My new blog for the 2011 - 2012 school year: Artists In The Classroom (11-12)
Have a beautiful school year! :)
My new blog for the 2011 - 2012 school year: Artists In The Classroom (11-12)
Have a beautiful school year! :)
Big Think: Chris Cerf: School Politics: Who Speaks for the Children?
I saw Esther speak at TEDxSFED. She was one of the best speakers of the afternoon. From my perspective she has fantastic ideas, and delivered them warmly, honestly, eloquently and with no pretense.
As promised, here is a list of some of the noticings, feelings, and questions I have when I’m taking class. I think bringing this thinking to the forefront helps me to understand who I am as a dancer and what I want to get out of class. It also helps me to understand the kinds of experiences my students might be having in my dance classes. The big challenge for me is not to assume that everyone I teach is exactly like me and thinks and feels the same way I do. I know that in theory but it’s difficult not to lean on that assumption in practice. The list:
Is This An Audition?:
- Is this really an audition? I know that lots of choreographers will select dancers from their technique classes for their pieces. Is that what this is?
- If it is, am I interested in “auditioning?” or can I forget about that and just take class, without worrying about being assessed?
- Maybe I want to just take class, but all of the other dancers around me know that it’s an “audition” and that energy and feeling will effect me too.
- If this is a new teacher, I’ve started with a clean slate. If it’s someone I’ve been taking class with for a long time, I know they already think (__________) of me, so I needn’t even try.
- Everyone is watching me. Sometimes I like it and sometimes I don’t.
- How much eye contact is the instructor giving me? Am I being noticed?
- Why is s/he giving me more or less than other students?
- Does more mean that I’m doing things right or wrong?
- I’m nervous about the feedback they are going to give me because they are going to do it in front of everyone and I might feel embarrassed.
- I feel insecure about my weight. I feel too tall. I don’t have the typical dancers body. I wish I had that persons body. And I feel badly for feeling bad, because I am supposed to be above that. In fact, as contemporary dancers, we are all supposed to be above that but most dancers aren’t. It’s the elephant in the room.
- I don’t pick choreography up quickly. I wonder if that’s really true or if that’s just some base-less thing I started telling myself one day and then believing.
- No, I think it’s true. In every class, with every teacher, I’m one of the last ones to really have the dance, to be able to do it without support.
- I like to stand in the back corner because then I can just do my thing without worrying about other people watching me. When I’m ready I’ll move to the front.
- Do I want to stand in the front? Then I really have to know my stuff because 1) I will be performing the whole time and 2) people will be following me and I don’t want to lead anyone astray.
- Do I want to stand in the middle? That way I will have someone to follow no matter which direction we are facing.
- Do I want to stand in the back? That way I will have lots of people to watch AND I won’t have to be in performance mode because no one will be looking at me. However, if we turn around to face the back, I’m screwed. It’s also difficult to see the instructor from here.
- Let’s make the list. Who does the instructor think is the best dancer in this class? Who is second best? And third….etc. Where do I fit in on the list?
- How can we tell who s/he thinks is the best? Eye contact, proximity, how often the instructor asks them to demonstrate something, expression, energy..
- What if the dance instructor is doing the I-will-not-reveal-my-favorites-because-I-want-to-establish-a-non-competitive-environment-because-I-think-people-learn-better-that-way-and-it’s-in-keeping-with-our-Contemporary-Dance-Yoga-Bhuddist-all-accepting-all-welcoming-values thing? Then how we figure it out? You can still figure out who the favorites are, you just have to watch the instructor more closely and carefully.
Music & Choreography:
- Is this choreography engaging? Why or why not?
- Is it easy to learn / pick up?
- Does it go with the music? Does it go against the music?
- I know this song! :) I listen to this music outside of class! I feel so connected to class! The instructor and I are on the same page, we have the same taste in music ;)
- I like this music and am therefor more engaged.
- I don’t like this music and am therefor less engaged.
- This music doesn’t really go with the choreography at all and it’s not intentional. This instructor didn’t really prepare for class. They didn’t even choreograph the steps to the music, they are just throwing it together right now - lame!
- Is this class moving too slowly for me?
- Is this class moving too quickly for me?
- Even though this class is moving too slowly for me, I’m the best one in it and it gives me valuable confidence.
- Even though this class is moving too quickly for me, it’s really challenging me and helping me grow as a dancer.
- This class feels just right.
- Maybe I need to alternate classes so I can experience a range of feeling confident and feeling not so confident. That will help me stretch and grow.
Energy in the room:
- Is it positive?
- Is it negative?
- Is it competitive?
- Is it non competitive?
- Is it hostile?
- Is it positive except for that one person?
- Is it generally negative except for that one person?
- Do people feel safe here?
- Who do I find myself gravitating toward in the room? And vice versa?
- Does the teacher have a huge ego?
- Does the teacher have a small ego?
- What about the dancers?
- Is there a “who has the smallest ego?” competition taking place in this class?
The purpose of class (from the teachers prospective):
- Is it to get everyone to learn the steps?
- Is it to have fun?
- Is it to have a cardio experience?
- Is it to have an aerobic experience?
- Is it to sort dancers into good, ok, and not so good?
- Is it to establish dancers levels (advanced, intermediate, beginning).
- Is it’s purpose really to sort and sift dancers BUT it’s being presented as a “having fun” class?
The purpose of class (from my perspective):
- Do I just want to get a work out?
- Do I want to impress the instructor?
- Do I want to focus on picking up choreography quickly?
- Do I want to focus on flexibility?
- Do I want to focus on endurance?
- Do I want to focus on stamina?
- Do I want to familiarize myself with different dance forms?
- Do I want to accomplish all of these things as the same time
- Do I want to only focus on some of them?
- Have I checked out both physically and mentally and just want to get through class?
How I feel / what I think when I get confused:
- Maybe this isn’t the right level for me?
- Was I not paying close enough attention?
- Was the teacher not being clear?
- Am I too far back to see what’s going on?
- Does the teacher really know the choreography or are they just making it up on the spot?
- I want to get close to the front so I can see the teacher but I don’t want to be watched. So the best solution is to find an anchor dancers and follow them. Anchor dancers (I’m just making this term up) are other students in class that solidly have the choreography down.
Leading & Following:
- Am I a leader?
- Am I a follower?
- Am I both at the same time?
- Which role do I feel more comfortable in?
- Which conditions are conducive to me leading? Which conditions are conducive to me following
- How do I respond if I don’t feel like being a leader today but someone starts following me, so I’m a leader whether I like it or not.
- Who has the social capital in this room?
- Is it the teacher?
- Is it a particular student?
- How does that effect that dynamic between all dancers?
- How do I remember the choreography?
- Do I see pictures?
- Do I think in terms of numbers and counts?
- Do I think in terms of shapes?
- Do I have to have to add words / dialogue to it for it to make sense to me?
- Do I have to make it a story?
- Do I think in terms of Left vs. Right? Front vs. Back?
Reversing It / Second Side:
- How do I remember the original choreography when I have to reverse something?
- How do I start the process of doing it on the other side?
- Do I start at the beginning, middle, or end of the phrase?
- Do I start with what I know best?
- Do I start with what I don’t really know?
Changing Direction / Facing:
- What happens when we turn away from the mirror?
- My sources of input just went down by half because there are no more reflections to look at. I just had 30 sources (the 15 dancers around me and our 15 reflections in the mirror) and now I only have 15 (the dancers around me), so there is less support.
- I like how not facing the mirror makes you have to go into your own body more and focus on your own movement instead of your reflection but at the same time I have no immediate feedback so I start to wonder: Is my spine aligned properly? How high is my leg? How straight is my leg? What do I look like?
- Does my dancing improve without this immediate feedback or does it get worse?
- But wait, when we perform, there is no mirror, so this is good practice.
Marking: marking is the practice of doing the choreography with about half of the energy you would use to perform it, also known as doing it full out. This is done so dancers can budget their energy and not exhaust themselves.
- Am I marking the choreography?
- Am I doing it full out?
- Am I budgeting my energy properly?
Reflecting on the end of class:
- How do I feel right now?
- Do I feel different than when I started? Physically? Emotionally? Spiritually?
- Do I feel better? Worse? Just different?
- Is there any part of my body that is talking to me right now?
- Is there anything I should be ice-ing or tending to?
- Am I on an endorphin high?
- How was this class? Do I want to take it again?
- How was this teacher?
- Is this class good for my overall well-being?
This is truly a wonderful Tripod. If there is one thing I learned this year it’s that nobody wants to hold a camera during a flash mob - they either want to observe or participate. This tripod is light weight, compact, and essentially holds on to any surface. A must for my classroom-in-a-bag!
TED Talks: Onyx Ashanti: This is beatjazz
From TED’s website:
Musician and inventor Onyx Ashanti demonstrates “beatjazz” — his music created with two handheld controllers, an iPhone and a mouthpiece, and played with the entire body. At TED’s Full Spectrum Auditions, after locking in his beats and loops, he plays a 3-minute song that shares his vision for the future of music.
I have just had two and half glorious weeks to myself here in San Francisco. I’ve spent most of my waking hours writing and taking dance classes. I can wholeheartedly say that I feel like a much better, more healthy and present version of myself. As a dance teacher, it’s important to me to take class for 4 reasons:
1) For me. Dance keeps me happy, healthy, and balanced.
2) To stay current with what’s going on in my discipline.
3) To get ideas / inspiration.
4) To remember what it feels like to be a student in dance class so I can apply this to the way I teach.
In terms of teaching and learning, dance classes are fascinating happenings in which to be participant / observers. It’s so easy to see / witness / understand the ramifications of all aspects of classroom dynamics because for one, they are physicalized so you can literally SEE them, and two , their consequences are more immediate because dance takes place in the here and the now, in the space we are in. It’s completely analogous to the classroom and to all manifestations of the teaching and learning process.
I have made a promise to myself (and now to you, as reader and witness) to consistently take a dance class next year WHILE I AM TEACHING. Not just over Spring break or in the Summer time but during the school year. For the 4 reasons listed above.
Stay tuned for a post on some of the things I notice, think, and feel during dance class. I’m really trying to bring my thinking as a dance student to the surface in an attempt to empathize with my own students and make my dance classes happy, healthy, and nourishing experiences for everyone involved.
An adult play date!
In February I attended a play session for adult dance theatre artists. It was actually a cleverly disguised audition put on by the Erica Chong Shuch Performance Project. Non the less, it felt so nourishing to be in the company of like minded people and spend a few hours playing with gesture and voice and movement and each other. It reminded me of the importance of play (both guided and not guided) in the creative process.
TED Talks: Shea Hembrey: How I became 100 artists
By the middle of the year I had almost become a Zumba instructor. I realized I was going a little too fast when a 2nd grader burst into tears and said “Why do you have to go so fast? You don’t even give us time to learn the step! You just rush through it all!”
I have since slowed down a bit, especially when it comes to breaking down new choreography, but really, in general, I’m finding that the best way for me to manage the classroom is to KEEP THEM MOVING. That way there’s no time to go off task and I don’t have to get negative or punitive or focus our precious time and energy on non dance related stuff. Moving at a clipped pace, and generating enough choreography to be able to move a clipped pace was my saving grace this year. I’ve heard the expression that the best classroom management strategy is a well designed, well paced lesson and I couldn’t agree more.
I’m discovering that: dynamic choreography that is doable but requires some thought (and ideally has a pattern embedded in it) + teaching that choreography at a clipped pace = classroom management system that works for me.
Let’s say I’m going for Zumba instructor taken down two notches.
Big Think: David Brooks: Emergent Systems
I find David Brook’s cloud vs. clock analogy helpful when it comes to interpreting anything school related: the public education system, culture, a classroom, a family, a student, a test score, a budget….It’s easier to view people / institutions / ideas / systems as clocks I think but viewing them as clouds provides a more comprehensive picture of what’s actually going on.
After KTVU did a segment on Jai Ho at Cesar Chavez, I did a little investigating about how to obtain the footage. KTVU doesn’t provide footage but there are a few news duplicating services that provide dubs. The information below is a screen cap from the KTVU website: