This month as I set out to re-tool my dance curriculum, I’m thinking about what *I* want out of a dance class.
- A preview of what the dance looks like in the wild… whether it’s solo or partnered.
- A warm-up that incorporates movement that we’ll use in the actual dance. Name games and theater games are good for theater classes, not fundamental dance classes.
- Clear directives from the instructor, to be told when to start, when to stop and exactly what to do, even if the directive is, “improvise with these guidelines.”
- Some peek into the way the dance works… what posture, approach and attitude do I need to take on in my body to make the dance look and feel right.
- If I’m in a partnered class and I’m a follow, I want to know what I need to do to make the dance work.
- If I’m a lead, I want clear instructions about which foot to start on (if it matters in a pattern), what hand to use, which direction to turn, i.e. clear language.
- Simple choreography that doesn’t break down if we end up repeating a move for another round. Patterns that allow the lead to have time to think about what the next move is.
- To be told when to change partners, and who is doing the changing.
- To have fun!
When I’m studying in a new style, I want:
- I don’t want to spend a lot of time on fundamentals. If I’ve made it to the intermediate level I’m expecting to get a little flash and some more challenges.
- I do want feedback on my technique if what I’m doing is inhibiting the movement.
- Some choreographed patterns, but followed with focus on creating movement and dealing with unforseen events.
- More input on how follows impact pre-determined patterns and how leads can adjust, rathe than force the pattern.
- Lots of analysis about what technique is needed to make complex moves work.
- Either: deep analysis and refinement of the fundamentals such that I can apply them to advanced combinations and see improvement, or:
- Challenging and high level combinations that demand good technique to make them work. If I struggle too much, I expect to be kicked back to intermediate level.
- Ruthless feedback.
- Puzzles to solve.
- Unless it’s billed as a choreography class, zero choreography. Suggestions about what movement to use, or challenges to add certain moves and create combinations is great.
Overall, what I think I want in general in classes is less choreography, or moves that aren’t taught in a “let’s all do them on the same count” type of style. I often find that as a follow this makes me feel like a dance doll in class. Instructors who get in this mode tend to focus on telling the leads what to do. The follows ask what they should be doing and the fact is, they should be following, but unfortunately, “just follow” isn’t a good answer for a new follow. This is why “moves” combined with the technique you need to make the moves feel led and followed is needed from the start. I think it hurts a scene when instructors save these concepts for “advanced” classes, because then you find yourself doing a lot of technique repair-work.
The more fundamental, the more a little choreography is expected, since new dancers have no idea what moves actually make sense with the dance. But as I enter more advanced classes, I want a combination of flash & trash, and key concepts I can use to create interesting movement.
In choreography classes, I struggle and so I always find myself asking about transitions and getting confused whenever the group changes orientation. This probably means I should take more choreography since I’m so comfortable with improvisation.
What do you want in a dance class these days? Where do you perceive your level is?