Tuesday, March 25, 2014

an impromptu lesson

I haven't posted much recently — in a challenging year, it has been difficult to find things to write about that don't sound like complaining… But I did have a great little impromptu lesson with kids at the studio last weekend.

I have been back teaching at the studio on Saturday mornings this year – teaching some ballet (since that is what moms bring their little girls to learn) and as much creative work as I can fit in. I also occasionally sub for another teacher in the afternoons, which this close to the spring performance usually just entails cleaning up the parts of the dances kids have already learned… So I was doing just that with the advanced teens jazz class in the afternoon, when 15 minutes from the end of class, one of them mentioned “I think maybe Nicole wanted you to help us get ideas for our solos for this dance.” “Oh... you mean some improvisation to help get you started?” “Yes!” “Cool! I wish we had started a little earlier, but let’s see what we can do…”

So I quickly ran to my dance bag, took out my little pack of action-word cards, and picked out a few that I thought would fit well with mood of their dance. They were working to “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone (yay! some classic music for these teens!)… I pulled out push, pull, slither, glide, sway, and swing, along with leap, slash, explode, and stomp for punctuation. We explored those movements as much as we had time for, pairing up some actions: show me lots of ways to slither (high, low, curved paths, zigzag paths, with your heads, knees, arms...), punctuate your slithering with exploding (tiny, huge, arms only, legs only, explode inward...); and the same with push/pull and leaping, gliding and stomping, etc. We didn’t have time for a real improvisation, so I just gave them a couple of minutes to review all of the actions they had explored to see what felt good to put together; then they showed whatever very short movement phrase they had come up with, to be the basis for their solos. Some of them came up with some movements that were way out of what I would consider their comfort zones (those standard pique turns and leaps that good technical teen dancers like to fall back on) — it was such a pleasure to see them diving into their explorations with wild abandon… It was also a good teaching moment for me — I’ve long said that I could practically teach technique in my sleep, but I have to obsessively plan creative work lessons –  so it was nice to know I could pull out a successful lesson (however short) at the drop of a hat!

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