Dance—the Ephemeral Art

Dance—the Ephemeral Art

Dance—the Ephemeral Art   by Brenda Pugh McCutchen August 1, 2016     “Mountains and trees were considered tangible, measurable, and verifiable while reflections were only colored light—lost from one moment to the next.”   –comment on a wall plaque in the Columbia Museum of Art exhibit associated with the Hudson River Valley art exhibit  which referred to the paintings’ watery reflections in the landscape as intangible bits of colored light (January 2012, Columbia, SC, USA). This memorable quotation reminds us that the art of dance is much the same way.  When we watch a dance, our eye follows the dancing body which is the tangible, measurable, and verifiable form we see.  However, in the process we can miss some of the nuance, the transitions between movements, the subtleties of motion that tend to get lost moment to moment by the viewer so that if we are not tuned into the spaces between the moves or to the small details between places in route to the most dynamic movements, we miss the “colored light” that surrounds the dance. Dance, the ephemeral visual art that exists only in each split second of the moment and then evaporates into the next, is the quintessential art.  It is made for the moment to experience fully as performer and as audience.  That is true due to two phenomena: 1) in dance the body transcends its own visceral self to become the art instrument, and 2) its medium is momentary-movement, so short-lived that it vaporizes into thin air as soon as it appears. What other art form can carry such reverence for life, such beauty of form,...
What is Dance Doing in Education?

What is Dance Doing in Education?

  Dance, when it is at its very best, is an indelible representation of the history of the human species.  Dance as art and human expression has flourished since the dawn of mankind.  It is the natural way to communicate.  Indeed, it preceded human language and from its outset dance has dwelt in the land of abstract symbol and also of representation as a way to communicate with unseen forces as well as those in plain sight.  As pre-verbal communication, dance became a personal art form, an encapsulation of the values, beliefs, and hopes of peoples from every corner of the world.   Whether theatrical, ritual, therapy, or art, each type of dance had a specific intent to carry out in no mistakable terms.  There was no ambiguity then as there is now about what dance is.  When we ask “What is dance doing in education?” we need to think of Dance with a capital D, of Dance as the quintessential art form, of the big picture of Dance from the dawn of civilization to the present moment.  It is Dance that turns the body into a crucible of energy and an instrument of expression.  It is Dance that expresses all that is important to the species throughout history.  The study of Dance, therefore, should be the rich study of cultural anthropology, of humans responding to their plights and expressing their joys, of people at their best and worst, of dance as the preservation of cultural identity and the means to pass on values to the next generations.  Dance should be investigated as a record of history’s major cultural revolutions and an art form that is bound by...
Guest Blog:  The Hoped-For Impact of the New NCCAS Standards

Guest Blog: The Hoped-For Impact of the New NCCAS Standards

Introduction:    I invited Dr. Rima Faber to share her perspective as chair of the dance writing team for the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards in order to give us insights into the vision behind the new NCCAS dance-arts standards. The team’s work was deliberate and collaborative, generating the best thinking in the field to date. The attention focuses on dance’s artistic processes and dance’s relationship to the world (creating, performing, responding, and connecting). Existing programs that are of the old model (performance-driven and product oriented) would do well to take this opportunity to upgrade to the kind of process-based education which has long been considered best practice…and which these standards embrace.   I particularly asked Dr. Faber to articulate the hoped-for impact of these new standards on educational dance today and to help us understand how they may inform our renewed efforts to re-envision more substantive K-12 dance programs in the United States. Here are her words. –B.McCutchen Guest Blog: “The Hoped-For Impact of the New NCCAS Standards” by Rima Faber, Ph.D. April 1, 2014 The new “National Core Arts Standards” developed by the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards focus on the processes of arts-making which are housed in overarching Philosophical Foundations, Lifelong Goals, Enduring Understandings, and Essential Questions. While the dance standards in 1994 focused on learning content in seven different categories, these standards provide deep meaning in the processes of creating dance, performing movement (the “doing” of it as well as performance), responding to choreography (self-reflection as well as providing feedback or critique), and connecting dance to all life and learning.   It is hoped that learning...
Keys To Developing Dance Literacy

Keys To Developing Dance Literacy

=Part 1 in a series=    Keys to unlock dance literacy are found in holistic models of dance education.  One holistic and adaptable model proposes that six defining characteristics explain and guide dance content and instruction in K-12. Successful implementation in K-12 depends on these characteristics also permeating dance education teacher certification programs.  The 6DC model of educational dance is an acronym for “six defining characteristics.”  Each characteristic activates a significant aspect of dance as it should exist in education.  Until all six are actively engaged the curriculum will be insufficient and student learning will be incomplete.    This article spotlights two of the six characteristics in order to shed light on why they are essential to a complete dance education and as well as to literacy acquisition.         “Comprehensive and Substantive”  (Characteristics 1 & 2) COMPREHENSIVE   The first defining characteristic at the core of a complete K-12 dance curriculum is this:  content and instruction must be “comprehensive” – that is, broad, inclusive, and diverse.  Two phrases that encapsulate comprehensive curriculum are “far-reaching content” and “wide variety of skills.”  The quest for broad content and skills in dance education drive teachers to develop a 1) wide range of dance skills alongside 2) students’ growing understanding of dance as an art and vital mode of human expression.  To be comprehensive, teach a variety of dance styles so that by high school the variations within styles may be explored.   Comprehensive dance teaching and learning cultivates competencies in all four cornerstones of the dance discipline itself.  Students thus build diverse skills as a dancer-performer as a creator-choreographer as a dance historian-cultural anthropologist as an analyst-critic The cornerstone disciplines provide the content...
Choreography Resources

Choreography Resources

  The stanzas in Choreographic Impulses to Explore, Improvise & Abstract are open-ended creative catalysts.  It is up to you to decide what to do with them.  They were envisioned to stimulate choreography yet are equally effective for creative dramatics, visual arts, music composition, and creative writing.  (Why limit yourself?  Do them all!)   Stanzas emphasize one idea (one word) which directs the creative process and keeps intent clear.  Let that word title your creation and guide your artistic process. The nine-word diamante (diamond) offers a beginning-middle end structure that can serve as a guide for short creations. Permit creative work to be guided by design principles: unity, variety, transition. Allow punctuation marks to suggest whether to elaborate on a word (if followed by a period) or to cluster word cues (commas).   Let stanzas be points of departure that inspire original material in your art form. Challenge yourself to create abstract responses that do not precisely portray the idea of the stanza. For example, if dance is the goal, create a hint of the idea, capturing its energy, space, and timing rather than literally portray the idea (leave that to creative dramatics).  If you are an educator, use stanzas to sharpen compositional skills by incorporating criteria from the bulleted list below. Select one stanza and invite other creative artists to join with you in creating original work in different art forms; perform/show them together.   With 187 dragonfly diamantes in hand you won’t run out of creative ideas any time soon.  Return to stanzas you created earlier to discover new insights that present themselves–a joy of creativity and a delight...
The 6 Defining Characteristics of Holistic Dance Education

The 6 Defining Characteristics of Holistic Dance Education

“The 6 Defining Characteristics of Holistic Dance Education” By Julianna Hane, Guest Blogger Feb. 15, 2015   We live in a society where is it not uncommon for people to blame others for their problems. Dumping responsibility onto other people and playing the victim are all the new gimmicks for getting out of Dodge. Unfortunately, these quick-fix solutions not only harm others, but they eventually harm the individual. People who play the victim are susceptible to brainwashing, because they do not value thinking for themselves and making their own choices. So what’s a dance educator to do?   How do we solve this problem?   We as teachers can value students’ voices and show them how to think for themselves. We can demand that students take responsibility for their own thoughts and actions through democratic teaching.   What is democratic pedagogy?   It is a teaching philosophy that empowers students to think and speak for themselves while also being considerate of others. John Dewey believed in treating every student as morally equal, capable of forming intelligent opinions, and most effective when collaborating with others (MacMath, 2008).*   But won’t the kids get out of control?   While some might argue that allowing students to make choices for themselves is a passive approach to education, this philosophy is everything but. The teacher needs to structure the lesson so students get a say in aspects of their learning, but in way that is productive for everyone.   By guiding students to make choices relevant to the class context, students take responsibility. In other words, they own it.   What will the...