Noverre is trying to say here that the maitre de ballet should not attempt to use force and coercion to achieve his desired outcome, and that he should more or less be present only to offer words of advice and not to enforce anything on the dancers. Similarly, if we transpose this into the context of dance education, a good dance educator should not turn his or her students into some kind of automated robots by insisting that the students all merely follow and copy him. This does not encourage any kind of artistic and aesthetic sensitivities in the students, nor does it stimulate the learners to develop their own sense of expression, passion and identity in their own dancing. They thus create students who are mere carbon copies of themselves who will not survive nor go far in the dance world because they have not been taught to think for themselves. In addition, dance education should perservere to provide a learning environment that not only offers encouragement and advice on how to improve themselves and their dancing, but one that will stimulate the students' creativity and artistic merit. Dance educators should also act as mentors who are there to guide the students instead of stifling them by throwing them into an environment where the students learn under fear and by force.
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Based on the quotations below, dance is an abstraction of reality and it should be expressive. To develop a dancer is to groom an artist who is technically proficient, aesthetically sensitive, intelligent, and creatively expressive. How do you, as a dance educator, develop the aesthetic sensitivity, interpretive ability and creative expressivity of your dance students?
As a dance educator, the first step for me towards developing aesthetic sensitivity, interpretive ability and creative expressivity of my students would be to focus on 3 streams: artistry, aesthetics, and cultural appreciation of dance. The students would have to do, experiment, and watch and the combination of these 3 actions would in turn lead to a greater appreciation of and for dance as a form of art. I would want my students to not only dance, but also create - as in, choreograph because it is through this process where they would develop a great sense of artistic merit and sensibility. I would also want them to watch a great variety of dance shows and not just merely limit themselves to say ballet, or tap. This would open their perspectives in the world of dance and help them to draw on many inspirations when they dance and create in class. Ultimately, I want to create students who are motivated to think for themselves, and who are able to draw upon their own personal knowledge and experiences and connect these to their dancing. This I feel, would enable them to hone their interpretive and artistic skills and become thinking dancers with a great depth of not just intelligence, but technical and artistic skill.
What in your idea, are the elements that need to be integrated to set up a meaningful learning context for your dance students?
In my opinion, to develop a very strong sense of kinesthetic intelligence is needed to being with, because it is important for the students to grasp the concept and be able to relate very closely both mind and body in their dancing endeavors. This can be brought about by training our focus on the process in dance education whereby the 3 streams of artistic, aesthetic and cultural appreciation of dance culminate to provide a meaningful learning context. In addition, I feel it is important that we include the element of facilitating the learning of dance through other academic disciplines and life skills. This in turn makes the whole experience of dance education doubly meaningful because it enables the students to draw upon their own personal experiences and bring these into developing their own unique identities and thinking in dance. Furthermore, it is also important not to forget to include the essential technical aspects of dance such as the discovery of rhythm, space, direction, effort, dynamics, locomotor, and movement motifs and combine these with the non-locomotor aspects of dance such as expression, representation and performance to create a wholistic learning environment for the students. Moreover, it is important to integrate knowledge and cognitive intelligence together with bodily and kinesthetic intelligence so that the students come to realize that dance as a form of art is not just about mere superficial technical brilliance and aesthetic beauty and that there is far more to it than meets the eye.
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How would you apply the concept of integrating rationality and artistry to dance teaching?
This is a very important issue that should be addressed because there is a very fine line between being objective and too objective, or being subjective or overly subjective. However, this is a line that we as dance educators often need to tread on because of the nature of dance as a form of art. We cannot rely on always the product - by focusing only on technical ability, we hence negate the elements of expression and identity in the performance of dance. However, if we rely too much on the process of teaching dance and get so caught up with stimulating creativity and expression in the students, then we are also negating the factor that dance is ultimately, a form of art that serves to showcase aesthetic brilliance and extensive technical capabilities that audiences always look for. Therefore, there needs to be an equilibrium that is applied between rationality and artistry in teaching whereby the educator needs to always be aware of the balance between maintaining and improving the students' technical abilities and yet at the same time seek to nurture their innate sense of artistry to create an art that is aesthetically pleasing. I would apply this concept of integrating rationality and artistry in dance teaching by utilizing the midway model of teaching as proposed by Smith-Autard in her book 'The Art of Dance in Education'. I find that this is a very appropriate model to turn to because it is a marriage of the most important elements from the process and product models respectively. It combines the opposing points from these models into a model of all rounded learning, which places equal emphasis on creating, performing, viewing and appreciating dance.
We often teach how we were taught, what are the ramifications of this pitfall for a beginning dance teacher?
This is also yet another issue that tend to affect many of us young teachers and that needs to be addressed. The consequences of teaching how we ourselves were taught can be both positive and negative. The general view we tend to hold is that if we are or were being taught in a certain manner, then it must be the absolute and correct way in which we should teach our own students. The catch lies in the fact that if we had good educators who nurtured our passions and encouraged the development and cultivation of artistic, aesthetic, and cultural intelligence in dance, who married both technical and performance aspects of dance, then this method would be more or less harmless if we in turn decided to teach our students in this manner as well. However, if we had teachers who taught us without any regard whatsoever for artistic merit and kinesthetic sensibilities, who, according to Rand in Reading 2, were monsters who created automated students, then this would be the wrong way to go and the outcome would be batches of students who would not be able to widen their perspectives and think for themselves, who would follow mindlessly and not experience the absolute 'joyous spontaneity' (Noverre) of the art of dancing. In addition, if we do not try or attempt to develop our own methods of teaching - by drawing upon all the positive and effective methods which we have experienced throughout our years of dancing and learning dance, there may be many loopholes in our teaching methods and the students in turn will not be able to get the most out of their dance education process. We, as dance educators, have to and should bear in mind that even teaching dance is a form of art that we should approach with much sensitivity, care, knowledge, and delicacy in order to create the most meaningful learning environment for our students.
An excellent dance educator inspires. In order to motivate your own dance students positively, it is important you demand yourself to possess the same qualities as you demand of your students. What, in your opinion, are these qualities?
In my opinion, these qualities should be expressiveness, creativity, innovation, being highly perceptive to the space and people around oneself, having a sense of open mindedness so that we do not block our personal creative and imaginative processes, sensitivity with regards to space, time, rhythm, and direction, sensibility with regard to the employment of logical thinking, as well as artistic, aesthetic and cultural awareness, careful usage and application of technique and style, as well as possessing a strong sense of individuality, good musicality, spontaneity, and most importantly, performance quality.
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Compare and comment on the view behind these two teaching approaches concerning human nature and how one learns:
'…to obtain compliance and discipline from dance students by yelling at them, punishing them for mistakes and coercing them into accepted behaviors through bribing and appeasement'
'…to cultivate self-discipline and ownership through positive reinforcement, development of independent thinking through reasoning and, responsibility through learning about causality'
In the reading, Rand introduces us to the modern philosophy of Naturalism and its metaphysical projection of how man should be and behave. Firstly, the two views here are polar opposites of each other and they represent essentially what Rand talks about in the reading of the ideal and actual projection of man by the naturalists as monsters instead of heroes. The first view here then represents man as an automated monster who has no feelings nor regard whatsoever for others because he is reassured by the irrational philosophical conviction that he can be pardoned or accounted for even by acting like that. In this case, the 'cultural bankruptcy' that Rand talks about is evident in that Man has succumbed to his 'tragic flaw' and has chosen not to wield any kind of control over his sense of reason values. Hence in this case, the students would suffer from a very automated kind of learning and ultimately, the 'joyous spontaneity' that should be present in Man's learning process and journey would be destroyed. However, in contrast in the second view, we can see that this conforms more to the Romantic philosophy whereby man is presented as a hero, as being in total control over his actions and existence as well as being in possession of a positive energy to reach his highest potential and to have the same regard for others. In turn, the learning process here would ultimately be very different from that in the first view. This could be representative of a successful teaching model, because the students are placed in a positive learning environment whereby their creativity and spontaneity will be stimulated because they are happy and encouraged , not to mention they will be an impulse to seek out artistic merit instead of negating it in the learning process.
Compare and comment on ideas in dance aesthetics in ancient history, the renaissance period, modern and contemporary times.
What are the implications for dance educators as a consequence of these changing ideas about dance aesthetics?
Dance aesthetics in ancient history, the renaissance period and modern and contemporary times differed very greatly from each other. The biggest departure would probably be that of the Renaissance period whereby the Romantics painted a very positive and heroic picture of man as a godlike entity whereas the naturalists during the modern and contemporary times regarded aesthetics as not being present but merely as a statistical presence. As a result of these changing ideas about dance aesthetics, there are many implications for dance educators, one of which would be to keep an open mind about how to educate and inculcate this sense of aesthetics into the dancers. We have to be very careful because there is a fine line between guiding and nurturing this sense of aesthetics as opposed to becoming forceful and didactic in our eagerness to draw this out from the students. As it is, aesthetics in dance in the present is very highly regarded as important and essential part of our art so in turn it is important that we as dance educators manage to encourage this in our students.