What’s the easiest thing about integrating dance practices?

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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?

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?