© Piros Orr

Artistic Tools

In our experience through ClowNexus, people with dementia and autistic children can both enjoy art because it engages their senses, lets them express themselves without words, gives them a sense of structure and freedom, and helps them remember and share emotions. Art is a way for us all to connect and communicate.

Intention: Forge connections, sing together, provide a musical impulse. 

We start with a well-known and simple song upon our arrival. The familiarity of the music immediately invites the audience to join in.  

The song serves to establish connections and create an inviting atmosphere in the room.  

As we move around the room, we play with the volume of the music and our distance from the audience.  

During our playful interactions, we gradually decrease the volume of the music and leave the room, only to return after a while, resuming the same melody sequence. 

Develop the game of disappearing and reappearing step by step.  

Initially, allow the melody to disappear. Music acts as a strong impulse; residents can restart it at will.  

Initiating the melody anew imparts a sense of security, while reappearing adds an element of playfulness.

Intention: Activate and awaken the inner child, reduce tension between staff and older people.

We collaboratively create a game with the audience. After our arrival and establishing a presence in the space, our initial focus is on the ball itself.  

We introduce the ball through clown actions and propose a game with straightforward rules. 

Playing with balls serves as an excellent tool for building connections. This shared play activates energy and joy.  

When the rules are clear, we have the freedom to invent new ball games. 

Develop the game incrementally and maintain simplicity in the rules. This activity requires sensitivity and self-awareness in our movements.

Intention: Activate all the senses, encourage participation, and foster play. 

We initiate the experience with a newspaper, using it as a sensory tool to facilitate engagement.  

Together, we explore the newspaper’s potential, creating sounds and connections with the material. The object serves as a foundation for building connections.  

Playing with the object entails transitioning from its conventional use to creative exploration. 

 We discover ways to transform the object, using it to narrate stories through its various forms (e.g. using simple paper to represent wind, water, boats, rain, and more). 

Allow ample time for presenting the object. When transforming it, maintain clarity and simplicity, giving each step adequate duration for acceptance and enjoyment.

Intention: Establish connection, rhythmic impulse, involvement. 

We introduce rhythm as we enter the space, using it to be fully present and establish connections. Rhythm is our tool for crafting the atmosphere.  

Clowns harness emotions and translate them into physical movements guided by the rhythm. 

 We incorporate musical instruments and encourage the audience to join us in rhythmic play. We explore rhythm through our own body parts.  

When a strong connection is established and communal play ensues, we may incorporate the resident’s body parts, providing gentle sensory stimulation. 

This approach requires attentive sensitivity to perceive reactions and utilize them as impulses. 

Start with straightforward and gradually developing rhythms, avoiding excessive noise. Playing with body parts necessitates sensitivity and self-awareness.

Intention: Connect, engage, and empower, altering the atmosphere. 

Our initial impulse is our presence; we allow time for everyone to settle into the space.  

To initiate a connection, we call out each person’s name with a rhythmic and melodic touch. 

Singing one’s own name serves as a powerful catalyst and an invitation to establish a connection, often evoking deep emotions.  

We take our time to connect and observe reactions, gradually building the melody based on the responses we receive from the person whose name we are singing. Strong emotional reactions guide our improvisation, allowing us to play with music and transform the atmosphere freely. 

It is essential to be familiar with individuals’ names. Singing their names is akin to offering a gift and creating a profound connection, sometimes eliciting powerful emotional responses. 

Intention: Forge a connection, invoke nostalgia, stimulate the senses. 

We arrive with a basket and initiate a role-playing game of going to the market.  

The first step is to establish a connection; employing the basket piques interest and links to the topic. 

We invite the older people to participate in the play, simulating a trip to the market to buy vegetables.  

The market theme and role-play activity rekindle memories, emotions, and provide a sense of familiarity and competence.  

Throughout the play, participants can assume various roles, such as selling or buying. 

For sensory stimulation, real vegetables can be used. Be mindful of their reactions to actual vegetables, as some may not immediately recognise them.

Intention: Cultivate connections through play, evoke emotional memories, spark sensory responses. 

We enter the scene with a sound and voice impulse, mimicking the noises of a young kitten or puppy while introducing a partially concealed object.  

The hidden item is a plush kitten or puppy, and we suggest that we found it on the street. We engage in playful exchanges, imitating the animal sounds and encouraging the audience to interact by touching the small animal.  

As the play unfolds, the focus shifts towards the connection between the audience and the object of our play. We invite everyone to collaboratively name the little animal.  

While the scenario is built on fantasy, the interaction rekindles physical memories and emotions. 

Initiate play with sound, allowing it to set the stage for the context. Only introduce the object when the residents actively search for it. The sound and their reactions establish the connection; be patient to nurture it.

Intention: Forge connections, play collectively, engage in rhythm and movement impulses. 

Commencing with a robust presence, we establish a connection with the space and the audience.  

The rhythm of traditional hand-clapping games provides the initial impulse, capturing attention and evoking memories from childhood and parenthood.  

We integrate these rhythms into our movements, initiating subtle physical interactions. While engaging the elderly in traditional hand-clapping children’s games, we also co-create variations, embracing the joy of breaking the rules together. 

Repetition and structured movement sequences foster connections and shared play. Patience and clarity in executing sequences are vital. Allow ample time for reactions.

Intention: Validate a narrative and rekindle memories. 

The foundation of this activity is a deep connection.  

A resident shares a story, and we engage by expressing the emotions evoked by the narrative.  

Gradually, we enhance our expression, initially through gestures and facial expressions, and as the game unfolds, we incorporate more extensive movements and vocal sounds.  

These expressions create a powerful connection, and when executed skilfully, they help the resident recognise and relive the story or memory. 

Begin with uncomplicated signals. Maintain awareness of the connection throughout to avoid imitating.

Intention: Foster a connection, activate engagement, and discover shared play. 

The resident is seated with their hands visible. The activity begins by mirroring the resident’s hand movements, allowing time for their responses.  

As the resident’s hand moves, the clown follows suit.  

Based on the resident’s physical reactions, the interaction gradually incorporates more movement. 

Once the game’s dynamics are established, the clowns introduce suggestions for new movements. To enrich the shared play, voices and rhythmic movement are integrated. 

Initiate the activity with clear, simple, and deliberate movements to prevent confusion. 

Mirroring is a delicate activity that necessitates time and sensitivity to establish a connection. Expand the play only when a strong connection is felt.

Intention: connection, emotional memory calling 

Incorporating elements and characters from folk tales into our collective play provides a wonderful opportunity to awaken childhood memories. 

These tales also possess deeper significance, as they often contain archaic symbols and universal motifs that resonate on a profound level. 

Our approach starts by introducing a specific folk tale element, often initiated with the use of a relevant object, such as a storytelling prop. 

We initially establish a connection with the audience through clowning, creating a playful and engaging atmosphere. 

As the play evolves and the concept becomes clear, we transition with clown play to the roles of the folktale characters. 

Audiences have the option to actively participate in the play or enjoy it as part of the audience, so they can engage in a way that suits their preferences and comfort. 

A simple storyline is key, with the folk tale element serving as the impulse for our play. 

Props are used to represent different roles, and objects are employed to support the narrative consistently. This approach keeps the play enjoyable and coherent, emphasising the joy of playing together.

Intention: connection, repetition, nostalgia 

We arrive with music, with a well-known song from the past. 

This music serves as the initial invitation to join us, instantly capturing attention, tapping into emotional memories, and creating an immediate connection. 

To infuse the interaction with playfulness, we create simple and fun choreography for the audiences. 

The choreography centers around various body parts, each with its unique set of moves, involving hands, feet, the nose, and more. 

We warmly invite the audience to partake in these lively movements, creating a collective dancing activity filled with shared enjoyment.

Additionally, this approach serves as an effective tool for capturing and maintaining attention, helping to guide and focus the participants. 

Keep the choreography straightforward and easy to follow, with a focus on increasing the fun factor rather than complexity as we build up the activity. 

Give enough time for the audiences to join in and fully enjoy the movements.

Intention: connecting to nature, sensory stimulation 

We enter with a big, colourful umbrella. 

Our initial connection involves drawing attention to this colourful object, activating interest, and initiating the topic of rain. 

To build our play, we start by creating the soothing sounds of nature, including the gentle rustle of the wind and the patter of raindrops. 

We incorporate soft rhythm instruments to enhance the experience. 

Gradually, we open the spacious umbrella and extend an invitation to the audience to come underneath it. 

Beneath the unbrella, we listen to the sounds of the rain, creating them by gently tapping our fingers on the umbrella’s surface. 

Based on the reactions we observe, the clowns respond with emotions and impulses that resonate with the audience’s engagement, fostering a shared and immersive experience.

This activity is best suited for individual or very small group interactions.  

The sound of the rain awakens an emotional memory, which can be a very intimate and sensitive action. 

We remain acutely sensitive and aware of the reactions this evokes, ensuring that our play maintains a soft and intimate quality, preserving the emotional connection with the audience.

Intention: calling back memories through well-known activities, sensory impulse, group connection 

The proposal is a game involving a familiar activity: washing clothes. 

This activity uses scarves for sensory benefits, allowing for hand-washing movements, the graceful motion of scarves during drying, and the fresh smell of the flying fabric. 

Our entrance involves scarves placed in a large washbasin, and we invite the audience to participate in this washing activity. 

This physical engagement quickly activates the memories of the audience and connects them to the theme. 

Rhythm and singing are incorporated into the play, fostering a sense of group connection as everyone participates in the shared experience. 

To enhance the fun, a long drying rope and clothespins are introduced, and both relatives and staff members become part of the play, helping the older people hang the scarves on the line. 

This collective effort brings forth the fresh, floral scent of clean clothes, enriching the sensory dimension of the activity.

Involving both relatives and staff in the game is a great idea. Everyone can play together, and we can even incorporate different types of clothes to make the activity more enjoyable and engaging for everyone.

Intention: creating a sensation of travelling, recalling memories, activating imagination 

The invitation is to travel together and the central theme is storytelling, accompanied by the creation of a train-like atmosphere. 

Starting with the suggestion of sounds and voices reminiscent of a busy train station, the journey begins by moving through the audience as if there’s a rush to catch the train. 

This initial phase offers opportunities for connection and establishing engagement. 

Through the use of music and carefully crafted sounds, we transport ourselves to the bustling train station, setting the stage for our collective adventure. 

Before embarking, we ensure that everyone has joined us, thereby stirring memories and prompting imaginative play. 

Upon reaching our seaside destination, a multitude of possibilities emerges, enriched by sensory elements such as blue fabric, the gentle sounds of water, and the tactile sensation of temperature. 

These elements add depth to our play.

As our journey concludes, we make the return trip by train, mirroring the initial game, creating a coherent framework for our entire encounter. 

Throughout, we maintain a keen awareness of sound and movement to prevent overwhelming sensory stimulation. 

We prioritise simplicity in our communication, ensuring clarity in each part of the journey.

Intention: empower, transfer emotions 

The game aims to create positive feelings using poetry and imagination.

We start by noticing something beautiful about an elderly person and express it poetically, comparing them to lovely things like stars or rivers. 

We continue by describing the beauty in more detail through storytelling and body language, making the ordinary seem extraordinary. 

This makes the person feel appreciated and happy, and we carry this positive energy forward as we dive deeper into the imaginative world we’ve created.

Keep the poetic images clear and simple, avoiding complexity, stay with images and avoid abstractions.  

Aways approach this with genuine intentions, never pretending. The goal is to authentically celebrate the beauty in each person.

Intention: changing the atmosphere, making residents feel beautiful, recalling memories 

Clowns introduce an activity by bringing in vintage objects to decorate and transform the space, evoking a nostalgic retro party atmosphere. 

These objects, such as a knitted tablecloths, a vintage vinyl record player, jewellery, and scarves, serve as a bridge to the past, triggering cherished memories and setting the stage for a joyous celebration. 

Residents are warmly invited to participate and have fun together. We engage them by helping them dress up in costume, and involve them in the process of selecting old songs, creating a sense of collective ownership and contribution.

The creation of the party atmosphere unfolds gradually, step by step, to prevent overwhelming residents with sensory stimuli. 

As this activity can evoke strong emotions and memories, be sure to provide enough space for residents to experience and live their feelings freely. 

Creating the party, listening to music and dancing together raises the energy and brings joy.  

Intention: creating familiarity, creating group connection.

We begin our interaction from the room’s entrance by saying hello and calling everyone by their name. 

The act of speaking your own name serves as  an invitation for connection. 

Playing with the sounds of saying hello awakens interest and creates joy. We make it fun by playing with different ways of saying hello and paying attention to how people react.

As the game progresses, we add more physical movements and play with the distance between us and the audience, getting closer or moving farther away based on their reactions. 

It’s important to know everyone’s names for this to work. 

We usually begin with waving hands, doing it slowly and clearly to communicate our message. The game evolves based on the audience’s response – if they react positively, we make it more exciting, and if there’s a negative reaction, we tone it down.