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.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

distance vs. objectivity

At what point does keeping a distance from certain subject matter or viewpoints become objectivity?

Does an individual have to distance oneself from a topic to remain or find objectivity?

How does a student, teacher, or everyday person find objectivity when attempting to understand what they have learned? How are students, instructors,and the general population impacted by the differing dance genres they explore or to which they have been exposed?

How can an individual truly leave cultural, religious, political, regional, and national influences out of the equation when reading material or listening to discussions? I was in an undergraduate class years ago studying a book about illegal immigration of Mexican and Latin American citizens into the USA. The international/foreign students did not recognize slurs referenced by using nationalist adjectives to describe the Latino population but I was horrified by the flippant use of the word Mexican as an all inclusive slur. Even the instructor who was younger than several of the students and from a region that did not experience similar misuses of the word could not understand my interpretation of the hate spewed forth in this book.

With this as an example, I question how we truly find sources with an open objectivity to substantiate our writings. I find myself becoming more dependent on studies and scientific articles regarding topics I have written about or am researching. I used a blog by a relatively famous choreographer about well funded project she had done that was similar to one I have been developing for a few years with far less financial backing. The choreographer's viewpoint is strong because of the time and work she had put into her blog; but, and this is a big but for me, I have been taught blogs and writings by individuals that are not well documented are not  considered as valid as peer review or academically accepted sources.

So the deeper question regarding objectivity for me is at what point does an article, essay, survey,research project, or any other effort become accepted as valid and useful? Perception and interpretation depend on perspective which is affected by many factors which and and often does include the passing of time and cultural modifications to language.

Does time equate distance? What equates with objectivity?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

relevance in clarity, interpretation, and intent

Relevance can be defined as the quality or state of being closely connected or appropriate. 

Clarity can mean the quality of being clear specifically the quality of coherence and intelligibility.

Interpretation is the action of explaining the meaning of something otherwise know as clarification.

Intent is the aim, goal, objective, purpose, or target of an actin or thought.

The relevance of interpretation in this course is defined by the very nature of so many students from so many countries, cultures, political, religious, and other backgrounds. Differing genres of fields of expertise in dance only adds to the layers of differences and similarities between students and colleagues.

Knowing our intent is to further recognize the knowledge we have accumulated through life experience and the desire to further enhance our awareness of our profession. However, each person;s intent varies based on that individual's specialized field of study/dance genre and what the individual wishes to accomplish with the knowledge gained during this portion of life's journey.

As I continue to say and write translation is paramount to understanding what each of us has to say and how we approach our individual careers and courses of study. I cannot begin to imagine what each individual student is choosing to pursue and develop as his/her process in this journey. I only know that words are powerful and often many multiple meanings. Some languages do not have words, phrases, or interpretations that translate or correspond to English, American or British.

Many of us make assumptions of knowledge others should have based on the fact we are all considered professionals in this course. The reality for me is that I feel like one of my students learning for the first time. I have been exposed to many different cultures and forms of dance in my life journey. That limited exposure, however, does not mean I have a full understanding and comprehension of every specific topic being discussed during our Skype chats.

I find interesting the following questions:

1. If our professional experience is personal because it is our own, when does personal experience become professional? If we live and breathe our careers as many of us do, is there a true division of personal and professional?

2. If our writing is to be about personal experience, AOL or research projects, at what point must we be able to distinguish between using peer review sources or other sources such as oped columns or reviews pertaining to our chosen writing and/or research?

3. At what point must we step away from our personal opinions and hopes when doing studies for research to ensure objectivity in our work?

Relevance is defined in this course by what is important to our individual pursuits.

Clarity is necessary as our writing and discussion is being heard or read by people from many differing viewpoints as defined by our own personal lives.

Interpretation is defined by how we interpret words and ideas from one culture or language to another and how we then understand those words to represent a theme or topic.

Intent should define the relevance, clarity, and interpretation and translation of what we say and write. Without clarity in our intent will our words and thoughts ever make the impression we hope to convey to others? Will our efforts be a failure or a success?

Saturday, March 4, 2017

effective communication

After the last Skype call,  I thought I would write about effective communication. However, the topic raised many questions for me.

If we do not necessarily have black and white defined questions and answers in our course of investigation through this degree then is any one specific type of communication the best, most accurate, or effective for correspondence?

For many people, writing about topics immediately after the monthly Skype chats best fits their schedules. Writing immediately after discussion can be a great thought process yet it may not allow us to fully explore varying possibilities.

I talked about trying to define when personal life becomes professional and is professional life always personal. I did not specify that my question pertained to teaching and choreography methods so some of the chat went into the development of students becoming part of an instructor's family due to the amount of time and care teachers provide their students. So I now ask are the students more a part of a community than family?

Just this morning I had a member of my family write me to question the professionalism of a coach who was late showing up for a competition in which her daughter was participating. My family member arrived on time which was early as she had been told the meet might start early if all of the competition staff was in place. Instead of focusing on the reality of her daughter being early and not missing her performance/competition moment she has chosen to focus on the coach's tardiness. This coach like myself is not just a coach but the owner of her business. As a business owner there are times when the business develops a life of its own and throws many obstacles in one's way. I do believe owners, coaches, and instructors should follow the guidelines they set forth for their students/clientele; however, I know that sometimes mishaps and other challenges arise. As a business owner I have to draw a line where what happens and may impact my ability to be or appear professional and on time is my personal business not something to be discussed with customers, students, and their families.

Was this communication effective as my family member was able to participate in the competition because she followed instructions and arrived early? Or was this not effective correspondence because the business owner/coach did not make clear the reality that she might not be early?

Personal vs. professional. Communication on a need to know basis. Simplified examples of the questions we discussed that still do not give me clarity as to how best to communicate with others in this course of study.

I am old fashioned and do not like blogging. Email is a big enough pain in my backside. Facebook takes too much time.

How many people will read this blog since it was not written within the first week after our last Skype chat? I did not read blogs after the last chat until today. Personal and professional schedules impact when and how we communicate. If talking or writing family members takes priority before customers and students then where does reading and writing blogs fit into the order of important communication skills?

Many more questions and not any real answers.

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.

Sunday, November 6, 2016


     The challenge I continue to face in this program is translation from British to American. The most pronounced example of my challenge is deciphering when is a word being used as a noun or as a verb. "Process" and "Reflection" are two words which have been used as both verbs and nouns throughout this journey so far.
     During today's Skype chat, one of the participants asked to discuss hard vs. soft subjects in the UK. From this dialogue I gathered that hard subjects in the UK would be core subjects in the USA and soft subjects in the UK might be electives or even extra curricular activities in the USA.
     Through my studio teaching I have discovered the lack of generalized music courses in local elementary schools (K-5) create deficiencies in a student's ability to count music. While band and orchestra classes are offered for this age at their schools, many of the students in these classes do not gain knowledge that had previously been considered basic to general knowledge for previous generations. Counting is primary among those.
     Having taught in the secondary schools as a substitute and adjunct faculty in dance, I realized that dance and other art forms teach many concepts which are taught in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) curricula. Dance utilizes math, biology, anatomy/physiology, kinesiology, as well as ways to create art, relieve stress, and develop a more fit body.
     So why then are dance and other art forms considered not core or hard subjects?
     Many dance students cultivate skills learned (learnt) in debate, drama, speech, art appreciation, history, music, and politics.
     If academics have difficulty promoting the many benefits of qualitative subjects like dance which enhance and encompass quantitative subjects, then how are students to discover the difference between a word being used as a noun or as a verb to relate to an academic exercise?
     Clarity is often challenging. The most overused phrase is "say what you mean, mean what you say." Again, through cultural, nationalist, religious, and other actions impacting a person's perspective and perception, how do we make ourselves clearly understood so that others glean the true meaning of our words and actions?

     At what point does the teacher/instructor/educator distance himself/herself from a learning exercise and allow the student to fail or succeed? Are teachers/instructors/educators failing the students when personal opinions and thoughts affect a student's ability to grow in the subject being taught? For example, the stereotyped ballet teacher gives exercises that have been passed down for generations and often express views that only stick thin bodies with exceptional or forced turnout may be successful in a ballet performance career. However, as the human race changes its thought processes due to influencers such as religion, ethnic or regional race, gender, sexual orientation, and political leanings, more teachers have recognized the reality of performance careers in ballet for dancers with a fuller figure. Does the use of mirrors add to the misconception of the need for abnormal body image or do mirrors truly help as a learning tool for viewing proper body alignment? Then again, who determines proper body image? Again, religion, ethnic and regional race, gender, sexual orientation, and perhaps political leanings impact how body image differs around the world. While weight and flexibility/range of motion can impact the bones, joints, and muscles proper training can and has allowed individuals to pursue ballet careers without being anorexic stick figures.
     Is accepting a student's limitations a hindrance to that student's development? When must a teacher/instructor/educator squash a student's hopes or dreams by stating the body just will not cooperate? Or is that even acceptable in the politically correct climate of today's world?
     The challenge is finding how to communicate effectively with each student so that each learner develops at the right pace for that learner.
     This train of thought brings me back to hard vs. soft subjects. Math is seen as a hard subject. Yet 5 does equal 4 when you subtract 1. Is this philosophical and abstract or concrete? Five minus one has been proven to be four. If a dancer does five repetitions of a movement when that movement should only be done four times, then five does not equal four. The difference in the number of repetitions makes a difference in the interpretation of the movement.
     Is this also the case if Rs are not properly rolled in certain languages? Different letters require different exacting sounds. Could the same premise for exacting movement be made as a way to misinterpret or alter theme and intent? Perhaps this is why improvisation is so important in the development of the choreographic and writing processes.
     Five and four have different meanings. Pronunciation of different sounds create different words. A good example is the word read. The spoken word determines whether past or present tense is inferred. This creates a challenge for interpretation and comprehension. Different cultures and nationalities speak English in varying ways because the instructors have learned how to teach based on their academic learning process and their culture environment. The same process applies to dance. Ballet is the easiest example again for this as many teachers using the Vaganova method in the US have learned from exercises in books not from direct exposure to the method as it is taught and has been taught for a very long time in Russia. RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) and Cecchetti methods have similar adaptations based on where these methods are being taught.

     To listen and see are not the same as to hear and observe. Understanding and interpretation lead to understanding, hopefully. Dialogue and discussion bring comprehension. But is the comprehension that of the teacher, student, performer, choreographer, or audience member? As Socrates might say, "why?"