Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Emerging Voices [Residency Notes Day #2]

This is the day kids really start dancing.

After spending all of day one in various stages of disequilibrium, day two brings an integration of new skills.  If day one was about "Oh my gosh, look what we get to do!" day two is about "Oh my gosh, look what I can do now!" and "Look what we can make!" 

Note #1: Clarifying intent (paying attention to the attributes of moving patterns)

This is also the day we focus on sameness. As in, how can we make our dancing the same as our partner's dancing?  What exactly needs to be the same?

Type of Movement
Me, to different teams of students working on their four-beat Pattern A: "Is that a jump or a slide?"

Choice of Direction
Me, during our periodic active observations of work in progress: "Are they turning the same direction or opposite directions?  How can you tell?"

Foot Position
Me, to dancers: "Are your feet split to the sides or is that a diagonal split?" or "How does it feel to finish with your feet crossed?"

Note #2: Experiment<==>Create

Today I spend a lot of time roving around the room just observing. At the beginning of creating their four-beat Pattern A, their feet and physical intention still emerging. They have to organize and integrate the ideas they see in their heads and communicate it with their bodies.  They also have to sync up with their partner's dancing as well.  This is a fantastic, engrossing challenge. It is also fascinating to watch their dancing/moving/body voices emerging so spectacularly over the course of the hour.

As the class proceeds, they all want to show me what they've come up with. We talk. When I show up near them again, the pattern looks different than I remember. "Oh, you changed it!" I exclaim. "Yeah, we like it better this way," they grin, proud of their agency and resourcefulness. Their dancing is cleaner now too.

Note #3: Thinking bodies
(observing the research on gestural thinking, literally in action)

Teammates discuss the similarities, sameness and differences of their (blue, taped, square) dance spaces.  In one class, children noticed: "They both have four corners" and "They have four parallel lines." 

Me: "Are there really four parallel lines?"  Discussion ensues.  At one point, a boy lifts his hands and, without speaking, uses his fingers to trace two parallel lines vertically in the air, and then two parallel lines horizontally.

Me: "Good! So by that I think you mean there are two sets of parallel lines?" He nods. I say, "Okay, let's all trace those lines in the air..."

Note #4: Thinking bodies (hive mind)

Wayne McGregor is a dancer and choreographer who engages in multi-disciplinary collaborative research around how the body thinks and learns, both the individual body, and the larger thinking whole created by a larger social systems. In his 2012 TED GLOBAL talk he provides a helpful primer of what it means to think with one’s body, especially within a dance system:

“So for me, choreography is very much a process of physical thinking. It's very much in mind, as well as in body, and it's a collaborative process. It's something that I have to do with other people. You know, it's a distributed cognitive process in a way …

The work we do in teams of two to choreograph math-informed, math-infused percussive dance patterns is social learning.  Not only do ideas flow verbally and physically between student teams, but also within each class; the energy in the room while kids are making often resembles a beehive. Today, for example, about half way through my most challenging class, something clicked and everyone was working intently; I could literally feel the group working and thinking together on their individual projects. 

[Residency Notes Day #1]

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