you think you can't dance...

(gorgeous fellow T.Hype dancer)

It started when I told my Jazz class at UVU that we would have hip hop class the week after spring break. Now, I feel that I can pick up choreography thrown at me in just about any style so long as I can have some time with it, but choreographing hip hop is intimidating and hindering for one who does not list "B-Girl" on her resume. The first class was fine, I did well, was proud of myself for whipping something up, and was successful in relaying the choreography to fill the full 90 minutes of class.

The problems began just before the second class (we keep combos for 2 weeks to master choreography) where I add on to the existing choreography. I was stuck, so stuck, calling everyone I knew and finding no help or inspiration. After talking with a few friends and darling I came to the brilliant conclusion to base this class on "what do you do when you're stumped with choreography"? Trying out different strategies to refresh and revitalize the creative reactors of the brain. It was brilliant, we were going to improv (free movement), and review the existing choreography but change the music--letting each dancer get a feel for the song and then adapt the choreography accordingly--in hopes of creating something transferable to add back to the original music ... like i said brilliant.

It is day 2 and class is moving along quite lovely and normal, I talk to the dancers about my feelings and the challenge I faced with adding on to the the existing hip hop number, that I felt stuck, out of my element, etc. I acknowledge these are good challenges and I wanted to make this a group lesson and journey. Improv time now rolls around. Previously, I have tried a few mini improvisational sessions that I would say were less than successful, these dancers love structure, love it. so I figured I would try to structure this particular improvisational session and the rules are:
1. take the floor when you feel inspired
2. no more than 6 dancers at a time
3. you must dance for at least one count of eight
4. everyone must go at least once.
We get the soul circle going and no one takes the floor, I start things off myself and call on the next dancer to go--go, you can go now--to which I receive a blank stare. This is followed by more head shakes (left to right indicating no) and "I don't know what to do" 's gallore. I was stunned, I was prepared for anything but the "no" reaction. I'm teaching college, I would never have told my professor no. They told me no. On to choreography. The class was less than enthused about toying around with the existing choreography to new music. sigh.
I gave a few last runs of the combo with the original music at the end of class to "feel good about ourselves."

I have since talked to them about this bomb of a class. why? why do you call yourself a dancer to everyone you know, take dance class at school, but do not take the floor when it's available? We reflected on some of these issues and I asked them if they would be open to an entire class of improvisation. They said they'd be willing to give it a go, luckily it really got some of them thinking about their own motivations, their own insecurities, etc. so now, improv class....
ironically I have no idea how to structure improv class, I almost feel like I did teaching hip hop class. where to begin?

I know a few of you, most of you who occasionally glance at this silly blog are or have been dancers. any tips?


Anonymous said...

first of all, this would have absolutely infuriated me. I LOOOOVE that you followed up with your comments about claiming to be a dancer and yet not taking the floor. Brilliant, Em.

Thinking about the improv class takes me back again and again to what we did in modern as little girl, but I think it could be altered.

Instead of dancing like a tree, ice cream, wind, whatever, you could try feelings or situations.
"Dance your last break up"
"Dance the first time you heard "i love you" and you knew they meant it."
"Dance your perfect day" (um...miss congeniality)
"Dance your relationship with your dad"

Of course, the main struggle is going to be breaking them into it at the beginning. Some sort of exercise where every single person looks completely ridiculous TOGETHER, thus breaking down some of the insecurities they've built up between each other...

I mostly have no idea what would ACTUALLY work...
love you

mem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mem said...

you are wonderful! this is exactly the kind of advice i am looking for! ahh. i'm also equally enthused about your sympathy. thanks lady!

Laurel said...

the only time i ever danced i had to hold glow in the dark sticks. (thank you miss debbie.) i have no amazing advice for you. i love you. that's all.

mem said...

laurel. no one rocks a glow stick like you--i'm sure of it! glow sticks might not be a bad idea for my next improv class...whenever that is.