What’s difficult about integrating dance practices?

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Our first curly question about integrating dance practices (see previous blog post) is:

What is difficult about integrating practices of choreographing, performing and appreciating?

When I was teaching Dance Method at UNSW, students were asked to integrate practices to some degree in all written assignments (teaching strategies and resources, lesson plans and lesson units). Sometimes students found it difficult to understand what techniques and processes were constituent in the practices. Time and again, students would label anatomy and safe dance theory work as ‘appreciating’ in performance classes. The practice of ‘appreciating’ is not just theory or written work. And learning about anatomy and safe dance are theoretical aspects of the practice of ‘performing’, not appreciating per se.

So, let’s say that the most difficult thing about integrating practices is knowing what they are in the first place.

Three different hats – same head

The three practices of choreographing, performing and appreciating are not separate entities. They are just three interrelated facets of the art form of dance. When choreographing, students are essentially reflecting the role of the choreographer or dance maker. When performing, students are essentially reflecting the role of the dancer. When appreciating, students are essentially reflecting the role of the audience.

And these facets of the art form have blurred edges, both in theory and in the real world of professional dance.

Put on your ‘choreographing’ hat

greenhatw (OK green/creative hat concept stolen from De Bono!)

When choreographing, students explore and shape developing movement ideas through improvising, selecting and structuring movement to communicate meaning and intention.

Should they apply understanding of physical and expressive qualities to their creative work, and refine the work through rehearsal (performing)? YES. Should they be able to analyse and evaluate their work and explain how their work relates to other work they and others have created and performed (appreciating)? YES.

Put on your ‘performing’ hat

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When performing, students develop physical dance skills and expressive movement qualities. The acquisition of these skills requires practise, refinement and conscious application to dance works and styles.

Should they apply understanding of choreographic intention, style, phrasing and form to their performance of works (choreographing and appreciating)? YES. Should they be able to analyse and evaluate their performance work as it relates to other work they and others have performed (appreciating)? YES.

Put on your ‘appreciating’ hat

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When appreciating, students develop skills in observing, describing, critically analysing and evaluating their own works and the works of others.

Should they apply understanding of physical and expressive qualities to their observations and analysis, and be able to recognise style, intention, structure and form (performing and choreographing)? YES. Should they be able to reflect on how dance artists make meaning in order to develop and refine their own movement ideas (choreographing)? YES.

So, I believe the most difficult thing about integrating dance practices is knowing what those practices are, or even knowing when your students have single or multiple coloured hats on.

In the next blog we’ll answer the question: What’s easy about integrating practices?

 

Integrating dance practices in the classroom

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Photo by Bill Gantz (License: Attribution, No Derivative Works)

Still no final Australian arts curriculum! It is due ‘late 2013’ for voluntary implementation in 2014—that’s cutting it very fine for schools that do hope to use it next year!

Anyway, I can’t wait any longer. So I thought I would tackle a few of the big picture implementation issues while I wait for the finished package.

Here, on Violet’s blog, I’ll provide some short bites of questions, ideas and thoughts around possible implementation issues. On Dancing Capital, we’ll flesh those ideas out into teaching strategies and units of work.

Integrating practices

The practices (or applied skills and knowledge learnt through dance) are called ‘choreographing‘, ‘performing‘ and ‘appreciating‘ in the current curriculum draft. Teachers are advised in the draft that dance skills are best developed when the techniques and processes inherent in these practices are ‘integrated’ (p.33).

Easier said than done

In my experience, this is easier said than done. There are lots of reasons why you should do it, and hard slog to integrate practices effectively and appropriately.

We’ll begin with some questions to open the field around the issue:

Curly questions

What is difficult about integrating practices?
What is easy about integrating practices?
What does it look like in a classroom?
Is it OK to teach and learn in only one practice sometimes?
Can different teacher and learner approaches exist?
What is to be gained by integration, or conversely, lost by not integrating?

Let’s take those questions one by one. Next blog post will deal with what is difficult about integrating practices in teaching and learning.

See you then!