Sunday, 1 October 2017

Perceptions

The 11am Skype this morning was the 'wake up call' I needed to get going on the final chapter of this journey I have been on for the past year.  In the lonely world of distance learning, it is easy to forget that others are also struggling with similar issues be it understanding what is required for the MA course itself or the wider issues that dance teachers face.  Hearing other teachers questioning how their 'status' , for want of a better word, is perceived by employers, other professionals and even ex dancers made me realise that I have the same fears.  The diluting of knowledge by teachers setting up schools in my area, often unqualified, has become even more of a pressure of late as classical ballet does not have the same attraction as the funky street dance or acro or hip hop, and as was mentioned this morning, young dancers often have a 'quick fix or give up' attitude with little or no regard to traditional world of discipline expected in ballet.

I think this need to keep ballet more current for today's young children was actually one of the underlying thoughts of my enquiry....questioning if syllabus music restricts motivation and artistic expression and leads to boredom.  Like many community schools, trying to retain young teens in ballet class is a problem once they discover other dance styles (and in my area, parents can't afford both so it's ballet or hip hop) and whilst music may not be factor, it's an area I am going to explore in the coming months.  Will allowing non traditional classical ballet music to become part of the learning environment encourage teens to stay interested or are those that are ready to try new forms of dance going to move on anyway?  I was interested to hear that Barbara has 'returners' to her classes, adults coming back to something they once tried and I was also interested to realise that belly dancing has a following in the UK by non Eastern Europeans.  As part of my enquiry is to look at non traditional classical ballet music, I may start my search with finding out more about the music Barbara uses!


Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Beginning to explore ideas for module two but while I'm 'thinking' about topics I'm also aware that the whole idea of research, methodology and terminology is daunting when it's not a world I have been a part of.  What a breath of fresh air "Doing Your Research Project" by Judith Bell is proving to be.  For anyone like me who is a bit worried about the 'jargon' this book explains all in a very approachable way, can really recommend it (and I picked it up on eBay for £2 !)

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Challenge.....

Listening to discussions at the Skype meeting today made me think of changes in learning attitudes from when I was a child  to the teenagers of today.  My first ballet lesson was over 50 years ago when the teacher was a strict disciplinarian who you obeyed without question.  The etiquette in class is, I am sure, the same wherever in the world you teach but there have been subtle changes in recent years in my teaching......what sparked the changes I really don't know....I just know the message I send out and the way it is received is different.  I deal with your average 'once a week' pupil who fits in a few classes alongside a myriad of other activities in a very active week.  When we were children, parents (well in my case anyway), couldn't afford to pay for endless activities....you went to dance OR you had riding lessons OR you went to gymnastics......now, the children I teach have a different activity each night and the etiquette in dance class has mirrored this.

Their life doesn't revolve just around dance and consequently they have many other adults in positions of authority in their weekly lives.  Some of these activities have a much freer attitude to discipline, motivation, respect and authority.  Children are often encouraged to be on first name terms with their youth club leader, or gym teacher and they interact in a very different way, helping to shape the activity of the moment and share their opinion - in other words, active participation is encouraged through discussion and sharing of ideas.  Gone are the days when the dance teacher was put on a pedestal and admired and feared in equal measure and above all, what she said was accepted without question!

I have found that today's teenagers need to feel as relaxed in their dance class as they do in other 'out of school' activities.  They refer to me by my first name, they send me texts themselves (rather than parents contact) to let me know they are missing class or need to book private lessons etc. It's no longer a gulf of unapproachable authority that it once was.  In lessons, they can't concentrate on too  much repetitive technique work when their life outside ballet moves at a faster pace.  Lessons have to move at a faster pace....they challenge the choice of steps in choreography.....they feel able to show you if they are not happy with the work and I have to monitor the moment and tackle technique when the receptors are right!  I'm not saying dance teachers should all be 'down with the kids' but the days of structuring a class in advance is not always possible.

The teens of today live in a buzzy world of instant everything and we cannot expect them to understand that 'instant' ability to dance is not like they see on the reality TV shows.  I try to give them more buzz, more instant routines and choose the moment to filter in technique work along the way.  Gone are the days of 'let's go to the barre..' Now I always start in the centre with warm ups and games and fun and get the attention first, meeting them head on in their 'instant buzzy world' and gradually rein them back to looking at technique.  40 years ago I would never have dared to communicate with my dance teacher but today I love the challenge of motivating my teenagers and I LOVE that they can talk back and offer ideas and suggest different choreography. They challenge me and I challenge them and we get along just fine!

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Communicating......

Monday, six classes to teach, old back injury flared up to the point that I could sit but not stand, walk or demonstrate! You don't realise how much unspoken communication there is in teaching until all you have is the spoken word.  Describing steps or exercises using the same words as normal feel flat and uninspiring without the body movements that I've taken for granted for 25 years.  As a dancer we all 'dance' instruction without realising, the slight use of eye line, the movement of shoulder, the gestures with hands all back up the vocal instruction and add the 'colour'....take away the ability of even turning my head as in last nights classes and the verbal communication suddenly became very different.  Articulation of finer details took so much longer to get across verbally without being able to show line, or breadth of movement.  A new experience trying to explain the concept of turnout to an 8 year old without demonstration!  As my 52 year old body is getting to this 'worn out' stage more frequently and as my old injury incapacitates me to the body of an 80 year old without warning, it's  time to think of new ways to share.  Off to search for 'vocal colour' to help paint the picture my body once drew for me....

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Looking forward....

Start of a new adventure......MA in Professional Practice Dance Technique....exciting times!  No idea where to start as yet but looking forward to the journey ahead and new discoveries about dance, about teaching, about communication, about how I came to be where I am now and finding a pathway to the future.  I'm probably not the oldest student in history but at the start of this journey I sometimes wonder if I'll cope....here goes!