What 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.