Thursday, 8 November 2012

Task 2d Inquiry - part one

In this blog I am tackling two of the questions from the module handbook (WBS 3730, p19) to hopefully begin to identify areas of inquiry that I may want to look into later in the course. I have read back over my journal and my blog, as well as thinking deeply about each of the questions. Here are my thoughts so far: 

What in your daily practice gets you really enthusiastic to find out more about? Who do you admire who also works with what makes you enthusiastic?
  • I'm very enthusiastic about self-expression and making a movement or sequence your own. I really feel that unless you can become a part of your dance then the exercise you are performing will always look like it is stuck on the outside. It is also a way to work through feelings and emotions, both negative and positive - if a student has had a bad day then I try to encourage them to "take it out" on their dancing! I think trying to pretend to be one thing when you feel something else is dishonest and encourages you to keep things inside, where they can brew into something altogether more damaging. If I'm feeling bad I tell my students - let them know that everyone feels that way sometimes, and that it's ok to feel a certain way. It's how you deal with it that is important.
I admire dancers and choreographers that I feel embody the emotional aspect of the art form:
The choreographer that I find perhaps the most inspiring is Kenneth MacMillan. He created ballets that felt "real" and didn't just deal with happy or benign subject matters. His creations were "warts and all" productions that covered such topics as death, disease, poverty, betrayal, rape and murder. Every movement in his ballets is there to further the emotion or the plot, nothing is there for the sake of it or to show off a particular move. I have so many favourite scenes and can talk the hind legs off a donkey about him but I'll stop here and just leave you with a link to The Judas Tree. The clips embedded on the page also show two dancers that are in my Top Ten of emotional performers - Irek Mukhamedov and Viviana Durante.
Other people who inspire me are:
Mikhail Baryshnikov
Gregory Hines
Gene Kelly
Dean Pierry (Can you spot a very young Adam Garcia dancing in the clip?!)
Colin Dunne and Jean Butler
Now I've just gone off into a tubeloop again...!

Someone whom I admire that has the same feeling as me is my good friend, surrogate little sister and dance compadre, Dee. She, like me, adores and aims for perfect technique but, in a world that is increasingly all about the "show" and the "fake" and the "trickery", finds watching dance that has no passion or emotion is like watching paint dry! We often get together and always end up talking about how to get more out of our students or discussing something we have seen on the telly or at the theatre. She is my kindred spirit but also has very different ideas and works in very different places to me so there is always a lot to be learned from her and ideas to be shared and discussed.

  • I get filled with joy when a student has a "light bulb moment," for example, they have suddenly mastered a step that they have been struggling with for weeks, or that they make a connection between two different ideas or realise that "this... " is because of "this... !"
  • I find teaching students who struggle to "get" a movement, or that have difficult bodies that don't naturally fall into the shapes I ask of them, more rewarding than coaching someone who can just pick things up easily or who has a physique that just allows them to do any movement with ease. It is these children that I generally find experience more satisfaction when they finally "get there", but equally these are the children who face more confusion and frustration.
Trying to understand the process through which each individual goes, in order to arrive at this moment, is something that really interests me. And understanding what, if any, part I played in them achieving this enlightenment is something that continually makes me strive to find that magic equation that switches everybody's light bulbs on!

There are lots of students, both past and present, whom I admire and who have proved that having passion and determination can overcome a lot of the problems that you encounter along the way. Some have gone on to perform, some to teach, whilst others have taken a different career path, but I hope that they all know how proud I am of them and what an inspiration they are to me.

  • I love it when a student throws out a question to which I don't have an immediate answer or that talks about a connection that they have just made to which I have little or no understanding or prior knowledge.
It becomes a role reversal and an opportunity for me to be inspired by what my students bring to the class. The skill, as I see it, is to be able to provide a classroom environment where these ideas, however big or small, intellectual or silly, can be freely shared, tested and evaluated without judgement.

What gets you angry or makes you sad? Who do you admire who shares your feelings or has found a way to work around the sadness or anger?

  • I get both angry and sad when a student tells me they are giving up dance because their parents say that they must concentrate on their school work. Or when someone tells me that I dont have a proper job and spend all day just "prancing around!" Arrgggh! I feel that dance is such a valued and equally high-standing form of education and get frustrated that not all people think the same way.
The question that sums this up for me is - How do you promote acceptance or understanding of what a lot of people see as "just a hobby" or that is less important to them than, for example, maths or science?
I really admire programmes, like So You Think You Can Dance, and Strictly Come Dancing that have brought dance into the general public's awareness and promoted the "dance is for all" ethos that crosses gender, race and social background.
I also admire the two dance society's that I teach under, the Royal Academy of Dance and the Imperial Society of Teachers' of Dance, who, after working for years, have finally got their qualifications recognised by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). (The links that I have embedded above will take you to articles relating to the QCA and the National Framework on each society's website). I feel that, as a teacher, having what I teach my students recognised as just as valuable as what is taught in their day schools gives both validation for what I do, and more weight to the argument as to why students should continue with their dance education throughout their GCSE and A-levels.

  • I feel sad when a student leaves without any contact to say why. I get emotionally involved with all my students, to varying degrees, and try to do the very best that I can for each and every one of them. It hurts when I lose a pupil, after whatever length of time, and, when there is no reason given, leaves me blaming myself for having let them down in some way.
  • I get angry when employers take advantage of good nature or don't communicate
  • I get angry with myself when I lose control and shout at a student in a way that is disproportionate to what they have done.
I think that, from doing this course and reading into reflective practices, I am really beginning to understand the benefits of reflection-in-action!
Someone whom I have recently begun to admire is Donald Schon. I have found, by reading into his theories and ideas on the subject that it is possible to change my  defensive, and potentially single-loop thought processes into more effective double-loop learning skills that will increase my effectiveness in so many aspects of my professional practice. Just by looking at the examples I have written above I can see that there is a great deal of learning that I need to do to change the way that I "see" a situation and steps that I can implement to change both the situation itself and my reaction to it.
Below are two tables from Schon's book Educating the Reflective Practitioner (1987, p.257-258), explaining the two types of thinking that he calls Model 1 and Model 2, and the effect that they can have:

(I think that these pictures may be too small to read so here is a link to a clearer version of  Model 1. I can't find a Model 2 link at the moment but will post it later if I can find it)

I've really enjoyed this task, so far, as it has really been an eye-opener for me to write something about both the positive and negative aspects of my professional practice. I am looking forward to tackling the other two questions.

Please comment on any themes you can see running through this blog, or post any thoughts you have had. It is always helpful to have other people's opinions to inspire further thinking...

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