Our project idea in Kaunas was to collaborate with a youth day center to offer an AcroYoga course to the youth (usually from socially underprivileged contexts) and social workers who frequent the center. Through an acquaintance who works in one such open youth day center, we established a connection with an NGO which manages the day center, a “youth empowerment” center, and a volunteer network. We had a meeting with people from the different branches of the NGO and agreed to first offer a pilot class to whoever would be interested – youth, volunteers, or workers. We provided the organization with a description and a video of AY and the class that we were offering, and they spread the message through their inner networks, by Facebook, posters and live encouragement. Altogether, our invitation was supposed to have reached around 50-70 people. If the pilot class were to be successful, we were ready to offer a free 4-6 class course.
The first class happened on the 19th of September in a basement space of the NGOs main building. We had agreed to hold the class there because it had been argued by the social workers that the youth might be reluctant to travel to unfamiliar spaces (our Acro Kaunas studio) and their basement space was close to their day center and known to many. Also, they had a lot of camping mats on the premises, which we could use for the class. Two young male and one female social worker came to the first class and three of our teachers. The social worker sat through the class watching but the two men were quite enthusiastic and engaged in the process. We went through the basics of acro and the guys seemed to enjoy doing them with us as well as each other. We didn’t have any big problems during the process, besides some communication awkwardness coming from gender stereotyping. Overall, the class went fine but we were a bit disappointed with the low turnout. We suggested to the attendees that we can offer another class if they gather at least 6 people for it. No one contacted us in the following period and we decided to try doing a single class for a second time.
On the one hand, we didn’t feel like we had done enough to show on the project website. On the other hand, we thought that maybe word had gone around, the outdoor seasons has ended, and more people would be enthusiastic about joining the class. So we arranged a second class, under the same conditions, on the 21st of November. Again, three of us went to teach, and again, only three people came from the other side – one guy from the previous time, one female volunteer, and a social worker. The social worker joined us for warm-up but later sat watching. The class consisted mostly of variations of the basics from the first time. Both attendees were enthusiastic during the process and everything went fine, but they didn’t interact with each other (the guy did not feel that women were strong or competent enough to do acro with, though our teachers definitely demonstrated otherwise). We left with the same proposal that an acro course might still be doable if there was a significant demand, but not really expecting to receive it.
The volunteer came to a jam in our studio with a friend later that week though, which was nice. Overall, our experience with teaching acro in the context that we chose was a bit underwhelming due to low interest from the target group, but also perhaps encouraging in terms of future possibilities because the process of organizing turned out to be much more simple than we expected. We also found out the using the word “yoga” in the target group (troubled youth) can be alienating and it’s perhaps better to use the word “acrobatics”. Though both leave something to be wanted. Perhaps just calling it “fun sports” would sound most approachable.