I came across a new blog, Design Dance, that coincided with something I’ve recently been thinking about. The blog is for a dance school in Chicago that has a mission to offer classes that not only teach technique but also create an environment that encourages the young artist. Let me just quote a bit from their first post:
After 7 years of being a dance educator and seeing what goes on in studios, I’ve begun to make some guesses as to why this [a drastic shift in focus from dance as hobby/exercise/competition to dance as art form at the age of 18] exists. It’s possible that the reason dance is rarely viewed as an art-form for children the way other art-forms are is quite possibly because the dancers are rarely asked to be artists until they are adults. A painting class for children would never teach a class without asking the young artists to express themselves through painting, so why is it that dancers are not asked to make their art form personal and creative until they are adults?
This was a “Yes!” moment for me and in my comment on the blog, I explained why…
Just today I was looking back on my own dance education and was so grateful that self-expression and creativity were not only valued at my dance studio growing up, but fostered through creative dance classes. Teaching in studios in different parts of the country over the past 10 years, I’ve come to realize just how rare the experience is. When I entered college as a dance major, the improvisational techniques, composition exercises, and emotional investment required in performance felt second nature. I watched other students struggle in this area. I had to work extra hard on my technique, as this was an area that suffered somewhat at my small-town studio. However, I’ve often desired to see these two sides of dance (the technical and the artistry) come together in more dance schools. I am encouraged by what you are accomplishing and look forward to reading more of your progress!
I believe that it is possible and necessary to include focus on both technique and artistry in a complete dance education. Through this blog, I hope to share ways in which this can be accomplished at any studio or school. Some ideas will come from me but I also want to hear from you!
How have you encouraged or taught self-expression and artistry at your school? What do you think about the mission of Design Dance?
Nichelle Suzanne is a writer specializing in dance and online content. She is also a dance instructor with over 20 years experience teaching in dance studios, community programs, and colleges. She began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. As a Houston-based dance writer, Nichelle covers dance performance for Dance Source Houston, Arts+Culture Texas, and other publications. She is a leader in social media within the dance community and has presented on blogging for dance organizations, including Dance/USA. Nichelle provides web consulting and writing services for dancers, dance schools and studios, and those beyond the dance world. Read Nichelle’s posts.