How do we teach Dance History from Global Perspectives?

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  • 23 Mar 2011 10:08 AM
    Message # 551814

    Our first question from CORDs Board of Directors was posed by Danielle Robinson from York University in Toronto, Canada: “How do we teach Dance History from global perspectives?”

    At Hunter College in NYC, I have taught our Dan102 course once as a “world dance history survey” class, using Ann Cooper Albright and Ann Dils Moving Histories/Dancing Cultures as the course textbook, and twice as a “dance and culture” course, using Jane Desmond’s Meaning in Motion as the primary text.  The course is not required for our dance majors or minors, and tends to be filled by those looking to fulfill the Pluralism and Diversity category of the General Ed. Requirements. However, it’s the only theory-based course we have that allows for non-European dominant perspectives, and so it has become critical in my understanding of what is lacking in a typical college dance program.  In a university system, in this most global city, I am able to mentor students through rudimentary research projects from clogging to Khmer court dances, Tango’s development in the Philippines to glowsticking. 

    We are currently developing three graduate programs (MFA in Dance, and BA/MA and MA in Dance Education) and I spent a substantial portion of my first two semesters here writing course proposals including Graduate Dance History.  This is part of the written rationale:

    Through a progressive approach to dance history, students can gain the required inter/intra-cultural and interdisciplinary perspectives needed for a more comprehensive understanding of how, why and where dance has developed.  With recent advances in dance history teaching, especially those that include wider cultural perspectives, this course answers contemporary discussions around the changing nature of ‘history’ as a discrete subject. 

    It challenges the dance practitioner to consider whether and at what stage historical research methods and critical approaches can enhance the growth of dance.  It reduces the privileging of traditional, western based theatre dance history over other dance forms as performed and practiced at many cultural levels in communities in America and elsewhere.  It prepares the student to think, write and speak about dance as a form with a long and rich history and far-reaching impacts.

    I am a heartened that we seek to include wider perspectives in our program.  However, I’m not sure how to help steer us there in a way while respecting my program’s modern dance legacy.  So, let’s begin with Dance History classes.  What are you doing?

    - Maura Nguyen Donohue
  • 28 Mar 2011 1:12 PM
    Reply # 556239 on 551814

    My dance course for the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master (Nice Sophia Antipolis, Paris 8 Saint Denis, Frankfurt Am Main, Université Libre de Bruxelles) In Performing Arts Study will be using To Dance Is Human: A Theory of Nonverbal Communication; The Performer-Audience Connection: Emotion to Metaphor in Dance and Society; Dance, Sex, and Gender: Signs of Identity, Dominance, Defiance, and Desire; Partnering Dance and Education: Intelligent Moves for Changing Times; and Dancing for Health: Conquering and Preventing Stress.

  • 28 Mar 2011 3:06 PM
    Reply # 556358 on 551814
    Anonymous member (Administrator)
    CORD Office wrote:

    Our first question from CORDs Board of Directors was posed by Danielle Robinson from York University in Toronto, Canada: “How do we teach Dance History from global perspectives?”

    At Hunter College in NYC, I have taught our Dan102 course once as a “world dance history survey” class, using Ann Cooper Albright and Ann Dils Moving Histories/Dancing Cultures as the course textbook, and twice as a “dance and culture” course, using Jane Desmond’s Meaning in Motion as the primary text.  The course is not required for our dance majors or minors, and tends to be filled by those looking to fulfill the Pluralism and Diversity category of the General Ed. Requirements. However, it’s the only theory-based course we have that allows for non-European dominant perspectives, and so it has become critical in my understanding of what is lacking in a typical college dance program.  In a university system, in this most global city, I am able to mentor students through rudimentary research projects from clogging to Khmer court dances, Tango’s development in the Philippines to glowsticking. 

    We are currently developing three graduate programs (MFA in Dance, and BA/MA and MA in Dance Education) and I spent a substantial portion of my first two semesters here writing course proposals including Graduate Dance History.  This is part of the written rationale:

    Through a progressive approach to dance history, students can gain the required inter/intra-cultural and interdisciplinary perspectives needed for a more comprehensive understanding of how, why and where dance has developed.  With recent advances in dance history teaching, especially those that include wider cultural perspectives, this course answers contemporary discussions around the changing nature of ‘history’ as a discrete subject. 

    It challenges the dance practitioner to consider whether and at what stage historical research methods and critical approaches can enhance the growth of dance.  It reduces the privileging of traditional, western based theatre dance history over other dance forms as performed and practiced at many cultural levels in communities in America and elsewhere.  It prepares the student to think, write and speak about dance as a form with a long and rich history and far-reaching impacts.

    I am a heartened that we seek to include wider perspectives in our program.  However, I’m not sure how to help steer us there in a way while respecting my program’s modern dance legacy.  So, let’s begin with Dance History classes.  What are you doing?

    - Maura Nguyen Donohue

    Hi Maura:
    I think there are a few things we can do as dance educators. First, I think we need to be sure that when we approach the dance history course, we don't just lean on a typical chronological approach--I find that this tends to privilege a mainstream perspective and inevitably begs the question of what was happening somewhere else at the same time.
    I think we do well to try an organize these courses thematically--looking at dance and religion or dance and gender identity as units, for example--to foster a more cross/inter/intra cultural analysis in engaging the content. I think with respect to your point about
    respecting the history of the program we need to ensure that we embrace the idea
    that modern dance did not evolve in some kind of black hole devoid of other cultural
    influences--we do well to understand modern dance as simply one branch on the tree
    of dance that has it roots in human existence and to show our students how it was in dialogue with other influences--I am suggesting an interrelated arts/cultural approach.
    I think it would be good to look for the work of dance and cultural theorists/writers who are working and writingabout dance outside of the US so that the scholarly voices that get privileged are not just Western voices. This means that no one dominant textbook
    will probably be appropriate--we will need to lean on the use of technology to post
    course packets/readings for student access and we will have to take the time
    to draw sources from a variety of places--books, journals, monographs, etc.--to give our students the material they need to read in order to achieve the goals laid out in the new direction the program is pursuing. This also means that the readings may come from
    cultural studies, feminst/women's/gender studies, performance studies and related disciplines as opposed to specifically being "dance scholarship."The things I am suggesting here resist the "cultural buffet" style of teaching dance history where you get a little from this country or continent. Additionally, what I am suggesting is that these strategies may help us getour students to question their own assumptions about the primacy of Western theatrical dance as we are ourselves are doing the work of challenging the same thing in our teaching. Good luck with everything!

    --Takiyah
  • 24 Apr 2015 3:43 PM
    Reply # 3315868 on 551814
    Anonymous

    Danielle, Judith, Maura , and Takiyah:

    I appreciate reading and thinking about your responses to Danielle's question.  It is a topic that many of us have been struggling with for quite some time.  Although we have often "talked around the topic" at various conferences, I think that this is something that could deserve its own CORD Special Topics conference.  I really do.

    Anyway, a couple of years ago, I participated in one of Dee Fink's workshops on Course Re-Design. It was excellent in that it permitted those of us who participated an opportunity to think critically about our course in a carefully constructed process that was designed by Dee but it required the full participation of colleagues from various other disciplines as well.  This really was helpful in terms of designing those courses that addressed wider populations of students other than those in one's major.

    The course I re-designed was a general Dance History Course.  Later, it was selected to serve as one of Dee's examples on his website. You can review the course by going to:

    http://www.designlearning.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Miller-Dance_History.pdf

    It is not perfect.  As a matter of fact, I am ready to do it all again in light of what I have learned in the two years since completing this syllabus.  I offer it to you simply as one more way in which to think about what we are trying to accomplish.  

    Later, colleagues of mine.

    Ray Miller

  • 06 Oct 2015 2:16 PM
    Reply # 3563892 on 551814
    Deleted user

    Dr. Miller,

    Your re-designed course is not only comprehensive it is commendable! The pedagogical challenge for half of your students who come from the general student population is tremendous. However through the diversity of activities you planned it's evident that no student will be left behind and there is something for most. Some of the special questions on the weekly schedule go beyond historiography and challenge students with important epistemological questions and issues of gender and identity, for example: "Are [there] dance forms in which men go “on pointe” like ballerinas?" To elaborate that question, are there cultures that use violence to forbid men to go 'on pointe'? I think it is critical that the history of men in dance is included, as you make many references to the distinction between male dances vs. female dances. Very interesting!! This brings us to my next point and your 15th week, Future Trends, which really begins in week 13 (Hip Hop aesthetics, which actually started in Jamaica). I If I may suggest, it would be interesting if you included "Dancehall" aesthetics when you discuss either future or popular trends, and possible include Rex Nettleford (1933 - 2010). Nettleford is the dynamic Jamaican scholar, social critic, choreographer, and Vice-Chancellor Emeritus of the University of the West Indies, and Artistic Director of the legendary NDTC. Including Nettleford would robust and I might even say, complete your historiography of the Caribbean. Excluding Nettleford is not comprehensive. I strongly agree Pearl Primus and Katherine Dunham are important pioneers in the Caribbean, however, Rex Nettleford's work is monumental now and he authored several books and articles etc. One you might enjoy is entitled: Dance Jamaica. Lastly, excluding dancehall aesthetics is again, not comprehensive since the dancehall dance dis/plays are laden with controversies and born of a stage of history that is uniquely global. My own work in dance falls into the category of "futurism" in the sense that I am pioneering a new dance aesthetic that is African contemporary dance. Again, this is a field of African Dance that is unique to the world of dance. What is African "contemporary" dance? 

    Thank you for sharing, and excellent sample!

    R-D. Hyman, Ph.D.   

    Last modified: 06 Oct 2015 2:46 PM | Deleted user
  • 29 Nov 2015 6:21 AM
    Reply # 3665805 on 3563892
    Yanina
    That aderessds several of my concerns actually.
  • 29 Nov 2015 6:30 AM
    Reply # 3665821 on 3315868
    AMr
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  • 11 Jan 2016 1:49 PM
    Reply # 3752652 on 551814
    Aslan
    Wow, that's a really clever way of thiinnkg about it!
  • 15 Jan 2016 1:36 PM
    Reply # 3761866 on 3665821
    Ellie
    Wow! Great to find a post knkcniog my socks off!
  • 15 Jan 2016 2:14 PM
    Reply # 3761960 on 556239
    Tori
    Yo, that's what's up trulhfutly.
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