Sunday, November 6, 2016


     The challenge I continue to face in this program is translation from British to American. The most pronounced example of my challenge is deciphering when is a word being used as a noun or as a verb. "Process" and "Reflection" are two words which have been used as both verbs and nouns throughout this journey so far.
     During today's Skype chat, one of the participants asked to discuss hard vs. soft subjects in the UK. From this dialogue I gathered that hard subjects in the UK would be core subjects in the USA and soft subjects in the UK might be electives or even extra curricular activities in the USA.
     Through my studio teaching I have discovered the lack of generalized music courses in local elementary schools (K-5) create deficiencies in a student's ability to count music. While band and orchestra classes are offered for this age at their schools, many of the students in these classes do not gain knowledge that had previously been considered basic to general knowledge for previous generations. Counting is primary among those.
     Having taught in the secondary schools as a substitute and adjunct faculty in dance, I realized that dance and other art forms teach many concepts which are taught in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) curricula. Dance utilizes math, biology, anatomy/physiology, kinesiology, as well as ways to create art, relieve stress, and develop a more fit body.
     So why then are dance and other art forms considered not core or hard subjects?
     Many dance students cultivate skills learned (learnt) in debate, drama, speech, art appreciation, history, music, and politics.
     If academics have difficulty promoting the many benefits of qualitative subjects like dance which enhance and encompass quantitative subjects, then how are students to discover the difference between a word being used as a noun or as a verb to relate to an academic exercise?
     Clarity is often challenging. The most overused phrase is "say what you mean, mean what you say." Again, through cultural, nationalist, religious, and other actions impacting a person's perspective and perception, how do we make ourselves clearly understood so that others glean the true meaning of our words and actions?

     At what point does the teacher/instructor/educator distance himself/herself from a learning exercise and allow the student to fail or succeed? Are teachers/instructors/educators failing the students when personal opinions and thoughts affect a student's ability to grow in the subject being taught? For example, the stereotyped ballet teacher gives exercises that have been passed down for generations and often express views that only stick thin bodies with exceptional or forced turnout may be successful in a ballet performance career. However, as the human race changes its thought processes due to influencers such as religion, ethnic or regional race, gender, sexual orientation, and political leanings, more teachers have recognized the reality of performance careers in ballet for dancers with a fuller figure. Does the use of mirrors add to the misconception of the need for abnormal body image or do mirrors truly help as a learning tool for viewing proper body alignment? Then again, who determines proper body image? Again, religion, ethnic and regional race, gender, sexual orientation, and perhaps political leanings impact how body image differs around the world. While weight and flexibility/range of motion can impact the bones, joints, and muscles proper training can and has allowed individuals to pursue ballet careers without being anorexic stick figures.
     Is accepting a student's limitations a hindrance to that student's development? When must a teacher/instructor/educator squash a student's hopes or dreams by stating the body just will not cooperate? Or is that even acceptable in the politically correct climate of today's world?
     The challenge is finding how to communicate effectively with each student so that each learner develops at the right pace for that learner.
     This train of thought brings me back to hard vs. soft subjects. Math is seen as a hard subject. Yet 5 does equal 4 when you subtract 1. Is this philosophical and abstract or concrete? Five minus one has been proven to be four. If a dancer does five repetitions of a movement when that movement should only be done four times, then five does not equal four. The difference in the number of repetitions makes a difference in the interpretation of the movement.
     Is this also the case if Rs are not properly rolled in certain languages? Different letters require different exacting sounds. Could the same premise for exacting movement be made as a way to misinterpret or alter theme and intent? Perhaps this is why improvisation is so important in the development of the choreographic and writing processes.
     Five and four have different meanings. Pronunciation of different sounds create different words. A good example is the word read. The spoken word determines whether past or present tense is inferred. This creates a challenge for interpretation and comprehension. Different cultures and nationalities speak English in varying ways because the instructors have learned how to teach based on their academic learning process and their culture environment. The same process applies to dance. Ballet is the easiest example again for this as many teachers using the Vaganova method in the US have learned from exercises in books not from direct exposure to the method as it is taught and has been taught for a very long time in Russia. RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) and Cecchetti methods have similar adaptations based on where these methods are being taught.

     To listen and see are not the same as to hear and observe. Understanding and interpretation lead to understanding, hopefully. Dialogue and discussion bring comprehension. But is the comprehension that of the teacher, student, performer, choreographer, or audience member? As Socrates might say, "why?"

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