How Do You Teach Modern Dance Techniques?

Speech bubblesCalling technique professors in higher education and dance specialists in grades 8-12!  How do you teach modern dance technique?  Do you teach technique from a somatics perspective?  If so, what are your key phrases and images that get the best results?  Would you share with me helpful hints on ways to get adults and young adults to sharpen some of their main movement skills?   I’d like to synthesize them into a useful resource for teaching somatically-based technique.  No doubt you can recall several effective images or useful phrases you use to get at key movement skills related to such topics as the use of breath, body connectivity, balance, flexibility, articulation, alignment (static or dynamic), weight shift, rotation, initiations, mobility and stability.  If you are willing to share some of them, I will incorporate them into teacher effectiveness resources I am developing.

 

Also, I’ve recently been thinking about the stellar teachers we have studied with in our modern dance lineage and their gifted way of verbalizing the physicality of dance.  Having just returned from American Dance Festival, I’m reminded of the long heritage of teaching artists and their eloquent comments in class that so many of us recall while studying there (e.g., I can still hear the artistic clarity of Betty Jones, Danny McKayle, and Lynda Davis).  What expressive ways modern dance artists have of eliciting specific artistic intentions with mere words, images, or gestures.

 

Color abstract with transparent bubbles and drops.
It seems important that we also capture some of these priceless jewels to collect into a resource that not only informs but also inspires the new generations of dancers that come after us.  It is a way to bring dance history to life and into their bodies.  Our exceptional lineage of teaching artists–past and present–should be recorded and referenced in order for dance students to access the art of dance and to grasp the sheer power of words to transform movement into artistic body expression.  Too many of these priceless images will be lost.  It is imperative to capture these key phrases while the words are still alive in our minds and can be transcribed.  It is a matter of documentation.  I won’t matter if the words are exactly “somatically- based” or not as long as they are artistically-driven, anatomically sound, and effectively elicit the desired movement response the originators were after.   Place the quotation in “quotation marks.”  If you wish, also annotate the context from which it came.  I need your name, too, in order to authenticate the quotation, so

 

  • If the comment is yours, identify yourself (name and where you are located).
  • If the comment is from someone else, credit them (name, place, and approximate date); then identify yourself (name and where you are located).
  • If you recall the exact originator of the comment, where and when it was given, please identify all of that in the credit line. Then identify yourself (name and where you are located).

 

Important:  Below the inspired quotes, add your permission and signature like this: “I hereby give permission for this comment/these comments to be published by Brenda McCutchen in any form written or electronic.”   Then sign it and date it.

 

Not only will I be grateful, so will others in the modern dance field and dancers who study technique and take it seriously.

 

To jump-start your thinking, here is a segment on teaching dance technique from Chapter 6 “Dancing and Performing” of Teaching Dance as Art in Education to share with you.

 

dero2010“Always ensure that somatic development emphasizes the aesthetic use of the body instrument. Articulate the body and increase its range of motion to be able to clarify the expressed dance intent. Teach technique for the purpose of improving the “art of dance.” Emphasize the artistic integration of body and mind while dancing whether mobile or stable by:

 

  • increasing somatic awareness in the joints and musculature,
  • establishing the core-distal relationships that increase mobility and stability,
  • employing the nervous system to sharpen quick response,
  • increasing joint articulation and overall flexibility,
  • using the physics of movement to maintain center and balance for stability
  • establishing the core-distal relationships that increase both mobility and stability.

“Keep attentive to the aesthetics of motion (mobility) by:

 

  • refining dancers’ timing, use of spatial dimensions, and texturing movement,
  • modulating dynamic range and attack of movement,
  • clarifying movement qualities, focus, and accent to add artistic quality.
  • strengthening leg muscles for the power and the endurance needed for elevations, lifts, and strength moves.”

 

Thank you for sharing the memorable modern dance teaching prompts that elicit the most effective responses in your own students and also the significant prompts that impacted the way you grew to understand technique and to teach it.  Send them to Brenda@dancecurriculumdesigns.com .  I’d like the prompts sometime in 2016, but later may still work, too.   Please accept my gratitude for sharing and for offering permission to include them in significant teacher resources.

 

Source cited:  McCutchen, B.P. Teaching Dance as Art in Education (Human Kinetics: 2006) p. 143.

Brenda Pugh McCutchen, MFA Dance, is author of Teaching Dance as Art in Education (Human Kinetics, 2006).  She creates integrated 6DC educational dance resources for use in higher education for teacher preparation and in the schools by certified dance specialists.  Among numerous roles, she is or has been dance professor, state certified K-8 educator, state certified K-12 dance educator, modern dance choreographer/performer, choreographer-in-residence, and state level arts education administrator.  She served on the NDEO Board of Directors from 2003-2006.  Brenda is the owner and director of Dance Curriculum Designs, Columbia, SC, USA.   (Brenda@dancecurriculumdesigns.com)

 

Brenda Pugh McCutchen, M.F.A.
Dance Curriculum Designs LLC
Columbia, SC USA 29223-7400
803-754-7384
https://dancecurriculumdesigns.com/