Biting Your Own Teeth

According to Pinterest (I know, I know) Alan Watts said, “Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.”

I have written about defining and labeling at several points over the years on this blog as well as for Dance Advantage.

I am in the midst of change with my relationship to dance and the proportions of focus through which I see and do. I think I write that every summer.

In my graduate study, I explored a movement curriculum as a method to alleviate symptoms of PTSD. Over the years, my teaching has taken principles of that work and implemented it into the structure of my classes as I worked with at-risk youth and others. I am finding myself currently drawn back into that world as I embark on some projects this summer. More on that to come.

This year, Daria Halprin’s book The Expressive Body in Life, Art, and Therapy: Working with Movement, Metaphor, and Meaning has never been far out of reach.  It has been influential and it brought me to this (page 64) about dance therapy pioneer Mary Starks Whitehouse, “She first called her approach movement in-depth and later authentic movement. She remarked that a significant turning point was the day when she realized that rather than teaching dance, she was teaching people. More than theory or philosophy, the inner life of the mover was of primary interest to Whitehouse. For her, movement was a way of becoming conscious more than a way to “act out”.” And here I am.

I have many friends navigating the waters of change right now: people leaving classrooms, leaving traditions, leaving fields, leaving relationships, leaving countries.

Change equals movement.

Once upon a time, I wanted to use my teaching to produce dancers. Then it was to also produce thinkers. Now it is also to help guide people to the knowledge they already hold. Do you see it? It is and, and. Not either/or.

Movement changes what we think and how we think it. What we think changes how we move.

I am observing the consciousness surfacing through my own movements. I am curious about the consciousness of inner life for these friends of mine as they move. I am finding the more I drop the labels and definitions, defense and offense, I am able to honor more of who I am rather and what I offer. My inner life is more thoroughly realized. I wonder if they are feeling the same.

I have spent years, decades actually, defining.            I want to stop.

I think the challenge of change hasn’t been about the change itself- the tasks, the environment, the affiliations. It has been about the shift in definition. If I am this now, does it mean that I am no longer that? No. At least not in my situations. It is altering the proportions, gaining more dimension by accumulating “ands”.

How are you moving these days? What is surfacing? What are you accumulating?

Where I Fell in Love

This weekend I have enjoyed the honor of returning to my alma mater to create a dance for first year college students. The students are lovely. We are enjoying an opportunity to get to know each other as movers and as people and the dancers are enjoying a new (to them) process for creating dance and creating a culture.

The honor, though, is the luxury of time in the space I poured myself into many years ago. To return to the environment that opened my eyes to the artistry of dance, strength of character, and gave me opportunities to take risks and truly be seen. I hear the echoes of wisdom doled by sage mentors and I am flooded with fondness for friends and memories made there.

My lens is not totally rose-tinted. I equally recall the struggles and challenges, the drama and the sacrifices yet I acknowledge the resulting sense of group and the profound sense of belonging I felt there.

It hits me now that it is precisely that feeling I have been searching for, professionally, ever since.

WMU was where I found my “flow” as theorized by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi- where interest, rigor, and appropriate challenge result in joy, the kind of joy when time is lost and sense of self is found. An optimal experience.

This piece explores the notion of seeing and being seen. We are sifting through the landscape of being a “first year”- eager to demonstrate and impress, bridled with the change of status from leader to low man, feeling invisible and being hungry for acknowledgement.

We have talked about being “under construction” in technique class, as technical skills are built or rebuilt, and the longing to “just dance” which really means reconnecting with the dancer- selves we knew and understood. There is no going back, though. That is the sneaky thing about growth.

Being in a new teaching position, in spite of my substantial experience, I can relate to the “first year” experience. I am living it. Being new is exhausting, even in the best of environments. Reputation means little after the initial invitation to do whatever it is you want to do, until you can establish your reputation all over again in a new place, with new circumstances, new people. Character. I think it takes character to build character. I think it takes character to help others build character. This will be a big topic in my classes at the high school this week.

Yesterday we ended rehearsal with four questions,
What have you seen today?
What have you allowed to be seen today?
What are you reluctant to share?
When do you feel seen (acknowledged, valued, appreciated)?

Some of these are as tricky for me to answer, I think, as they are for the students and equally as important.

We decided yesterday, we are searching for fulfillment. That is defined differently for each of us, but one commonality kept coming through- we want to change people’s perspectives. We want to move people.

We’ll be back at it at 1pm.

Current Trend: 5 Favorites

So my husband, Scott D. Southard, does this thing on his blog where he features 5 things he is into right now. I thought I’d steal the idea. Here goes:

Anna Halprin: Experience as Dance by Janice Ross

On my birthday, I read this interview at Stance On Dance and it inspired me to pick up Ross’ book (again). Halprin’s philosophy of dance education, dance-making, and life in general hits close to home these days and is helping me articulate some of my own thoughts and feelings in these categories. The body-mind connection has been a point of direct interest within the last few months for me, as has the utility of dance for self-acknowledgement, self-assessment, self-reflection, and self-expression. This has lead me to weighing dance education and dance performance in a variety of ways. As I have been examining my own personal strengths in these categories, as well as my experiences in professional-track dance and liberal arts environments, this reading has been quite a welcomed source of connection to like-minded artists and educational guides.

Journaling

For my birthday, I received a new journal (always a great gift) and I have been putting it to good use as I sift and sort through the thoughts and feelings notes above. This newest book is the official Dr. Who licensed TARDIS journal inspired by the one owned by River Song in the series. Love.

Merce Cunningham Dance Company DVD recording of the final performance at the Armory.

Another b-day gift, this has been playing in my mind over the last week as I have been thinking about “tea-cup breaking” (to reference the opening anecdote in Ross’ book about Halprin) examples of dance-making by interesting dance-makers.

John Dewey, Educational Philosopher and hero.

I am so “Dewey-ian” in my approach to teaching in that I view every learner’s education to be individual. He just keeps cropping up in my life in various contexts. I have been inspired by him for some time but have been enjoying revisiting his influence on the development of dance education through pioneers such as Margaret H’Doubler, who shifted the role of dance in academic curriculum.

MAEIA, DITA, and other neat acronym-ed dance projects.

My work with the Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment project amps up again tomorrow and it appears I will be performing with DITA within the next few months. Details to follow as they become available…..

When the Body Answers Back

We know our stories are trapped in our bodies. We know we use our bodies to express personal perspectives within our stories. But what about when the body needs to do the speaking?

When I was living in NYC, one of my favorite classes was that of Alexandra Beller. She started each class with us laying on our backs, talking us through our bodies, giving us permission to let go of whatever we had been trudging through prior to class and to simply be before she invited us to move.

It never failed, each and every time I would get a lump in my throat, tears would stream from my eyes, and it seemed to come from nowhere. As I described in my post about David Howard’s class, here I was accepted as a person and then supported as a dancer. It was empowering, complex, surprising, and thought-provoking. Over ten years later, I am still thinking about it.

Over the years, I have had students go through similar experiences in my own class. This summer, I have finally had that feeling again in my practice of Bikram yoga.

Interestingly, this topic keeps coming up as I communicate with people from all over the dance map.

It makes me think the conversation needs to be opened.

In grad school, one area of my research was how organized movement curricula can help alleviate symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This, for me, was a brief and shallow advance into the world of research but the topic keeps cropping up in everything else I research and in all facets of my teaching- embodied learning for at-risk students, learning styles and methods for delivering information in a dance classroom, and more.

Without going into too much personal detail, I have experienced many traumas (death of a parent, being in NYC on 9/11, several robberies,….) and I have been conscious of how my body has felt and how my dancing has been impacted as a result of events. Things have helped and hindered along the way but nothing has had the profound effect for me as I have encountered this summer.

Through movement and possibly related to certain environmental conditions, I have felt the ‘baggage’ I have been carrying for years shift and eventually be left behind. Not all of it, but a substantial amount.

I have acknowledged the unevenness of sides of my body- in feeling like I am laying on an incline while in reality laying on flat ground, in sensing complete relaxation on the left side of my body while the right side is tense literally from the top of my head to the toes, even in wanting to cry but only on the right side of my face.

My head has flooded with thoughts that I have not allowed myself to entertain and in the next posture those thoughts flooded out.

I have felt the front of my body roar like a lion and I have cried, and cried, and cried- not in sadness but in release.

My body, mind, and spirit feel stronger than…..well, maybe ever.

In the reading I have done in recent weeks, I am suspecting that this breakthrough is, naturally, because I am ready. However, the environmental conditions of the yoga experience might also be important in my case. Namely, the heat.

Bikram as I understand, is the original hot yoga and all of this- the heat, the focus on my own practice and not that of my students, and the dedicated time to myself-  has returned me to when I was dancing intensely, in hot studios, sweating immensely, and so on. For me, living in NYC and dancing my way through the summer, all of this is relevant to conditions not directly relating to trauma but surrounding the trauma. It has taken me back to the time and not the event. And dance, the technical practice and focus on my progress and process, has been consistent in the time of all other traumas.

None of this has been easy, but it has been necessary. Due to the conversations I have had with others over the last few weeks, I feel prompted to share this in the spirit of “you are not alone”.

My experiences have been dependent upon my interactions with Alexandra Beller, Trent McEntire, and the instructors of Bikram Yoga Capital Area, as well as everyone else that has shaped my life’s path in movement and stillness.

For all those that have had similar experiences or may in the future- keep moving. May you find your own guides, maybe even in the most unexpected of people or situations. At any rate, I hope you find your release.

David Howard

When I was living in NYC, David Howard’s ballet class saved my soul. In a city where most dance classes felt like an audition, taught by people who didn’t really understand how to warm up a body or just really loved deep plié in second position, with the body folded over- David Howard’s ballet class kept me grounded.  Well, David Howard’s, Alexandra Beller’s, and a few others.

These were the classes that reminded me of who I was, why I love dance, and that I didn’t have to buy into the hype that can come with trying to “make it” as a dancer.

I was not a rich dancer (oxymoron, I know) and had to be decisive with my time and my money- whose class I could take, why, and how it fit into my life. It was challenging. I was often torn between those with working choreographers who often cast their next show from their classes and so the mentality was that you had to be a regular, and those that fed me in movement and artistry where I wanted to be a regular.

Most of the time, I didn’t have enough money to be a regular but I had even less interest in the former. Yet, I felt pressured. I wanted a job but I hated thinking that I could out teach them, hated watching the dancers in class with a myriad of technical issues not even being acknowledged but being led on, and hated deep plié in second position with the body folded over.

I discovered, however, that David Howard was teaching a mid-day class at Broadway Dance Center. I had been introduced to him as an undergrad and knew this would be well worth my money and my time. It was a basic level class, maybe intermediate or something, that I at first felt ashamed to take given that I had come to believe I was an advanced dancer, needing an advanced class and needing to compete with other advanced dancers (not so much in ballet, for my modern/jazz body and movement ethic, but still the mentality persisted). Then I took the class.

It was filled with “advanced” dancers not necessarily in terms of their technical ability but their commitment, their age (in dance years), and the eloquence in their bodies. Many, I think, had been amateurs that had been dancing for years and acquired beauty in the process. Others were former professional dancers, looking for a place to maintain their craft for themselves. I was the youngest, at 23 or 24. I loved it.

I ended up rearranging my work schedule, splitting my shift in retail merchandising, so that I could take this class. It couldn’t happen all the time, but I kept up with his guest teaching schedule as best I could and would make the arrangements when he was in town. It complicated my life but it was worth it. Necessary, even.

I observed how David Howard spoke to these dancers. How he challenged their bodies but nurtured them, too. How spirits lifted, legs lifted, and it was all done safely in spirit as well as physicality. Soon, I didn’t feel like an outsider observing through motion but an insider, accepted by the group. I felt them take care of me. It was a community and it was powerful.

As a dance educator, I have been reflecting on how this experience has shaped much of my current philosophy and practice. I learned a lot in NYC, often by watching hours and hours of classes at BDC, Steps, and DanceSpace (now DNA) from doorways and through windows, when I couldn’t afford to take class. It was a profound education.

I may not be a ballerina but I am so proud of how David Howard has inspired and informed my work- building a community, taking care of people, and finding joy in movement.  I will always be thankful.

 

Mind the Gap(s)

Over the last few years I have realized that my role in dance is that of a mediator. This summer, however, I am realizing just how many realms in which this is true. In this, though, I am also more aware of my own biases and working on letting some of those go.

Here is a sample:

Academic – Studio Dance There seems to be a natural rift between those that have trained within the concert dance philosophy and those those training in the studio dance philosophy. Even as I type that I realize another- those that have trained and those currently training and perhaps that is part of the friction in academic and studio dance relationships. The process of evolution is different within those two worlds.

As I see it right now, dance academics have evolved away from their commercial or recreational dance roots and have forgotten how -or forgotten their interest- in connecting with the tan-tight, sequined, or booty shorted youth newly entering their space. Likewise, the evolution of the studio dancer seems to depend on the athleticism and current movement trends. It is an evolution of the body that sometimes excludes the mind and spirit other than adrenaline and satisfaction that comes with performance and all that comes with that- positive and negative.

I think some of the hesitation of getting theoretical with teen dancers has been an issue of wanting to engage through entertainment (keeping up with the Joneses) and not expecting them to be capable of thinking through big ideas.

It isn’t true.Even early elementary kids are capable if their educational guide is patient and most importantly, willing.

I think our best strategy would be to stop setting expectations and simply start from wherever we are- as people, dancers, citizens, thinkers, doers, beings.

Recently, I had the realization that most of what we view as being in poor taste is really just an inheritance of limited information. Take studio dance fashion, for instance, and the comparison to what is worn in an academic dance setting. Both are wearing “booty” shorts these days but because one might have some sequined detailing or tan tights underneath, the “evolved” feel the discomfort of the depth of conversations that have NOT been had with that student and the tendency is to joke. I am so guilty.

In reality, though, the wardrobe is just an extension of the intention of training and a reflection of the evolution to be expected. In my day, it was French-cut leotards. With a belt run under the leg holes in back and on the outside in front. Classy. But I was serious. I was committed. I evolved into a deep thinking dancer concerned about Dance as an art form, a way of being and knowing, a method to finding embodied learning and able to talk shop with the best of them.

Some of the other gaps:

Dance as Entertainment – Dance as an Intellectual Pursuit This one is particularly painful for me, I admit. I have been surprised at how often in recent years, I have had to defend why I teach dance the way I do. I have been met with great supporters but also a segment of families/students that don’t know why I “refuse” to use pop music, moves found in music videos, and so on.

Artists – Educators In some ways, this is the inspiration for my blog. This site started as a means to communicate with fellow “underdogs” and share my real world experiences as new graduates (or old) entered their own journeys. I was continually frustrated with artists not explaining their struggles experienced when they first started their professional paths.

Think about it- most biographies go from the family, upbringing, and early training of an artist- touch on their artistically formative years (beyond training)- and suddenly jump in to the history of their tours or projects. Little discussion is offered about the obstacles of becoming dance-makers and thinkers. We jump to when they were recognized as brilliant. Or so it seems to me. And the same seemed to happen when I was able to ask artists about this.

So, my mission became to chronicle one dancer’s journey- tangential and all- within and around the field of dance. Along the way, this has turned into a site that explores teaching experiences more than life experiences. Though, like everything else, those two things can’t be separated. I just choose to talk less about my children than my classroom- maintaining somewhat of a gap based on comfort level and respect for my home. 😉

There are more gaps than this but I will stop here for today.

Moral of the story: We are all just doing the best we can with what we have. My job is to meet people where they are and hope they have an interest in moving further along their path. If not, maybe we can have a good time moving.

Which gaps are you mindful of these days?

Renewal: Controlling the Minutiae

Each summer seems to have a theme, beyond that of our television viewing. (See For the Love of the TARDIS)

“Dr. Who Summer” continues in all gloriousness. I sobbed over David Tennant but am warming up to Matt Smith.

Past years have included “the summer of awakenings”, “the summer of reflection”. This year? The summer of renewal.

  • I am back “in” my body.
  • My body is back in contact with my mind and my spirit.
  • Some old relationships feel rekindled.
  • I am back into the guest teaching and project planning that was common for me pre-kids or at least pre- 2 kids.

I am clearer on who I am, what my strengths are, where I would like to see myself in the next 5 years and I am starting to take the steps to get there.

The last 5 years have been full of learning and loving; taking in new teaching situations, content, environment, professional expectations, and methods for delivering information. I have learned and processed a lot.

It is now time for me to push myself in sharing what I have come to know. It is time I follow through in the academic writing, and publishing, that I have put off in exchange for curriculum writing, program development, freelance writing, and choreographing you know, 20 plus dances a year for a K-8 program.

In reality, though, there have been other obstacles. I think of it is as the minutiae- these small, accumulating tasks or inconveniences that add up to block the path or tire you out with detours.

Reading Shawn Lent’s  “Am I A Dancer Who Gave Up: A Follow Up” helped me identify some of the areas of conflict I have been experiencing between the dance world and the non-dance world (I resist the urge to type “real” world there).

The Chatter
Like Shawn, I get frustrated with the dance conversation. I, too, love dance people but I have really strong feelings about needing a vision in or through dance. So many dance people I have interacted with seem to have lost theirs, if ever they had one, and I find myself having difficulty connecting with them let alone collaborating. Or maybe it isn’t the dance thing, it is the personality thing- the people that do want more from their art and those that don’t. Or worse, those that think they do and have no idea the work they produce (in their teaching or their choreography or their community relationships) really isn’t accomplishing much.

Or maybe there is more that I am not seeing and the problem lies with me. At any rate, withdrawing from some portions of the conversation doesn’t really help any one. I better get back in there.

The Current
Several years ago, again when I was teaching at a small liberal arts college in a rural town in Michigan, a guest artist asked me how I stay current. I have been thinking about this for years.

At the time, I said that I learn new things and immerse myself in new situations. My example was knitting. (He must have thought I was NUTS. Okay, maybe I am).

But I felt it was important to have the urge to make, tangible things in addition to ephemeral, to remember what it is like to learn a series of steps and put them in specific patterns, to analyze small scale movement as well as large, to return to a place of wrong and right methods with direct outcomes, and to just recall what it is like to learn new things- the frustration, the excitement, the pride). The process of learning and making has, I think, been invaluable in keeping up with the world, even in the world of dance.

Thanks to the internet and friends doing great things in all facets of dance, I feel that I have been able to stay up to date if not “current” in spite of not having the budget to travel, attend national conferences, and living in a place where I have to wait to see world-class companies on their next tour instead of their next season. Time has even prevented me from taking part in more local dialogue (Much of the dance events in my state seem to be scheduled for the same weekends!) Well, time and a little chatter.

But I do know what he meant. As a choreographer, and an artist- how do I thrive. I think the usual stance on this is to see what work is being made and then how does one recreate it with a personal stamp. I get that. I even value that. But it isn’t exactly for me. Not to say I don’t need some fresh ideas and could benefit from new visual experiences- I do, I could!. But the process has led the creative work for me- the relationships, the perspectives to a topic by all in the room, the democracy of art making with people beyond physical pictures. That has led to my work feeling current. I continue to think about this, though, and hope I always will.

All of my work- curriculum writing, program development, freelance writing, and choreographing you know, 20 plus dances a year for a K-8 program- will continue, naturally, but I admit my priorities are shifting a little. I am opening myself to new things, new methods, new attitudes, and new realities.

I am hoping to perform, to publish, to respond, and to revise.

Somehow I hope that if I write it here, I might actually follow through. Help me keep on track, won’t you?

Time: slow, steady, rich, lasting

This weekend has felt absolutely indulgent. All due to time, or rather, our attitudes about time.

In reality, our schedule has been relatively consistent to other weekends. The change has come in our activities and our decision to ignore the clock.

  • My husband and I had precious conversations much after our usual bedtime.
  • We frolicked at Lake Michigan for as long as we liked. We left our phones in the car and took time as it came and went, just like the waves.
  • And I husband and I each had solo time in the water to swim, bob, flow, and watch our happy kids from a distance- enjoying the sand, the sun, the water, and each other.
  • We stopped worrying about every thing being even and focused on it being fair. Each child had time with each parent in the water until they, and we, were satisfied. There wasn’t a clock to track equal minutes yet we all survived.

So, of course, I am thinking of how this relates to how dance has conditioned me to approach time.

  • Time is to be played with to make movement more compelling.
  • Time is to be considered in making my body stronger, more efficient, more expressive.
  • Time “off” hasn’t really been encouraged. In fact, the answer to most any dance problem has been dance more. Although, that is not exclusive to dance-isn’t this basically how Americans define “professionalism”?

I realized yesterday that we, as a family, need to schedule breaks to “train” our children to take time for rest when they are adults. To know it is ok to relax. It is necessary and it is good. To be able to recognize they need it and should give themselves permission to take it.

When I shared this thought with my friend she said, “Beach your children well.” I love that.

Rest allows for isolation of thought and applied focus.

When we stop moving and thinking simultaneously we can allow the connection of our minds and bodies to continue the conversation in perhaps a renewing way. It works the other way, too. Sometimes we just need to move and enjoy where we are rather than constantly striving for better.

This dedication to time makes me think of artists like Merce- taking time to investigate the potential for movement, for each part of the body. Allowing time for trial, deciding, crafting, creating.

What a concept.

 

For the Love of The TARDIS

Last night the Hub and I were discussing why I would make a good traveling companion for The Doctor.

(Each summer we “theme” our television/film viewings. So fun!! This summer is Dr. Who, about which we are both now obsessed. Previous summers include Charles Dickens, “W.A”- Woody Allen and Wes Anderson, Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple, I think there were others…..)

And I have decided that most of the reasons we came up with and the others that I have arrived at as I continue the conversation in my head, relate to my life in dance.

Here’s why:

1. Need to be able to adapt to any new environment.
Dance culture depends on observational learning. It is true socially and artistically. When entering a new class, studio space, dance environment- we know to watch and do. There are certain things that are always true regardless of space and environment. Having that center of understanding, we are able to roll with the punches in terms of the finer details. We observe others to prep for class or rehearsal in anticipation of the instructor or choreographer’s preferences (where to put our stuff, whether to be standing when they enter or not, are warmers permitted, which wall is front,…).

It is true in movement as well. We are a kinesthetic art form depending on visual learning to provide the majority of the information. Questions are tolerated but only after sound observations are made. Question before that time and you are “outed” as a newbie, judgements are made, and your fate written. You are not to be trusted.

2. Know when to follow and when to lead.
When there is a clear leader, I am happy to let them lead. But if they are asking for contributions to the creative process, I am ready to help problem-solve, try anything they ask (within reason), generate new material. If they aren’t around, I will readily step in. I understand my skills, my strengths, and limitations, and my place.

It is one of the intrinsic values that studying the arts, seriously and over time, can provide.

3. Laughing at my myself.
Mistakes happen. We may as well embrace them. Mistakes in dance look funny, feel funny, even sometimes sound funny. Oh well. The entire process of creating can stop if we can’t laugh and keep moving.

4. Taking risks.
Choreographers have challenged my body and my mind. Invaluable teachers have pushed my thinking, my writing, my dance-making, my teaching, my ways of being. My career has demanded I take risks.

After college, I moved to Chicago with $100 and a credit card (don’t tell my Dad). After Chicago came New York and then Los Angeles. Then grad school, a series of teaching jobs that fluctuate in stability, and now I am here.

A friend recently suggested that was gutsy. I suggested it was stupid. We agreed on one point- it was necessary. That is absolute truth. I lived to talk about it. And it changed my view of life. I am ever so thankful.

5. Communication and Translation
Dance has taught me how and when to communicate, how to translate ideas into movement and/or written word. It has taught me how to collaborate, look for opportunity, and trust the process even when I have difficulty trusting people.

And last but not least, it involves TIME and SPACE. The EFFORT comes in how articulately we navigate through our journey.

Oh, Doctor. Maybe I am already on a great trip. But my front door is now TARDIS blue if ever you need to find me.

Further Pigeons and Their Holes

And then there is the question that follows the conundrum of what I do.

“So what kind of dance do you do?”

Well, shoot- how much time do you really have?

Okay, so I usually say, “mostly modern and jazz, but I have a strong background in ballet.” In truth, I create modern dance works. I was hired to do mostly jazz. Ballet is something that the other person is most likely to understand and have a frame of reference for. But even those labels don’t really fit. They don’t tell the whole story. And as I see it, and have been exploring in my teaching recently- nothing is pure anymore.

Because we, as a field, don’t even really know how to talk about movement neatly. Consider the whole “contemporary” controversy. We can’t decide who the title belongs to, if it is a credit or an insult, if it is concert or commercial. “Modern” to dancers offers one notion but to a non-dancer, it is completely different. And yet, people insist on labels and primly packaged descriptions of dance (and well, everything else). Creativity-centered instruction to boost critical-thinking is a whole other post waiting to be written…..

I equally dread this at Meet the Teacher night and Parent/Teacher conferences there but at least for those I have a line: “all of them and none of them”. To which, naturally, I get very odd looks but I go on to explain that I tend to teach in a stylistically neutral way but that I teach the principles of dance that can be applied in any movement situation.

When I can see they don’t believe me, or may just not really know what this means, I explain that I teach the tools and then we explore how they are used in styles such as modern, jazz, and ballet. I provide a few examples of what I mean.

For some families, this is very exciting. A whole new world and understanding open up. They start taking over the conversation with how these concepts could be applied to other subject areas. For others, they are frustrated at what seems to be a non-answer and eventually they walk away. I always end up wondering what else could be said to help them understand or rather, help them feel included.

But I am further struck by conversations with people that, in theory, should have some something to contribute to the conversation. If this week has taught me anything, we seem to have shared baggage about body image and about identity.

Here is an anecdote about another topic many dance educators haven’t quite figured out:

One day my husband was talking to an acquaintance who has described herself as a dancer (studio, non-professional) and mentioned Pina Bausch (I love that man). Her facial expression indicated she didn’t know the name and she asked what style of dance Pina choreographed. The Hub said she was a modern dance choreographer. This woman screwed up her face and said, “oh we don’t like modern. My teacher is classically trained.”

WOW. So we *still* can’t encourage dancers to watch and value all dance.

The exposure required goes beyond those that don’t dance, it must include those that do.