Notes on our approach
There were some considerations as to how to structure the research days, what makes sense in terms of the age of the participants, balancing physical practice, processing and coaching. On advice from our RAD partners and teacher Linda Virgoe, we opted for three 60 minute slots per and also introduced a 30 minute session to process the information and have time for individual coaching and tutorial. Also see Dance Unstuck Studio Research Methodology – Considerations for Grade 2 Research.
For processing, the dancers used a simple notebook to make their own notes or drawings of the material. The dancers could work on their own or with the assistance of the dance support workers and the instructors. We also gave the dancers a chance to look at their notes the next day as a reminder before practising.
We gave the dancers specific exercises to write about. They included:
- Notes about the methodology: Describing the mirroring and the drop and join improvisation
- Notes about specific exercises: e.g. port de bras and their tendu setting. This could include the sequence of the material as well as specific teaching points and feedback they were working on.
- Notes on the set up at the barre: how do I use the barre; what needs to be in place and what do I need to pay attention to?
- Notes on their narrow and wide positions: what do I need to pay attention to?
While the dancers were working on their notes, we also had time for individual coaching and tutorial. The coaching in this week focused mainly on the barre, set up and defining individual support positions for plié.
While the dancers were working on their notes, we also had time for coaching. The coaching during the research week focused mainly on set up at the barre and defining individual narrow (1st) and wide (2nd) positions.As teachers, we wanted to make sure we understood each dancer’s placement of their weight: either over the feet or other support structures (e.g. arms on crutches or wheelchair), to look at the possibilities for parallel and turned out positions, the tracking of the joints and the depth of the movement. Based on this, we made recommendations for the positions they were to work with for the duration of the research class.
Taking notes proved to be not only popular with the dancers but also very effective in articulating their ideas and helping them to remember sequences and feedback (both general and individual). This was particularly valuable in helping them to retain material between our 2 research weeks in February and April. It presented the dancers both with the challenge and opportunity to process the physical material in another medium. It is something that we felt can be transferred into studio practice, starting in a guided process and advancing into an independent keeping of a dancer’s training notebook.
The coaching class is also an approach that can be transferred into general studio practice. It is a common practice when preparing for exams for instance. It gives both teachers and students a chance to work in smaller groups and work on specific dance, exercise, access and/or learning goals.
The coaching class could potentially include an induction to dance classes: how to participate in class for new dancers in a school, working out specific access solutions with less pressure, practicing individually set phrases, etc. The idea is that a number of students, both disabled and non-disabled, could meet with the teacher in the studio and work on their tasks with rotating supervision.