Keep Your Distance

'Keep Your Distance' Dance Notes creativity blog for teachersThe phrase ‘keep your distance’ has generally been used by way of a warning. But there may also be a more positive interpretation…

 

New Creative Adventures

I was talking with my daughter, the other day. She has recently been writing songs, together with a friend. This is completely new to both of them and has been a very rewarding experience. It has also thrown up some interesting insights into the creative process.

We have discussed, before, the merits of collaborative creativity. We have observed how this can take us to places we would not otherwise go. In turn, we may then meet challenges we would not otherwise encounter.

Differences in Approach

My daughter has, indeed, found this to be the case. She is new to putting words and music together. She has particularly enjoyed the differences in approach between her and her friend.  And both acknowledge that the results have been better than either could have hoped to achieve alone.

But something else struck me about this scenario. And that is the similarity with my own recent creative work. I have been helping my son put together some remote recordings he and his theatre group have made. This is familiar territory for me, whereas my daughter is exploring something quite new. However, there is a connection between our respective experiences.

One Step Removed

That connection lies in the benefit of being one step removed from the emotional content and having an objective view. When we work creatively, we tend to be delving into our personal responses to a given stimulus. This means that we can quickly become very invested in the outcome. Which is – of course – a good thing. But it can also impede our progress.

Because we are close to the subject matter, it may be difficult to see where improvements can be made. If we are very attached to an idea, we can easily confuse our responses to it with the creation itself. Whereas, somebody with a little distance from the emotional content may be able to offer alternative suggestions and a different artistic approach.

Emotional Detachment

So, my daughter and her friend benefit from being able to work creatively in response to one another’s words and/or melodies at a slight remove. They can suggest ideas and improvements for the good of the song, above and beyond any emotional attachment to it. That is not to say they do not want to convey the underlying emotion. But together they can be craftsman-like in their interpretation of it.

I benefit similarly from that emotional detachment when mixing somebody else’s recordings. This is something I find very difficult to do for my own work because I am too close to it. So, I will generally invite an external expert to do this for me. However, I can be more objective when doing this for somebody else. 

Alternative Solutions

When we ask primary children to be ‘good critical friends’, we are echoing these processes. The learning here is two-fold. On the one hand, the child or children being critiqued learn to accept suggestions and criticism. On the other, they are made aware that there are always alternative solutions to any creative task.

Learning that artistic vision and technical application are not contradictory is a valuable lesson. For those of us that create for a living, we need to not be too attached to any one outcome. Through collaboration, we can quickly overcome the limitations of our own creative thinking. And, in collaborating, we need to allow for the fact that each participant will have their own vision.

Heartening

Whereas, in creative work, it is the emotional impulse that creates the spark, a little personal remove allows us to fan the flames. So, it can sometimes be good to keep your distance. And what could be more heartening in these socially-separated times? 

 

It’s Good To Talk

The Creator & The Craftsperson

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

Creative Impatience

Creative Impatience - Dance Notes creativity blog for teachersDo you suffer from creative impatience? When an idea strikes, do you want to know, immediately, what it will look, sound or feel like? Cutting corners rarely saves time in the long run. But…

Proper Groundwork

This is something with which I grapple all the time. Often, I will be so excited by an idea that I fail to do the proper groundwork to enable its satisfactory completion. However, that does not mean you should resist these impulses when they occur. Quite the opposite.

Back to The Beginning

To give an example, I have recently been working on some video clips from a live performance. Having decided to put this footage online in episodes, I set about marrying the audio and video. As per usual, the desire to get this ‘out there’ somewhat overtook the necessity to pay attention to detail. Which has meant that, to some extent, I have had to go back to the beginning.

I was putting the finished clips together when I noticed a nasty background noise was compromising the sound. So, I set about rectifying this within each clip. But then I realised it would be better to fix the original audio before separating into individual segments. Which, had I been paying attention, could have been done at the start.

Log Your Progress

However, some things only become apparent when viewed (heard/felt/etc.) in context. And that context may not always exist until we are already into the creative process. So, frustrating as it is, sometimes you just need to do some unpicking in order to refine your creation.

This highlights the need for keeping a log of your progress. Whatever the medium, it should be possible to record the steps you have taken. This is useful on several levels.

You may be creating something you would like to reproduce or adapt at a later date. You may wish to teach others your methods, so they can learn from your experience. Or, you may need to go back and rectify a mistake, before then rebuilding what you had achieved.

Not Such a Bad Thing

Fortunately, in this digital age, it is easier than ever to capture the steps taken. And, if you are working within the digital realm itself, you can simply undo and redo specific actions. You can also save alternative versions of your work.  So, experiments may be made without losing the original draft.

Therefore, whilst attention to detail may save time in the long run, the odd rush of creative impatience is not necessarily such a bad thing. We all know that many of our best creations are essentially the result of mistakes. And license to make mistakes is fundamental to the creative process.

Permission to Risk

Where children are concerned, this freedom is key to the whole creative experience. Whereas they are subject to myriad rules and restrictions – imposed, of course, for their own good – being allowed to break free from such constraints is liberating. And knowing that it’s OK to get things ‘wrong’ leads to far greater creative possibilities.

We all crave a degree of certainty in our lives. And we all know this will invariably be thwarted, one way or another. A major benefit of creative pursuits is giving ourselves permission to take risk within a safe environment. Safety is, of course, very important when working with pupils. So, allowing a form of risk in which there is no real danger is a joy for both pupil and teacher.

Doing in Reverse

Though it may sometimes mean unpicking what had taken many hours to achieve, the learning this provides is invaluable. Indeed, the act of undoing something is merely ‘doing’ in reverse. So, we then benefit from double the experience!

Or am I just excusing myself for being sloppy?

Let Go The Reins

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Your Creative Curve

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

Moving The Goalposts

Moving The Goalposts - Dance Notes creativity blog for teachersSo, you’ve read the brief, defined your boundaries, created a masterpiece… and then everything changes. What do you do when the goalposts move?

This will be a familiar scenario for anyone working to commission within the creative industries. But what does it have to do with education? And what can we learn from the fickle capriciousness of the ‘real world’?

Constant Pitfall

It may come as no surprise that this situation has arisen for me personally (this may seem rather music-specific but bear with me). Last-minute change is, in fact, a constant pitfall when writing to order. Particularly when composing for video. This is largely due to the fact you will initially be working to a rough edit, which is then invariably ‘tightened up’.  

What then happens is that all the work done to ensure your music reflects the pacing of the video is now out of sequence. The editor and/or director may not be too concerned. They will still be working to the underlying beat of the music. And this should still work (unless they have completely changed tack) – but the phrasing will now be out.

Unwanted Demands

The solution lies in rediscovering your original response to the creative brief. Even though phrases may need to be shortened or tempos quickened, the sounds, motifs and melodies will still be relevant. And you now have the opportunity to refine and edit your work to make it more concise… ‘leaner’.

Having such a task imposed on you may feel like an unwanted extra demand. But it will rarely make what you have produced worse. More often, it will make things that little bit ‘snappier’. And this is where the learning comes in.

Good Critical Friends

We’ve spoken a lot about giving children free rein to express themselves through creative learning. We know we need to give them space to express themselves. We understand the importance of resisting our natural urge to steer or lead. And our pupils, thereby, have ownership of their creative work.

However, an important part of this process comes at the end. That is when we invite pupils to observe and comment on one another’s work. They are encouraged to be ‘good critical friends’, offering suggestions for improvement and further development.

Humility & Flexibility

This is the point at which children have the opportunity to craft what they have made. To go beyond the original creative impulse and stretch themselves. And that requires both humility and flexibility.

It is hard for anyone to take criticism, however well-intentioned. Yet, the ability to accept and accommodate other people’s ideas is an important skill. That way, we grow beyond our own self-imposed limitations. Which is where collaboration can lead to rewarding results.

Where the Magic Happens

It can be frustrating to have a teacher, editor, director or whoever ‘meddle’ with your precious creation. But remember, they too will have a creative vision. It may not be quite the same as our own – but this is where the magic happens.

A good deal of great art, especially in the world of music, has come from apparently conflicting partnerships. Lennon and McCartney (The Beatles), Townsend and Daltrey (The Who), Waters and Gilmore (Pink Floyd), Sumner and Copeland (The Police) and Simon & Garfunkel are examples that spring readily to mind. No doubt Gilbert & George, too, have their differences – but that is less my area of expertise.

Social Learning

Conflict resolution, compromise and mutual acceptance are all by-products of the artistic process. In fact, this is precisely why creative pursuits are such a powerful tool for social learning. As educators, we all know how important those things are – even if they may not feature in any SATs.

In the end, somebody else moving the goalposts may just be the artistic nudge we need. Learning to accept and understand other people’s ideas and opinions can only be a good thing. And it is one more step towards realizing potential we may not know we already had.

Now, can somebody please explain how Gaelic Football works?

 

Unexpected Inspiration

It’s Good to Talk

See, Hear & Experience

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

Take Note

Taking Notes - Dance Notes creativity blog for teachersThe other day, something  sparked an idea for a blog post. Sadly, I’ve forgotten what it was.  Which got me thinking about the power of writing things down – take note!

In my studio, where I spend the majority of my working hours, I keep two piles of recycled paper. These are from things that have been printed or posted, don’t need keeping and are blank on one side. One stack lives next to my laptop and another on the studio desk. I use them to take note of ideas, to-do items, phone messages, etc. as they occur to me.

Take Note

There are many circumstances in which going ‘direct to digital’ is an advantage. Right now, for example, I am typing into a word processor. That way, I can quickly correct and edit as I go. I will then be able to easily make amendments and revisions later. Similarly, when working on a new music composition, I will generally work straight into my Digital Audio Workstation.

However, when an idea for a song lyric appears, or a potential blog topic pops into my head, it is always useful to write that down immediately and manually.  When it comes to audio, I have the digital equivalent of a notebook (a portable hard-disk recorder). With this, I can quickly capture an idea for later retrieval; something I would be hard-pressed to do on paper. So, ultimately, it’s the making notes that is important. rather than the method in which this is done.

Mental Clutter

The point is that sometimes an idea can be fleeting and needs to be grabbed immediately. If not, it may either be forgotten entirely or remain as one of many fragments of unattended business in the back of your mind. These little idealets (technical term), if not released into the physical world, can quickly build into mental clutter. And a cluttered brain becomes sluggish.

Think of your own laptop or PC. If you don’t perform regular maintenance, it can slow to a crawl. Similarly, if you don’t organise your documents into folders, they will become a confused mess on your desktop. Even the most unconventional mind needs order and clarity. So, rather than landing yourself with a huge clear-up down the road, avoid congestion by noting things down as they occur to you.

Initial Spark

Of course, you could then just be displacing the problem. These notes, if left to proliferate, will be just as disorganized and impenetrable as unattended thoughts. Knowing that an idea is safely noted allows you to attend other matters until you are ready to act upon it. But you also need to cultivate the habit of organising and nurturing impulses whilst they are still fresh. 

This is particularly important in the case of creative ideas . The initial spark needs to be kindled before it goes cold. By rendering it visible in the first place, you have already greatly increased the chances of catching a flame. But, in order to build a creative blaze, that will need to be fed before it goes out. OK, enough of the tortured fire imagery – maybe I have too much time to burn!

Remind & Recap

Younger children have new ideas, thoughts and experiences all the time. Their minds are still malleable and able to recall information readily. Yet, since so much is new to them, points of reference are harder to come by. So, whilst physically noting things down is less necessary, regular reminders and recaps are important.

At the beginning of any creative session with young pupils, it is therefore useful to look back over what was done last time. On the one hand, a week is a very long time for a child. On the other, remembering what they did a week ago should not be difficult, given the right prompts.

Precious Moments

For the teacher, you will doubtless have notes to which you can refer. But will you remember those little moments of precious creativity and spontaneity your pupils produced? Here again, if you take note of things as they occur, that will ensure nothing is lost or forgotten.

Then you can say to a pupil “do you remember when you did ‘x’?” or “didn’t you have a really good idea for ‘y'”. They will be thrilled you remember and able to then quickly build on their ideas. They, of course, don’t need to know you wrote that down last week. The main thing is that their creativity is rewarded.

Still Can’t Remember…

None of which excuses the fact I still can’t remember what on earth I was going to write about this week. Perhaps it will come back to me. Or perhaps not. Where do forgotten ideas go when we don’t take note?

Now maybe there‘s an idea for a blog…

 

The Tyranny of The Screen

Just Do One Thing

Knowing When To Stop

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

 

Do Less to Achieve More

Can it really be that you can do less to achieve more? Is this just an excuse for laziness? Or is there something to be said for taking your time?

Time on Our Hands

Right now, many people have more time on their hands than they are used to. And quite a few are spending it realizing creative ambitions that had been kept on hold. Which begs the question: what were we all waiting for?

Whatever the answer, sheds are now being built, gardens renovated, books written, albums recorded, instruments mastered, paintings painted and more besides. Few people carrying out such activity, however, would consider themselves ‘busy’. They are simply getting on with things, in-between the hours of relative boredom.

Constant Input

In recent times, it has become a virtual crime to be bored. Or, at least, to admit to that condition. Children rarely experience the luxury of having nothing to do. And, even when there is no scheduled activity, they will, very often, default to some kind of screen-based entertainment.

Many studies have found that this is not an entirely healthy state of affairs. It has been suggested that boredom is a necessary part of growing up and one that leads to creative thinking. Children have almost limitless reserves of imagination. But for that to flourish, it needs space and time. Constant input can fill the mental wastelands in which seeds of ideas would otherwise take root.

Limits & Boundaries

And so it is for adults, too. Most of us go to ‘work’. Many never question the purpose of this, beyond providing money to pay for food, shelter and luxuries. And the more we have of these, the more we seem to need. So, the more we work.

With modern technology and digital communication, this work can follow us virtually anywhere. Unless we choose to provide ourselves with limits and boundaries. Currently, we have these imposed upon us. And, whilst the background to this is tragic, some consequences are undeniably positive. Can we, then, learn – in the long-run – to make a habit of doing less? And, thereby, achieve more?

The Space Between

Composer Claude Debussy famously commented that “music is the space between the notes”. What he meant was that music needs to breathe. A listener needs time and space to absorb its flow and cadence. The same can be said for any compositional form: visual art, dance, drama, film, prose, verse. A constant stream of sonic, visual or – even – conceptual input can only serve to overwhelm and confuse.

Which is the state in which many people find themselves, on a regular basis, today. We crave information and (now more than ever) connection. However, without breathing space between interactions, we cannot make sense of things. Though we seek constant stimulation, when we get it, we are unable to cope.

Associated Guilt

The same may be applied to the creative process. It’s not possible to be on output mode the whole time. Periods of reflection and – indeed – boredom are a necessary part of the journey.  So, we need to resist the feeling that time spent ostensibly doing ‘nothing’ is time wasted. And let go of any associated guilt that modern society may attach to this.

Only today, I received an email from a distant collaborator (in New York). This is a man who has created a global network of original thinkers and artists. He has coordinated a world-wide creative project that has produced a number of thought-provoking video sequences. His work is challenging, original, inclusive and collaborative.

True Value

Today, he described himself as ‘tired and lazy’. Tired, perhaps. Lazy, never. What I think he meant, was that he has taken the time to follow his creative project. Possibly at the expense of other things he believes he ‘ought’ to be doing. Maybe he has hit a bit of a slump in productivity. We all do that. It is, after all, part of the process.

In the end, however, this individual has achieved a great deal. Whilst society demands that we remain ‘productive’ at all times, nobody really ever is. We can, indeed, keep ourselves busy. But in so doing, there’s every chance we are actually creating less of true value.

It’s OK to Do Less

So, give yourself permission: it’s OK to do less. Especially now. And see whether, in the end, you actually achieve more.

 

Please Yourself

Knowing When to Stop

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

 

 

 

Your Creative Curve

It’s all very well saying ‘just have a go’ but how do you combat doubts about your work? The trick is to recognise where you are on the creative curve.

Is It Any Good?

We’ve spoken quite a lot about the need for expressive freedom. We’ve established that sometimes you need to take a leap of faith and just do something. And we’ve discussed how the process (rather than the end product) is the reward. But, in the end, we all want to create something of value.

So, how do you overcome doubts about whether what you are doing is any good? Even if you agree it doesn’t matter what other people think, if you have misgivings of your own, this can be unsettling. And if that undermines the enjoyment of your creative activity, then it is clearly something that needs to be addressed.

Impostor Syndrome

Well, to begin with, you may be reassured to know that even the most successful artists tend to have these feelings. In fact, those of whom there is the greatest expectation can suffer the most. There is a recognised condition known as ‘impostor syndrome’, which is essentially the sensation of ‘getting away with something’ whilst feeling unqualified to do it.

For the rest of us, the stakes are somewhat lower. We really only need to please ourselves and, perhaps, our peers, parents, teachers, etc. However, that doesn’t necessarily make things any easier.

Seeing The Creative Curve

To combat this discomfort, we need to understand that our misgivings are part of the process. There is a distinct curve to the creative act that, if we can recognise it, we can use to manage our expectations. In the same way that we need to be aware when it’s time to take a break, we must also allow for the emotional highs and lows of the creative journey.

Lost Faith

A colleague was recently reviewing some emails I’d sent her. She is somebody I routinely send my blog-posts to before publishing. She will proof-read and critique them prior to their being sent out into the world.

In one such email, I had written ‘I’m not sure if this one is any good’. She responded that it was actually really good and had something useful to say. I then explained I’d reached the point in the creative curve at which I’d lost faith in what I was trying to say. Which gave me the idea for today’s blog.

99% Perspiration

You may have heard the quote – apparently said by the inventor Thomas Edison – that ‘genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration’. Now, nobody is claiming any kind of genius here but the sentiment rings true for creative work. Generally, there is some kind of inspirational spark that leads to the compulsion to create. And, to realise this creation, a good deal of hard work then follows.

But that is not the whole picture. As I wrote to my collaborator, there are more layers to this process. Namely: the initial excitement of having an idea; the enjoyment of bringing that to life (through writing, moving, composing, painting, sculpting, etc.); the drudgery of refining and editing the creation; and, finally, loss of faith in the whole thing.

Under Scrutiny

Now, this may sound rather harsh, cynical even. But it will be familiar to anyone who creates on a regular basis. For me, personally, the loss of belief usually coincides with the point at which my work needs to be presented to an audience – or made available for scrutiny by peers and colleagues.

And this is where the relevance to our work in education comes in. Put yourself in the shoes of a young pupil. They have been really excited by an idea they had for a picture/dance/story/song. They then lost themselves in the enjoyment of making this thing of their own inventing. And they have worked hard to refine and improve their creation.

But then comes the point at which they have to present their work. This may be: to you, as the teacher; to their friends, whose opinions matter deeply; or to the whole class, which has the ability to make them feel like a hero or a failure. When we look at it from the child’s perspective, it’s pretty daunting. Just at the point at which they feel least confident, they must make themselves most vulnerable.

Confronting Fears

If we are able to recognise our own frailties in such a situation, we can better empathise with our pupils, faced with this crisis of confidence. But it need not be a crisis at all. If they are made aware that everyone feels this way sometimes – and that it’s OK to be unsure – we can help them confront their fears.

As with so many aspects of creativity, this is an important, broader learning experience. One that can help with personal growth and confidence later in life. Confronting fears at an early age can help to strengthen the resolve of those children when they reach adulthood.

Carry On Regardless

And, for those of us that have already become adult, it is useful to remind ourselves that we can’t always be super-confident. But we can learn to carry on regardless. Generally, the best solution is simply to remind yourself you have done your best.

Whereas, in this moment, you may have lost confidence in what you have created, there is every chance that when you come back to it later, you will see it’s true worth. Or – better still – somebody else will say ‘that thing you did was really good’. Just remember, it’s all part of the process.

Now, let’s see: I’m not sure if what I just wrote is any good…

 

Knowing When To Stop

The Creator & The Craftsperson

Do ‘Something’

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

Art for Art’s Sake

With no deadlines, exhibitions, performances or exams in sight, it’s a little like the Zen conundrum about a tree falling in the forest. Without a witness, does your creative work exist? Are you happy to make art for art’s sake?

Good Creative Habits

During this period of social distancing and self-isolation, it could be all too easy to slip into a malaise. However, it’s now more important than ever that we each look after our physical and mental health. And this can be an opportunity to get into good creative habits.

Most of us recognise the need for regular routines in eating, sleeping, getting dressed and maintaining personal hygiene. But how many of us see creative self-expression as a daily necessity? Physical exercise is something we know we should all do for ts own benefit. ‘Art’, on the other hand, can still be regarded as either an amusing diversion or a lucrative career option.

The latter is, of course, a rarity. Of the millions who aspire to fame and fortune through their art, only a handful will achieve them. But the creative process is available to literally everybody: anytime, anywhere. And, just as with physical exercise, this activity brings its own rewards at very little personal cost.

Creative Role Models

Normally, at this point, I would relate the topic under discussion to working with children. Clearly, the collective act of group learning has been mostly suspended for the time being. But that doesn’t mean we cease to be creative role models for our youngsters.

Many of us will have children at home. Those that don’t will be in touch with others that do. And we all influence one another through our words and deeds. So, even at a time when few pupils are in school, maintaining our own creative activity as adults remains vitally important.

Abstract Expression

So, how do you stay motivated to be creative? The best way is to not think of  motivation at all. Make your art a part of your habits and routines. And don’t think about the outcome.

A good approach is to try some abstract expression. This may sound a little fancy, possibly even pretentious. However, taken at its most basic level, it is simply about freeing yourself from expectations.

If learning a dance routine feels like an onerous task, try moving for the pure enjoyment of physical exploration. If you don’t know what to paint (or don’t think you are talented enough to represent a specific scene or image) just play with some colours and see what happens. Bored of practicing scales on your instrument? Throw away the notes and simply make some noise.

The Proverbial Forest

If not now – when? You have licence to go off piste. You can literally ‘dance like no one is watching’. This is your chance to make a habit of expressing yourself.

Don’t just do it once, though. Make it a regular part of your routine. Perhaps after getting dressed, before bed or after meals. And then see how that effects your mood and mental health over the longer term.

You are in the proverbial forest with nobody there to see you. But that doesn’t mean your art doesn’t exist. Creativity is an innate part of us all that demands an outlet.

So, if for no other reason – make art for art’s sake.

Please Yourself

Juggling for Beginners

Let Go The Reins

Do ‘Something’

When Art Touches Us All

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

What is Your Label?

This week, two things jumped out at me from the radio. One was from Radio 4’s ‘Saturday Live’, the other the Radio 1 Breakfast Show. Both concerned identity… what is your label?

Who Are You?

For those of us of a certain vintage, this evokes a minor hit from a major rock band. For the rest, it’s a straight forward, yet impenetrable question. What determines our sense of self and – by extension – self-worth?

It was a schoolteacher who addressed this issue, in a very timely and measured manner, on Radio 1’s Breakfast Show. He was speaking, on behalf of all teachers, to the nation’s pupils. He was particularly addressing those that, in the midst of coronavirus-related school closures, will be missing exams and/or leaving early.

The Whole Person

Those youngsters face uncertainty in relation to their exam grades. These marks, in turn, will – of course – have an influence on the future prospects of each pupil. This teacher wanted to assure all concerned that whilst exam grades are naturally of great importance, they do not define the whole person.

Pupil measurement, at all levels of education, is a contentious issue. The idea that a child can be labelled according to SATS results, GCSEs, A levels, and so on can be the source of anxiety, disappointment and demotivation. However, as our friendly headteacher pointed out, how we label ourselves can be something altogether more positive.

Fulfilling Your Identity

Which brings me to the Radio 4 ‘Saturday Live’ guest, Alice Morrison. She had worked within the media industry, enjoying high status and big salaries. However, when her business fell foul of funding cuts, she looked to her passion for adventure as a way forward.

What struck me, in particular, was when Alice talked about deciding to call herself ‘Alice Morrison, Adventurer’. By allowing herself to choose her own label, she then began to fulfil that identity. And this resonated with me personally, since I did more or less the same thing, when I began to refer to myself as a composer in my late twenties.

Dream & Aspirations

It may seem trivial but how we label ourselves is actually important. Clearly, in neither case did we just say ‘I’m going to be this’ without any preparation or prior learning. But here is the point: we never stop learning. Once we have chosen a particular direction, more and more learning becomes a necessity in order to follow that path.

Young children are often asked ‘what are you going to be when you grow up?’. I think many of us have come to the realisation that, in actual fact, we never really grow up. However, many do lose sight of the dreams and aspirations they had as a child. They allow labels that others impose to define and limit them.

Unique Talents

As the teacher on Radio 1 said, it is important to value yourself for your own unique talents. These may be academic; they may be artistic; they may be in the ability to empathise and care. And, whilst we strive to enable our youngsters to fulfil their potential through education, we need also to encourage them to choose labels for themselves.

It may sound grand to call yourself ‘adventurer’. However, if that is your true calling, it would be wrong to refer to yourself as anything else. Children have the wonderful ability to imagine themselves to be almost anything. Fostering this imagination is a vital step towards them later achieving their goals.

You’ve Got to Have a Dream

Let’s remind our pupils that labels applied by others are not the only ones that count. And, thereby, help them on the road to self-determination.

As Oscar Hammerstein II once said:

“You gotta have a dream, if you don’t have a dream,

How you gonna have a dream come true?”

 

What is Your Personal Truth?

Please Yourself

Alice Morrison, Adventurer

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

 

Please Yourself

Last week, we talked about preparation. How creativity can give confidence in meeting challenges. And how, in the end, you should be happy with your own work & please yourself.

Falling Apart

How prescient then, when one of the composing commissions cited fell apart in the final phase. The details are unimportant but, essentially, I was commissioned to write some music for a promotional film. The footage had been planned, shot and edited. I had been then drafted in to provide a soundtrack. I was given a guide track to work to and a fairly vague brief of what was required.

It became clear, right at the end of the process, that the people commissioning this piece had not made sufficient preparation. They had not fully thought-through what the promo was for or what it should say. So, in receiving the finished piece, the top decision-maker (who had been absent throughout the process) then decided it was not what she wanted.

Substantial Creative Work

Clearly, there had been a lack of proper communication in this instance. The production team (myself included) will still be paid for our work, so nothing has been lost from that point of view. However, nobody wants to be part of a project that is seen to have been a failure. But was it really?

The fact remains that a substantial piece of creative work has been made. The camera angles are magnificent, the lighting crisp and sharp. There is a terrific human element, a clear narrative and – of course – a cracking soundtrack!

Doing The Best You Can

Whilst it is disappointing to know that this footage will now not be aired, I can personally take comfort in the fact that I was happy with my part in it. As with all things creative, it is the process itself that is the real reward.

Like most artists, I have serious doubts about whether my output is ‘any good’. However, I have learned – as previously discussed – to please myself. To do the best work I can with the tools and skills available.

Inspire & Encourage

When we set children a creative task, there is no money at stake. Nobody will judge whether or not their work has met a brief or ticked the right boxes for funding. The purpose of providing them with artistic challenges is to challenge them.

Obviously, what some pupils produce may be subjectively ‘better’ than others. Indeed, we like to model examples of good work. However, this is in order to inspire and encourage the whole class, not to pit one against the other.

Please Yourself

This kind of positive cooperation is an invaluable life skill. And if individuals learn the strength to say ‘this is what I have done and I’m happy with it’, they will develop resilience for future collaborations. Pride in one’s achievements should not rely on the opinions of others. Whilst we all like to be appreciated and receive praise the true worth of our creativity is what it means to us personally.

Perhaps, in assessing children’s creative work, we could bear this in mind. Rather than saying ‘that’s good’ or ‘you’ve done well’, we could ask ‘are you happy with that?’ or ‘what do you like about it?’ It’s always good to provide alternatives and suggestions for improvement. But, perhaps, if a child is unyielding because they are happy with their work, our only response, surely, must be ‘please yourself’.

Juggling for Beginners

Keeping It Real

Moving the Goal Posts

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

Juggling for Beginners

As a freelance creative, commissions can be like buses. You wait ages for one to come along – then three turn up at once. And so it is I found myself, last week, juggling three very different composing jobs.

Juggling Contradictory Demands

So, how do you contend with meeting potentially contradictory creative demands? And ensure each is delivered on time, to the required specification? The answer, as with so many things, lies in good preparation.

In the specific case of fulfilling these briefs, that entails a thorough analysis of the source material. All three are video-based and two came with a ‘guide track’ (example of the style of music desired, to which the video has been edited). A lot of information can be derived from both these sources.

The guide track provides: a genre; sound-pallet (set of instruments/tones); tempo; rhythmic structure; harmonic structure and so forth. Similarly, the video has its own pacing, tone, mood, etc. From these, it is possible to construct a template, complete with sound sources, structural markings, tempo maps and so on.

Early Preparation

But, the bulk of preparation took place before any of this was considered. That comprised years of listening, studying and performing. Immersion in countless musical styles and genres, both as audience and performer. This is not said by way of an idle boast, it is just what I do and have always done.

The point is that if you – or your pupils – have an innate interest in a creative form, you will automatically be preparing for the possibility of expressive output of your own. Not only that but a specific creative interest provides fuel for other artistic pursuits too. Better still, none of this feels like ‘work’.

Experiencing art invariably feeds the act of creative expression. So, the whole process is self-perpetuating. And a library of knowledge will amass over time, virtually of its own volition. When somebody then asks ‘Can you create this?’, you can reply – with a degree of certainty – ‘Yes, I can’.

Normalise Meeting Challenges

The beauty of working with young pupils is that they have not yet learned to question whether or not they are ‘good enough’ to tackle creative tasks. And you can give them the opportunity now to normalise meeting such challenges. That way, you are helping to offset any potential reticence as they mature.

Children that grow to develop an interest in a particular creative area will feel ‘qualified’ to pursue this later in life. Not only that but they will have a residual self-belief that may spill-over into other areas of their adult lives. What a gift, when asked to juggle three contrasting creative tasks, to be able to say ‘Yes, I can do that’.

Good News

So far, I have delivered on two of the three commissions. The good news is that they were well received. The other is in hand and I’m pleased to say that I’m happy with it so far. Which, quite frankly, is what matters – and could  well provide the topic for a future blog post.

One word of warning, though: if you are introducing younger children to  juggling – of any kind – it’s probably best to avoid fire!

I Don’t Know How You Do it

What Is Your Personal Truth?

The Art of Interruption

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

Keeping it Real

It’s easy to be dazzled by what we can achieve with technology. However, there’s a lot to be said for keeping it real, especially when working in the digital realm.

A Little Bit if Grit

Music production has benefited, for several decades, from the ability to sample natural sounds. The waveform of anything that can be recorded may be manipulated and used to produce everything from percussion loops to soaring melodies. And the little bit of ‘grit’ this provides can greatly enhance what may otherwise be a rather mechanical sound.

The other day, my daughter showed me a YouTube clip of a contemporary music producer, who works with big-name pop stars. He was demonstrating how some of the sounds within what has become a chart-topping hit come from surprising everyday sources. Few would spot these within the mix but once they have been pointed out, it’s hard not to then listen to the track and say ‘oh yes!’.

A Different Approach

I had just been invited to create some music for a video project when I saw this. And it led to me taking a different approach to my composition. The video features people being interviewed in a variety of settings. Each clip ‘suffers’ from quite a lot of ambient sound spilling-through on the recording. So, rather than see this as a problem, I decided to work with it.

Listening to the background noise, I was able to identify and isolate sounds that suggested rhythms and phrases. I sampled these and blended them with instruments with similar tone and pitch. Each element was then introduced as the source sound appeared within the video. This is still a work in progress but I’m quite happy with the results.

Good Advantage

Potentially distracting noises-off have, therefore, become part of the soundtrack. What may have been seen as a problem has been turned to good advantage. Not only does this mask a technical flaw, it actually means there is a deeper connection between the spoken words and accompanying music.

As we have previously discussed, every creative project is defined by a set of limitations. This may be a physical space, a time limit, a colour pallet, a theme or – very often – a combination of factors. When additional constraints are imposed, these can actually be helpful, from the point of view of defining a creative composition.

Real-World Sources

Working digitally can create the illusion that anything is possible. And, perversely, this overwhelming freedom can be stifling. So, introducing a little reality into the equation can help narrow your options. Any art form is, arguably, a reflection of the real world. By taking real-world sources as a starting point, we can immediately root our creative work in that reality.

Consequently, our output will then be more likely to resonate with others. They will recognise, consciously or otherwise, the ‘realness’ of what they are witnessing. And its effect will be enhanced.

Messy Reality

Working creatively with children, we want them to be expressive. We also want them to be up to speed with the latest digital technologies. The latter can be a great vehicle for the former. But we need to be careful not to make everything too ‘clean’. A little bit of messy reality can make all the difference, breathing life into what otherwise may be safe and stale.

So, encourage your pupils to get their hands dirty. Allow them all the freedom that digitial creativity provides. But also instill in them an awareness of the benefits of keeping it real.

 

What is Your Personal truth?

See, Hear, Experience

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

Curb Your Enthusiasm

What happens when enthusiasm spills over into domination? Well-meaning input quickly becomes unwanted interference. And creativity suffers.

Public Meeting

I was having a meeting, the other evening, to discuss ideas for an upcoming fringe-theatre event. This was being held in a public place, indeed a public house. So, it should have been no surprise when our conversation was interrupted.

The person doing the interrupting was a very dear friend. One who loves to help and, once he gets the bit between his teeth, is unable to curb his enthusiasm. Which is terrific, except for when it becomes overbearing. And my friend, in this instance had clearly been enjoying the venue’s hospitality to the full.

Uninvited Collaborator

In fairness, he was trying to contribute positively to the discussion. He was keen to push me beyond the limitations of what I thought possible for this project. Again, this is unquestionably a good thing. And I was genuinely grateful for the input and enthusiasm for this project.

However, my uninvited collaborator had latched onto the last thing that had been said as he joined the conversation. He hadn’t taken the trouble to ask about the broader vision for the show. And, more crucially, he had then dominated the conversation to the exclusion of the two original participants.

Stifling the Flow

The net effect of this intervention was to stifle the flow of ideas. Aside from the fact it hadn’t been asked for, it used up much of what was a limited window of opportunity. Had this been an equal conversation, the new perspective would have been useful. We could have batted things back and forth and helped to move the project forward. But, instead, we were treated to a lengthy monologue.

Listen &Understand

As previously discussed, when we are working creatively with young people, we must be particularly careful not to dominate. Most will automatically defer to our ideas and opinions. And, if they do, they will – of course – then be stifling their own creative impulses.

As with my tipsy friend, it is clear that our intention is to help and push things forward. However, we should see this as being a collaboration. Children’s ideas and opinions must be treated as at least as valuable as our own. So, the key thing for us to do is listen and understand.

Disengaged & Demotivated

An excellent example of how not to do this has been provided by my son’s drama teacher. She is directing their school’s show and faces a tough job. However, she is controlling the performers’ every move, word and gesture. Which means the children are disengaged and demotivated.

In fairness to this teacher, there is a wide range of ability and motivation among the pupils concerned. But her own enthusiasm is overbearing, particularly for the younger children. They therefore no longer feel that they own their performance. And so, they have become unruly and disruptive. Which, of course, makes the teacher feel she needs to take even more control. And so it goes.

Patience & Understanding

Energy and enthusiasm are key ingredients for any creative collaboration. However, these must be tempered by patience and understanding. If our own innate excitement for a project leads us to take over the conversation, then it is no longer a dialogue. It may, indeed, quickly become a diatribe.

We all have the ability to feel hurt or slighted, especially within a creative setting. And one person’s empathy may be another’s take-over bid. So, get excited by all means. But curb your enthusiasm just enough to allow your pupils and/or collaborators the chance to show theirs as well.

Together, you can then create something of real worth.

 

Let Go The Reins

Go With the Flow

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move


 

Anger is an Energy

Anger is An Energy - Dance Notes creativity blog for teachersAnger is an energy that can scare and intimidate. But what if it’s used creatively? 40 years on, does Punk have any relevance for modern-day learning?

The Essence of Punk

Chris Packham, renowned naturalist, recently produced a documentary for the BBC, in which he attempted to uncover the essence of punk. He visited some key figures from the movement to see what they are now doing and how punk has shaped their worldview. Each agreed that it had been an important cultural phenomenon and a key influence in their personal development.

So what is punk? In recent times, the word has been used chiefly to describe loud, fast, guitar-driven music with shouty vocals. However, the original punk movement was far more than a musical style. It was a state of mind. You could even say it was a way of being.

Angry Energy

During Mr Packham’s film, he grapples with finding a definition for this. His conclusion is that Punk is an attitude. It is having something to say about what is happening in the world outside, right now. And it is very much about expressing personal truths, however unpalatable, as directly as possible, through words, actions and – often – angry energy.

Clearly, today, there is plenty to be angry – or at least concerned – about. We spend quite a lot of time and effort convincing our children they should control their tempers. But where does that pent-up rage go? Could suppressed anger be partly to blame for fueling a rise in mental health issues among the young?

Dangerous & Subversive

Punk, in its heyday, was seen as dangerous and subversive. But perhaps it was more like a safety valve. It actually led to very little violence or disruption. By channeling their anger into something creative and expressive, punks actually may have averted serious civil unrest.

At the very heart of the movement was a reaction to wider complacency. The UK had been through a period of political turmoil and weak leadership. And the heartland of punk wasn’t deprived inner-city ghettos. Rather, it was the drab, middle-class suburbs. The very areas that were seen as safe and neutral.

Safe & Comfortable

As parents and teachers, we strive to create a safe and comfortable environment in which our children may grow and develop. But we also need to allow them space for self-expression. Even if this sometimes means venting anger and challenging established norms. Failure to do so can create personal frustration and collective resentment.

Anger is an energy. And, like all energy, it needs an outlet. One of the many benefits of creative expression is to give that energy purpose and direction. The punk ethos means that when someone has something to say, they take the opportunity to say it. The most important thing for the rest of us to then do is listen.

Full Marks for Anger

So, the next time one of your pupils is being angry and makes you think ‘you little punk’, stop and consider. Maybe they are being a little punk. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.

What we ask of our children is that they make an effort. Effort is energy. And, since anger is an energy, expressing that anger is making an effort. So – full marks for anger!

 

 

Rough & Tumble (KS2)

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

I Don’t Know How You Do It

I Don't Know How You Do It - Dance Notes creativity blog for teachersHow often do we say ‘I don’t know how you do it’, when – really – we do? It’s easy to assume others have hidden talents we don’t. But we all have things we are good at that we just take for granted.

How Do You Do It?

I was having coffee, just earlier today, with a dear friend. I was talking about some composing work that may be coming my way. He said ‘I don’t know how you do it’. To which I replied ‘what?’. ‘Just make something up, out of no-where’ he replied.

The friend in question is an architect. I asked him ‘well, how do you go about designing a house?’. He then proceeded to explain that he would begin with a plot of land (this was represented by the cutlery and condiments on our table). Then, he would see where the access to the property would be (a spoon became the gateway). Next, he would note whether a road ran alongside (a napkin). And, he would consider which way was North, in relation to the property, to see where the natural light would fall.

Given these parameters, he would decide where best to position the house, so that there may be privacy from the road. Ideally this would allow space for a garden to the South side, to make best use of the sunshine. He would consider, perhaps, having a kitchen somewhere where the evening light may fall upon a window (a pepper-pot) and locate a garage (salt-cellar) near to the entrance, where it would not obscure any views.

The Same Process

‘Well, it’s the same process’, I said. I will ascertain how long a piece of music needs to be; what sections are required. what instrumentation is desirable. Often – if it is a commission – I will be given a ‘guide track’, which will provide a ready-made set of parameters. From this, I can deduce: tempo; style; genre; degrees of texture and ‘layers’; whether there are repetitions and motifs; whether the piece is melodic, atonal or abstract. Once these constraints are in place, it is more or less a question of filling in the spaces.

We both agreed that the difficult bit is then to find some kind of inspiration to do the creative bit. And where that comes from is hard to define. However, once you have essentially created a playground within which to play (whether musically, visually, dramatically or whatever), then it really is just a matter of playing. Ring any bells? Of course it does!

Let Them Loose

As a teacher, you follow this process all the time. You give your pupils a set of parameters within which to operate and essentially let them loose. Obviously, if the underlying subject is mathematics, then the children won’t be allowed to roam too far. But in more creative subjects, they have freedom to explore.

As someone whose connection with education is through creative movement (or – for want of a better term – ‘dance’), it is often apparent to me that many teachers are a little intimidated by this subject. Many ask ‘how do you do that?’ – or, more often, ‘how should I do that?’. To which, the answer is: you don’t have to. Or rather, you don’t have to do anything beyond your already considerable capabilities.

What? Me?

‘What? Me? Considerable capabilities?’. Yes. You. Stop and think for a moment. How many people outside of the teaching profession think to themselves ‘how do they do that?’. I can tell you: a good many. Plenty of people – myself included – would be filled with dread at the thought of having to inspire, lead and nurture young people on a daily basis. What you do is, in short, amazing.

So, any fears you may be harbouring over teaching subject areas that fall outside your natural comfort zone are unfounded. Especially when you pause to consider that you do know how to teach. And, by extension, you can teach anything. Very much like designing a house or composing a piece of music, it really is just a question of defining your playground. Once your pupils understand the parameters within which they are allowed to play, they will naturally get on and do that: play.

You Already Know

And what is primary education at its best, if not structured play? Interestingly, in demonstrating to me how he designs a house, my friend resorted to a form of play. Our table top became the playground and our imaginations did the playing. So, in answer to the question: ‘how do you do that?’, the answer is quite simple: ‘you already know’.

Unexpected Inspiration

Do ‘Something’

From Primary to Pro – It’s All The Same

Unexpected Inspiration

Unexpected Inspiration - Dance Notes creativity blog for teachersSometimes, inspiration can come from an unexpected source. So, we need to keep an open mind and avoid pre-judging those around us. You never know where your next source of unexpected inspiration may be lurking. Possibly right under your nose…

Cheeky Young Thing

Over the Christmas break, I met – as is the tradition – with members of my extended family. One of whom, is a cheeky young thing who works as a sports coach in schools. He also runs a local girls’ football team. We’ll call him Dan.

On the surface, this young chap seems like a ‘blokey’ bloke. By his own admit ion, he was never academically gifted. And his language is peppered with youthful jargon. So, when Dan chose a career in sports, nobody was too surprised. But any assumptions that this reflects a lack of sensitivity or emotional maturity on his part are seriously misguided.

Creative Thinking

Over the course of our conversation, my admiration for this young man – which was already considerable – grew. He displays a remarkable degree of creative thinking and a real depth of psychological understanding. It’s quite possible that Dan is, himself, unaware of these talents. Nonetheless, he applies them to great effect.

When Dan began coaching girls at his local football club, take-up was low and expectations even lower. He realised, however, that the important thing was the girls felt this was their club. Moreover, he identified the fact that the parents also needed to be invested in their daughters’ efforts.

Parental Interest

Previously, parents had dutifully ferried their children to and from games and training. They would gather on the touchline and have a chat, whilst their little one got on with whatever it was they were doing. So, without meaning to, they were giving the signal that they were either not interested or did not believe in what their youngsters were achieving.

Dan set about involving parents in subtle ways. They would run the touchline, provide refreshments and organise end-of-season festivities. Over time, it became as much their club as their offspring. Correspondingly, the children felt this was now something about which their parents cared and in which they took an interest.

Raising Spirits

One girl’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. Dan knew he would not be qualified to provide any counselling. He also understood the importance of respecting boundaries. So, he sought a way in which he could raise this girl’s spirits and also relieve any awkwardness among her teammates.

He struck on the idea of telling jokes to the girls on the journeys to and from their various matches and tournaments. The internet, of course, is an endless source of material. With a little judicious searching, it was possible to find age-appropriate (and sometimes awful) puns, jokes and riddles to while away the miles.

So, Dan was able to find a way of diverting a troubled young girl’s attention away from her worries, without singling her out. This helped create an environment of togetherness for all the girls. And it has become embedded within the club’s culture, long after the girl in question’s mother has made a full recovery.

Support & Respect

The team has grown in numbers and strength. Various age-groups are now catered for. And additional coaches have been engaged to help with the club’s growing popularity. All of which has been achieved through an understanding of the team as individuals. They are young people with needs and concerns. And each wants to feel the support and respect of their friends and family.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that Dan’s day job is in sports in primary education. He clearly understands the importance of ownership for his young charges. He can teach all he likes but it only becomes meaningful to the youngsters if they feel that the achievement is theirs. Similarly, he recognises the value of inclusion. All are welcome and each is valued.

False Assumption

So, any assumptions I may have made about this beer-drinking, football-loving young geezer were wrong. Dan gives each of his young charges the opportunity to show their worth. And he understands the importance of including those around them. The youngsters, therefore, feel supported and their families share both the responsibilities and rewards.

Unexpected Inspirational Leaders

Whilst these principals may be familiar to all educators and facilitators, we can do well to afford the same courtesy to those about us. We may inadvertently make assumptions about our peers that we would not about our pupils and children. You never know what talents may lie hidden within your colleagues – or, indeed, family members. Nor can we always guess where the next inspirational leader may be lurking!

Women’s & Girl’s Football – The FA

PE… or Not PE?

We Are Family

Take Note

Ask The Universe

Ask The Universe - Dance NOtes creativity blog for teachersSometimes it’s good to stop and ask yourself what you really want. It’s a common pastime, this time of year. But how often do you ask yourself – or the universe – “what could I do with, right now”?

New Age Thinking?

This may be, for some, straying uncomfortably close to esoteric thinking. It could be the kind of ‘ask and you will receive’ New Age-ism that makes you want to fetch a bucket. But bear with me: it’s not all crystals and unicorns.

The fact is, whatever the processes and mechanisms, focusing on an aim or aspiration can yield surprising results. And there really is no mystery here. When we apply our thinking to something we would like to happen, it is more likely to occur. (I expect we have all had the experience of bumping into someone we had just thought of for the first time in ages.)

Stacking The Odds

The reason is that we are mentally creating the environment needed for that particular outcome. This may lead us to look something or someone up, go to an appropriate location or take part in a relevant event. That way, the odds begin to stack in favour of what it is we hope to achieve.

Which takes us back to an idea discussed in an earlier post.  The strategy of just doing something when we may feel there is nothing to be done. It also echoes thoughts, expressed in these pages, about not worrying unduly about specific outcomes. The key to moving on, after all, is to move.

Shifting Thought-Processes

And this may not necessarily mean physical action. The ‘moving’ may require a period of stillness:  stopping that which may be the cause of a blockage in the first place. We can then allow our thought-processes to shift. And then ‘actual’ movement may follow.

The hippy element of our community (of which I may or may not be a member) sometimes likes to speak of ‘asking the universe’. You may prefer to think, rather, of focusing on your desires. Or, perhaps, following your dreams. All of which may sound a little dramatic. On a mundane level, however, it can’t hurt to spend a little time considering what you really want: now; this afternoon; in five-years’ time. Give it a go: you may be pleasantly surprised.

Good Creative Teaching

When it comes to our children and pupils, they are generally quite adept (again, particularly at this time of year) at voicing their wants and desires. And how often do we counter with ‘yes, but right now you should be thinking about…’? There is a school of thought that the word ‘should’ is best avoided. If we can replace it with ‘could’, then the focus shifts from requirement to possibility. And this, I would suggest, is the essence of good creative teaching.

So, rather than asking yourself and the children in your care ‘what should we do?’, try asking ‘what would we like?’. As with all things, it may not lead to quite what you expect. But at least you will be heading in a direction of your own choosing.

Happy creative travels!

 


Knowing When To Stop

Do Something

Dance Notes’ Creative Partner: Make a Move

Just Do One Thing

Just Do One Thing - Dance Notes creativity blog for teachersI was talking with a friend the other day. He runs his own business, so needs to be creative in his daily thinking. He offered a great nugget of wisdom, which was this: if you are going online, just do one thing.

Now, this may sound rather limiting but it is good advice. The internet, as we all know, is like an endless rabbit warren. You go online to look for one thing and invariably end up, after some time has elapsed, somewhere else entirely.

Use or Be Used

So, my friend’s counsel is actually very wise. It represents the difference between using the internet as the amazing tool it can be and falling prey to its endless possibilities. But, surely, possibility is a good thing? Well, yes, it is. However, it’s the ‘endless’ bit that is problematic.

Whether you are a teacher, an assistant, a carer or a parent, you don’t have limitless amounts of time available. But it’s when we have the least amount to spare that we are drawn into wasting it through appealing diversions. So, we need to build ourselves a strategy to avoid this happening.

Subtle Manipulation

Generally, you will go online because you either need to look something up, find something out or fulfill a web-based task (say, filling out a form). The internet is so full of well-designed distractions, that it is very rare that you will only perform that one task. An ad will pop-up, directly in response to something you previously looked at; or a video clip will automatically launch into another, once it has finished; or you will be redirected to another page, once you have filled something in… and so on.

These things feel helpful at first but are actually subtle forms of manipulation. So, it is important to tell yourself, at the outset, that you won’t be drawn into engaging with whatever else appears, once you have completed the task in hand. Or, even, before you get to the thing you want to do.

Drive for Efficiency

But, you say, some of these things are useful. Yes, of course they are. But they aren’t what you are looking for right now. So, the thing to do is to make a note of the article, web address, email, company name, telephone or whatever it is that has caught your attention. You can then come back to deal with at a later time.

Again, you may argue that this is surely inefficient. Why not make the most of your time online now and get multiple tasks out of the way? And this is the real stumbling block: the constant drive for ‘efficiency’. Ironically, that imperative is the cause of a whole world of procrastination, diversion and inappropriate time wasting.

Mentally & Physically Refresh

What’s more, our brains aren’t built to cope with constant input. It is far better to do one thing and physically remove yourself from the computer, phone, tablet or implant (only a matter of time… and then, of course, it will be too late). Simply by moving away from your device, you will give your brain a chance to refresh. And the chances are it will then come up with something else you really do need to accomplish.

Even if this then means returning to your screen, you will have had some mental space. If you’ve also walked away, you’ll have had a chance to physically realign too. Let’s not forget the bodily demands of sitting in one position for prolonged periods, either.

The Here & Now

Children are often chided for not being able to stay in one place for more than a short time. Perhaps we should view this as a positive thing. Let’s allow them to roam, fidget, dance and play, in between the more focused tasks expected of them.

And, while we’re at it, we should only expect them to perform one task at a time. It’s what children are good at, being – in the main – firmly rooted in the here and now. It’s something we adults can often only aspire to.  So, perhaps we should let the children be our guides in that respect.

Just Finishing One Thing?

As they get older, our children too may be drawn into the vortex of online confusion. But it’s our duty to not only make them aware of the inherent dangers but also stand as fitting role models. And we can’t do that if we’re too busy ‘just finishing this off’ online!

 


Selfies & Photos (KS2)

We Are What We Eat (KS1)

Our creative partners: Make a Move

It’s Good to Talk

It's Good to Talk - Dance Notes creativity blog for teachersThis week, I was reminded of the importance of getting out and talking to other creative people. Ironically, I’m writing this as I sit by myself in a railway-station bar…

Networking

In my defense, I have just come from a ‘networking event’. Yes, that phrase makes me shudder too. It conjures images of  a room full of people, desperately selling themselves to one another. However, such occasions do have their merits.

We began, as is often the case, with an opportunity to chat informally. A panel of ‘experts’ then spoke on a topic that united us all. Next, a live act was introduced to entertain us. At least, I’m told they were there. From the  back, I couldn’t see and they were – frankly – ignored by all and sundry. And, finally, we were set free for some ‘B2B’ (business-to-business) networking.

As you may gather, the horrible corporate language is not something I hold dear. Neither are the specifics of this occasion of any particular relevance, so I won’t bore you with those. However, how the evening panned out for me personally was, I think, interesting and informative.

Discomfort

I suspect I was not alone in feeling this was an evening I ought to attend. At the same time, the idea of having to impress myself on a room full of strangers was daunting. Add to this the suspicion that everyone else present was more successful, talented and self-assured than me and you can imagine my discomfort.

BUT… there’s a very good chance that many, if not most, people present were feeling the same way. So, the only thing for it was to dive in, introduce myself and talk to people. Mostly, this led to genuinely interesting conversations and a reminder that it is, after all, good to talk. In a couple of instances, it also paved the way for what could be fruitful partnerships.

Simply Connect

The truth be told, I did actually make to leave, following the panel presentation. Fortunately, an instinct persuaded me to say hello to some people who had nipped outside for a cigarette. Somehow, this felt less intimidating than competing with the apparently super-confident throng at the bar inside. Thus emboldened, I returned to the fray and did manage to connect with some people there.

Again, the details are unimportant but common interests were established and emails exchanged. Whether or not anything concrete will materialise from these brief encounters is far from certain. However, the simple fact of having made connections felt like justification for making the journey. More importantly, it has also been a catalyst for looking again at some aspects of my work.

Overcoming Negative Feelings

Two things strike me about this experience, when thinking of its relevance to children’s’ education. The first is that the feelings of inadequacy and awkwardness are routed in memories from my own childhood. This makes me think it is of vital importance to do all we can, as educators, to help our pupils overcome such negative feelings.

Self-worth is a powerful currency. Sadly, it is all too often confined to a measure of ‘success’ or aptitude. However, the ability to be open, friendly, attentive and empathetic is arguably of greater value. Children need to be encouraged to recognise their own worth. If they see that others share their own innate shyness, awkwardness and lack of confidence, they will be more able to talk freely with one another later in life.

Shall We?

So, the second point is that how we get beyond those potential limitations is by connecting with others. Every project, collaboration, play, band, orchestra or dance company will have begun with a simple conversation. Somebody will have said to somebody else ‘shall we have a go at this?’ or ‘shall we try that?’.

I, like many, have made a career in the creative arts, in spite of constant doubts about my own capabilities. And I can report that just about every professional situation in which I have found myself has come about through a chance encounter. People often say ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’. The implication is that those who have succeeded have had special access to the right people.

The fact is they have sought-out or happened upon the ‘right’ people. And they have done this by putting themselves in appropriate situations, regardless of any discomfort they may have felt. They have persevered, in spite of their personal misgivings.

Worth the Effort

And the real point is not that through mingling and networking we can all became famous artists. That is only ever going to happen to a select few. No, the point is that we can all benefit, both creatively and as human beings, by being more connected and open.

In the digital age, real-life interaction is more important than ever. It may feel intimidating, sometimes, to approach people we don’t already know. But it is always worth the extra effort. It really is good to talk.

 


Ourselves (KS2)

Rough & Tumble (KS2)

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

What is Your Personal Truth?

your personal truth - Dance Notes creativity blog for teachersAttending a comedy event last week, something struck me about what makes a successful act. Each performer needs to deliver a version of his or her personal truth. This is as true for a painter as it is a stand-up comic, as it is a singer.

Immersive Collaboration

The evening in question was hosted by an old friend I’d not seen for some time. He was a lecturer on the Performing Arts degree course at the university where I studied. One of the great strengths of that establishment was the amount of crossover between different disciplines. Therefore, as a ‘straight’ music student, I was able to immerse myself in collaboration with dancers and actors, as well as musicians from other backgrounds.

We chatted about how many former students from the university are still active in their chosen creative field. What all seem to agree is that we were given an environment in which we could explore, make mistakes and learn to ‘have a go’. In so doing, we learnt to put our whole selves into whatever challenges were thrown our way.

Sincere Commitment

Which brings me back to my starting point this week. In order to fully immerse yourself in a creative task, you need to be sincere in your commitment to it. And the only way for that to succeed is by finding your own truth within the art you are conveying.

Even – or especially – actors need to heed this advice. Clearly, their craft entails adopting personae that are, in once sense, ‘fake’. However, for a part to be believable to an audience, it must also be believed by its performer. So, the actor will find their own truth within a role and convey that via the character.

Deeper Engagement

But what relevance does this have to creative work with children? Actually, a great deal. If a child performs – say – a sequence of dance moves that have been given him or her by their teacher, they will, most likely, simply recreate the physical motion. Whereas, should they be invited to think of their own moves, they will instantly be engaged on a deeper level.

Now, they have ownership of their craft. The movements will reflect their feelings and beliefs in relation to the subject. And, of course, this will stem from what is true for them. Which is why, once set a task to create something on a particular theme, most pupils will find it hard to contain themselves. Ideas are not a scarcity for children – and the most valuable of all are their own.

Sharing Our Truths

By delving into their own truths, children are engaged on an emotional, psychological and physical level, all at once. We all have a physical response to our ideas and feelings. Sadly, much of the time, these impulses have nowhere to go. Through physical creative work, however, we can all – children and adults alike – give shape to our own individual truths.

Not only that but we can then see, hear or feel the truths of those around us. These can then be assessed and appreciated. We can discuss the relative merits of each and perhaps incorporate them into our own thinking. And isn’t that much healthier than typing our respective viewpoints furiously into social media?!

 


The Circus (KS1)

Circus (KS2)

Middlesex University Department of Performing Arts

Our Creative Partner: Make a Move

See, Hear & Experience!

See, hear, experience - Dance Notes creativity blog for teachersTo keep creative, it’s good to maintain a healthy level of regular input. So, be sure to get out there. Go see, hear & experience new art in all its myriad forms, as often as you can.

Last week, I went to see Rambert dance company. They were performing three new works by contemporary choreographers. All three were hugely inspiring. Each had a very different flavour from the next and the audience was rapt throughout.

Highlight

Before going to this show, I had taken a look through the program, together with a dancer friend. We had both recognised two of the choreographers but had not heard of the third. The piece she had created turned out to be – for me at least – the highlight of the evening.

So, on returning home, I looked up the person in question. She has worked as a dancer with a number of big-name pop stars. But her breakthrough as a choreographer came though her work with one Christine & The Queens. This was a wonderful coincidence from my point of view. You may remember, I previously mentioned the inclusion of dancers within several of this year’s Glastonbury headline acts. And the pick of those was – for me – Christine & The Queens.

Creative Touchstones

I find it fascinating to see which things resonate with me and how certain artists have a tendency to pop up repeatedly. This particular artist’s name is Marion Motin. I would urge you to seek-out her work and, if you get the chance, go along to see her piece ‘Rouge’ performed by Rambert dance.

But that’s just me. You must have your own creative touchstones. People who inspire you, perhaps in unfathomable ways. Performances that make you want to rush out and create your own masterpiece – whatever that may be.

The Stimulation Our Children Need

And, of course, the same is not only true of us but even more so for our children and pupils. At a time in which the creative arts are arguably undervalued, it is important that we do all we can to ensure our young charges get the stimulation they crave and need. This can be as simple as going to a local art gallery, attending a local theatre or listening to a concert.

And, in this digital age, I would suggest that experiencing these things ‘live’ and unfiltered is of particular importance. Any piece of art relies, to a large extent, on its audience. Viewing images of art works on a screen is not the same as standing among other gallery-goers and feeling their awe, wonder or – perhaps – indifference. Sensing the tension within the audience around you at a theatrical event is a completely different experience to watching the same performance on a television screen.

Making The Effort

So, whilst any exposure to art can only be a good thing, a certain amount of effort is required to maximise the impact of the experience. We need to mobilise ourselves to go out ‘there’; find the interesting stuff; seek what challenges us and remain creatively fresh. As role models for our youngsters, they too will benefit from seeing our engagement with the arts. And, as we all know, it doesn’t take much to pique their curiosity.

Happy hunting.

 


Alice in Wonderland (KS2)

Space (KS1)

Our creative partner: Make a Move

 

Knowing When to Stop

knowing when to stop - dance notes creativity blogKnowing when to stop can be difficult. It’s all very well having strategies and techniques for generating creative activity. But, how do you know when it’s time to switch off?

An Endless Task

I spoke previously about separating out your inner ‘creator’ from your ‘craftsperson’. Generally, in my case at least, the former will know when an idea has run its course. However, the polishing and finessing can – if you’re not careful -become an endless task. Or at least, you may easily overlook when it would be a good time to take a break.

To give a recent example, I was working on a new piece of music last week. The initial idea had arrived some time ago whilst tinkering at the piano and I had stored this for later use. Bringing it into the digital realm, I was able to play around with different sounds, rhythms and textures. All of which is a fun process and one in which I tend to become very absorbed.

When Enough is Enough

The hard part is to know when enough extra layers and sounds are enough. Similarly, finding new sections to complement the original seed idea can be challenging. These need to be consistent in tone and style, yet provide enough contrast to make for an interesting whole. Plus, of course, you are always looking for a satisfying beginning, middle and end to any creative project.

Working digitally has its advantages and disadvantages, as we have discussed. The upside is that anything is possible. The downside is – you’ve guessed it – anything is possible. Even once parameters have been set, a structure has been established and a solid framework built, there is still scope to get lost amid all that possibility.

A Kind of Madness

For me, a kind of madness seems to set in. I reach a state in which I can’t leave the thing alone. I am constantly drawn back to see what would happen if I cut this, tweaked that or rewrote the other. And this is the point at which there is only one solution. Just walk away.

In the cold light of a new day, everything invariably becomes much clearer. So, if you find yourself in this situation – whether composing, painting, dancing or any other creative activity – try to recognise the fact that it’s OK to leave. The thing won’t disappear, just because you have left it for a few hours. It will almost certainly reveal what excited you about it in the first place, when you return at a later time.

Time to Leave

In the meantime, it’s a great idea to physically remove yourself form the situation. If your project is computer-based, switch off and leave the room. If it’s studio work, go outside. In fact, going out into the open is never a bad thing to do. Fresh air, wide horizons and even the change in temperature can be instantly restorative.

So, if you are stuck on something at this moment, you have my permission. Take a break. Now. Put the kettle on; go for a walk; have a lie down – whatever works for you. Then feel the difference when you come back, refreshed.


Take Some Time Out

The Environment (KS2)

The Scented Garden (KS1)

Our Creative Partner: Make a Move

Under Pressure

under pressure - dance notes blogToday being World Mental Health Day,  it was a nice coincidence to find myself reflecting on a recent mentoring success. This was with an Asperger’s sufferer who was feeling under pressure. The keys to this breakthrough appear to have been space and respect. And both were applied by the student himself. Let me  explain.

Shut Off

Some friends asked me, a couple of years ago, if I could help their son with his music making. For the purposes of this article, we’ll call him Tom. Tom had been studying music at school and doing well. However, he has a form of Asperger’s that means he has a tendency to shut off if he feels under too much pressure. Tom’s teacher had spotted his potential and tried to provide plenty of encouragement. Unfortunately, this had the effect of making him withdraw and lose confidence in his abilities. So much so, Tom was in danger of giving up music altogether.

So, Tom’s parents asked if there might be anything I could do to help. They were most keen for him to rediscover his creativity and were not overly concerned about academic achievement. He knew and liked my music, so they thought I would be someone he could trust and respect. Whilst they live at some distance from me, I said I would see what I could do remotely.

Flexible Arrangement

We decided that the best approach would be for this to be a flexible arrangement. Rather than keeping to fixed times or days, Tom and I would have an ongoing dialogue. Tom could share his ideas and thoughts with me and I would provide feedback. I could also give him a window into my working life; sharing thoughts on things that motivate and inspire me as they arise.

Over the following months, we sent emails back and forth. Tom would sometimes send a YouTube clip of him working on a piano piece or singing with his guitar. I would comment on his work; pointing out composers that may appeal to his style and making gentle suggestions about where to take things next. I also let Tom know about music to which I had been listening, radio programs that may interest him; gigs I had played or attended, and so on.

Shared Interests

As someone to whom ‘teaching’ does not come very naturally, this situation felt very comfortable and real. We were just two people with a shared interest in music, swapping thoughts and ideas. The fact that I have experience of creating and performing for a living was largely irrelevant. But it was helpful in showing Tom his own potential. Once he could see that we are essentially no different from one another, this gave him licence to see his own ideas as valid and worthwhile.

There is absolutely no fault to be inferred on the part of Tom’s school teacher. It was simply unfortunate that well-meaning encouragement was perceived as unwanted pressure to achieve. Having said that, this is a constant danger, especially when we live and teach in an environment in which achievement is almost always expected. Ultimately, however, motivation has to come from pupils themselves for them to gain from their learning experiences.

Beyond Qualifications

In Tom’ s case, I am happy to report that he went on to study music at a Higher Education establishment. He continues to write  music and enjoy his own creativity. Not only that, but he recently gave his first live performance at a local festival. This, for him, was a huge achievement and way beyond anything qualifications or certificates could provide.

It feels as though what Tom most needed was validation. He wanted to know that what he was doing was OK and that his efforts were legitimate. I revealed to Tom my own haphazard thought processes and creative workings. And this showed him there is nothing special about me, even though he had admired my work for some time.

Space and Respect

Tom has therefore become able to believe in his own potential to do similar, if not better, work himself. The motivation was already within him. Now, he also has the self-respect and mental space to act upon it.


Ourselves (KS1)

Do Less to Achieve More

Don’t Follow The Leader

Our Creative Partner: Make  Move

a Creative Challenge…

a creative challenge make me something like thisThis week, I was presented with an interesting new creative challenge. Essentially, the task was ‘make me something like this’. But what does that mean?

The charity, Make a Move, with which Dance Notes has a close partnership, had been asked to produce some guided-meditation recordings for a client. Michelle, who heads the charity and is a key contributor to Dance Notes, asked if I could record her as she talked through the meditation. And this led to a new creative challenge

Authentic

We convened in my studio and Michelle asked if she could have a track she liked playing in the background. To make things as authentic as possible, she also had a volunteer to guide through the meditation as we recorded her speaking. I explained that, in order to keep the voice recording clean, I would send the music to Michelle’s headphones. I would then mix the voice and music for the final recording.

But there was a catch. Michelle did not have permission to use this music commercially. So, I offered to make something from scratch. And this was where the creative challenge came in. Whereas I have produced many soundscapes in the past, this was specifically to aid relaxation and sleep.

Do Your Homework

So, how do you set about achieving something like this for the first time? Firstly, you do your homework. I listened to the tracks that Michelle had been using and noted their key characteristics. I then set about creating something new and distinct. Importantly, though, the music needed to share the qualities that enabled them to serve their function.

This reminded me of a time, a few years ago, when I was regularly creating music to order for commercials. I had a very good agent, who understood what information I would need in order to fulfill a creative brief. It is astonishing how few people have this skill, though it’s actually not too difficult once you appreciate what is needed.

A Bit Like This…

Many people, when commissioning a piece of music, will say ‘oh, a bit like x’ or ‘something atmospheric’ or ‘energetic’. The problem is that one person’s idea of ‘energetic’ or atmospheric’ will be quite different from another’s. Similarly, to simply say ‘like’ something is open to interpretation.

If you are asking someone to create a piece of music for you (or a painting, a sculpture, a dance, a film, etc.), what you really need to do is tell them what qualities it should have. It is undoubtedly useful to have some reference material. However, without knowing what it is about that piece of work that really matters, there is scope for a lot of misinterpretation and wasted effort.

The One Element

In the case of music, the composer will want to know whether it is the style, the beat, the sound-pallet, instrumentation, genre, dynamics or whatever that appeal from the guide track. I could create something that, to my ears, sounds a lot like a chosen track but miss the one element that actually makes it work for the person who chose it.

Fortunately, in this instance, I was able to have that conversation with Michelle. She explained that she liked the electronic sounds, the lack of meter, the constant dynamic and the harmonic qualities of the guide tracks. So, right from the start, I had a set of parameters within which to work. I was therefore able to quickly deliver what was required.

Finding Qualities Within

Similarly, when working with children in dance, it is good to avoid saying ‘move like x’. Rather, it is better to ask ‘how does x move – what are its qualities?’. Then your pupils can try to find those qualities within themselves, rather than simply mimicking something they think you want to see. It’s a subtle difference but an important one.

The creativity comes from internalising ideas and owning them. One could argue that children already spend too much time trying to produce, on demand, what is expected of them. In creative work, they have licence to do the unexpected and feel good about their individuality.

I May Just Cry

And if you are ever in a position to commission some music from me, please don’t ask ‘can you make something like x’. I may just cry.

The Scented Garden (KS1)

Under Pressure

Our Creative Partner: Make a Move

The Tyranny of the Screen

the tyranny of the screen - Dance Notes creativity blogLast time, I mentioned how I like to capture ideas by recording improvisations and then teasing-out the creative nuggets that appear.  A computer hooked-up to my keyboard aids this process. However, I neglected to mention that, quite often, I will also work away from digital devices to escape the tyranny of the screen.

Not Always Helpful

And this, I think, is an important point. Sitting in front of a computer screen – whether to write, compose, animate, ‘paint’, design or for any other creative activity – can be inhibiting. Or, at least, it can dominate your thinking in a way that is not always helpful.

We are so used to using screens in our daily lives that it is easy to underestimate to what extent the method influences the outcome. I am using one right now and it is quite possible that what I write or the way I express myself is being driven by that fact. Instead, why not sit with a paper and pen and write long-hand, before then transferring your thoughts to a word processor?

Liberation from ‘Efficiency’

Our fixation with ‘efficiency’ means that this may seem like a waste of time. However, having the freedom to sit outdoors, in a cafe, on a train or in some other environment, away from the computer, can be liberating and lead to thought-processes that may not otherwise arise. Similarly, playing a keyboard that is ‘just’ a keyboard may illicit different results to doing the same thing when a screen is in front of me.

When I wrote my last blog, I had recently started work on two new compositions. Each had arisen from simple ideas that had presented themselves when I was tinkering at a piano, away from my computer. I had the presence of mind to record what I was playing, so that I could later reproduce it in the studio and craft the results into a full composition.

Carry a Notepad

As a teacher, you will undoubtedly have many pressures on your time and resources. Having the luxury to sit down and think about what you want to do creatively with your class may be rare. However, it’s not difficult to carry a notepad around. It is quite likely that ideas and thoughts will occur to you when you are away from your working environment. Rather than trying to then recapture these, next time you are ‘planning’, try to make a note of them immediately.

How many great thoughts and ideas come to you when you are out walking, running, taking a bath or lying in the sun? There’s a reason for this: your mind is having the opportunity to unwind and this is when you are arguably at your most creative. Rather than then turning this into ‘work’, if you can store these ideas for later, when you are working, you can then get back to relaxing. Which, after all, we all need.

A World of Possibility

Of course, nearly everyone carries a phone these days. And most phones have the facility for you to write notes, record audio, capture video, etc. However, the moment you open this device, you are presented with a world of possibility and, inevitable, some of this will lead back to ‘work’. Try to resist the tyranny of the screen, in whatever shape or form. You’ll have plenty of time for that later.

In the meantime, let your creativity flow, capture the inspiration.

And… relax.

 


Toys (KS1)

The Seasons (KS1)

Dance Notes’ Creative Partner: Make a Move

The Creator & The Craftsperson

The Creator & The CraftsmanMy son asked me, the other day, how I generate ideas for compositions. People often ask: “where do ideas come from?”. The simple answer is that nobody really knows. However, I do know how to keep them coming. And this involves engaging your inner Creator & Craftsperson.

From Impulse to Outcome

We have already talked about the need to flex your creative muscles on a regular basis. And how it is important not to stifle the creative flow. But how do we get from the initial impulse to a finished piece of work (whether in music or any other creative form)?

I would suggest that there exists within us all two distinct creative types: the creator and the craftsperson. One or other may be more dominant in each of us but I believe we can, with practice, harness the unique talents of both. The trick is to allow each the space to work to their optimum ability.

Time & Effort

This reminds me of the oft-cited quote that ‘composition is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration’. I may have misquoted that but you get the gist. The point is that creative inspiration can be fleeting, whereas the process of honing the original idea into something of value takes time and effort. But don’t let that put you off.

A few years ago, I set myself the challenge of creating a new piece of music every day. In the event, this became every working day, during school time (to fit with family and other commitments). Nonetheless, I did stick rigidly to that regime – regardless of my state of mind, health and spirit – for a whole year. And  I did this with the help of my own inner creator & craftsperson…

Simply Explore

In the evening (after putting my – then young – children to bed), I would sit at my keyboard and play the first thing that came to me. I would simply improvise until an idea took hold – or explore entirely free improvisation with no set parameters. My master keyboard is connected to my computer and I would record whatever came out.

Lack of Expectation

Normally I would use a piano sound for this, as it provides the opportunity to generate harmony, melody and rhythm all in one go. It is also an expressive and dynamic instrument and one on which I am not overly well-trained. This last point may seem odd but having a lack of expectation can aid the necessary ‘letting go’ that enables ideas to come freely.

Having found a motif, chord progression or soundscape that was pleasing, I would set about refining and learning this. Again, working at a computer means that it is possible to ‘cheat’ this process. I could play one segment at a time and overlay different parts or voices. During this stage I would tend to also find different sounds to suit the style of music emerging.

Knowing When to Stop

All of this would happen very quickly and uncritically. Often, I would reach a point at which I would start to lose may way or feel I was ‘over-cooking’ the ingredients. That would be time to stop for the night.

The next morning, I would return to what I had created. With fresh ears, I would invariably now be able to recognise what was working and what needed improvement. And now comes the crafting bit. This is when the creator needs to take a back seat and allow the craftsman to chip away at the rough draft until the polished work is revealed.

Review & Refine

Again, it is important to recognise at what point this process is complete. It is very easy to over-do the finessing until your creation becomes sanitised. My personal method is just to keep on reviewing, making incremental changes until nothing more leaps out as being ‘wrong’. In the case of these daily compositions, I may well return to one or other at a later stage and feel it needs something more (or less).

Moving On

However, it is good discipline to move on. There is always something you feel could have been better. And this provides impetus for the next piece of work. And the next. And so on.

So, indulge your creator. Give him or her licence to express and throw some shapes/sounds/colours/words around. Then invite your crafts-person to make sense of the mess. But make sure each knows when it’s time to stop.

Have fun!

 


Ourselves (KS1)

Rough & Tumble (KS2)

Our Creative Partner: Make a Move

Festival of Performing Arts

I had the great privilege of taking part in a festival for the performing arts last weekend in Somerset. You may have heard of it, it’s called Glastonbury Festival. Whilst there, a few things struck me, beyond the usual overwhelming sense of being awe-inspired.

Dance on The Main Stage

One was that several main-stage acts incorporated dance within their shows. And not just the usual seductive, eye-candy gyrations to which we have become accustomed. This time, there was a ballet duet (Stromzy); ‘Ballet-Boyz’ (Years and Years) and Christine and the Queens’ unique choreography. The latter was very much  an integral part of the performance. and it was especially interesting to see ensemble dance in which each individual was able to explore their own characteristics.

Contemporary Issues

A second aspect was that many acts drew attention to contemporary issues. Stormzy talked of the need for representation of all sections of society. Years and Years’ frontman spoke about gender issues, calling for acceptance and inclusivity. And Christine (or ‘Chris’ as they are also known) revealed how they often felt like an outsider and a ‘loser’.

Create Your World

Christine/Chris went on to say how they coped with that situation through theatre. They created their own world, one in which they could choose the role they want to portray. Standing on the Other Stage, as the final headline act on Sunday evening, Christine said they felt as though they had finally won something.

Role Models

What powerful role models these young performers are. Not only has each been able to transcend their individual circumstances, they have also created power from a position in which they originally felt marginalised. To then implore a huge live crowd – and even larger digital audience – to follow their lead is both brave and inspirational.

They stand as living examples to others who may feel similarly on the fringes of society. Whether through music, dance, theatre or other art forms, all can outgrow the limited perception of those around them. It is no accident that Glastonbury Festival has a reputation as more than just another music event. Beyond those main stages, people of all persuasions express themselves through myriad creative means.

Force for Good

That creativity seeps into the consciousness and being of all who attend. Even if, for many, this transformation only lasts for one weekend in the year, it is something to be cherished. And if we can somehow manage to recreate those feelings of openness and love in our day-to-day lives, then this is truly a force for the good.

You don’t have to be a superstar to know the benefits of creative freedom. None of those headline acts started out with the sole intention of finding fame. Each had a story to tell, a past to shed, a preconception to outgrow. And so, I would suggest,  do we all.

Festival Spirit

Maybe we should think of our whole lives as one big festival for the performing arts. Every day can’t be Glastonbury but we can at least try to bring some of that spirit into the everyday. 

 

https://www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk

India’s Festival of Colours

 

Go With the Flow

Last week, I had the privilege – once again – of doing some work for a local charity at Glastonbury Festival. If you’re heading that way, my advice is to go with the flow.

Esoteric Healing

Among my co-workers were an assortment of interesting characters. One of these works at the more esoteric end of the healing spectrum. We spoke about our various experiences with Tai Chi, Yoga, Bowen Technique, Alexander Technique, etc. It struck me that, whilst these each offer a different approach to achieving and maintaining well-being, they all have one thing in common.

‘Flow’?… Mumbo Jumbo?

All of these disciplines share an interest in ‘flow’. Now, to some people, delving into such areas may sound like mumbo jumbo and quackery. However, my colleague takes the healthy view that if something works for you, then why not go with it? And this is an attitude with which I wholly agree.

You can perceive this flow in purely physical terms. For example, body alignment will affect the flow of gravitational pull on the various parts of your anatomy. In response, there is a flow of muscle energy, working to balance that force. And, to control all of this, there is a flow of electronic signals between your brain, muscles and nerve cells.

Cut Yourself Loose

What some will have difficulty with are things like ‘Chi’. This is an unspecified energy but could be seen as the result of all the above. Whether we choose to see this as something mystical or purely mechanical does not particularly matter. The main thing is that we ‘go with the flow’ and allow the benefits to be realised.

In our creative work, we also need to allow this sense of fluidity. As with those healing disciplines, it is useful to have a methodology and structure within which to operate. The interesting part is then to observe the outcomes when we cut ourselves loose.

If It  Feels Good – Do It

For young children, this largely happens automatically. They have not yet learned to question why or how particular movements make them feel good. But for them it is simple. If something feels good, then do it some more!

Taking the next step to using movement in an interpretive way is also of little problem to most youngsters. Why not ‘become’ a monster/space ship/historical figure/animal/feeling or even colour? That’s what children do.

Mutual Learning

As adults, we can fall into patterns of behaviour – whether emotional, physical or (dare I say?) spiritual – that block the flow. And my colleague at Glastonbury’s work as a healer tends to centre on releasing such blockages. When working with children, we need to be mindful of our own restrictions. That way, we can enable them to exceed our limitations and stretch their own boundaries.

In turn, they value our guidance and respect our experience. In this sense, there is a ‘flow’ of learning that goes in both directions. In essence, we provide the framework and the children respond with ideas. We then work together with them in order to channel these into substantial creative outcomes.

Get Moving

And the beauty is that creative flow can also reduce or alleviate health issues. The blockages that can cause physiological or psychological harm can be mitigated through creative freedom. In a  nutshell – if something is blocked, get moving!

Whatever your beliefs, it’s good to go with the flow.

‘The River’ Teaching Pack for Key Stage 2 Dance

Ask The Universe

Do Something

Empty page, blank screen - nothing to write about - do something.I have nothing to write about this week. So, what do you do when you have nothing to say?… Do something!

Keep in Shape

Believe it or not, you are likely to have some of your best ideas at such a time. The important thing is that you exercise your creative muscles.

You need to make regular use of your physical muscles to keep them in shape. The same is true of your creativity. Rather than waiting for inspiration to strike, sometimes you just have to do.

Blank Sheet

As a child, I was a gifted artist. Or rather, I was good at drawing. So, I made the mistake of thinking I was a gifted artist. I wasn’t. Hours were spent sitting with a blank sheet of paper, wondering what to draw.

Until an art teacher at school made me produce work at speed. He had us drawing with thick marker pens. We could not, therefore, erase mistakes and start again. He encouraged us to work fast, try different media, confront our doubts and express ourselves.

Worthless?

Which meant we produced a lot of material that was worthless. Or so we thought. Our art teacher encouraged us to keep everything. He knew that, in that way, we would learn to value the process.

If you are constantly striving to produce something ‘finished’ and substantial, there’s a good chance you won’t create anything at all. You need, sometimes, to remind yourself that it’s OK to just enjoy the doing. What comes out of it doesn’t matter.

The Reward is in the Doing

Every professional dancer, musician, actor, painter or writer understands the need to practice their art. Many of them will put in many hours that are not rewarded in any obvious way. However, the reward is in the ‘doing’ itself.

And then, every so often, all those hidden hours will result in something that does become visible to others. Then a whole new level of reward is achieved. That of knowing the effort has translated to expression. And this has then affected others.

Do Something… Anything

The ultimate aim of communicating something that resonates with an audience is, thereby, achieved. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Everything comes from a willingness to jump in and start with something… anything.

So, where did I put those pencils? I haven’t drawn anything in years…

Art for Art’s Sake

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

Let Go The Reins

Sometimes you just need to let go of the reins.  Events may then conspire to make things better than you had planned them. 

Breaking Down Barriers

I was recently working on a theatre production that comprised story-telling, songs, a hidden choir and surprise dancers. The choir and dancers were both embedded within the audience. The intended aim was to break down barriers between performer and onlooker. It was hoped that this would create an immersive, participatory experience.

The choir and dancers were kept secret from all concerned, except one another. They were to perform right at the end of the show, beginning from an unexpected black-out. At this point in the performance, the audience was on its feet and moving around the space.

Connections Revealed

Originally, I had asked the choir members to spread to the four corners in preparation for their singing entrance. The dancers were to make their way out towards the choir members and then move with them to the centre. Both choir and dancers were arranged into four parts and the connection would be slowly revealed as the piece progressed.

However, it emerged that the choir could not stay in time with one another when dispersed around the space. So it was decided they should form a circle at the centre, with their conductor in the middle. This, at first, felt like a compromise. In the event, though, it worked very well.

Happy Coincidence

The choir, placed centrally, used their phone lights to illuminate their scores. This created a pleasing visual effect. It also had the happy coincidence of drawing attention away from the central performer, as he secretly left the space. The dancers now began from the corners and worked their way around the space and in towards the choir.

On the night, the choir were able to stay in time. The dancers were able to easily follow their respective choral parts. And the effect was very moving for the onlooking audience.

Let Go The Reins

Some members of the choir had been a little disheartened in an early rehearsal. They were frustrated at not being able to keep together and deliver a satisfying vocal performance. I was concerned that this may lead to a less than committed effort. However, by working together to find a solution, we reached an outcome that left the choir – and audience – buzzing.

Sometimes, you just have to let go the reins a little. Then you can be open to outside input. And, in this way, a practical problem can be turned into a creative solution.

Rough and Tumble – engaging boys… and girls

Enjoy The Ride

Anger is an Energy

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

From Primary to Pro – It’s All the Same

From Primary to Pro - Dance Notes creativity blog for teachersWhat a privilege it is to see talented dancers at work. From primary dance teachers (and their pupils) to professionals. All have the power to blow me away.

If you are reading this, there is a good chance you have heard – and possibly moved to – my music, especially if you work in primary dance. However, although I regularly compose for dance, it has been a while since I worked directly with choreography.

In this instance, I was with a group that comprised undergraduate students, a professional dancer and a pre-university student. Let’s be clear, I was just the composer in this scenario. I was not directly involved in creating the movement itself. That honour went to Michelle Rochester, my long-standing collaborator at Dance Notes.

You Can Do This

And what struck me most about the process was this: it was virtually identical to the methods we use in our teaching plans for primary dance. Michelle has a wonderful knack for facilitating. She essentially says to the participants – whether undergraduates, professionals or primary school children – ‘you can do this – off you go’. What then happens is the dancers simply move. They try things out, find ideas and experiment, without any fear of being ‘wrong’.

The Power of ‘Yes’

I know we’ve talked about that before but it is such a vital point it’s worth repeating. And the same applies in all creative pursuits. I remember a comedy improviser once talking about “the power of ‘yes'”. He explained how each person within an improvisation must go along with whatever the others throw at them. The point of working collaboratively is, after all, to feed off one another. We can then stretch ourselves – and each other – beyond our normal creative limitations.

This group of dancers all contributed and were able to critique one another’s work. They accepted Michelle’s view as the overall choreographer. And each was thoroughly invested in the outcome. As mature dancers, they naturally have experience that children do not. This gives them the ability to quickly recognize and hone distinct motifs and phrases. As teachers and facilitators, however, we can provide an external eye to help our pupils with that.

Powerful and Empowering

I regularly ask teachers how they have got in with a particular lesson. They often talk of their surprise at the children’s levels of engagement and creativity. Some find it hard, initially, to stand back and allow their pupils the space to explore. When they do, however, they quickly realize that this is a powerful and empowering experience for the children.

All Enjoy Moving

These performers were once primary school children themselves. Somewhere along the way, they discovered that dance was their ‘thing’. If you are a teacher, perhaps you have some would-be dancers in your own class. Perhaps not. But I can guarantee this: given the chance and encouragement, they can all enjoy moving.

 

Bath Spa University dance

Video Tutorials

PE? Or Not PE?…

I have found it interesting, as a provider of resources for schools’ Dance, to watch the way this subject’s status has shifted over the years.

The government brought Dance into the new National Curriculum in around 1990. They put it forward along with a raft of compulsory subjects at primary level,  as a result of the 1988 Education Reform Act. The idea, I believe, was to create consistency across the country by embedding subjects that all schools should teach.

Stretching Pupils

Dance, therefore, was given similar status to, say, English or Geography. And rightly so. Some children find it hard to express themselves through the written word. Many, however, are able to do so through movement. It allows them to think creatively. They learn to collaborate. And, at the same time, it quite literally stretches them physically.

The government later decided there were now too many areas to cover. So, these were reduced. Against the odds, Dance was not one of the subjects removed. So, children continued to benefit from this alternative way of learning.

Curriculum Reforms

David Blunkett’s curriculum reforms led to another shift in educational thinking, in 1999. Now, Dance became part of the PE curriculum. This, perhaps, could be seen as a downgrade in terms of its creative value. Staff, however, could now also consider the health and physical benefits of movement-based learning.

Wider Value

Well-being has, more recently, taken on increased importance at primary level. And this has given Dance a new role. Now, it can be seen as something of wider value: reducing obesity, promoting emotional health, helping communication and reducing psychological problems. Indeed, it is a vital tool in enabling expression in children with learning difficulties.

Simplification

The Dance curriculum itself has been through many changes along the way. The most recent saw its simplification. The guidelines are now a few short sentences within the PE outline for Key Stages 1 and 2. Dance remains a core element, though exactly what is expected is far less clear. Fortunately, most primary schools continue to recognise the value of Dance and promote its use for all ages.

Cross-Subject Learning

One thing that is not made clear by the curriculum is Dance’s immense value as a learning tool across different subject areas. By embodying ideas that have been discussed in the classroom, it is possible to really bring these to life. Physicalising ideas from science, nature, geography, literature and history can really help children to understand what may otherwise seem abstract or irrelevant.

Flexibility

What all of this shows is the flexibility of movement as an educational tool. Wherever you choose to pigeonhole ‘Dance’, it delivers. We have come a long way from my generation’s experiences of ‘being a tree’ and following a disembodied BBC recording. Today, children are able to take ownership of their ideas, explore their own physicality and develop their creativity.

So, whether PE or not PE, Dance is Dance. It stands alone, yet encompasses just about everything. Thank goodness – for the sake of our children – it has remained within the curriculum. One way or another.

 

1988 Education Reform Act

The National Curriculum 1999

2013 PE Programmes of Study: Key Stages 1 and 2

Child-Centred Learning

Take Some Time Out

take-some-time-outDo you take time out from outputting? Are you always working through literal or metaphorical to-do lists? Maybe it’s worth standing back a while and allowing for a little input.

I had the very good fortune to visit Paris over the weekend. Whilst there, I went to the Pompidou Centre. Not only is the building itself a thing of inspiration but the exhibitions are truly mind-altering.

Switching Channels

Not everything was to my personal taste but that’s no bad thing either. Some exhibitions seemed to be there purely to provoke and anger. Which they did. Others, however, were transformative in more thought-provoking and life-enhancing ways.

Describing visual art is possibly like singing architecture. So, I won’t bore you with any attempts to convey the content or meaning of what was on display. However, the thing that struck me was the overall experience. It had the effect of making me somehow mentally switch channels.

Artistic Possibility

As a friend put it, you may find yourself – after a while – gazing on a fire hose and marveling at its beauty. Only after some time, do you realise that it is not, after all, an exhibit. However, this is a sign that you have opened your imagination to the artistic possibility within all things.

Nothing in Particular

As the weekend wore on, and my wife and I had ticked off the places we ‘had’ to visit, it became possible to then relax into simply being. Time was taken to sit at street-side cafes. From there, we observed the age-old tradition of watching the world go by. A happy lunch hour was then spent lying on grass in an ornate square, complete with fountains and statue.

We remarked on the intrinsic value of public spaces, to which people are drawn in order to do nothing in particular. Rather than marveling at the statue (Louis XIII, since you ask), it was actually more entertaining to simply let our minds roam. And to watch others do much the same.

From Output to Input

Research has suggested that children require periods of boredom in order to discover their innate creativity. The same would seem to be as true – if not more so – for adults. We all need to take a breath from time to time. To switch from ‘output’ to ‘input’. Or even ‘standby’. Only then do we free up the mental and emotional space required to engage our creative selves.

Immersion in unfamiliar surroundings or exposure to new and interesting artworks can transport us beyond our mundane everyday thinking. However, should such activities be done purely by way of ticking them off a list, the impact will be lessened. We need to be present and empty in order to receive.

The Luxury of Being Bored

So, see if you can take time out soon for some real creative input. Maybe listen to a concert, go to a gallery, take a long walk. Or simply allow yourself the luxury of being bored.

https://www.bbc.com/news/education-21895704

Ourselves (KS1)

Keep Your Distance

Creative Impatience

The Art of Interruption

The Art of Interruption - Dance Notes creativity blog for teachersOn a recent walk with friends, the topic of drama workshops came up. In particular, exercises for team-building and better communication. Each employed the art of interruption.

My two companions each work within arts organisations. These provide (among other things) training for the private sector. Their ideas, however, can be applied generally to aiding creative interaction.

Storyteller Interrupter

The first example given was  a game called ‘storyteller interrupter’. In this, somebody tells the story of a recent event. As they speak, other players pitch-in with single-word interruptions. These should be quite random and have no clear connection with the story being told. The main speaker then has to include these within the narrative.

Interruption is often seen as something negative but it can actually be helpful. In this game, the person telling their tale needs to remain present within the ‘flow’.  At the same time, they must accept new ideas about how to deliver this and remain open about where it may lead. The result will be richer and more entertaining than had they been just left to speak. The storyteller feels quick-witted and smart in the face of surprising new challenges. And the listeners get to hear an amusing and interesting talk.

Questions, Questions

Our other fellow walker told us how he uses a similar method. In this case, somebody also tells a story of their choice. After a while, they too are interrupted. This time, the others ask questions about what they have heard so far.

These questions prompt the speaker to flesh-out their story. In so doing, they find details that may otherwise have been missed. The storyteller must also now operate within a new, unexpected framework . It can be difficult to speak fluently on a subject when given free reign. Whereas, having parameters imposed by specific questions can actually make things feel easier.

Transcend Limitations

The parallels are, of course, quite clear with creative teaching. Children may stumble when given a task and left to their own devices. They may question the validity of their work or simply ‘dry up’. Whereas, through collaboration, questioning and mutual discussion, they may rise above their own imagined limitations.

Generally, when confronted with a question or obstacle, it turns out that we do have an answer. We may not know in advance what that might be. However, whether through imagination or trial-and-error, a new outcome will generally be reached. It really is a fine line between ‘disruption’ and ‘collaboration’. But one can quickly lead to the other.

You May be Surprised

So, rather than discouraging interruption, perhaps we can learn to use it as a creative tool. Welcoming input takes confidence and an open heart. If we remain open to possibilities beyond our own ideas, we can become more flexible, creative and tolerant.

Next time someone interrupts you with a question or observation, try responding with ‘I’m glad you asked that’ or ‘that’s an interesting point’. And then see where this leads. You may be pleasantly surprised.

 

Let Go The Reins

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move

 

When Art Touches Us All

When Art Touches us All - Dance Notes creativity blog for teachersWhen an event of global significance occurs, there can be pressure to conform to a particular emotional response. How do we react when art touches us all?

 

Occasionally, such an event can illicit genuine reactions and spontaneous displays of emotion. And so it was with the responses to this week’s fire at Notre Dame, in Paris.

Personal Impact

This has had an impact on me personally, as I am about to take my wife on a long-awaited trip to the city. Though it feels a little selfish to say so, Notre Dame was high on our list of must-see destinations. For me, this would be a re-visiting of something that had moved me deeply on a previous visit, some 35 years ago.

Back then, I was on an outing, together with an irreverent bunch of colleagues, all in our late teens or early twenties. The trip included the usual sight-seeing but was mostly just a bit of a jolly. Our general demeanor had not been one of polite sensitivity or cultural inquisitiveness. Rather, we were more like a bunch of school children that had been let loose without proper supervision.

Awe-Inspiring

Until, that is, we visited Notre Dame cathedral. It’s too long ago now to recall what day of the week it was but, if memory serves, there was some kind of service taking place within the rear part of the building. This included a choir and possibly the organ as well. The effect, combined with the many candles burning around the building and the sunlight slanting through the enormous stained-glass windows, was truly awe-inspiring.

The usual ribaldry and frivolity had left us, as we emerged – one after the other – into the bright morning sunshine. Maybe because of our lack of expectation, the majesty, the atmosphere and perhaps the spirit of countless pilgrims had overwhelmed us. We were speechless and somewhat humbled by the intensity of what was simultaneously a collective yet very personal experience for each of us.

Irreplaceable Art

So, it was not surprising to witness the heartfelt prayers and impromptu singing of hymns as Notre Dame stood in flames this week. Nor the painstaking care taken by the fire crews. Or the personal risk to which they subjected themselves in rescuing irreplaceable works of art.

Even as a nation grapples with its internal politics and the world confronts a future full of uncertainty, art has the ability to unite, inspire and overcome. Just when it may – to some – appear an irrelevance, a waste of both time and resources, creativity shows its true worth. Some of the motives and methods behind the creation of such an enormous structure may seem questionable. But, to those that have provided the artistry and craftsmanship – as well those that have invested it with faith and wonder– the results transcend such mundane considerations.

Love, Unity & Hope

No doubt, we will still visit the cathedral, as planned, next week. And that visit will now take on a whole new significance. As will the cathedral itself. Already, there is talk of rebuilding and restoring. Some may use this as an opportunity for self-aggrandisement. But, for the majority, this will be a labour of love, hope and unity.

 

Lesson Plan: The Great Fire of London

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1N2o1RjFJs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Zpw_KAEhDY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4iJVfQ8Sbk

 

We Are Family

We Are Family - Dance Notes creativity blog for teachersEver have one of those intense periods that really brings home how creatively connected we all are? The past week has shown me that, essentially, we are all family.

It made me think about the true value of the creative arts – whether as profession, hobby or study.

Creatively Connected

On Friday, I was privileged to attend an undergraduate dancer’s degree show. My connection was that I had provided part of the soundtrack. This followed the student’s participation in a show I put on last year. Accompanying me was one of the dance professionals who had worked with the students on that project.  She also happens to be a key member of the Dance Notes team. In turn, she had put me in touch with the heads of post-graduate and undergraduate dance at the college. And these introductions had paved the way for including students within my work.

That same evening, I went to a gig to see a band, whose bass player I worked and toured with in another group. The producer of that band has also just mixed an album for me and among the audience were various other local musicians. One of those, I currently perform with regularly.  And, somehow, these connections made the experience of seeing this wonderful trio even better.

Let the Children Play

Saturday, I traveled to watch a performance that was the culmination of a residential course. This is run by our local music services. My son plays with the symphonic wind band they host every week. Their residential has been a highlight of his calendar for several years.

What is striking about that course is its focus on collaboration. At the concert, students presented performances in around five different ensembles. These comprised: woodwind, brass, strings, percussion and voice. However, over the course of the 3 or 4 days spent on the residential, the youngsters had worked together in as many as 30 different groups. Many of these had formed quite spontaneously and the staff are always keen to encourage such initiatives.

Old Friends

I was especially pleased to be able to attend the concert this year as I had a booking myself for that evening. I thought these would clash but the evening gig had a late start. This even afforded me time for a stop-off en-route, to visit an old friend from university. He also still works within the dramatic arts, facilitating better communication in organisations through Forum Theatre. And the ceilidh band, with which I was performing that night, is run by another former university colleague.

We Are Family

It struck me that the experiences those students were having on the residential course mirrored those of my own professional life as a musician. Forging connections, maintaining relationships and finding meaning through shared endeavour are key to creative success and fulfillment. Whether this leads to a so-called ‘career’ is neither hear nor there. The main thing is the enrichment, connection and greater understanding it provides.

After all, in the end, we all are family!

What is Your Label?

Festival of Performing Arts

Unexpected Inspiration

Make a Move

Don’t Follow the Leader

Don't Follow The Leader - Dance Notes creativity blog for teachersThis week, I have been working with an animator with whom I collaborated many years ago. He is a top-flight CG artist but I need to remind myself ‘don’t follow the leader’.

Creative Flow

You see, there is one thing about this working relationship that is a little challenging. We both tend to have strong ideas and opinions, which can lead to a stemming of the creative flow. Differences of opinion are a necessary and often exciting part of the process. However, should either party attempt to dominate, then this can actually become stifling.

Working creatively with children, it is important to be aware of this possibility. Whereas the intention may be to encourage and motivate, it is easy for a teacher or facilitator to inadvertently adopt a position of dominance. Whilst the urge to ‘teach’ maybe hard to resist, it is invariably preferable that children be allowed to explore for themselves.

Expand & Grow

As with my collaborative experience as a composer, should too much ‘leading’ take place, there may be a narrowing of options before possibilities have been fully explored. As teachers, we can easily feel under pressure to ‘provide ‘. However, by resisting this urge, we are actually giving more, by way of license to expand and grow.

One of the many positive attributes of movement work with young children is that there is no right or wrong – only different. Having said that, it is possible for both pupils and teacher to identify outcomes that are pleasing or satisfying. working within a freely expressive framework, patterns, narratives and imagery will present themselves. It is these that we hope to find, recognize and nurture.

Don’t Lead – Don’t Follow

We want, of course, this to be the children’s’ own achievement. For them to have ownership of the outcomes is key to them taking pride in their work. So, we need to ask them: ‘what would you do next ‘, ‘how does that make you feel ‘, ‘what other shapes or moves can you think of ‘… etc. What this might produce is, of course, anyone’s guess. And therein lies the true reward.

So, be aware of your own desire to lead. Try to divert this into facilitating pupils leading themselves. Then marvel at how creative they really can be.

 

Please Yourself

It’s Good to Talk

What is Your Personal Truth?

Busty Kelp (CG Animation)

Enjoy the Ride (& Value The Process)!

Value The Process - Dance Notes creativity blog for teachersSometimes it’s interesting and informative to practice what you preach…  And to value the process

When you use Dance Notes’ teaching schemes, the emphasis is on giving ownership to your pupils. In so doing, you need to give up control and allow the process to take on a life of its own. Which is analogous to the way in which these resources and the work that goes into them have themselves evolved.

Go Where Your Passions Lead

The chief lessons developer for Dance Notes has, for many years, been  Michelle Rochester. She is somebody who did not start out to teach dance.  In fact, she hadn’t aimed for a career in dance at all. However, she went where her passions led. Today, Michelle not only shapes the way in which teachers throughout the UK deliver movement classes but also heads up the charity ‘Make a Move’.

You may have noticed links and references to this organisation at the Dance Notes site. There is a reason for this: the two entities (Make a Move and Dance Notes) have a symbiotic relationship. And each came to be where it is today more or less by accident, rather than design.

Case Studies

Before setting up the charity, Michelle had been facilitating dance in schools around Somerset, Bristol & South Gloucestershire for many years. Some of the most valued and rewarding work was with children who had learning or behavioural difficulties. Case studies included one child who was initially unable to remain within a classroom setting for more than a few minutes. He ended up actually leading dance sessions.

Finding Solutions

When the funding for such work was suddenly withdrawn, Michelle began to look for solutions. Somewhere along the way, it was suggested she set up a charity. That way, she could continue this work at no cost to the schools themselves. Since the benefits of movement classes to the disabled and socially excluded were very clear, this took off quite quickly.

From Strength to Strength

Several years on and Make a Move works with vulnerable people from all areas of society. These include: mothers with Post-Natal Depression, Alzheimer’s patients and corporations whose workers are, by their own reckoning, ‘broken’. This latter category – of course – helps to fund the rest and to match core-funding from regular donations.

So, as with the actual lessons and workshops themselves, this whole process didn’t begin with a fixed end in sight. The reasons for carrying out this work are clear and the benefits well-known. However, where this may lead is never a given. And so it should be in any creative endeavour.

Value the Process

Individuals (teachers included) are sometimes discouraged from trying things out because they don’t know if the end product will be ‘any good’. Ultimately, the beauty of creative pursuits is that they are not outcome-led or results-driven (or any other such abuse of the English language). The value is in the process. Or, in modern marketing-cliché parlance, ‘the journey’.

So, go on, get on-board and enjoy the ride. You may not end up where you imagined you would – but you are guaranteed to learn something valuable along the way.

A Creative Challenge

Lessons for KS1 & 2 Dance

Our Creative Partners: Make a Move