Is it OK to teach and learn in one dance practice sometimes?

balancing act

Photo by by NazarethCollege

Of course it is!

We would all go nuts if every time we prepared a lesson we had to wrangle with finding connections to other dance practice content.

It’s even OK to focus content for a whole series of lessons on one dance practice*, such as performing. The practice of performing, for example, requires extended periods of time where students are building physical, technical and expressive skills. If students are immersed in this work, they are likely to be more focused and develop deep knowledge, skills and understandings.

But it is a balancing act. And you need to make decisions about ‘integration’ based on your students and their needs. What skills and knowledge do your students already possess? Are there gaps in their content knowledge? What are their interests? What do they need to learn to progress in relation to curriculum content descriptions and elaborations?

So, that was an easy answer! Next: Can different teacher and learner approaches exist? In other words, how many different ways are there to integrate dance practices effectively?

*It’s never OK to just focus on ‘theoretical’ work without including ‘practical’ work.

What’s the easiest thing about integrating dance practices?

connections_integration

To me, the easiest thing about integrating dance practices in the classroom is finding a way to use those three words choreographing, performing and appreciating in EVERY lesson.

If you use those three words in content or strategies in every lesson, then you are emphasising connections, whether small or extensive, between choreographing, performing and appreciating.

In doing so, you are also embracing the concept of ‘knowledge integration’ from Quality teaching in NSW public schools, the pedagogical framework adopted by many teachers in the last decade.

Integrating example #1: finding connections in a ‘choreographing’ class

In this example, students are developing movement based on an aural stimulus, e.g. a drum rhythm. Ask students to create a phrase based on the rhythm for defined body parts and share/teach that rhythmic phrase to the rest of the class (performing). Discuss the anatomical and safe dance implications for performance of the rhythmic phrase (performing). Discuss and compare each rhythmic phrase from the viewpoint of the audience—reflecting on movement meaning and how it may change from one phrase to another (appreciating).

Integrating example #2: finding connections in a ‘performing’ class

Let’s say that you are developing a movement sequence with students in a conventional performance class structure. Have students work together to structure a group performance of the sequence which includes some manipulation of movement material within the sequence (choreographing). Ask students to view and reflect on group responses, comparing stylistic and structural changes (appreciating).

NOTE: this can be done differently in each class as you develop the sequence, with a different choreographic focus each time.

Integrating example #3: finding connections in an ‘appreciating’ class

In this example, students are analysing a short contemporary work by a noted choreographer. Ask students to imagine they are dancers auditioning for this work—what particular technical attributes, e.g. strength, balance, alignment, flexibility, endurance, articulation would the choreographer be looking for (performing)? Ask students to develop three key questions about movement and intention and role play an interview with the choreographer (choreographing and appreciating).

If the lines between the three practices become blurred as a result of doing this, then you are doing a good job!

In this post, we’ve gone some way to answering the next question: What does it look like in a classroom? There will be more to come on this at Dancing Capital.

Next blog post we answer the question: Is it OK to teach and learn in only one practice sometimes?