Throughout the summer term one of the areas we were focusing on was coordination. Like most dance skills it’s a thread that will run through every exercise. All movement involves coordination. However, until working on this part of the project, I hadn’t ever really thought about developing a specific coordination exercise as part of a class. Focusing on it in isolation rather than as part of a bigger whole.
Coordination can be defined as the ability to efficiently control and direct movements in relation to internal or external factors. We decided to split coordination into two types of activity; one where the individual has an internal focus, and the other with an external focus (e.g. partner or object). Through these activities we would explore rhythm and tempo, speed, repetition, isolation and articulation of body parts, the midline and crossing it, the body’s extremities and opposition.
As with the previous block on strength and alignment, each partner developed their own (very different) activities. Our internal activity took the form of a set exercise and we explored the effect of performing it to music with different dynamics, speeds and qualities. The sequence also grew into larger, full bodied movement to include turning and travelling through the space.
Our activity with an external focus was a game responding to the physical cues given by a partner. Again this started in a basic form on the spot with 6 commands that could be viewed as 2 dimensional. But the developments were numerous and the basic structure could be taken in different directions to suit the groups needs and interests.
With each of these activities even though the focus was singular, through layering the task with complexity other skills such as composition and performance, could be developed. For me it has become clear that this approach to teaching ensures an activity is accessible and challenging to all. It allows each dancer to access the exercise at their level of ability for that specific dance skill. They can stick with one stage or increase the challenge with another layer. Through the evaluation methods we have developed and used in the project we have become much more aware of the different and varying needs of our dancers. The wheel we use in particular has really highlighted the dancers strengths and areas for improvement, which has sometimes surprised us. It has been invaluable in giving us the opportunity to really observe our dancers and get a more accurate picture of their skill set, each being very different. This has emphasized the need for a wide range of differentiation in activities, not just in terms of physical movement but through introducing additional complexity through playing with eye focus, speed, direction and other instructions.
Just as important is that this approach also permits creative responses, developing creativity and self-expression as part of technical skill. This has been a significant concern for all partners involved in the project. At the very beginning we defined what technique was for us. What aspects it involved and what skills we thought it was important for our dancers to develop through technical training. We have kept returning to this question as while we agreed it also encompasses psychological and social skills such as motivation, emotional mastery and social interaction, we have been concerned our activities also develop the ability to respond creatively to tasks and will prepare our dancers for performance. This approach seems to be working towards that end well!
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