essential version of their responses.
This final edit will be the basis for continued work applying other text and movement tools. To consolidate this product the minds of the participants, have them do one of the following with their edited statements: 1) Write it down. 2) Make additional passes to repeat it a few times; 3) Find a partner and take turns speaking the final statements.
Early in the exercise, the room will fill with the noise of talking. As it progresses, people become increasingly comfortable with projecting their voices. This makes Walk and Talk a good warmup for text-and-movement performance work.
Walk and Talk results in each participant crafting a concise text. Thus it is usually used as a preliminary to other text and movement tools, such as Equivalents, Detail, or Movement Metaphor, where the words resulting from the Walk and Talk exercise can be the basis of further exploration.
Warmup: Before introducing the exercise’s structured walking patterns and its task of talking out loud without a listener, you may want to have participants experience more familiar forms of walking and talking through the following activity. Demonstrating a moderate stroll, have participants walk freely about the space. At a signal, have them stop and pair up with someone standing nearby and share a piece of information with their partner: “Say your name and something your partner might not know about you,” or “Tell your partner what you had for breakfast this morning.” Repeat this a few times with new prompts, encouraging participants to explore the space and to find a new partner at each stop.
Variations: Walk and Talk can be infinitely varied, depending on the outcomes and applications you want to stress. A few options:
Vary dynamics and speed. Experiment with having participants talk louder or softer on different passes, or have them walk at different speeds. These variations afford a chance to play with performance quality. Moreover, some participants discover that different kinds of content emerge when they change these elements.
Change the walking pattern. Participants can walk free-form, exploring the space, walking and talking in response to prompts. On a signal they seek partners and offer a summary of what they’ve been saying or share one idea that emerged from their responses. This introduces an element of dialogue into the exercise by allowing participants to exchange ideas and hear what their fellows are working on.
Introduce a grid structure. Participants can think of the floor as a grid. They may walk in straight lines up and down and across the grid, changing directions by making 90 or 180 degree turns. The axis they choose on the grid dictates whether or not they talk, i.e., when walking left or right across the grid they must keep talking, when walking up or down, they must keep silent. They may choose to stand still and remain silent at points. To avoid walking into another person, a participant may need to change direction, which will dictate whether or not to talk. This structure makes the task more complex introduces a choreographic element as participants begin to relate to each other in space.
An artist working alone can adapt the structure of Walk and Talk to develop and refine text content for performance-quality dance, as well as for writing, theater, or public speaking.