Last Friday (6 September) I attended a roundtable discussion at Independent Dance in London called What is it to teach choreography?
The session was led by ID’s Kirsty Alexander and there was a good group of people there (perhaps 25+). Kirsty described a basic tension between the teaching of choreographic practice forms (and how these forms might be unintentionally developed by the restrictions, tasks and activities placed on students) and allowing forms of choreographic practice (and outcomes) to emerge. She also described a similar tension between students being socialised into culture versus creating a space for culture(s) to emerge.
My basic concern as someone who is responsible for leading choreography modules is to find ways to nurture and support the curiosity and interest of the students I work with. In many respects, this is about first helping them identify what their interests are, and then trying to get out of the way so that they can pursue them. This is similar to what – on Friday – was called the Art School mentality of allowing interest to be supported rather than placing aesthetic, formal, cultural, social constraints, etc. (however well-meaning, or however unintentional) on the kind of work that students should make.
Such an approach leaves a great deal of responsibility with students to drill down into their own interests so they can develop and find processes that best suit their interests. This is a long way from cookie-cutter choreography lessons where students are provided with basic choreographic tools that they somehow must bend to their own work and experiences.
I’m excited about being back in the studio with students this coming academic year. To find a way to provoke (and not tell), and to support the inevitable (and remarkable) diversity in their interests, processes and outcomes.