If life is what happens to our plans, then dance is what happens to our steps.
ideas sometimes when you wait they come to you.
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Thursday, 25 October 2012

Why blog when I’m busy? And it doesn’t get marked! multiple agents construct meaning through interaction

Not to be even heavier than usual!!! This blog is about community: I do not believe we exist alone. I think we are connected to, influenced by, shaped, and fed – exist really in our interactions.  It is what I write about:
“A ‘thing’ is what one knows it to be, and when ones knowledge of it changes it changes also therefore epistemologically and ontologically things are the same. A person could not exist unaffected by what is around them as if person and environment existed independently of each other. Instead the reality of both is found in how they are perceived by each other through their interactions and responses.

‘Our position is simply that since man as an organism has evolved among other organisms in an evolution called “natural”, we are will under hypothesis to treat all of his behaving, including his most advanced knowing, as activities not of himself alone, nor even as primarily his, but as processes of the full situation of organism-environment;’ (Dewey and Boydston 2008, p. 97)

Placing the perceiving body as central, the experiential nature of this complements dance. Dance clearly also finds meaning through the body interacting with its environment for instance a dance step, such as a grand bat-mon, is not just a technical description but is also created by the body of the specific dancer executing it, the environment it is executed in (the floor surface, the size of space), the rhythm of music and so on. The Grand-bat-mon is an example of the object becoming how it is interacted with. The dance step cannot be extracted from our interactions with it. This is a good example of how something is interacted with shapes what it is.

This dissolving of the subject / object divide is experienced in dance. Dance is a thinking process, not through the subjects static mental theorising but is the sensory interaction of the dancer through movement. The mind-ful body of the dancer is a mechanism of many parts responding to the environment of the dance studio including responses to other dancers, physical environment, sound and intention of action. Dance activity highlights the possibility of a kind of metaphysic in which multiple agents construct meaning through interaction. Sheets-Johnstone exemplifies this relationship of perception, interaction and movement as she describes the interactive process of dance contact improvisation.

‘The world that I and other dancers are together exploring is inseparable from the world we are together creating’ (Sheets-Johnstone 2009, p.32)

So how do we teach like that, taking into account of the fact each of you (the students) are connected to your life; each of you are a part of your own parade? (doing Work Based Learning). How would you do it? We thought of blogs as a way to make those connections – this is away to talk to the community of people on BAPP (and MAPP) and still respect your busy lives. So you can say what you think – connect at 2am because that’s when the idea comes to you and still be able to be heard by those people who are not on that kind of schedule, who will read the post at 9am because that’s their thing. And then they might notice something in what you say because they have different connections, they are a part of a different parade. As you do the same for them. The blogs are also public and have the possibility to reach out to people all over the world. When I look at the stats. of who looks at my blog they include, Russia, India, Europe, USA, … Someone out there might have something to say that you would not other wise ever get to meet. We have a lot to do to make a better world, the collaboration of communication and listening is part of it I believe so that is why I teach on this course this way. But if you don’t write posts or comment or engage in the community then it defeats the philosophy of the idea. The blogs are about what Sheets-Johnsone: describes together we are explore and creating the educational experience – the learning journey. You are not dancing alone in a black hole!! That’s my answer to why blog?

What do you think?

Dewey, J. and Boydston, J. A. (2008) The later works of John Dewey, 1925-1953, The collected works of John Dewey, 1882-1953, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Sheets-Johnstone, M. (2009) The corporeal turn : an interdisciplinary reader, Exeter, UK ; Charlottesville, VA: Imprint Academic.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Writing Session

Writing Session on 23rd of October '12 - scheduled for 10am - 2pm (but you could always end a bit early if needed). Attendance is open for people from all three modules. This workshop has been developed specifically for BAPP (Arts) to help in 'thinking' and communicating.

Please come to the Central Reception at 10am in College Building (the atrium or quadrangle area) at the Hendon Campus. Directions to Hendon are on the Libguide Noticeboard. If you do arrive after the start we will be in the College House building.

Peter has pencilled in an agenda below – but  he will prepare extended exercises for this who have attended before.

Conceptions of writing:
the students’ own
other writers’
their lecturers’ (as evidenced in criteria, etc.)
A process-approach to writing-thinking through drafting (moving from private to public):
This will emphasise the use of writing as a means of coming to a conclusion.

PLEASE look out for materials from the workshop on the Libguide after the event.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Reflection, ethics, identity and a well cooked cake

Please read the whole post not just the parts that start with your module at the a start of the paragraph; it is useful to see things from different perspectives. See if what I write about another module resonates with the one you are on. For instance, if you are in Module Two, thoughts on Module One might add meaning to the experience of doing the module now you can reflect back on the module, and thoughts on Module Three might help you see where you want to go with what you are doing now.  Remember things always have new elements to them because you are changing and having more experiences so your interactions with things change.

This week Module One’s might be starting to move on to the reflection tasks. Here are some reflective thoughts following on from my last blog. Some people have written little biogs. instead of CV’s on their blogs. The idea of looking at your CV is to review what you have done!!! in terms of trying to see  patterns and themes to what your experience has been. I think writing a biog. is a good way to do this as well because it means you have to put a kind of narrative to the lists of your CV. As I said last week once you have done this it is interesting to think about what you valued and shouted about from your experience and what you take for granted and what you don’t mention. The way you construct these introductions to yourself also tell you about your own ethical values and principles. It is important to think about this from the beginning of the course although you will be talking about ethics specifically in module two, it is more than just administrative guidelines. You have presented some rule for conduct, what you think is appropriate already just by making your blogs.  Thinking about this leads us into the reflective section of Module One.  This is about finding ways to engage in reflective thought in terms of experiences. Dewey saw the action of the body as reflective thought – the mind full body. The actions you take like making a blog are the results of your reflective thoughts, but how can you be more conscious of these reflective thoughts? The habits you have are not just physical habits they are habits of thought also. (for instance if you have an injury and can’t walk the way you usually do, your habit of walking is interrupted but the issue of getting about becomes more than just finding a way to walk it changes your feelings and thoughts about things too.) As you are introduced to reflection in module one think about how it ties into what you have done so far in the course. We are hoping you will keep the tools and use of Reflection throughout the course and beyond. 

Module Two’s are looking at questions, ethics, themes and interests. This module is an introduction to research methods and that means it is about questioning your assumptions. So first question your assumption about what a question is, what is it for (to get to an answer, to get clarification, to know more about something?). I have been saying it is not useful to think of a question as something used to get to an answer. The very idea of questions should start you questioning your assumptions. Then as you realise you have made assumptions about thinks it is useful to know why you were drawn to that assumption this is where your personal principles (rules for how you understand life, community, society) have kicked in and they are fed by a sense that you are a good person and useful part of things right? So you are acting along a set of ethical principles but where did they come from? You weren’t born thinking questions led to answers or people should do surveys so other people can know more about them!!! As I wrote above your actions the way you understand things is not right or wrong but it is the result of some habits of body and thought where have they come from and what makes them right or wrong for you – this is ethics… and reflection… and inquiry… and sometimes quite disorientating which is why I am always saying have courage. Have courage to question yourself first.

Module Three’s I want to talk about analysis. You have gone out and collected data (or you are about to). Think of data like ingredients. Analysis of the data is doing something with it. You are a cook expert because of your life experiences and you have to make something with the ingredients. Do not just display the ingredients for us (in a pie chart!!!!). Anyone can go out and get some flour, sugar and eggs. You have to MAKE THE CAKE not give us the data (ingredients albeit in a beautiful display) and tell us to make it ourselves. Its like giving a birthday party and bring out Tesco’s bags of shopping with a candle on top!!! You are reading literature, reflecting on your life experience and remembering the situation of gathering the data in order to do something informed and interesting with it for us to try.  Then because really you are making a critical review and artefact not a cake you also have room to explain why you cooked it that way, what you thought you were doing by cooking it and what came out of the oven in the end. A lot of mixed metaphors. Do you get what I am saying???

And now for a new section of my post called – what is Adesola doing!!!! Well, I thought it would be interesting to talk a bit about where some of my questions have taken me this week and see if they resonate with ideas you are having. I have been writing a paper with a friend  to present at Re:Generations in a couple of weeks. We are looking at the interconnectedness of dancer, environment and cultural discourse. Part of this looks at how cultural and personal identity (which manifests physically through belief systems see what I wrote about  Dewey) is affected by the aesthetic of particular dance techniques. How do we as choreographers encourage the dancer to move within the personal nuances of them Selves and also draw of established techniques that do not originate from the cultural indicators the dancer identifies with? This is particularly interesting to me in terms of Contemporary Dance which despite all the world influences at it’s inception (Ruth St. Denis and Martha Graham, and Katherine Dunham drawing on North African - Egyptian, Asian - Indian, African, Native American) seems to be Europeanised in terms of ownership. This is a question about ownership of modernity when one is of the western world but from non-european heritage. Contemporary work that comes from Non-European artists working in Europe seems to be distinct in that it is seen as work that is contemporary with a XXX influence as if XXX (Nigerian, Indian whatever) was fixed in the past and did not have a contemporary manifestation. This second point is the topic for another paper I am presenting in New Mexico at a Dance Conference (CORD) in November. I will be talking about the Jingle Dress, a piece I made and toured UK in 2010 which draws on Native American discourses particularly the Jingle Dress dance.  Here is the New Mexico blurb:

“The paper explores how Contemporary dance’s physicalised inquiry into meaning and principles of being impacts on embodied and cultural identity when it draws on traditional dances as a source. The research takes an ethnographic / case study approach drawing on the experience of creating the performance piece ‘The Jingle Dress’ a 45 minute work for 3-5 year old audiences. Ethnographic data is drawn from having been a part of traditional dances and ceremonies on Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota for over 20 years, as well as the creative process of making the work- the Jingle Dress- and responses to the work. For the purposes of this presentation there will be a discussion of how dance shapes cultural identities and personal philosophy. As well as exploration as to whether within a contemporary context shared philosophical principles (such as Pragmatism) and shared embodied approaches (such as dance) can create communities of understanding across cultures or strips cultural identities.”

I will talk more about these two papers (questions) over the next few weeks. I have cited a number of books in the New Mexico paper, here are three of interest:

Johnson, E. P. (2003) Appropriating blackness : performance and the politics of authenticity, Durham, N.C. ; London: Duke University Press.
Pratt, S. L. (2002) Native pragmatism : rethinking the roots of American philosophy, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Nikolais, A. and Louis, M. (2005) The Nikolais/Louis dance technique : a philosophy and method of modern dance, New York ; London: Routledge.

Please comment on any of the above – what do you think?


Friday, 12 October 2012

Week Two: noticing

Week two and hopefully you are getting into the flow of things. Finding your ‘student world’. The best place for work: home or a coffee shop? Do you work best in long chunks or short regular bursts? How do you schedule your BAPP working times?  Do you work best after a yoga class, a strong coffee (de-café of course!!), in the morning or afternoon? Its fun to workout what or how you are as a student. Somehow my student self in my head is always heading for Paris!!

Please read ALL the below whatever Module you are on: the course is all connected

Module One’s: by now you have your blog going, you have played with Flickr and maybe some other web tools. But this is not a tick box type course. You need to notice how you did things, what you did. Already you have made choices (ethical choices) about how you have presented yourself, what you value as important and what you haven’t said. Although all you did was start a blog you took action according to your own value system, your principles your priorities your ethics. Think about what this says about you and what is meaningful to you? Who helped you or influenced you to have this values and principles? This module is about seeing how you fit in to a wider world – contextualising yourself in order to better understand your professional practices. The reflection section of the module will help you with this and it is next…

Module Two’s: You will have been thinking about questions. These are not questions you will be finding answers to!!!!!!! They are questions about something you want to find out more about. Think of your research question as something you want to ask BETTER questions about when you have finished the research NOT something you will have found an answer to when you have finished the research. So maybe look back at the reflective work you have been doing see what keeps interesting you, what keep making you excited to work, what you are curious about. This is probably the area you could work in. Then think about HOW you are asking the question. How does the way you ask a question affect the kind of answer you will get. This is important because the rest of the module is looking at how you ask which is the research methods you will use. This module is more full on than the first module, so get stuck in.

Module Three’s: One word: Literature
You are not alone!!! Find out what other people have said about your subject through being published or performance etc… Not the firs random article you find when you use Google ... If you had a conversation with someone else who studied what you are looking into who would they know you need to know them too. This module is not about gathering data! It is about what you do with it. And what you do with it involves thinking about what other people have theorized too. You are not alone. The wheel has been invented. Now – also – where do you stand in all is going on. What is your philosophical framework? What assumptions have you made – that people will talk honestly to you in interviews? Did /will that happen? That we are all equal and nobody will be intimidated by you asking them questions? That everyone has an opinion about your project area? Did / will they? The truth is out there? Or there are many truths?

Things that have “gone wrong’ so far are also a part of your data the best part probably. For instance I keep asking teachers if they will talk to me about dance & and Maths, most of the Maths teachers have not replied for interview dates and one did but only had ten minutes in a busy staffroom where I couldn’t properly record the interview and I am worried about running out of time, all of the dance teachers have been very excited about the idea and I have interviewed one already.  My question is ‘How do we integrate dance into core curriculum subjects?’ I feel need Maths teachers data. But I have some already – they are not interested, that has resonance with my question. When I come to analyse all the data the fact I couldn’t even have a conversation with a Maths teachers is part of the data and comments on the question. Once you begin the research EVERYTHING that happens is part of the process. Be brave and let it happen.

What do you’s lot think?

Friday, 5 October 2012

Think about this!
This blog is one I am hoping you will return to across the term to remind you of basics. As I have said in the past I am dyslexic. For me English (and any languages apart from sign-languages) feel foreign.  I feel most able expressing myself in the wordless mode of movement. So it is with the mind-set of someone who has learnt (and is learning) the rules of a foreign language that I write this about the academic presentation of your work. These are constant problems that there is no need to make.
1.    Your work should have page numbers, with your name and student id number in the footer.
2.     Keep spacing (lines double-spaced) consistent throughout the paper. Check the font is consistent throughout the paper. Problems occur if you copy sections of text from other places and just put them into your paper. There are problems here with plagiarism if it is from others, and context if it is from something else you have written.
3.     Check the tense of the words you are using, check that the ‘s’ ‘ed’ ‘ly’ type endings of words are correct in terms of the sentences you are using them in.
4.     Check you understand and explain the words you use. Don’t rely on the word itself to explain your meaning. Explain the ideas rather than prove you have read something by just coping the same words you read.

The literature – is what other people who are established in the area have said about the area you are looking at. It is not a few random articles that come up on Google when you first look. The literature carries the trends for what people think on the topic. It is a source from which you can compare your experiences and the opinions of the people you know. THE PEOPLE YOU KNOW ARE NOT THE SOLE SOURCE. Do not use the people you know as if they were the literature. This is not because their opinions are not valid, it is because the literature is a part of a wider discussion.  (Like it or not published works are made credible across the world. Because they are published)

If you don’t like reading this just means you need to do careful research on which books would be best to read, so you only read what you really need to read. It does NOT mean you just don’t read.

Learn how to cite, quote from books, journals, and articles in the press. (See earlier blogs guide-line for citing or look at lib-guides.) If you write a paper and you haven’t cited a few things think of this as a problem and ask yourself why not.

Send your Advisor your best work for feedback. Do not send work in the hope that the feedback will help you finish it. If you send your best effort then the feedback will help push you further. If you send anything else then all the feedback does at best is get you to where you might have got to on your own anyway.

Work out your ideas and the ‘story’ of what you are writing anyhow you need to. Then write it. The act of writing a paper is an act of communication (NOT THINKING), You have to know what you want to communicate before you start to communicate it. When I write a paper I find my first version is very emotional, it seems to include everything I’ve ever thought, I end up crying and by the end the whole thing is so confusing. Then I take a breath (do a dance class or some other kind of movement – this helps me think). Then I start all over again. This is because I need to get all the chips off my shoulder before I can write something that is not just about me justifying what I think. It is also because I am dyslexic and so I don’t think in the linear unemotional form needed for a paper. I understand I have a process that takes at least four drafts for me to get to what would be the first draft for some people – 1) the emotional draft, 2) the first one when I re-order everything, 3) the draft where I realise what I am really trying to say, 4) the draft where I triple check for spelling and left out words. And I need to move between each step in order to think. This (fourth) draft is my official first draft. The one I would send someone for feedback. What process do you use now? How can you develop this process? Use your time on this BA course to work out your process and tinkering with it so it is workable for you. This means you leave the course with a new skill and a new understanding of yourself.

Understand that just because one does academic type work does not mean one will suddenly become comfortable in a dream academic type approach to creating (where you sit down once with your computer and produce a master piece). Just like a dance class you have to fight for the techniques and practice by pushing yourself beyond what you think you can do.  Part of this is about finding a new way to express yourself – a new range to your voice.

As we start the new term please have a think about these points.

The blog below is information about the Re:generation conference in November. It is always interesting to go to conferences and hear the papers people present you get ideas about presenting work and styles of writing.

Re:Generations Conference
November 1st – 3rd, 2012

Re:Generations is the UK’s largest gathering of dance artists, researchers, choreographers, teachers and students intending to shape future practice in dance from Africa and its Diaspora. After an exceptional inaugural event in 2010, this year’s conference, The Next Generation – Mapping New Futures, will explore how young people and emerging artists engage with African-influenced dance. The conference includes talks, film screenings, workshops and performances by contributors from the Caribbean, the UK and the U.S.A.

This year’s featured international guests are Germaine Acogny, ‘the mother of contemporary African dance’ and founder of L’école des Sables, Senegal; Kariamu Welsh-Asante, Professor of Dance at Temple University, Philadelphia, USA; and Chris Walker, dancer and choreographer with the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica, Assistant Professor of Dance/ Artistic Director of the First Wave Hip Hop Theater Ensemble at University of Wisconin-Madison, USA.

There will be evening performances in the Robin Howard Theatre on November 1st and 2nd featuring Chris Walker’s Urban Fissure, specially remounted for the conference and performed by UK-based young emerging artists. Walker’s work has been presented in the Caribbean, North and South America, South East Asia and Europe.

Runs 9am – 6pm daily.

Full Conference £100
Concessions £70