the arrival of self-consciousness?

I was shocked by this story – but perhaps not surprised.

“Do you want people on the internet to see you crying?” She was shocked when the student immediately stopped crying. She didn’t need to say another word. She didn’t think it would make that much of a difference but it did. Later the 8 year old came to her and said, “Did you erase the part where I was crying?”

blogs in teaching and learning

For some time I’ve been working with various kinds of blogs as part of my teaching and learning work. These have ranged from student-led blogs, summatively assessed individual blogs, group blogs, and module summary blogs. This year I’ve focused on two of these: module blogs that act as a hub for students to keep track of their activities and work, be nourished, check in with timetabling etc. I am using self-hosted WordPress blogs for these (e.g. and

The University of Roehampton – like many universities – uses Moodle as their online resource system for student communication and module details (Blackboard is the other major player). Although Moodle seems to work just fine, I believe it fails on two levels: 1. ease of use; 2. e-portfolios. There is no comparison between Mahara (Moodle’s e-portfolio software/application) and a blogging platform like Posterous. Not only does Posterous look good, it is easy to use (although not as easy as it used to be before it became Spaces – which has been confusing to my students), handles video content with ease (try embedding anything other than YouTube clips in Mahara), and is brilliant for uploading images (cf Mahara which forces users to resize images manually – something well beyond the technical know-how of most (?) undergraduate and postgraduate students).

I’ve also started to lean towards having group run Posterous sites for small groups within modules (2-3 students). These encourage conversations and experimenting with writing styles, testing ideas and thoughts with peers, responding to class reading, photo-based tasks etc. I’d love to hear from some of my students here about your experiences of working with these blogs …

Perhaps the most critical part of building WordPress (or other) module-based blogs is that they allow for potential students to obtain detailed insight into the nature of particular modules, as well as inviting other members of the (in this case, dance) community to see what kind of work goes on here at Roehampton Dance. This builds a sense of sharing and communication across Universities that is at odds with consumer-capitalist models of tertiary education that promote working in isolation, competition, and a terrible mis-trust of the potential of sharing resources and ideas.

Work Place

I’m involved with a group of artists selected by The Place in London for a new initiative called Work Place. We met for the first time (socially) back in July, but this weeked we are having a two and a half day intensive that is being facilitated by Fiona Lesley from the Map Consortium. We’ve been working with and against small provocations designed to get us thinking, reflecting, and wondering about our roles as (dance) artists in the ‘here and now’.

Today I was thinking a lot about my autonomy as a choreographer (amongst other things), and the choices I make that lead me down particular pathways that aren’t necessarily ones I want to pursue. This tension – between getting work ‘out there’, and noticing what might be best for the work I am interested in developing – remains difficult.


I’ll write some more after the weekend is over, but we also had a fleeting visit by David Jebb (Joint Artistic Director of Battersea Arts Centre) who said (beautifully): “stay vulnerable”.



I’ve started doing dance technique classes again. This is the first time I’ve done classes regularly since about about 2002. It is also the first time I’ve learned Limón technique.

My doing classes is all part of a system that Erica Stanton has implemented at Roehampton Dance whereby two teachers experience each other’s work, and in so doing are able to build on that work. For example, Erica is teaching Limón classes to (final year) undergrad students, and I am simply participating in these classes. I don’t really add anything from a teaching perspective, but I do gather a lot of insight into how the students work, and how they are experiencing these materials. It’s revealing (inevitably), and I get to experience first hand how they are coping with the materials, what is clear, what isn’t, and how each of the students is approaching the work.

After 7 weeks, I start teaching the class – but I’ll be working with improvisation strategies – and Erica becomes the dancer with the students. My teaching improvisation is an important part of Erica’s plan – that each of the practitioners involved in teaching these ‘shared’ classes develops ideas and exercises that respond to their current interests/practice.

But this is not what this post is about.


In just under ten years since I was last doing daily class, I’ve done a lot of dancing, a lot of running (and a lot of cooking), but I have also turned 40 and this body is not the same as it was as a 33 year old. In the first of Erica’s classes, I was worried about ‘subjecting myself’ to the physical movements ‘prescribed’ by another, but this didn’t prove to be such a concern. What was difficult was, first of all, the concern that I’d no longer be able to pick up materials/exercises as I used to be able to. Second, and more frightening, was my experience of loss: mobility, strength, facility, and my capacity to actually get my body to particular locations in space on time. I know this is a common experience for dancers as they age, but not doing daily class for so long had hidden this gradual loss, and my gentle confrontation with Erica’s Limón class provided plenty of evidence.

Like seeing an friend for the first time in a long time. We both know we are different, but we say things like “you haven’t changed a bit”. Well, I have changed and this decay is not easy.

Image courtesy of Boriana Pandova
Performance of Bagryana Popov’s “He is not here”, Sofia, January 2011