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A shared physical experience

The Danish Adult Education Association (DAEA) is an umbrella organisation (NGO) catering for 34 countrywide member organisations, all working with non-formal adult education.
In cooperation with a number of member organisations, DAEA has launched the initiative “Non-formal learning for refugees”. The purpose of the initiative is to draw attention to the mane existing activities, to share knowledge and experience and inspire others, to take part in the public debate in favor of human equality and active citizenship.


A shared physical experience

In the interactive theatrical experience RUNNING on Langeland, the actors and audience go for a run while listening to a tale of running, fleeing and exhaustion on their headsets. RUNNING is part of DATS’ Digital Door Openers (‘Digitale Døråbnere’) project, which aims to create meaningful encounters between refugees and the local community in southern Funen.

It’s not every day you get the chance to participate in a theatrical performance on the run, which is precisely what many people did on 19th and 20th March on Langeland, where DATS and Langelands Efterskole invited the local community to a theatrical experience that was out of the ordinary to say the least, organised by the experimental theatrical group Circonflex. 

Sweating and struggling together

The RUNNING theatrical experience is an audio-run. Peter Rafn Dahm, the local DATS consultant, helped explain what RUNNING is about:

“The audience runs and listens to stories about running. Running to exercise and connecting with your body, running to win, running for your life. Being on the run.

The actors guide the group through a number of environments that reflect the stories, turning the real-life physical surroundings into the set design.  At regular intervals, the actors perform scenes to vivify the narrative the runners are listening to on their headphones or physically interact with the running audience, not least to keep the ‘spark’ and a feeling of team spirit going.

The physical sense of solidarity, running, breathing, sweating, fighting through the route and its stories together with 20 other people is what makes RUNNING so special.” 

Something universal

Circonflex, the theatrical group behind the novel idea, explained how they came up with it:“We spent a really long time trying to imagine what it was like to be a refugee. What it was like to be on the run. But, of course, there was no way we would ever be able to truly comprehend or understand that.Instead, we took something universal - running - and used that as our starting point. What we are able to do is make their experience relatable through the physical sensation of running, and in that fashion, try to understand.”The participants develop a sense of solidarity during the 40-minute run.

“We build on this sense of solidarity by gathering the participants around a meal after the run, ‘breaking bread’ with them and sharing thoughts and reflections - about the run or the memories, feelings, thoughts and associations that running evokes in us.”

I exist

The team documents the run with an accompanying action camera, allowing the participants to relive a unique experience that both Danes and asylum seekers have shared with one another.The organisers believe that asylum seekers, who live a precarious and fleeting existence, find positive affirmation in seeing themselves documented as active people with agency: “See? I was there. I was with them. I did it. I am here; I exist.” 

A different kind of encounter

“It was a mix of newcomers, refugees, asylum seekers and locals, as well as some students, families and retirees who attended the five theatrical runs over the weekend.

We could tell that the shared story and physical experience could help create a different kind of encounter than the ones you experience in your day-to-day life. That for a while, the experience could eliminate some of our differences and open new doors through the range of physical sensations we all shared,” said Dahm.Facts

  • DATS - the Danish Amateur Theatre Association is a country-wide organisation that works locally, regionally and nationally to strengthen and develop the theatrical arts in Denmark.

  • The theatrical group Circonflex developed RUNNING in connection with a major international theatre festival in Belgium which marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I with the theme “On the run”.

  • The theatrical experience is part of DATS’ Digital Door Openers (‘Digitale Døråbnere’) project, which focuses on how to create meaningful encounters between refugees and the local community in southern Funen through theatre, storytelling and digital communication.

  • The ‘Digital Door Openers’ project is a local community project in the Langeland-Svendborg area, which has received a lot of asylum seekers in recent years 

ContactPeter R Dahm,


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Danish Adult Education Association (DAEA)
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