4teachers

CD Review: Music for Ballet Lovers Vol. 7 “Precious Holiday Moments”

Music for Ballet Lovers Vol. 7 “Precious Holiday Moments”
Yoshi Gurwell

by Rachel Hellwig

Precious Holiday Moments CD screenshot

Holiday music is always an enjoyable addition to November/December ballet classes. Yoshi Gurwell’s “Precious Holiday Moments” offers 28 tracks of Nutcracker melodies and traditional carols for intermediate+ center practice, in addition to 20 tracks of original music for barre. Some of the compositions for barre more engaging than others, but, overall, they are effective.

The Nutcracker selections are the highlight of the CD. They stand out for their creative arrangements and often cleverly combine pieces from Act I and Act II. If you want to add a little Nutcracker magic to everyday class, this suite should do the trick. Or, if you feel your students have grown tired of Nutcracker tunes from rehearsals, these arrangements may revive their interest in the music by showcasing it in a different light.

The traditional carol tracks are delightful as well. Gurwell adapts their speed and rhythms to suit different exercises, but, for the most part, they retain their easily recognizable melodies.

Overall, this collection makes a fun supplement  for the holiday season.

0

Process Focused Thinking In The Dance Classroom

PSM V26 D768 Brain of gauss
by Janet Rothwell

As a choreographer and dance educator, process is very important to me. It is through my creative process that I problem solve and create various products. My process can vary depending on the task at hand or even on how I feel in the moment. Any changes in my process are usually reflected in the product outcome as well. One example of how changing my process can be helpful is when I am choreographing a work and I do not want it to look or feel like the last piece I created. Changing my process can help me to create new movement and fresh ideas.

In order to teach my students about the value of process I give them many assignments where they have built in time to explore and play. I also have them reflect on their process answering questions like: How did you go about learning a movement sequence? How did you work within your group on a project? How did you approach the creation of your movement?

I often have students work in small groups on various choreography assignments. The most recent project I gave them was to create a short choreographic study based on initiating movement from certain bones in their body. The main goals were for students to learn the names of the bones, where they were located, and how it feels to move from those bones in their body.

The assignment included a rubric which required students to use specific choreography tools and a required length of counts for the whole dance. Often time when I give an assignment like this with a clear rubric of expectations, students look at the list of what the dance must include and work towards this end goal first instead of taking the time to experiment and play with movement ideas. I have to remind them that I’m giving them many days to work on the project to include the process of discovering the movement they want to use and they have time to change their minds and let the dance evolve. I use many analogies like when you create movement and choreography with your group you are writing in pencil not pen so as you go on if you don’t like something simply erase it and make a change.

The majority of the classes that my high school students take are very product focused and students can either be right or wrong with their product. It can be very challenging for students to shift their perspective in my class and linger in the process focused perspective as a means to create and problem solve. In dance class with a creative assignment there is not one way to do anything right so there are many right answers and what I try to teach my students is that I want them to discover what they feel is the best and right answer for them. They discover this through their process.

Having an emphasis on the process rather than the product does not mean that I do not care about the end product. On the contrary, I think that when the process is more fulfilled the end product is also more likely to be fulfilled and realized in a deeper way. The way we go about getting to an end product is through various paths and that we honor the paths we try out and discover what each one has to offer. Students edit and revise more while focusing on process in order to create the product.

As students embrace this mind set I see a shift in the quality of their work and their work ethic. In a world of instant gratification and product focused thinking it is becoming more and more important that we teach young people to value the process, the how we get to an end goal. Teaching students to be process focused can have great implications in many areas of their lives and help them to problem solve in creative ways. I hope to help my students become creative problem solvers and leaders in the world they live in.


dancer posing upside down

Janet Neidhardt

Contributor Janet Rothwell has been a dance educator for 10 years. She has taught modern, ballet, and jazz at various studios and schools on Chicago’s North Shore. She received her MA in Dance with an emphasis in Choreography from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and her BA in Communications with a Dance Minor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Throughout her time in graduate school, Janet performed with Sidelong Dance Company based in Winston-Salem, NC.

Currently, Janet teaches dance at Loyola Academy High School in Wilmette, IL. She is the Director of Loyola Academy Dance Company B and the Brother Small Arts Guild, and choreographs for the Spring Dance Concert and school musical each year. Janet is very active within the Loyola Academy community leading student retreats and summer service trips. She regularly seeks out professional development opportunities to continue her own artistic growth. Recently, Janet performed with Keigwin and Company in the Chicago Dancing Festival 2012 and attended the Bates Dance Festival.

When she isn’t dancing, Janet enjoys teaching Pilates, practicing yoga, and running races around the city of Chicago.

0

CD Review: Ballet Lovers, Vol. 8

by Emily Kate Long

Music for Ballet Lovers Vol. 8: Gorgeous Moments II
Yoshi GurwellScreen_shot_2014-07-27_at_7.50.17_AM

Yoshi Gurwell’s Gorgeous Moments lives up to its name. The California-based pianist plays with heart and personality on all 40 tracks for barre and center floor. Rags, waltzes, tangos, marches, and polkas come in all speeds, lengths, and flavors to suit intermediate, advanced, or professional dancers. The music is a joy to move to—expressive without being overly busy. All the compositions on the disc are original works by Yoshi Gurwell’s husband Doug, arranged and performed by Yoshi.

I’ve come across other ballet class CDs with this much content (Gorgeous Moments offers 19 tracks for barre and 21 for center), and often the selections are so similar they seem unnecessary. Here each piece feels specific and important, making this album both useful and inspiring. I highly recommend it to teachers of higher-level dancers.

0

Dance: Teaching Beyond Technique

dancer posing upside down

Janet Neidhardt

by Janet Neidhardt

Dance is such an amazing medium and practice because it allows us to be challenged physically, mentally, and emotionally. As a dance educator it is easy to feel successful (or unsuccessful) based on how well my students improve in their physical technique. Days when I see my students finally spot a turn or find their balance on one leg, I give myself a pat on the back because they finally got it! But what that physical accomplishment gives students is so much more than coordination. It provides for them a challenge to try, fail, try again, and succeed. At the end of the day what I really want my students to leave my class being able to do is feel confident and love their individuality a little bit more.

I recently received an amazing thank you letter from a senior student whom I have had the privilege of teaching dance to this school year. This letter did not say thank you for teaching me to do a perfect (insert any dance move/trick here) instead it was a thank you letter that talked about personal growth and discovery. My student wrote about making new friends in my class and what it felt like to be a part of a team. I often refer to our class as a team to help build a safe environment for risk taking.

The greatest section of the letter stated: “One piece of advice that I am always going to remember is you telling me not to judge myself based on peoples dance skills and focus on myself. This stuck with me because for a long time I always focused on other people and how to be like them. You taught me originality and to stop comparing myself to other people and I am thankful for that.”

This wonderful thank you letter was a great reminder to me that what my students leave my class with is so much more than new found physical ability. To be able to teach students self confidence, the ability to take chances, and to not give up when things are challenging is a wonderful gift. Dance offers the opportunity for students to learn these life lessons so easily because they embody movement challenges, emotional challenges, and internalize personal growth.

When I approach teaching movement, giving corrections, coaching performance, etc., I keep in mind how I go about doing these things because I know that my words hold great weight in effecting how my students feel about themselves and their abilities. I try to be encouraging and emphasize effort most of all. Yes, it is important that my students grow within their physical abilities, but I know that everyone will grow at different rates and what is most important to me is that they have fun and embrace the challenges posed to them and do not feel defeated.

We walk a thin line as teachers between challenging students and overwhelming them with difficult objectives. As teachers we too can get caught up in competition of who does it the best in class or whose class has better dancers. We must keep in mind that we set the tone for what is most important in our class, be it work ethic or something else.

It is essential, no matter if you teach in a studio or school, to always remember that as a dance educator we have the ability and responsibility to teach dance in a way that will strengthen our students’ characters. I have never had a student thank me for teaching them a pirouette or tricky movement combination but I have had many thank you’s regarding emotional self growth. I hope this inspires you to see yourself as more than a teacher of dance movement.

I know I will hold on to this thank you letter forever as a great reminder of what I can and should be teaching beyond technique.

Contributor Janet Neidhardt has been a dance educator for 10 years. She has taught modern, ballet, and jazz at various studios and schools on Chicago’s North Shore. She received her MA in Dance with an emphasis in Choreography from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and her BA in Communications with a Dance Minor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Throughout her time in graduate school, Janet performed with Sidelong Dance Company based in Winston-Salem, NC.

Currently, Janet teaches dance at Loyola Academy High School in Wilmette, IL. She is the Director of Loyola Academy Dance Company B and the Brother Small Arts Guild, and choreographs for the Spring Dance Concert and school musical each year. Janet is very active within the Loyola Academy community leading student retreats and summer service trips. She regularly seeks out professional development opportunities to continue her own artistic growth. Recently, Janet performed with Keigwin and Company in the Chicago Dancing Festival 2012 and attended the Bates Dance Festival.

When she isn’t dancing, Janet enjoys teaching Pilates, practicing yoga, and running races around the city of Chicago.

 

2

Modern Dance History In Today’s Classroom

Loie_Fuller

Portrait of Loïe Fuller, by Frederick Glasier, 1902

by Janet Neidhardt

Every year I teach my students about the history of modern dance. Each student researches and presents to the class the story of a modern dance pioneer. During this process of research and presentation I see various light bulbs pop on in my students’ minds as they come to the realization that movement has origins in history. They say things like “We do this movement in class!” and “This dancer had similar concepts about dance as we do in here.”

It’s so wonderful that videos of pioneer dancers like Loie Fuller, Ted Shawn, and Mary Wigman (just to name a few) are available on the internet for free and with such easy access. Watching videos of old dances and dancers is eye opening and creates great discussion among students about how dance has changed and how it has remained the same.

I find that my students appreciate learning and studying dance movement as an art form with greater depth after they learn about the history involved in the evolution of modern dance.  Part of their assignment is to reflect on how their pioneer dancer connects or relates to our class. This often starts a conversation about the various dance forms I’ve studied that I am now passing on as well as what and how dancers study movement today.

I ask my students, what does it mean to research movement in the body and devote your life to it as opposed to learning movement from others? Can you do both at the same time?

It is difficult for them to understand the idea of researching movement in the body because they are so used to learning movement from others. This is one of the many reasons I value teaching movement improvisation and choreography in high school. I love to see students discover that they can make up and create movement that is their own. They start to understand that if they really want to be original they need to evolve from what they already know and ask questions about what they don’t know. It is this curiosity that leads them to great creations of authentic work.

We also discuss studying one technique of dance verses studying them all and how that can change a dancers’ understanding of movement.

When talking about studying one technique verses studying many we can see that as dance has evolved there is more of a trend to be able to do it all. This is clearly a huge topic all on its own, but within the context of modern dance history my students always seem surprised that dancers would study with one teacher for many years and then branch out on their own after only learning one way of moving. They are impressed with the commitment and passion for dance that the pioneers had and they realize that is what they need to have to fully embody all movement they learn and create.

I encourage all dance educators to teach their students about modern dance pioneers and relate them back to their own classroom work. Students’ appreciation for dance and movement is expanded and their perspective about what it means to study dance is altered in profound ways.

dancer posing upside down

Janet Neidhardt

Contributor Janet Neidhardt has been a dance educator for 10 years. She has taught modern, ballet, and jazz at various studios and schools on Chicago’s North Shore. She received her MA in Dance with an emphasis in Choreography from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and her BA in Communications with a Dance Minor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Throughout her time in graduate school, Janet performed with Sidelong Dance Company based in Winston-Salem, NC.

Currently, Janet teaches dance at Loyola Academy High School in Wilmette, IL. She is the Director of Loyola Academy Dance Company B and the Brother Small Arts Guild, and choreographs for the Spring Dance Concert and school musical each year. Janet is very active within the Loyola Academy community leading student retreats and summer service trips. She regularly seeks out professional development opportunities to continue her own artistic growth. Recently, Janet performed with Keigwin and Company in the Chicago Dancing Festival 2012 and attended the Bates Dance Festival.

When she isn’t dancing, Janet enjoys teaching Pilates, practicing yoga, and running races around the city of Chicago.

0

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: A Dance Teacher’s Perspective

Happy March! I hope spring is making a welcome appearance in your part of the country / world!

We recently had an article on Mirrors in the Classroom, by Sally Radell, of Emory University in Atlanta, GA. The first
article was written more for the dancer — Sally has now written one for us which focuses on mirror use from
the teacher’s perspective.  

It’s so important for teachers to understand the effect mirrors can have – both positive and negative – and how to best integrate them into classroom teaching, for the students’ best interests. As I mentioned in my intro for Sally’s
first article, I always remember the great Betty Jones (Jose Limon Company dancer and world-famous Limon teacher) saying, “mirrors put you outside your body, not in it” — good words to take to heart, and now we have recent research, such as Sally Radell’s, to give scientific support to them!

Happy Spring :)

Jan

______________________________________

137_3791by Sally A. Radell, MFA, MA

It’s easy to develop a “mirror addiction” when teaching dance. This is particularly evident when teaching beginning level technique classes. I primarily use the mirror as a classroom management tool to visually “bring all of us together” in the learning of new phrases. I usually have the whole class face the mirror. I stand in front, also facing the mirror, as I demonstrate the new material with the dancers behind me following along. This enables me to watch the students as I guide them through the phrase while simultaneously calling out movement cues to help them through the challenging portions of the material. This can be a particularly efficient use of time in short dance classes where I am always pushing myself to make it through my lesson. However, I have noticed a certain level of dependence on using the mirror in my teaching; too much reliance on the mirror can create problems that are detrimental to students’ technical development and body image.

What are the drawbacks of mirror use in the dance classroom?

  • Especially when I work with beginning dancers, I see that the visual reflection of their bodies in the mirror is a more powerful experience than the proprioceptive muscular sensation of performing a movement. Under these circumstances, a dancer “removes herself from her body” to the point where she cannot learn to fully trust her proprioceptive self. Yet without full access to this movement information, a dancer’s growth can be impeded.
  • Research shows that mirrors in dance classes can contribute to the development of a poor body image for dancers.  Often more advanced students will be more critical of their body in the mirror because they have a more highly developed eye for identifying technical weaknesses. They struggle to negotiate between the two-dimensional reflection of their body in the mirror and their three-dimensional body in motion.  This heightened self-consciousness may cause a dancer to see her body as an object to compare to others in the room. This whole dehumanizing process can cause stress, negative self-evaluation, and ultimately a poor body image.
  • Teaching with mirrors can slow down the development of a dancer’s technical skills, especially in the slower adagio phrase where students find plenty of time for mirror-gazing. The more they focus on individual positions, the less likely they are to learn the flow of movement and the muscular connections a dancer needs for smooth technical advancement.
  • Remember that not all students have the maturity and objectivity to use the mirror constructively. Dance counselor Julia Buckroyd, who is an emeritus professor from the University of Hertfordshire in the UK, reports that most teenage students are unable to see an accurate image of themselves in the mirror. They cannot detach themselves from their reflection in order to benefit fully from the information the mirror provides.

So what’s a dance teacher to do?

Read more

0

Review: Modern Ballet Studio Melodies – Sounds Of Christmas

by Catherine L. Tully

What a delight! Christopher Hobson has really come up with lovely arrangements that work for ballet class here on “Sounds of Christmas“. I doubt it was an easy task to make these songs fit for barre and center, but the way he has done it–they sound totally natural.

51yOUBVxM+L._SL500_AA280_I can see this being a great fit for classes at any level. Children may recognize familiar Nutcracker tunes such as Waltz of the Flowers or the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. They’ll certainly know favorites such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Jingle Bells!

There is certainly plenty here for adults as well, with tracks such as Santa Baby and O Holy Night. Some are fun, some are beautiful–and all are extremely well crafted. Where a collection of Christmas music tends to make one worry about it being a campy bunch of poorly arranged tracks, instead Hobson has done the opposite and delivered a treasure trove of melodies for use in any ballet class.

Get yourself this Christmas gift–or give it to a teacher you know for the holiday. It’s terrific.

Available on iTunes.

Disclosure: MBSM advertises on 4dancers

0

Connect With Us!

Visit Us On PinterestVisit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookCheck Our Feed