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 Post subject: Difficult teachers ... errr ... students
PostPosted: Sat Jul 10, 2004 8:41 pm 
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Sorry. I haven't had much time to visit over the last year or so. I've been lucky just to be able to take time to read the wonderful newsletter you send.

Well, you know how it is. Old friends only come knocking when they want something. So, on with the show.

OK. I took adult classes for about a year. I was advancing, but I didn't feel like I was getting anywhere. In fact, by the time I quit I was lost.

I'm an analyst by nature. I have to have a clear idea of what it is I am doing before I can act. I need to think before I act and my teachers apparently needed me to act before thinking. We were all pretty much clueless. "Overanalyzing" pretty much became their mantra towards the end.

Anyhow, I was not satisfied with my progress. I decided I'd be better off taking private lessons. I found a wonderful coach. She has style. She has charm. And best of all she is capable of answering my questions without me having to offer explanations.

Our first lesson was wonderful. At least I thought so. We focused on the problem I was having. I was full of questions and she was full of answers. Of course, we didn't get any work done, but I walked away with a brain saturated with information.

Two practices went by. I took what I learned and applied it. Things fell into place almost immediately. The rest of my practice time was spent exploring around that. It was so satisfying.

Second lesson came and she was impressed with my performance and asked me what else I would like to work on. I told her and we went to work. That didn't last long. I was full of questions and she was full of answers ... practice ... integration ... exploration ... satisfaction.

Third lesson came and she said she wanted to try something different. She showed me a move, I tried it. She was satisfied, I was not. She showed me a second move, I tried it. She was satisfied, I was not. She showed me a third move, I tried it. She was satisfied, I was not. Then she wanted me to try them in sequence ... with her.

Oh great. I had no clue what I was doing, now on top of it I have to anticipate her moves and try to synchronize. I survived, barely.

You would think at this point she would have been satisfied with my torture and returned to whatever pit she came from; but noooo. Next she wanted to do the same, but she wanted me to lead. Now, I haven't a clue, have to anticipate and synchronize to a song I've only heard once, and have to anticipate her moves so as to avoid thrashing her. My brain went into total meltdown. I begged her to stop and she did. She looked slightly perplexed and then commented "Oh! Your mind is still back there. It should be here." Ughh.

The thing is, I am very comfortable with the analysis and exploration routine. This has been my approach to life since at least my earliest memories at age two. My brain just doesn't disengage from problems and jumping from one unresolved problem into another is just too much. I can't even begin to conceive how it would be possible short of a near toxic dose of lithium or a frontal lobotomy.

On the other hand, my coach obviously needs something. Perhaps walking away from a lesson without a sense of accomplishment disturbs her as much as walking away from a problem does me. Or, perhaps, my approach is too intense. I don't know. Why did she have to mess with such a good thing? Why does she insist upon tormenting me? I could certainly use some insight.

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I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create. (William Blake)


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 Post subject: Re: Difficult teachers ... errr ... students
PostPosted: Sun Jul 11, 2004 2:43 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
I've combined two topics as they seem to address the same problem:

sisial posted 11 July 2004 12:13 AM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This guy doesn't post for a year, now he won't shut up.

OK. I'm an analyst. I do not respond well to conditioning. I have to rely on my instincts. I have to understand before I can act.

These moves my coach is trying to teach me; what do they mean? What is their purpose?

Perhaps my approach is all wrong. Every movement begins with some intention, some purpose. I can struggle to understand the intentions of my coach and to accept them. But I am fighting myself. I am struggling to accept conditions that my mind seems unable to accept and which are unlikely to stick with me for any length of time.

Perhaps I should begin with my own intentions. If I were to approach my coach and say "this is what I need to say", then is it possible that she could help me find the moves to express it? She is a fairly skilled choreographer. If so, how do I convey this need to her in the absence of motion? Is it too early for me to study choreography?

If I begin by knowing what I want to say, then I will know when it is said. Perhaps this would relieve both me and my coach of some of the burden. Does this make any sense?

<small>[ 11 July 2004, 04:44 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Difficult teachers ... errr ... students
PostPosted: Sun Jul 11, 2004 2:55 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Hi sisial, I'm not a teacher, but in preparation for my colleagues, let me ask a few points.

I assume that it is ballet classes we are talking about? In any case, please give an indication of your level of experience and what your goals are.

From my own experience of watching classes, they are always lead by the teacher and in ballet this is especially so, as there is a traditional hierarchical structure.

Even in Modern dance classes you still see the teachers setting exercises or tasks and the students performing these and in something like Graham it would be as rigid as ballet.

There's no getting away from the fact that for most of your dancing life, you are going to be in a class with 10-30 other people, who cannot all question the teacher. Maybe your individual teacher was trying to move you onto that track, so that you can get the most from group classes?

But that's just my 2c worth and I'll let the professionals comment now.

<small>[ 11 July 2004, 04:55 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Difficult teachers ... errr ... students
PostPosted: Sun Jul 11, 2004 5:12 pm 
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Location: bakersfield,ca
What is the level of your skills. If you are a beginner, your job is not to think it is to do! You will have to do things that will not make sense for many years to come sometimes and you need to learn to except that. If you are learning a piece of choreography, go ahead and explore that meaning of movement and gestures to help you convey the unspoken words to the audience. But in training you only do what the teacher says. And if you dont trust your teacher enough to blindly follow then change teachers. You need to be able to hand you life into the hand of the person instructing you on what is beutiful and coordinated. Because as a beginner you really have no idea what is or isnt.


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 Post subject: Re: Difficult teachers ... errr ... students
PostPosted: Sun Jul 11, 2004 6:11 pm 
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Assuming we're talking about a ballet class--

One of the basic tenets of the avocational or pre-professional ballet class is that for 90 minutes you do exactly and precisely what someone else tells you to do. You don't take class time to analyze or discuss unless the teacher tells you to analyze or discuss. It's part of the discipline--that is, doing what someone else tells you to do without questioning it. This doesn't mean that there is not 'thinking' involved. There is a lot of thinking involved. It's all about doing things a certain way and creating muscle memory, kinesthetic memory--converting the process of seeing-thinking-doing to simply seeing-doing. Do you remember learning to type? Ditto. You cannot analyze your way to an entrechat seis or a 90 degree arabesque. You just have to do it-- over and over and over again. After hundreds, maybe thousands of attempts, you may succeed. It's all very enjoyable--which really IS something that should be analyzed.


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 Post subject: Re: Difficult teachers ... errr ... students
PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2004 12:38 pm 
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STUART:

My coach teaches jazz and ballroom. She requires ballroom of all her jazz students. I am certain that she is not trying to prepare me for group lessons. Her reasoning for the step sequence was that I would be able to learn more by practicing a sequence of moves than by the process of repeating the same move and exprimenting with variations like I have been doing. This may be true, but then I am not good at memorizing and recalling things sequentially, especially under time constraints. I need some sense of relationship between the moves. The added synchronization and partnering forces me to constantly monitor my environment. I end up feeling disconnected from myself. Then there is the being there not here thing.

As far as experience goes, I have only had two productive lessons and thus I am pretty much still being introduced to the subject. I came out of a year of group lessons with little conceptual understanding. Without it I was lost.

What are my goals? They are pretty much the same in anything I do. I am problem-oriented. I tend to jump from one learning opportunity to another in a constant search for new understanding. I want to develop good technique with an emphasis on control and flow. I also want to study choreography and style and develop improvisational skills with emphasis on problem solving.

AC:

How does one do something if one does not first have some concept of what one is supposed to do? The problem is one of communication, not of trust. Trust has never been an issue with me. I can work with people regardless of whether I trust them or not, I just need to know their intentions.

As a student, my job is to apply myself to the task of understanding and to effecting solutions to problems that my teacher gives me. My teacher's job is to apply herself to presenting me with a problem in a way that is understandable. I pay my teachers to create an environment conducive to learning. I do not pay my teachers for the opportunity to play I spy with them. For that matter, I don't pay them for the opportunity to play 20 questions either.

I would place a thoughtful approach and an enlightened attitude against tradition any day. There were no personality or role conflicts with any of my teachers. Questions regarding roles, competence, and leadership were resolved during an orientation meeting. It is important to get those issues resolved before classes begin.

My coach knew from the start that we would be working analytically and that working with me would be challenging. The biggest issue we have relates to our frames of reference. She was taught to analyze in terms of force and force equilibrium. I intuitively analyze in terms of flow and flow equilibrium.

POOHTUNIA:

I make an analysis of something, not to something. The analysis is of flow and flow equilibrium. I have a strong sense of flow and control. I cannot turn it off any more than I can turn off the sensations that give rise to it. It is an integral part of my experience.

"Thought before action" was in reference to intentional action. My understanding comes from analysis. Take away analysis and there is no understanding. My actions come from my understanding. Take away my understanding and there is no action. My analysis is of my actions. Take away my actions and there is no learning. This is an integrated learning process.

Analysis itself has not been an issue. My teachers have all expressed pleasure in the approach I bring to my studies. The problem has been the so-called "overanalyzing". This is more an issue of understandability.

_________________
I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create. (William Blake)


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 Post subject: Re: Difficult teachers ... errr ... students
PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2004 8:10 pm 
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being an analyzer, i definately understand where you're coming from. I love understanding things completely before acting. I don't like not knowing what comes next, and I hate the feeling of being put on the spot. But I do understand that this quality is often a *detriment* in dance!

However, when it comes to dance, if you analyzed and perfected every single element of the movement before doing it, you'd never get anywhere! The element of improvisation (which i HATE because I'm so terrible at doing anything on the fly) and quick learning is extremely important in dance. While analyzation and understanding is a big part of dancing, just as important is to be able to learn choreography on the fly and perform it well and convincingly to an audience.

I think a part of me that keeps me on the wrong side of that threshold between "decent dancer" and "fabulous dancer" is the inability to just let go of myself and just *dance* rather than worrying about whether I'm doing everything exactly right. I think you've got to get past staying in your comfort zone and see that throwing yourself out there and taking risks and learning from your mistake are sometimes the only ways to learn many elements of dance.

If you can learn to dance instinctively as well as dance analytically, i think you will only improve as a result.


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 Post subject: Re: Difficult teachers ... errr ... students
PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2004 9:37 pm 
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Location: bakersfield,ca
-"How does one do something if one does not first have some concept of what one is supposed to do? The problem is one of communication, not of trust. Trust has never been an issue with me. I can work with people regardless of whether I trust them or not, I just need to know their intentions."-
One does something by imitation and listening to ones "elders". The X amount of years they have of experince and learning from their own mistakes should not be summerized in a 2 min. or 2 day thought of a begginer. There is an obvious trust issue if you can not just do what is simply told of you. If you must ask why? with everything you do not trust their opinion and years of expertice.

-"As a student, my job is to apply myself to the task of understanding and to effecting solutions to problems that my teacher gives me. My teacher's job is to apply herself to presenting me with a problem in a way that is understandable."-
Your job as a student is to learn a piece of history and culture that is pasted on from one person to another. Dance is one of the last things we have that you need to be instructed personally with, you can not read about it and become a master at this form of expression. Dance instructions are not about presenting problems it is about passing on solutions that you have learned and figured out along the way in your own carrer to your students.
-"I pay my teachers to create an environment conducive to learning. I do not pay my teachers for the opportunity to play I spy with them. For that matter, I don't pay them for the opportunity to play 20 questions either."-
YOU PAY YOUR TEACHERS FOR THE TIME THAT THEY ALLOW YOU TO BE WITH THEM AND TO SHARE THE LOVE AND PASSION THAT THEY GAVE THEIR LIFE AND SOUL FOR AS THEY SURVIVED IN A WORLD THAT DOSENT PAY FOR THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS THAT GO THROUGH AS THEY GREW UP.

-"I would place a thoughtful approach and an enlightened attitude against tradition any day."-
And stating that tradition did not have any thought in it so that it would make it through the centuries for you to hear about it and to toss aside is an insult to the people that put their hearts and souls into keeping things pure and alive.


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 Post subject: Re: Difficult teachers ... errr ... students
PostPosted: Sun Jul 18, 2004 3:03 pm 
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GAEADEA

Thought and action are melodies in play with each other. One calls and the other responds.

(Instructor --> Potential Meaning <=> Action to Disprove --> Instructor)

The fact that I am dissatisfied with my progress should not be taken to mean that my teachers were. There is a communications problem. Dance is dynamic. I think dynamics. They teach statics. I want to be able to focus on my work rather than having to dedicate most of my time and effort to trying to determine the dynamics of the moves my teachers are trying to teach. My teachers want me to be able to focus on my work rather than having to dedicate most of my time and effort trying to determine the dynamics of the moves they are trying to teach. The question is how do we achieve this?

In regards to the sequence my coach was trying to teach me, I went through the moves several times while she instructed. We went though it a couple of times with her leading. I had no problem following her. But, there was no method to it. There was no flow that I could follow. When she asked me to lead, I had no idea where to go.

AC:

One observes in order to develop a concept on which to act. One listens in order to develop a concept on which to act.

"Why" is a question of motivation, not intention. I stated that I needed to know a person's intention. Your response was obviously misdirected. Trust has nothing to do with how I find solutions. Problems are either identified or they are not. Problems are either understood or they are not. Problems are either solved or they are not.

The only experience I know is the experience of my person at the moment. I am a beginner. I am always beginning. That does not mean I don't have any experience. Every person is unique. Every moment is unique. Every experience is unique. If a child chooses to share her experience with me I would consider it an honor that she has such faith in me. Her experience is no less valuable to me than that of any other. My respect for others is unqualified.

I determine the quality of a teacher by her ability to consistently produce excellence in her students. But even this means little unless the teacher can communicate her experience to me. What I look for is results.

I expect my teachers to be professionals. We are engaged in a process together. What are we trying to obtain? How do we plan on obtaining it? What am I doing in the process? What are you doing in the process? There is no method in your descriptions. There is no evidence of any process, much less an instructional process. Good faith requires that parties be in a process to seek solutions. Yet, the teacher you describe comes to the process with a solution in mind. This is an abuse of process.

I feel no sympathy for the teacher you describe. Her dissatisfaction with her career is a personal problem and has no business in a professional relationship. She has a negative attitude and demonstrates no sense of responsibility for her own thoughts and actions. She suffers because she chooses to suffer. I relate better to more positive attitudes like: "I do not seek worldly rewards. I do what I do because I have a love and a passion for what I do. What I do IS my life and my soul."

"People" should learn to take responsibility for their own thoughts and actions. There is no offense intended in anything I say or do. If "people" wish to find cause to take offense, then who am I to stop them?

As for keeping things pure and alive, we obviously have differences as to what that means. History is made. Culture evolves. That's life.

_________________
I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create. (William Blake)


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 Post subject: Re: Difficult teachers ... errr ... students
PostPosted: Thu Jul 22, 2004 2:19 pm 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Sisial, your descriptions of your problems with both group and individual dance classes are articulate and provide an interesting slant on the teacher/student relationship.

However, at a practical level, what the experienced teachers and dance students above have told you is correct - dance classes follow an "I instruct and you follow" schema. When dances are set on a new group of pro dancers it again follows that pattern. Even with most new work created on dancers the same working pattern will apply.

So, the question comes down to: "Do I want to learn to dance?" As the pattern you dislike is very much the usual one pattern of dance education.

If you are happy dancing on your own, then one possibility is hip-hop - a tough option physically and technically. But I suspect that in the early stages, there are still "teachers" showing acolytes steps and combinations.

I have a memory of seeing an ad once for creative/interpretative dance, which seemed very free-form and individualistic. Can anyone help on this angle?


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