Choreography Class, Week 2: Running Dances
November 29, 2001

The second week brought both successes and challenges and a lack in attendance. Only six out of ten girls came, and the two new students did not show. My three youngest students were excited to show me their completed homework assignment (short study of running, walking hopping, etc.); the other three claimed they forgot their creations. That probably meant they didn’t do it at all, but it’s summer camp—who can blame them? I haven’t decided to nix the assignments all together—but I was correct in my early assumption to not expect everyone to do them.


Behavior-wise this week, my tweens tested the limits of my patience. Most of the class was very chatty and borderline defiant, though I sensed the disruptive behaviors were cries for attention, so I just kept going. With my class agenda, there isn’t extra time for scolding or reprimanding. The girls caught on fairly quickly that if they wanted to keep up at my pace and have a cohesive piece for the final showing, they’d have to listen.


Before the girls presented their pieces, I spoke quickly about Isadora Duncan. We watched clips from Isadora Duncan Masterworks 1905–1923 with the Isadora Duncan Dance Ensemble. Upon mentioning turn-of-the-century events (including the “second industrial revolution” and WWI) surrounding Duncan’s life, I heard whispering in the group. I asked the culprit if she had something to share. “I was just saying that’s what we were learning about in school.” Victory!


The girls liked the dancing from the brief parts I showed, but all agreed that the flowing movement paired with the serene Chopin piano music put them to sleep. It was just all too nice. When I asked what they’d do differently, they suggested putting hip-hop music in the background. I’m guessing Ms. Duncan rolled over in her grave—though, on second thought, maybe she’d applaud their boundary-breaking idea.


Next, three girls showed their assignment they created together. Standing in a line, they performed a routine accompanying an apparently trendy rap song. (They looked at me as though I had three heads when I said I’d never heard it.) Although comprised of moves they’d learned in basic hip- hop class, it was entirely stylish walking, running and hopping. Success!


Their routine had three solo sections, but the rest was unison. (Of course it was; that’s what they know.) So, I’ve made a note to devote most of next class exploring counterpoint, discord and the granddaddy of basic composition: canon. I also want to stress that dance is not an accessory to music. Well-crafted pieces can stand-alone. For next week, I asked them to bring in their favorite poem, excerpt from a book or song lyric, and instead of music, we’ll use text as inspiration.


Photo of Shermy of the Peanuts gang performing my favorite running dance, from A Charlie Brown Christmas.


For more information on the Isadora Duncan DVD, click here and scroll down.

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