Thursday, May 11, 2017

commitment and impetus for competition

Sunday was an amazing day for a very personalized Skype discussion.

I feel that commitment surfaced as a topic important not only to me but all of us in this program. Do we all share the same commitment level, students and faculty alike? Are our levels of commitment perhaps perceived as different when they may not be? How much of these possible preconceptions or misconceptions may be due to outside influencers?

The question of commitment arose from the discussion topic Becky brought to the table referencing "competitions" vs. graded exams. Do students prefer competitions to graded exams because their worth may be gauged next to the value of work done by others? Is that really any different in competitions than in graded exams?

In both instances students strive to achieve better success. Some people might infer that competitions are more subjective based on personal beliefs or expectations whereas graded exams in syllabus programs or in academia require understanding and execution of certain technical expectations to move forward tot he next level.

Are competitions any different in that judges and studio owners expect certain technique and tricks from specific age students/competitors/performers?

Why do students choose competition over graded exams in syllabus structured learning? Or do they choose syllabus over competition? What is the impetus for achieving success?

Is the motivation for both simply the competition an individual with oneself to improve his or her own execution of steps and understanding each time said steps or dances are performed? Or does the desire to be better than others create motivation for moving forward?

A student in this program responded to one of my previous blogs stating she was uncertain what to write as she did not want to appear as if she did not know what she was saying or that her comments were of no value. My response was that every thought is worth hearing if only to decide it may not be what you actually think. A discussion can not be held if dialogue does not occur.

To that end I think back on commitment. How seriously are we taken by each other in this program, students and teachers/advisors? We are all working and living daily life with many obstacles thrown in our journeys. We must be respectful of each other and help each other along the way. We may not be meant to be new best friends or more than acquaintances. However, we all have reasons for improving ourselves through this course and our careers.

So commitment is important. Then maybe the challenge for each of us is to discover what drives us competitively with ourselves and others in our fields.

Once again, I feel as if I have more questions than answers but is that not why we are in this program to question and learn? How do we effectively communicate through dialogue and support the learning experience of teachers and students alike?

Friday, May 5, 2017


So this take away from the last Skype discussion for me is that perspective and perception directly impact the interpretation, Translation, and comprehension of the target audience or classroom.

Many of us have expressed similar concerns regarding how much background information is necessary to convey to a class or audience so our intention is clear to the target group attending class or conferences.

Does this mean effective communication requires understanding of the greater dance community? Does this mean any perspective is less or more important than another? I think what we all have to say is important and the challenge we face is the realization we are all here to learn. Yes, we like to show off and let others know what we have done or what we impart to our students. But are we maintaining objectivity about the role other students/colleagues in this program bring to our further understanding and comprehension of dance, academia, and the world at large?

My blogs have focused on interpretation and translation, exploring interactive media as tools for teaching and performance, and communication among others. Accepting the differences between all people whether it is race (ethnic or nationalist specific), gender, sexual orientation, religion, or dance genre is the single most important thing to understanding our students and colleagues.

Far too many people recognize the differences between peoples and while this may be meant to improve understanding of others, this practice often creates a more divisive culture. Civil disobedience and nonviolent protest are only as effective as allowed by both the protesters and the entities being protested.

Culturally dance is used to highlight challenges faced by persons around the world as seen by specific sets of people. Choreographers and performers alike recognize the need to convey themes. Are these themes of protest different from moral and ethical lessons taught in specific dance genres, religions, or through political affiliations?

One challenge I see as I continue teaching is the drastic change in the  younger generations' constant questioning of their elders. I was on the edge of Baby Boomers who were taught "do as I say, not do as I do" and the latch key Generation X children who had learn to be self sufficient. Gone were the days of a family member welcoming children as they came home from school. Television was no longer the sole distraction from homework and time management. Video games then online chat rooms and now apps on mobile devices from smart phones to tablets divide the attention of the learner young and old alike.  Perhaps the increase of diagnosis for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is due not only to better testing for such disorders. But just maybe the increase in ADHD and other illnesses and syndromes is due largely in part to the knowledge true and false disseminated online through the internet and through mobile apps.

If we as dance teachers,instructors, and educators have a challenge convincing each other that we have the same end goal as our focus for the dance genres we teach then how do we expect to effectively communicate and teach those goals to our students whom we expect/perceive to have less knowledge of dance than we do? How do we as teachers,instructors, and educators define dance?

To be able to work well together means the dance community must embrace all forms of dance and acknowledge the inherent challenges facing arts education. Is dance fine and performing arts, physical education, or a second language? When professionals in dance challenge the validity of which ballet, jazz, modern, of folk syllabus is the one true correct way to learn how can we enlighten politicians and administrative professionals in academia to pigeon hole dance into a category similar to math, language, or science?

Math can be divided into the subcategories addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, algebra, geometry, elementary analysis, calculus, and statistics. Language could be English, sign language, French, Spanish, German, Latin, Czech, Russian, or any other language that is spoken and written. Science can divided into simple categories such as physical or astronomy, chemistry, geology, metallurgy or physics and biological such as biology, botany, paleontology, physiology, and zoology or psychological sciences.

Dance can be divided into classical which for most dancers is ballet but may also include forms such as classical Indian dance. Contemporary dance includes modern, post-modern, contemporary, and lyrical. Jazz dance includes jazz, lyrical jazz, hip-hop, and musical theater. Tap dance includes rhythm tap and musical theater or Broadway tap. All of these dance forms use vocabulary and symbolism of gestures and movements as well as history. The history may or may not include evolution of dance forms from folk dances. Folk dance is often perceived as a vulgar way to group ethnically specific dance forms such as pow wow dancing of the First Nations/indigenous peoples who execute dances based on gender and region of origin and forms like belly dance. Belly dance may also be referred to as oriental dance because the genre differs based on where it is studied performed, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Spain, Azerbajan, Iran(Persia), Iraq, or the United Arab Emirates. Does classical Spanish belong with classical dance or in a folk category because it is often taught as a component of flamenco? Flamenco like belly dance varies based on whether it is taught in Spain or by the gypsy tribes in central and eastern Europe. Is Bollywood a division of classical Indian dance of jazz dance?

So again, I ask if these few dance genres can be broken into so many varied forms of study how do we as educators unite to impress the importance of dance as a basic fundamental subject which should be studied in primary and secondary schools? Within the United States of America the ballroom dance community feels that ballroom dance should be taught in the public schools but often does not recognize the need for performing arts genres such as ballet, jazz, and contemporary which have now become almost required training for ballroom dancers. Reality television shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing with the Stars exemplify the attempt to be inclusive of all dance genres without truly having knowledge of dance forms taught and performed.

Three different people in last month's Skype discussion held similar concerns that they struggle with how much background information must be given to the student and audience prior to discussing the topic at hand. So I finish with this question. Do I explain movement to my older students taking class for exercise as art or preventive healthcare? The classes are meant to convey both to the adult student. But not every student is able to comprehend movement and dance can be both.