“Shhh, not here… ” I say as the dancer I’ve booked shows me her spangly outfit in the lobby of the Istanbul Hilton. Thirty minutes later we’re in the stationery cupboard downstairs.
“We have to be really quiet,” I whisper. “Did you bring the blindfolds?”
It’s the third ‘energiser’ session at a two day conference for twenty four execs so I need something special. Next door, ten minutes later, I’m calmly sitting with them in our usual drum circle. “This final session is going to begin blindfolded”, I say. “Why? Because when we take one sense away our other senses get enhanced. In theory everyone’s listening will sharpen up and the team connection will feel stronger. Let’s find out if that’s true.”
They help each other with their blindfolds. To be honest I’m pushing the envelope here but what the hell. I’ve got a vision. After ten minutes of playing it’s sounding even better than I thought so I confidently say, “I’m going to drop out so you can experience holding the beat together on your own. I’ll be here but not playing, it’s your beat now. Good luck!”
I silently return to the stationery cupboard. “OK, this is it Mia,” I say.
I lead her in and establish her in the centre of the circle. I’ve been planning this for three weeks and I can’t quite believe it’s happening.
I take my seat and rejoin the rhythm. “OK team, you’ve all done really well, you sound great but I have one last question for you. What’s the use of playing a rhythm if no one is dancing? Please remove your blindfolds. I will hold the beat. As soon as your blindfold is off do return to the drums but this time play WHATEVER YOU WANT. You’re free!”
Mia is following my instructions and dancing to every twitch of their ‘free beat’ while not looking at any of them directly. She simply looks like she’s being transported by the music, inspired and energised by their unique groove.
After seven timeless minutes I indicate to twelve of the group to put their blindfolds back on while the other side keep drumming. Then they drum while the others do the same.
Mia looks directly at me, taps an invisible watch on her wrist, writes an invisible invoice, smiles while folding it into an imaginary paper dart and throws it at me while dancing out of the room.
The following morning, after a crazy night bonding on an Istanbul Disco Boat, all the delegates are checking out in the lobby with their drums in smart black travel bags. It’s cheaper to buy them in Istanbul than it is to hire them. While they wait for their cabs outside two of the women are drumming while three of the men are dancing. My work here is done.
Back in London I receive Mia’s invoice. In her email she says, “I enjoy working with you Tom. Do connect with me again if you have further work in Istanbul. My brother can supply your drums for half the price”.
Well, my apologies to my client’s finance department. In my defence I never claimed I was acquainted with the underworld of Istanbul’s market traders. As it says all over Google, I’m just a drummer.