Hello all.

I thought it would be nice to share teaching practices on this network as I have noticed quite a few members work in some form of educational context. I currently am course leader for BA (Hons) Dance Practice with Digital Performance at University Centre Doncaster. It is a relatively new undergraduate course and a lot of development is still taking place.

Some of my interests lie in the balance between teaching dance and teaching technology, or in most cases finding a more holistic approach. Also, I find getting dancers to approach technology can be difficult at the undergraduate level. The most common negatively responses are 'I am just here to dance' or 'I'm scared.'

Anyone willing to share their experiences with teaching please do post! I will try to add more about my approaches to the above issues later.

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Replies to This Discussion

Hello,
this is marlon.
My experience has been very similar than yours in relation with the embodies practices dance and theater.
It has been very useful for me to create bigger philosophical umbrella and approach the practices as performance and new media.
Putting dance also within the context of other practices such as performance arts and visual arts is critical.
I also try demonstrate the very close relationship between computational concepts and informational theory in the dance practices. It is a strong battle to eliminate the separation: this is dance and this is technology. I try to explain that all technique of the body as a linage that normally takes you to some king of science/technology ground.
Due that I teach improvisation is easier to see the connection: rule based choreography and generative algorithms, or entrances and exits and "if then" algorithm. Interaction and interactivity.
I also make the connection with running a program and running a choreography.
It is also important to mention that we have the theater as we know it is technological devices that has evolved and now all the computer based lightning system are also ubiquitous and portable.
I think that it is very useful also include elements of popular culture and that the young are already using such as cell phones, remote control, popular sites, video games...VJing has been very useful for me.
They have to feel how cool they are because they are part of the cool of been young
This is a very important issue because it requires a strong level of deconstruction and in my opinion a strong understanding of the relation of embodies practices and the experiences of the dance fun (rush of endorphins) that may create very "romantic" and almost "spiritual" experience.

I think that the most important thing is that as educator we review our own epistemology and of course how that is reflected in the design of the curriculum.
I approach my own practice with the digital understanding that there are tools for documentation and diffusion and technologies investigate the relation between bodies and technology.
I also believe that the fact that we day dance AND technology perpetuates the split.
I hope that this makes sense...
Other issue, is the use of collaboration and the " do it your self" paradigm. I think that as we know it ther are some technologies that you must learn.
To discuss further...
>>Due that I teach improvisation is easier to see the connection: rule based choreography and generative algorithms, or entrances and exits and "if then" algorithm. Interaction and interactivity.>>

Yes! I find more and more that I am approaching teaching anything about technology in performance with various accompanying improv exercises. Creating rules for movement, for the computer, for the overall composition. I find this particularly when working with video projections and real time visuals. Also, my students seem to engage more/find an understanding when they start to physically embody concepts.
Hi all,
I think Marlon has a good point in putting together information theory and dance (especially impro). I present things to my students in a similar way. The only difference is that I say that information theory can be a paradigm to talk about dance in the sense that dance existed before, so information theory and technology criticism is a way to talk about things, a sort of contemporary paradigm to touch and share concepts and actions that can help to understand better these practices we call dance in general and improvisation in particular. I also refer to chaos theory (for emergency and energy wells).

there is also something very important Marlon strikes: pleasure and endorphines. I'm old enough to have seen lots of dancers who are (like some sport people) litterally addict to endorphines. Dance somehow is a form of addiction. So, the pleasure of dance brings very easily this sensation of romanticism and even sometimes sensation of spirituality. But to be a choreographer, for me means to be able to sometimes leave this pleasure, being aware of the se addictions to produce the right forms to express what is to be expressed. Just an historical exemple. Nijinsky became famos for his legato, roundness and big jumps. And in the phanue he chooses angular movements and the only jump the faune does is on a side, not very high and for sure there is no legato in the movements. What a courage to leave the known territories, what people expected from him and his most peculiar abilities and pleasures. Doing that ho made history. Even Debussy never understood the specificity of the Nijinsky's modernity project....
So, i'd say: Beware of pleasure and addiction when we make art. And therefore: teachning is to explain that too.

to discuss further
Oh, this discussion was years ago and yet is is now?

I like to be reminded of the convergences of the conceptual or practical frameworks, and the pleasure i see right now is to attempt not to think of the tools as much anymore (as separate or as technologies in a material sense only) but, as Armando suggests, of energies and -- can one say that? -- as ecologies.

in other words, could one not teach "technology" ?
but start thinking of the term differently?

in conversation with german dance historian Heide Hesse, i came to understand more clearly why Heide was so interested in Mary Wigman's school, back in the 1920s and 1930s, in Dresden. heide was investigating the "school" as a new (then it was very new) modern professionalization of a discipline, the creation of a pedagogy for "modern dance" (neuer Tanz), and i begin to understand now that Heide is calling the school and Wigman's teaching philosophy a "Technologie", in the sense that the organisation of a new interdisciplinary curriculum and a new understanding of performance requires a particular system or organisation (and this is what Forsythe may have had in mind with his "Improvisation Technologies" or with "Synchronous Objects") --- this Technologie is not a software (Isadora, Final Cut pro, etc) that one might want to convey to students or performers. the Technologie implies a professionalized ecology of training and comprehending the world and one's relationship to it through being in the craft. not sure whether that is an addiction, but surely a passionate undertaking.

we are currently in the Coal Mine lab in Germany, the Interaktionslabor and the team here certainly exhibits a passion to work in a complex environment, it is partly romantic as well, and it has spiritual dimensions for sure, as we feel them in the experience of our artforms and imaginative interactions. Wigman, i believe, was like Laban in this respect that she thought of the Tänzermensch (dancing human) in existential terms, as a holistic process.

in thinking back, "dance and technology" was a rather unfortunate misnomer, no?
Hi All,

An interesting discussion. I have started by opening our motion capture and interactive installation units to undergraduate dance students, working on the principle that some of them will, like me, fall in love with technology, and some of them will have no idea why it might be important or interesting. The units have been collaborative, involving students from mulitmedia, games, video, animation, programming etc, and so far the results have been great because the diversity of the mix has been so broad that everyone has had to figure out for themselves why they are there. For once, the dance students are no more 'disenfranchised' or 'disempowered' than anybody else. Everyone is equally bewildered and either sinks or swims in proportion to the effort (creative, technical or both) they put in.

It has been a great ride so far, for me and, I'm pretty sure, the students. I'm not sure what happens when, as we're about to do next year, we take technology in dance from the purely elective to the core unit level. I'll be interested to see how my teaching has to change when I'm no longer 'preaching to the choir'. Although I think, most likely, it can't and won't change that much because all I can do is open the door and make the invitation. If the students are interested artistically, they'll charge in. If, as I suspect, a certain subgroup of them just isn't into it because their commitment to dance lies in a different direction, I hope I'll be able to give them and interesting experience and help them to understand why they are not as excited as I seem to be about the possibilities of technology.

The DIY vs collaboration issue Marlon identifies figures large in all of this. For my dance students working collaboratively, they get the opportunity and the teaching to get their hands dirty with the technology, but I don't insist that they do (and I don't mark them down if they don't, if they contribute to the final work effectively). I think that if they're going to go down the road of learning the technology, the passion has to come from within. And if it isn't there, I'd rather they spend their energy on aspects of the work that do interest them artistically.

What do people think about this?
Hi Kim!

Just curious, where do you teach? I teach at a small university programme within a college in the UK which brings up a lot of different issues about invitation and motivation within the learning environment which go beyond just the technology.

I've recently come across a new issue in the collaborative technology work I do with my students - gender. Within our interdisciplinary module this year we have all female performers and all male music technologists. Both groups have started to identify themselves not only as performers or technologists, but also 'boys versus girls.' It seems that the female performers feel it is the boys job to work with the technology and the boys feel that it is their job to support the performance technically, rather than be involved on a more creative or performative level. It's related to what you are saying about having them involved creatively versus being very technical, however, I feel my students are doing this for a reason which concerns me. Maybe I shouldnt be so concerned about the gender issue, as maybe it is just this cohort and how the cards were dealt.
HI All,

I teach at Deakin University in Melbourne. The program has grown out of a strongly collaborative, multidisciplinary arts program - always small, quirky and committed. We felt that we had a history of cross-arts collaboration that stretched back thirty-plus years to before it became 'the thing' in tertiary education circles - at least in Australia - and what we're doing in digital arts/interactive technology is just the logical extension of that. Of course this challenges what this history really was and hence what the existing legacy is, in very concrete and sometimes confronting ways. But the upshot is that digital technology for us is just a continuation of what we've always done, but with new shiny stuff. The new mocap studio helps of course - its become a rallying point, but really its just the tip of the iceberg, conceptually,

The gender issue you mention is interesting. I haven't had that issue so much. Of course, the dancers are mostly women, but a significant proportion of the science & tech (games, programing, mulitmedia) students are also women, so it doesn't seem to manifest as a 'thing'. A lot of our film & video students are also women, so the dancers don't (I think - but it would be interested to ask them) feel chategorized by gender. I think the divide is more about 'creative' versus 'technological' and that is the border along which I feel i have to do the most work. But the fact that my discipline is dance and I'm teaching a lot of the technology (at least the mocap) might also have something to do with it - that precludes the idea that the dancers can't do the tech stuff.

Kim
An update on my students...
I tried a new approach in the interdisciplinary class today which seemed to have positive effects.

In a separate module I had introduced the performers (all female) to Isadora. They all have now used it in a performance situation as well, mostly as a show controller for video projections, although one group is using it in conjunction with the iCube sensor system to create an interactive live performance.

The music technology students (all male + 1 female*) had not used Isadora prior to this session.

My idea was to run an Isadora workshop where the performers had to teach the music tech students Isadora. The performers became the technology experts. This approach worked well, although some of the music tech students still were referring to the performers as 'the girls.' However, there was a new sense of interdisciplinary collaboration, in that both groups realized that they can blur the lines between performer and technologist. The performers said they felt 'proud that they should show the techies something new.'

I feel that the next step is to show the music technologist that they can contribute more than just technically to this process. I am not quite sure how to approach this yet.

I am not sure how this will all pan out in the end. Like I said earlier, the gender problem may still be there, however, I believe they are starting to realize that the other cohort can bring more than just performance or just technology to the collaboration.






*The one female music technologist is very interesting to this 'case study.' She only associates with the males within the module and refers to the performers as 'the girls.' Perhaps this is a way to fit in with the male music-tech students? Maybe she doesn't realise she has placed gender on a discipline? I am not sure. I need to ask her this.
Hi Kim, Kate, all

it's interesting that you thought it was a (new) issue, i remember commenting in gender and genderization in tech art a few weeks ago and no one thought it was an issue anymore, ot at least when some one responded, i was told a ploutical awareness of gender was unnecessary or outdated these day. i happen to think it's neither a new issue of coirse nor has the issue gone away at all, i see it in educational settiongs all the time, in music tech and in dance tech and in art tech, and in our digital performance modules rights now, it's fascinating to see how the softtware skill training progresses (we have 57 students in first yeart digital performance, and sometimes only 4 tables with 4 laptops for the groups they formed, so one guy , sometimes one girl, gets to sit at the computer and program, the others watch, delegate, dance, or do other things, ideally, workloads rotate, everything gets to do everything (but as i watch, curiously, the girls still do most of the dancing, and the guys sit at the buttons and manipulate the images/sounds), of course that's no longer the case in porfessional projects where increasingly women programmers and directors are creating and teching (the creative /technical divide is an other ancient theatre tradition and perhaps design tradition can be redressed and has to be). but i think in college contexts one perhaps ought to be sensitive to older structures and how not to recreate them.
Hi Johannes

I don't think it's a 'new' issue. There is plenty of evidence of programmes trying to engage women in technology and various sciences. I meant it was new in my classroom, where I had made the assumption that this generation of females students would be more comfortable with technology. I suppose the lesson is not to make assumptions that gender issues are outdated and we must continue to strive towards the balance we are now finding in professional work.

Cheers
Kate
hi all

two things ...

it would be useful to gather a list of all the 'performance technologies' courses that focus on dance. i'm sure people will come here look for such information.

secondly, when the summer exam-board madness is over perhaps we can have an open discussion about what and how we teach?

kate has already mention a dance virtual learning environment [ http://tinyurl.com/5ksqmr ] and we lack a 'one-stop shop' for dance-tech video's, papers etc (info).

it seems would could all help each other out a little .. what do you think?
hey matt

these are all great ideas. will definitely start up a group discussion in june for sharing our practice.

i think that a shared resource would be a really good thing. i've been looking at the palatine prism project http://prism.palatine.ac.uk/ which is an interesting idea but because they are trying to cover so many disciplines, it lacks depth.

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