What studio wouldn’t want their dancers coming out more versatile as dancers and more open-minded as people?
Whether adding an improvisation class, a creative composition course, or just exposing students to performance and video, incorporating postmodern dance principles into your studio structure and course offerings is a step in the right direction for developing more well-rounded dancers and standout dance studios.
But where is postmodern dance in studio instruction?
It is a commonly asked question in today’s growing dance world.
Most studio dancers have been exposed to the traditional course offerings of ballet, jazz, and tap dance. They are familiar with ballet terminology, tap dance sequences, different forms of hip-hop, contemporary dance techniques, and even know how to use “spirit fingers” if the opportunity presents itself.
With a wide variety of dance genres being offered at commercial dance studios around the country, there is still a noticeable absence of modern and postmodern dance techniques available for young dancers to explore.
Dance Professor Katie Langan of Marymount Manhattan in New York says “Rarely do my faculty or I see an audition solo for entry into college that is modern-based, despite the emphasis on modern dance training in undergraduate BFA/BA curriculums… This scenario repeats for any number of students who come to mind and plays out in colleges and universities across the country.” [Dancer Magazine, March 2008] She acknowledges that students auditioning for college dance departments are often coming equipped with ballet, jazz and competition dance experience. Few are coming in with a firm grasp on modern and postmodern dance principles because most commercial studios do not expose their dancers to modern dance.
Some common reasons studios might not include postmodern techniques in their course lineup:
- Commercial dance studios value a different aesthetic
- Belief that dance studio students are not interested in learning modern techniques
- An absence of studio owners or teachers with postmodern dance experience
- Belief that there is no benefit or application for professional ballet, jazz or commercial dancers
The exposure to postmodern principles and technique has so positively affected my experience with both commercial dance and concert dance that I would recommend that studios add it to their course roster. Young dancers who gain an early exposure to the world of post modern dance are only at an advantage in today’s competitive dance market. It will prepare them for careers as professional dancers or for success in a college dance department. The reality is that modern dance principles are gaining popularity throughout the dance world.
Katie Langan agrees. “Ideally, I believe modern should be in every dance curriculum no matter the final goal. Furthermore, it should be offered at all levels of training, despite the difficulty in translating some of the complex principles at a beginning level for children.”
Give your students the advantage they’ll need in their professional and academic pursuits by implementing post modern principles into your program. Here’s how…
5 Ways Postmodern Dance Principles Can Positively Impact Your Studio.
1. Creates a sense of individuality
Postmodern dance is more about discovering your own unique voice through movement than imitating an already prescribed aesthetic. While most studio class offerings ask students to replicate shapes, tricks and routines, postmodern dance asks students to explore their own movement vocabulary through dance improvisation. Having students explore movement from a “personal place” can enhance their sensitivity towards dance and help them find new meaning and joy through personalized movement.
2. Promotes creative composition
Have you ever had a student say, “I don’t know what to do next!” when choreographing? Postmodern dance principles promote a sense of creative choreography in young dancers. It leans them away from relying on familiar steps or classroom exercises to constitute choreography, asking the dancers to improvise new movement, try out new ideas, and think about choreography as an ongoing creative process versus an end result for show.
3. Focuses on process over product
While every studio wants to have their students perform at a high level, most end up putting pressure on students to deliver an impressive end product. With a postmodern approach to studio directing and classroom instruction, students can feel free to enjoy the process of rehearsing, choreographing and training as much as the final outcome. Traditional students put all of the emphasis on the performance day, the big year-end recital, or the national competition. Postmodern principles require that dancers and instructors engage in the process of creating new work, not just look forward to the end product.
4. Promotes a balance between artistry and technique
Postmodern training encourages dancers to be more than mere technicians and helps to develop living artists that have emotions and individuality on stage. Excellent virtuosic technique is great to have, but so is a sense of self and a true “identity” while performing. Most dancers can channel familiar emotions of happiness and sadness. The postmodern approach to emotion is one of discovery, requiring dancers to move from a deeper level and tap into real emotions and experiences. This approach can help set your studio dancers apart from “everyone else” in the large and rather competitive dance world.
5. Lessens the fear of competition
Speaking of competition, in case you didn’t know—the dance world is full of competition. Not every studio participates in organized competitions, yet owners have to work to get students in their studios, solo artists have to compete for grant money, and dance companies compete for funding. In fact, there are elements of competition in just about every aspect of dance. Post modern dance tells us to think of competition as a chance to share yourself with the world. Young dancers given the opportunity to show their talent, drive and passion to the world while others do the same develop a “sharing” approach to all aspects of dance competition making it seem less scary to the young dancer. With the absence of fear, students have a better shot at performing to their full potential—whether that happens to be a national competition, admission to a college dance company, or even secure funds for an artistic endeavor. Post modern dance celebrates creativity and uniqueness. If dancers can learn at a young age that it is okay to be unique, they will have less fear, anxiety and self consciousness when approaching “competitive” situations. In turn they will feel eager to share their unique gifts with the dance world. This type of confidence and sense of self is priceless for an aspiring dancer.
Do you incorporate postmodern principles or techniques into your curriculum? Why or why not?
What are other ways postmodern could benefit studios?
Roger Lee is a professional dance writer, instructor, and studio consultant from Philadelphia, PA. His writing has been published nationally in Dance Magazine, Dance Magazine College Guide, Dance Studio Life Magazine, and The Dance Journal. Roger has taught hip-hop at The Rock School of Dance Education, Koresh School of Dance, Mid-Atlantic Ballet, Philadelphia Ballet School, and Drexel University Recreation Center. Roger also directs and choreographs Roger Lee Dance Company and provides dance studio marketing, communications, and publicity at www.rogerleedance.com