Q: What tips do you have for creating end-of-year performances that teachers, students, parents and administrators will all be happy with?
A: This can be tricky. When I worked as a teaching artist in public schools, the classroom teachers would ask me to help them prepare a dance primarily made by the teacher or by someone on YouTube. Groups of students would do gestures relating to the lyrics of a popular song in unison. This type of sharing would not have been representative of what the students actually did with me, which was work in groups to make their own dances based on a topic we studied. While there are benefits to mastering others’ choreography, I believe that dance should also be a creative act.
The teachers I worked with complained that parents wouldn’t understand my abstract dances, which use different choreographic structures and elements. I tried to explain that a performance is an opportunity to teach the administration and parents, who may have limited exposure to dance. Many believe that “real dance” is only what they see on TV on dance competition shows. I take advantage of my class performances as a chance to advocate for my work and a more open idea of dance.
When I show my students’ work, whether it’s on my video blog or live, I take the time to explain what the process was to create the piece, and what they as an audience should look for in the dances. Parents learn to see their children making conscious choices about levels, groupings, directions and steps to express themselves. My students’ parents and my administrators are always thrilled to see students mindfully (and joyfully) expressing themselves.