Sunday, January 11, 2015

end-of-semester dance practice

Since I decided against a fall semester choreography final (because of the inconvenient timing of winter break), this week the dance classes have been practicing all four dance sequences we have learned over the semester. Students will choose their one best dance to perform for the final, in small-to-medium groups. The dances we learned are:

1. Basic jazz — the vocabulary of jazz squares, pivots, pas de bourĂ©es, and kick ball-changes that are the standard building blocks of so much musical theater choreography. I like to set my jazz dances to classic Motown; this year it is Marvin Gaye's version of "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" (a bit of a dance joke, since our first step is a grapevine).

2. Michael Jackson's Thriller, which we performed at Hallowe'en — and which I keep reminding them is a jazz dance, choreographed in Fosse style.

3. Hip hop — I always tell students I don't teach much hip hop per se, even though they all want to learn it, because "you know more than I do"; but I did reconstruct a one-minute bit of choreography from one of EOSA's dance festival pieces, which we worked on for a week.

4. Last but certainly not least, Lindy hop and Big Apple, which we worked on just before the break. I am particularly fond of these historical social dances because I learned and performed them while dancing with Westwind Folk Ensemble — our Lindy hop teacher/choreographer was a student of Frankie Manning, so I can say I'm only two steps away from the source (I also learned a great deal about traditional jazz dance from some invaluable workshops with Karen Hubbard of the University of North Carolina at a couple of NDEO conferences).

Conflicted as I have been about finishing the semester with only two choreography projects under our belts, it has actually been a very joyful week in my class (especially considering the typical stresses of the week before final exams). These kids are hungry to learn dance steps and sequences, and have been practicing them with great enthusiasm. At our last session on Friday in my 5th period class, after running through all the dances once I asked the class "we have time to run one again, which shall we do?" They all yelled eagerly "Lindy hop!" So we ran it again, and they immediately asked "can we do it one more time?" "Well, it's a two-and-a-half minute dance and we have two minutes until time to pack up and get dressed, but... Okay!" Lindy hop fiends — It's a joy to watch them dance!

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