Danish Acroyoga Festival 2019: A review in pictures
Here we share and show what made the 1st Annual Danish Acroyoga Festival a huge success and what makes movement festivals successful in general.
From 16-20 July 2019, the 1st Annual Danish Acroyoga Festival, organized by the ever-calm and super cool Emil Ingemann Berg Nielsen, took over the Ingeborg "cabin" in central Sjaelland, Denmark. When I heard that we would be staying in a cabin, I pictured a rustic, wooden structure surrounded by trees and inhabited by crawlers and critters. But this cabin is a beautiful modern Scandinavian venue, more like a hostel, with camp ground, dorm space, private bunk rooms, light-filled common meeting spaces, a modern industrial kitchen, and cozy nooks and crannies, like a small fire place room, a bean bag chair loft and a balcony. (I believe it is run by a Boys and Girls club...? Check the link above for more details on the space.) It housed the 80 or so participants of the festival so that it felt cozy and intimate without us being on top of each other. There is some evidence of its primary use for kids' getaways, like miniature picnic tables, indoor spaces that are only accessible via ladders, and an outdoor climbing wall, which only adds to the playful vibe of the place.
The views from the back half of the building are of the beautiful Roskilde Fjord, which is accessible from a stone staircase. The water wasn't super deep, maybe knee high, but enough to wash away the heat, sweat, and dirt we accumulated rolling around in the open-air movement spaces.
Workshops were held in one of five different locations depending on number of participants and space requirements, but mainly due to where we could find shade, since it was a perfect sunny and very warm week! We ended up in the open air tent for most workshops, with puzzle mats under foot, a shady tent above, no walls and the fresh air rolling in off of the fjord, and soft grass all around for us to spill out onto when it became crowded.
Workshops settings were perfect for us. We could park baby Moose close by, either on his blanket with some toys, or in his pram for a nap. While we enjoyed plenty of acro, he stocked up on fresh air.
Obviously, the content must be good for the festival to have a chance of being successful and the content at this year's festival was fabulous with a high standard of quality teaching and a variety of styles and specialties. Workshops were lengthy - usually around 2.5 hours. Breaks were long, too, which made the long workshops very manageable and gave our bodies and brains time to recharge, as well as time to really get to know the other participants. Pop-up workshops and a slack-line park gave those super humans who don't need breaks a chance to keep going throughout the day. And, of course, the fjord was always available for a dip.
At each workshop time slot there were three options: Open Level, Intermediate, and Advanced. Leveling at festivals and conventions is always a bit tricky since each acro community has its own standards. We met several people this week who were very new to acroyoga, and the open-level workshops were perfect to allow them access and introduce them to the principles of acro. The intermediate workshops covered a lot of ground, from whips and pops to brain-busting rotational flows.
Advanced workshops presented, among other themes, Hand-to-Hand progressions and hands-free L-basing. A unique offering for the advanced practitioners was the "Inspire and Challenge" time where participants brought and workshopped their own ideas in a guided jam. They seemed to spend some time in group poses and machines. For some practitioners who consider themselves "Advanced" or "Professional," the highest level here may not have been very challenging. But for the majority of practitioners in the acroyoga world, including us, the intermediate and advanced workshops were challenging while accessible led by supportive and encouraging teachers.
One thing we really liked about the structure of the workshops was the teaser. The whole group gathered before each workshop time and teachers introduced themselves, gave a short demo, and showed the pre-reqs, which really helped participants make accurate self-assessments when choosing a workshop to take. Bigger festivals don't have this luxury and its one more thing we loved about this intimate and cozy festival.
What made this festival unique?
Two words: Summer Hygge.
A specialty of Danish culture is the idea of hygge, which can be described as a feeling of coziness, togetherness, belonging, safety, and tradition. The Danish Acroyoga Festival abounded with hygge in the form of songs, meals, chores, swimming and saunagus.
Community sing-a-longs accompanied every whole group gathering, like the opening and closing ceremonies, meal times, and morning warm up. An impromptu band was organized and song books were passed around so that we could enjoy some uplifting tunes together several times each day. What is it about singing together that makes people instant friends?
Delicious vegan meals were provided three times each day and snacks were also brought around during workshops and in the evening free-time. It was super relaxing to know that wholesome, healthful, and plentiful food would be provided. No meal-planning to bog down our brains, which were still full of washing machine choreography, and no clean up to delay nap time! UNLESS we had dishwashing for a chore! It may sound super UN-hyggeligt to show up for a retreat and find out everyone has been assigned a chore! But most people seemed to be enjoying their chores as it gave us time to work alongside some new faces. Dishwashing can be fun when you are also learning someone's life story. And those lucky people who had meal prep for a chore got to witness our chefs in action, creating some awesome salads, spreads, and soups! We would love for this festival to come with a song book and a recipe book.
The perfect follow-up to a long day of movement and a refreshing dip in the cool water of the fjord is the Scandi tradition of saunagus. In a saunagus session, essential oils are added to the steam of the sauna and then guided around the space by the saunagus master. Waves of intense aromatherapy take receivers through a relaxing and restorative experience. The portable suana, borrowed from the nice folks at Rort in Copenhagen, became a popular place to spend evening free time. Doesn't some wild water swimming and steamy aromatherapy sound just about as hyggeligt as it gets?!
If you haven't already picked up on the vibe, it was all about community this week. The smaller size of the festival, the cozy space, and the extras like shared meals and singing all contributed to a community-building experience, but there was also a very intentional attempt made by the organizers and instructors in the form of Tribes.
At the opening ceremony on the first night of the festival we divided into tribes: groups of 6 - 10 people who didn't already know each other. We spent some time discussing goals and fears and setting intentions. Throughout the week, we were given time to check in with tribe members. The tribe gave people who were attending the festival on their own or in smaller groups a chance to branch out and also gave everyone a platform to discuss and share something about themselves outside of acro.
It was quite an international group in attendance, with teachers from Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, and England, and participants from the US, Korea, Germany, Sweden, Holland, Australia, and more. All workshops were taught in English. But we did attempt to say a Danish blessing together before lunch each day. I say attempt, because Danish is not an easy language!
For us, the small, close community made the difference between us having a good week and having a great week. This was the first time we tried taking baby Moose away to a festival, so we set the bar very low for how much we could reasonably expect to be involved in the life of the camp. Of the 7 workshop time slots, our goal was to get in 1 workshop together. Instead we got to take ALL 7 WORKSHOPS together! The reason it worked was the community.
Friends and strangers kept popping up to take Moose for a walk in his pram, sit on his blanket and play with him, or hold and entertain him while we trained. (Baby Moose was also a team player - he really enjoyed being outside watching the movement, sucking up the fresh air, and meeting the new people.) The tribe took him in right away, passing him around at meals. Teachers welcomed his cooing and never complained about his lil interjections. We are always grateful for our worldwide acroyoga community, and this week we were again reminded how beautiful it is to have our sweet boy surrounded by the accepting, loving, gentle, and warm energy of our fellow acroyogis.
If you go...
Great news! Info for next summers' festival is already available. The 2020 festival will be held July 14 - 18 at the same great venue. Here is the link to the facebook event for the Danish Acroyoga Festival 2020. Be sure to let them know you are interested so you can get the updates and start planning your 2020 summer trip!
Have you been to a great movement festival this summer?
Leave us a comment below and let us know...
Where and when?
What made it special?
What made it work?
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