Form and/or Function
This is a series of movement games that introduce and practice specific learning and movement skills used in a UD informed dance class. It shifts the focus away from the traditional mirroring of movement to translate and drop and join.
Notes on our approach
Mirroring or copying movements that the teacher demonstrates is a fundamental teaching methodology in dance. It is not an accessible way of teaching and relies on disabled participants to translate the material themselves. It is not enough to verbally encourage disabled students to ‘feel free’ to translate, ‘pick and choose’ or ‘do their own thing’. Translating set phrases into different movement ranges and selecting material are skills that need to be practiced by all the students.
Exploration and Setting
Pair up the students and set the mirroring exercise where both dancers lead and follow simultaneously. This means there is no designated leader who dictates the movements.
This set up already challenges assumptions about being a teacher and being a student and their respective roles in a class. The paired up dancers are likely to share the same stance (e.g. both be sitting), face each other, stand close to each other, move slowly and limit their suggestions to what they assume is a shared movement range in terms of body parts, space and tempo used. They can discover overlapping, shared possibilities but it also tends towards a ‘lowest common denominator’ approach, preventing both participants from using their full movement range.
Mirroring with different set ups:
Ask the paired up students to deliberately choose and stick to a differing set up, e.g. one dancer sits, the other stands or lies on the floor; or, one dancer moves in the kinesphere, the other moves in the whole space.
Also challenge the dancers to push their own movement range in terms of space use, tempo and interest. Since both dancers are simultaneously suggesting and mirroring movements, with no designated leader, I usually say to the dancers: ‘Don’t be so considerate. Don’t second guess what your partner may or may not be comfortable doing; let them make the choice as to how and when they translate your suggestions’.
This exercise moves away from an absolute mirroring and introduces the concept of translating. Each position or set up has possibilities as well as limitations and each of the dancers (disabled or non-disabled) is challenged to observe and translate their partner’s material into their movement range. In a UD informed class I would always want to move on to mirroring with a difference and the practice of translating.
Drop and Join:
Within each pair, select a leader and follower. The leader has the task of exploring and pursuing their fullest movement possibilities and interests. The follower chooses when to join, what aspects to translate and when to pause.
In this process we shift further away from a strict sense of mirroring. It can be helpful to introduce it as ‘following’, ‘copying’ or ‘echoing’. Drop and join is a learning strategy that is used later on in class when the dancers share and exchange movements with their partners or when learning material from the teacher. In my experience, most dancers need reminding to value and perform the pauses with the same dedication as the joining.
With the children’s group we introduced and practised drop and join as an improvisation. With the professional group we applied drop and join in a more formal compositional way. See: temps lié: variations, drop and join (professionals).
In this video the dancers play mirroring with different set ups and drop and join set in a sequence called out by the instructor.
- Instead of calling out the sequence, the different sections can be set on counted phrases
- Provide specific movement themes to improvise around
- Having practised the approach as a game and warm up improvisation, it can be applied to other exercises (e.g. we used it in Low and High: different set up – drop and join, Port de Bras – mirroring and to some extent Dance B – shared timing).
- Do the dancers share the lead in equal measure during the mirroring? Do they both initiate and observe?
- What choices do they make to translate their partner’s movements?
- How do they perform the stillness (drop) and how do they create transitions?
- What aspects are different dancers achieving and what could they work on?