Monday, December 12, 2016


     Do everyone and everything fit into neat, tidy boxes and definitions? Discussions on Skype this fall have reminded me that we attempt to differentiate between academia and arts in practice. Are these differences created by academia, practicing professional artists, or politicians?

     While writing area of learning papers, I think about skills learned in my professional practices in dance not the skills I have learned when attempting to live daily life. However, with my father's recent hospitalization I discovered that if I became the teacher/facilitator when attempting to extract information from staff and medical professionals I accomplished more.

     As an instructor/educator I have learned to accept students where they are and to guide them where they express they wish to be. I use this moment in my life not to personalize this post but rather to mention that skills I learned in arts and academia helped me gain the necessary knowledge to translate medical information for my father.

     I think back to the writing workshop in August 2016 and how one participant complained that the articles in journals viewed online were written with such heady wording that an encyclopedia and or dictionary would be necessary to translate the articles into words and phrases any reader might understand.

     Whether technical medical vocabulary or words used to impress people with advanced degrees in research communities these "words" needed to be simplified for understanding and comprehension by others. This is a skill many dance teachers use daily. How many dance teachers have not had to explain an exercise in several differing ways to help most if not all of the students understand the exercise? Is failure to help all the students in a class be successful a truly a failure of and by the teacher or simply a failed attempt at learning by the student? Can an instructor in the arts be perfect one hundred percent of the time when explaining exercises, phrases, and choreography? Failure to develop a complete understanding might assist in a student getting hurt by doing a step incorrectly. Failure to successfully communicate an understanding of medical issues and possible treatments might lead to life and death decisions.  The reality is that failure to communicate successfully can lead to serious consequences no matter the subject matter.

    So then why do academics feel core subjects are the only topics needed to be taught so a person may become a fully functioning adult? Is this because academics depend on grants and need the acceptance of politicians to keep open the doors of learning institutions? How do artists translate their practice into language to acquire funding to educate the masses about the arts and the many life skills learned in the arts?

     True, a  non-hearing person will most likely learn differently from a non-seeing person and differently from someone who can both see and hear.  Do people from different cultures and economic backgrounds learn and comprehend differently?

     So are compartments/boxes divisive or helpful? Does separating people, things, and knowledge into categories help people understand the similarities or the differences? I felt as though my earlier topics of translation and interpretation were misunderstood. I do watch many British shows and movies and have visited countries beyond England who use British English rather than American English. Languages are not the only translation necessary for teachers/educators. Do movement artists express movement initiation in the same manner as exercise physiologists or sports medicine practitioners? The most interesting example I can give from my personal history is the physical therapist who had performed on Broadway who helped me rehab from a severe back injury. This therapist was the first medically trained professional who seemed to understand the needs of a performing artist. Science and the arts did find a way to meet and accomplish positive things.

     So the biggest question I still have is why do put bits of life into compartments and give them labels? Division is often hurtful. Integration of abilities, knowledge, and people is often positive. Humans may have a better grasp and comprehension of the arts or science but in the end people are people. Knowledge is valuable and translatable.