Today I went to a number of panels. I went to one about teaching dance in higher education. One paper was about teaching ballet from a feminist paradigm. We talked about how as a teacher you negotiate how the expected way to teach a technique might contradict your own principles. The question set by Gretchen Alterowitz was about teaching ballet without adhering to the power structures often associated with ballet, such as the teacher being the only voice in the room, assumptions about what beauty is and genderise movements. In order to teach in formed by a pedagogy that involves notions raised by feminist writers she draws on democratising techniques such as having students self assess, work in pairs, collaborate in meaning making, comment in class and link their experience in the ballet room with outside experiences. I thought about how rigours I am with my principles of teaching on BAPP and MAPP and how I do not fight half as hard to adhere to those principles in my practical teaching. I am planning to re-think many of my technique classes to see where I tacitly accept the rhetoric of the dance studio at the expense of my moral / ethical beliefs.
Another discussion was about assessment (particularly in choreography classes). Most of the room agreed that it was not so much the choreographic aesthetic that was assessed but the students transformative journey within the learning experience. This is how we assess BAPP and MAPP too. It is about the student articulating the learning they gain through the process of the course. I talked about how we had introduced the Professional Artefact at Middlesex in order to allow students to create a comment on their learning process within their own terms (and the terms of their profession).
I then went to a workshop run by a MFA student I had when I was guest teaching in USA last summer. She shared her whole process and really constructed a whole approach to contemporary dance informed by her ethnographic experiences of being Korean born, having trained in “traditional’ dance and western forms of ballet and contemporary (Graham). It was really interesting and inspiring.
After lunch I went to a roundtable talk about Jazz dance. What Jazz is? How it is taught again we had some deep conversations about the ontology of dance itself. The panel talked about how Jazz ‘takes you there’ and you can’t be afraid to go. You are one with the music feeling the beat in your body. Jazz is also its history linked to roots in Africa and yet at the same time defined by it experimentation with the ‘here and now’. I thought about how one teaches a style of dance (any style) where that is what it is to you a ‘style’. And you know that for someone else it is away of life – away to connect with the world. Do you say sorry I am not passionate enough about that to be a good teacher in it or do you turn to the codified version of it (and teach it as a process of accomplishing steps)?
The conference has really encouraged me to feel we are not alone at Middlesex in an insistence in deep reflective practices and links to ‘other subjects’ as part of the process of being a dancer. Particularly for me not to compromise my interests because things I am most passionate about (interested in) give me an energy to explore with rigour and brings deeper meaning to the work. Funny because its what I am constantly telling Module two and three students!!!!!
I am going to the performance tonight – looking forward to that.