Friday, February 16, 2018

thoughts for student rep/Programme Voice Meeting

Hello everyone!

Please feel free to email your thoughts, bad and good, at You may also reach me through Facebook messenger.

A common thread in recent blogs appears to be developing a more supportive community within the students in the MAPP dance programs. I will maintain anonymity when discussing any concerns or positive thoughts you feel need to be shared and openly discussed. Again, think about our students and how they react when receiving criticism or praise. Positive comments are as welcome as any negative feedback.

I hope to hear from you.


Saturday, February 10, 2018

mixed emotions

Today's Skype discussion was a mixture of fear, excitement, and enthusiasm. The excitement and enthusiasm were catching and most everyone seemed upbeat at the end of the discussion.

As someone who regularly sees the glass as half empty I was energized by the general consensus of people stating "it is okay to fail." As I have mentioned in past blogs I despise improvisation, free writing, and reflection. However, recognizing this about myself has led me to meet the challenge of exploration almost head on.

I am in progress. Learning takes time and I plan to enjoy this journey.

Friday, February 9, 2018

understanding fear

The word overwhelming was used by many in today's Skype discussion. My hesitancy to chat is not because I am afraid of saying wrong or silly things, but because I learn from listening and absorbing then digesting. Think before you speak. But then I lose out because I do not get to discuss what I think about the topics in the discussion.

Fear of the unknown appears to be a typical response to any person beginning a new journey in life or Module. So here is a summary of my experience in today's Skype and in this program.

Module One: analysis through improvisation and free writing
Module Two: translation through discovery
Module Three: interpretation through analysis hoping for better understanding

And many people in my first Module thought I was silly when I said translation from American English to British English was important in my study. Brave your fears. I will.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

finding objectivity

During the break I have watched many YouTube videos, films, classes, and live performances. Some of these have been dance and many have not. I have had to challenge myself to think before I speak and hope I can accurately understand from where each performer comes so that I may appreciate what has been brought to the performance.

In December we chatted about tradition and technique style/genre. Interestingly I have witnessed many groups attempting to stretch beyond their typical repertoire and exploring varied genres. Sometimes this has worked for those groups and at times the attempts were difficult to view. My perspective is that I think a group challenging itself to expand its repertoire should be aware of any cultural traditions as well as technical expectations that may be attached to performance styles new to a group of dancers, actors, or singers. Enthusiasm and hard work can help some things but do not compensate for what may be seen or heard as traditionally incorrect.

Do we as a society allow preconceived notions to sully our expectations? Does media hurt or enhance expectations? Are our opinions based on the same experiences as those we observe or hear?

How must we as dance teachers, instructors, and educators adapt to help our students move fluidly through many exercises both technically and emotionally? To convey absolutes is not necessarily right but when are interpretations not open to interpretation? Dance and life are not just mechanical but also emotional and must have breath to and feeling to be more than just steps on a journey. Not every person is at the same place on his or her journey at the same time. Finding objectivity to be patient and appreciate each person's journey is a challenge and a joy.

Monday, December 4, 2017


The topic of my research focus is how dance affects the brain in two populations. The first is the mature or geriatric adult facing dementia challenges hoping to stall or halt deterioration of the brain and cognitive skills. The second group is more personal to those of us in the MAPP program; it focuses on whether careers in dance have stimulated the brain in ways to make returning to academic studies as adult learners gives the professional dancer an advantage mentally and emotionally to face the challenges presented in college.

I have personally seen members within both group exhibit similar anxieties and struggle with bouts of depression. I have also seen members of both groups grow in mental and emotional confidence from their new adventures either entering/re-entering dance and movement or exiting full time careers in dance.

Both groups have a different perspective on dance. For one movement is a new beginning while the second group sees movement as a loss of ability or career change. Dance impacts both groups even though the perspective of stimulating the brain is a focus within both groups.

These thoughts bring me to the 5pm (GMT) Skype discussion held on Sunday 3 December 2017. Tradition was mentioned as the foundation or roots of dance, all dance. My question is do all forms of dance have the same tradition or background? Does dance serve as a way to teach life skills as stated in past discussions where classmates have said teachers are responsible for the social and moral well being of developing dancers as human beings? Is this true in all forms of dance? Does this influence why healthcare providers suggest dance as movement therapy to guide patients to a focused manner of living?Or are we as teachers simply mimicking our teachers who as Nike has expressed,"just do it" and many people's mother's have said, "because I say so."

These thoughts bring me to the questions regarding teaching different ability levels within a single class. Students are individuals not Cybermen from Doctor Who. Not all men (and women) are created physically and mentally equal. Still all persons should be able to attempt to learn and grow in dance whether it is for fun, to achieve a professional career, or to exercise and combat the onset of dementia and the deterioration of physical agility and abilities.

Teachers can not be all things to all people yet we are expected by many to do/be just that. Teachers can assess the level of students in technique class. Teachers can adapt movement and concepts of how to move to assist the individual students when the teachers view a classroom/studio as a group of individuals who all have something to contribute. Otherwise the teacher may be considered nothing more than a utilitarian dictator weening out the weak, thinning the herd. This example may seem a bit extreme to many of us but is it a perspective the less trained, differing gender, ethnically diverse, or young/mature student population may have in their mind?

Ballet is not just for skinny white people. Modern/contemporary is not just for free thinking feminists or eccentric men. Jazz dance is more than tricks and being vulgar, explicit or implied. Ethnic forms of dance may categorized as such by people assuming to be dance professionals or aficionados. 

One such example of perspective where classical and traditional do not meet the expectations of western dance is classical Indian dance which is clearly not the same as classical ballet. It is classical because of the traditions and foundation built within the technique. Staying on the theme of Indian dance, pow wow dance for First Nations people of the Americas is not classical as it often uses more flash and tricks than typical round dancing or circle dancing as those forms are used to communicate and celebrate or mourn community history. Hula dancing is more than moving the hips. Hula dancing communicates and tells a story. It can be a celebration but many people may not see the technique required to perform hula dancing or classical Indian dance. Does traditional dance by First Nations people have technique? Is it similar to ballet or modern techniques such as Graham, Horton, Limon , or Hawkins? The simple answer is no. But it is both traditional and technical.

Can all of these dance forms communicate and tell stories? Yes but they do not have to. Dance can simply be an expression of joy or anger or for no reason or emotion whatsoever. Perhaps if we as teachers use some of these thoughts when teaching, not giving, class our students might find reasons beyond achieving technical proficiency to remain in class. Dance is competitive. The main competition is with oneself as a dancer to grow physically and mentally. Understanding, comprehension, and adaptation are mental skills learned through movement. Do these skills readily translate to life skills? Yes but many of our students do not recognize this fact. Many dance teachers forget that dance is more than doing steps. Do we teach our students to be morally sound adults? Perhaps. Is this through learning respect for one's own body and the bodies of others and their need for personal space or because we teach beliefs of religion, politics, and other adult centered thought processes? I think it is because I teach respect for the body, mind, and soul. The other concepts are up to the individual student to explore and develop his or her own understanding of beliefs of those concepts.

So I go back to how we teach differing ability levels within one technique class. I hope to encourage each student to explore and write his or her own story through their movement process and progress. Watching others execute different steps is a learning experience for each student. People will always continue to use sounds when they speak or signs when they sign. Without realizing this immersive process it is something we do every day. Do I say the alphabet every day before speaking with others? Not usually when I speak English . Yet I do find myself reviewing the alphabet when in Europe or Indian country and having to speak in a language secondary to my everyday nature. So more advanced dancers and students should always continue to perfect movement basics and less advanced students need to see the work necessary for advancing technical prowess. The challenge is to remind the student the competitive nature is not with each other but with himself/herself.

Perhaps as a dancer returning to academic studies I have more empathy for the student in my classroom. I experience fear of being wrong. But making mistakes is a fundamental part of learning how to be right or find a better solution.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Emerging from One’s Shell

Improvisation, free writing, and embracing new ideas and concepts is a huge challenge for me. So I have been attending conferences and workshops to force myself to acknowledge concepts, techniques, questions, and answers beyond the training and experience I amassed in more than thirty five years of teaching.

Frustration is what I felt in today’s Skype discussion. In last month’s Skype discussion most of us acknowledged the reality of no set wrong or right in technique. Perhaps this is/was due to changing perspectives in how we look at whether every person executes a pirouette in the same manner. Maybe not.

I wonder why some people simply refuse to acknowledge that discussions are not for receiving “how to do” answers. Is this fear of opening oneself to the idea of black and white expectations being blurred? This question relates to technique vs. choreography. My experience has been the recreational dance student prefers choreography to technique because there is a sense of freedom and fewer moments of the instructor saying ‘fix the technique.” Why? Simply because as discussed in “how to do a pirouette” our discussion group acknowledged that individuals might need to alter technical approaches to executing a single step or group of steps and phrases. If we allow our students the freedom to explore and make mistakes should we not allow ourselves the same leniency?

Few people like to be told they are doing something wrong. This brings up how safe spaces can be created. In today’s society there is most likely no safe space. No matter how politically correct and friendly or inviting a space may be, any thing can happen. People have free will. Expectations can be given to participating individuals but the individuals do not necessarily have to adhere to the guidelines and expectations set forth. Governing bodies, governments-schools-organizations, can and often do limit what, where, and when anything may be done or said online, in public, and sometimes even in one’s own home.

Technique and choreography are great examples of this. One person may be unable to execute a step or choreographic phrase as given due to limitations within that person’s mobility, physical and/or mental.

While our personal professional experience is the foundation for our study in this program are we not expected to maintain some objectivity?

So my point to this exploration of this morning’s Skype discussion is a big question. How do we as students realize the difference between narrowing our search for knowledge and expecting answers we must discover for ourselves?

Monday, October 2, 2017

framework for journey of questioning

I do not like dreaming about school work. I need my sleep.

Non-positivist research has some balance if one considers the questions initiating the investigation are the framework built from positivist results a researcher may already know or have come across as the researcher toys with his/her ideas for exploration.

Where do the ideas come from?

The challenge in yesterday's discussion was not understanding how different people may execute a pirouette the same way but that most students are taught to do a pirouette the same way and the student/professional/teacher learns how to adapt set instructions for how to do a pirouette to the idiosyncrasies of that person's body and ability which make the journey to execute a pirouette different. This is learned through trial and error. Failure creates success. If I and we as a group of students and instructors look at how to do a pirouette in this manner then have we already begun a non-positivist journey without having to expound some grandiose process proving the reality of our own non-positivist/qualitative journey from early years in our training.

Is it fair to equate quantitative with positivist and qualitative with non-positivist? With the given example of how students typically adapt to what their bodies are able to accomplish as most instructors do not give different instructions to every student, does this mean our non-positivist journey of dualism may actually be monism as both types of thought are necessary for the non-positivist journey?

Do statistics from non-positivist research and journey create positivist results even when more questions may be generated? If no additional questions are generated from a non-positivist approach does this mean the journey was positivist because that journey disproved or may not have proven any results?

I think I will count today's blog as my daily journal entry. Much about which to think. I may need a nap to recover from the dreams of heated discussions around large conference tables.